The Original Shazam Family of DC Comics
Trying to search for the comic book origin story and history of the Captain Marvel Family is going to be tricky for a few different reasons. For starters, DC is no longer allowed to market either Billy Batson as 'Captain Marvel,' or the larger group of backup characters as 'The Marvel Family' due to Marvel Comics introducing and popularizing their own version.
Ironically, it was DC (then National Comics) who first killed Captain Marvel by suing Fawcett Comics, alleging that their lightning-bolt-ed superhero was a Superman knockoff. DC won the case, and would acquire the rights to Captain Marvel decades later. As we said before, there was a whole lot more than just Billy Batson who helped launch the 'Captain Marvel' name into households. Within just two years of Captain Marvel's debut, DC Comics had created two separate characters with their own origins and identities tied to Billy Batson.
First was Freddy Freeman, a disabled boy whose life was saved by Captain Marvel. After learning that Freddy would succumb to his injuries, Billy learned that he could share his magical powers with Freddy, if he chose. And so Freddy Freeman uttered his first "Captain Marvel!" and transformed into his healthy, but still teenage form - with a blue suit all his own - as the hero Captain Marvel, Jr.. And almost two decades before Superman would meet his cousin Supergirl, Billy Batson discovered he had a twin sister who he never even knew existed. And once that sister realized her twin could call down magic lightning, she did the same herself - and Mary Marvel was born.
They were the first to turn the Shazam! magic into a family, even if their origin stories were slightly altered over the next half-century. But when the New 52 was launched with the intention of rebooting and re-imagining almost all of DC's classic heroes, writer Geoff Johns decided to put a new spin on the idea of the orphaned Billy Batson, and the friends who would become his family, and fellow superheroes...
The Shazam Family is Billy's 'Secret Spell'
The Shazam! movie clearly adapted a big part of Billy's New 52 story. While the movie didn't throw Shazam up against his famous villain Black Adam, instead putting Dr. Sivana into the role, the odds were still stacked against him. After all, Billy is just a kid, going toe to toe with an adult. Which is exactly why he loses... at first.
In the comics, Billy only learns his lesson when a magical being offers him advice, reminding him that "family is what it can be, not what it should be." At first taken as sappy sentiment, it's only when Billy is down and out that he realizes the truth of the magic, as the Wizard's secret spell. Embracing the rest of his foster family (something his villain would never understand) the new, re-imagined version of The Shazam Family is born, transforming all of the children into older, stronger, and uniquely gifted champions just like Billy.
Together, they manage to save the day, before returning all of the magic to Billy so he can take on the villain once and for all. And despite the film's best efforts, leaks and rumors hinted that the adult version of the Shazam Family would join the DCEU. In the end, it really did happen - and it was terrific.
Will The Shazam Family Be Stars of The Sequel?
Geoff Johns' long awaited follow up to that first Shazam run may provide some of the answers, if only in explaining how the kids moved forward from their brief experience as superheroes. With artist Dale Eaglesham, Geoff Johns has begun his new Shazam! comic series by confirming that it's no longer Billy who plays the hero. Whether it was explicitly agreed upon, or never needed be said aloud, all of the foster family children can now transform by calling upon "Shazam" as a group. But before fans can expect to see Shazam! turn from an origin story to a team-based movie franchise, the studio will need to see how the first movie performs at the box office.
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