Shazam! may be something of a standalone film, but it's still closely connected to the rest of the DC Extended Universe. When the DCEU launched in 2013, Warner Bros. was attempting to weave a single consistent narrative through multiple films. That's why there are Superman references and the Batman cameos in Suicide Squad; because they helped create a sense of narrative cohesion.
The last few DC movies have abandoned that approach, though. Aquaman contained a throwaway reference to the battle against Steppenwolf in Justice League, but other than that it might as well have been a standalone origin story. That's even more the case with Shazam!, a film that revels in taking place in the same world as Superman and Batman, and yet has the courage to stand on its own two feet.
Related: Everything We Know About Shazam 2
So how does Shazam! fit into the wider DCEU? That question is best answered by looking at all Shazam!'s connections to the rest of the shared universe, some subtle and some far more obvious.
- This Page: DC Superhero Merchandise and Souvenirs
- Page 2: Ace Chemicals and the Superman Cameo
Shazam! features a wealth of superhero merchandise, most notably in one scene where Billy finds himself tossed into a toy shop. Amusingly, every piece of merchandise - every action figure, every toy, and every piece of superhero memorabilia - really does exist. But director David F. Sanberg has stressed that it was all chosen with the greatest of care. Toys were only used if they represented heroes already confirmed to exist in the DCEU; a Green Lantern reference, for example, would have been completely out of place.
That level of conscious thought turns this superhero merchandise into an important plot point in the DCEU as a whole. It means that all the heroes featured in the toy store - most prominently Batman and Superman, but also Wonder Woman - are now viewed as celebrities by the entire world. In Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the world was deeply divided in its view of superheroes; some adored heroes, others distrusted them. Evidently the Justice League's defeat of Steppenwolf, and the accompanying resurrection of Superman, has changed that. Now, kids adore superheroes, even re-enacting real-life events - as shown in one scene where a child bashes together a Superman and Batman action figure, playing out his own version of Batman v Superman.
Interestingly, if Warner Bros. did indeed put this level of thought into the various toys featured in that toy shop, then Shazam! has added another key event into the history of the DCEU's Batman. In the background, one of the Batman toys is what looks to be the Fisher Price version of the Superheavy mech. In the comics, this suit of armor was created by the Gotham City Police Department at a time when Batman was believed to be dead, and was worn by none other than Commissioner Gordon himself. Its inclusion in Shazam! suggests that similar events have played out in the DCEU as well.
Meanwhile, Billy's foster-brother Freddy is shown as the ultimate superhero fanboy, all done in such a way as to make him an amusing parody of comic book fans in the real world. Freddy's room contains a shrine to his favorite superheroes, packed with newspaper clippings and magazines discussing the events of previous films. The most notable are an issue of TIME Magazine, dedicated to exploring the psychological impact of General Zod's attack on Metropolis in Man of Steel, and a clipping celebrating Superman's return - "SUPERMAN IS BACK!" Meanwhile, Freddy also has a collection of different pieces of superhero memorabilia, including a few items that have probably cost him quite a bit. The most beloved is a bullet that bounced off of Superman's chest, flattened from the impact with the Man of Steel; it even has a certificate of authenticity. A sharp-edged Batarang proves a lot more useful than anyone could have expected, distracting Sivana at a key moment, and helping Mary work out how to beat the villain.
Throughout Shazam!, Freddy wears T-shirts inspired by his legendary heroes, including Superman and Batman. The film even highlights one of these in a post-credits scene, where Freddy is getting Billy to test if he has the power to talk to fish. Billy objects that this sounds stupid, and asks when that power would ever come in useful. In response, Freddy simply points to his Aquaman T-shirt. This doesn't just confirm that Aquaman is as celebrated a hero as the rest of the Justice League in the DCEU; it also hints that the dramatic end of Aquaman - in which Arthur Curry's ability to talk to fish brought an end to the war between the Tribes of Atlantis, before it could spill over on to the surface world - are now public knowledge.