Shazam's Suit Explained By The Movie's Costume Designer

If comic book fans thought a new Superman suit could be controversial, they weren't prepared for Shazam! The costume worn by star Zachary Levi had an unceremonious reveal thanks to Shazam! set photos, but now the movie's costume designer is finally offering an up-close and detailed breakdown of every decision.

Long before the Shazam movie costume was officially revealed, Screen Rant got the chance to visit the set of the film in Toronto. During our visit, we got to see the star superhero's uniform in person along with Costume Designer Leah Butler, who offered detailed explanations of the colors, designs, technology, and mythology behind every feature. Now, we're finally able to share those details with our readers--and trust us, none of them happened by accident. In fact, the most complicated parts may be the last ones fans would expect.

The Shazam Suit's Color & Pattern

By now fans who have watched the Shazam! trailers know that the lightning bolt motif comes directly from The Wizard, passed on to Billy Batson along with his powers. And while The Wizard is heavily based on the New 52 version (along with most of the Rock of Eternity set), the inspirations for Shazam's suit are different. And to explain how different, Butler (Annabelle: Creation) began her breakdown by reading the description from which she and director David F. Sandberg developed the look of the suit. Starting with the color, the Shazam suit calls directly back to the heroes and demigods of Greek and Roman legend:

I'm going to read something that when I first started, David and I were talking about the costume... I hope I don't bore you, but here we go... "Mythological symbols and icons will be utilized in his designs along with elements from the past that feel real and not streamlined... Red is often the most intense color emotionally in the spectrum. The Greeks began using blood red as a pigment in ancient Rome. In Ancient Greece, gold was a metal that was precious to the gods, to the extent that they were dressed in gold. Precious gold, the color, the luster of the gold continues to be associated with the sun and the sacred masculine. Approach to costume is also born from organic elements, and will feel sacred and true as opposed to machine like, severe, or manufactured. This design will be approached with these basics is in mind.”

The pattern on [the suit fabric] is also taken from Greek and Roman, like a Greek key pattern that we did, it's the pattern that we did on top of the fabrication. There are two different sizes of it and all these design lines here are as well... which gives this a really nice, dynamic look. It's 3D. As you can see, there's also that sort of Greek key pattern as well on the cape. That as well was printed. He has everything from gauntlets to belts to what we like to call, 'the bolt.'

For what it's worth, seeing the suit out of direct sunlight certainly placed it more at home among the existing DC movie costumes than those first set photos implied. The Greek key pattern Butler mentions is hard to make out at a distance, but just like the interlocking rings of the Man of Steel suit, add a clear texture and depth. The same goes for the larger variations, highlighting the muscles of the chest, shoulders, and arms. Of course, most people will be too distracted by "the bolt" to notice anything else.

RELATED: Zachary Levi Calls Out Shazam Costume Critics

Shazam's Chest Lightning Bolt

The lightning bolt emblazoned on Shazam's chest is without a doubt the most intriguing aspect, and we're willing to bet will play a larger role than fans expect. Typically, the lightning is a design element, and not much else. A logo, first and foremost--and in the New 52, an occasional hint at the living lightning fueling Billy from within. The movie version, however, sounds like it is built with some unforgettable shots in mind... and is able to react to the action, as well:

The bolt obviously lights up. We wanted to have some practical lighting on the face, because he is going be lit up during the movie. The director and the DP really wanted to do some shadows and really see some actual practical light. We took the lighting elements, which there are indeed quite a bit of, and incorporated it into this shape here so it would be able to go right in between the pecs. It's a very thin lighting element that is adjustable. It goes up and down... we're able to adjust the temperature of the light and how visual it is while we're shooting.

There we go [the bolt slowly brightens to an almost blinding white level]. Quite bright. I'm not going to blind you all, but as you can see we were able to really come up with a great technology. And luckily enough, the stunt guy and Zac have actually not broken one yet. I can’t believe it. David came up to us when we were designing the costume and said, 'It would be really cool if the gauntlets lit up too, do you think you could do that?' 'Yeah, sure, why not?' Okay. So, I got to do another lighting element there. That's how the lit gauntlets came about.

After seeing just how blindingly bright the bolt could get, we asked Butler if the effect was designed to practically light Zachary Levi's face or practically communicate Shazam's power on screen. Her response - "Both. Very much both." - raised our hopes further. But as it turns out, it may be the impeccably-white hood and the potentially plot-hole-creating boots that turn out to be the most controversial among costume-minded fans. And yes, they did try to make sandals work...

Page 2 of 2: Shazam's Changing Boots & Cape Explained

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Key Release Dates
  • Shazam! (2019) release date: Apr 05, 2019
  • Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020
  • Joker (2019) release date: Oct 04, 2019
  • Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020) release date: Feb 07, 2020
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