Billy Batson and Freddy Freeman Are Big Superman Supporters
Is Superman really a hero? The debate in Batman v Superman dissipated in Justice League; the Man of Steel was retconned from a symbol of controversy to a noble protector of mankind beloved by a world who desperately needed him back - and now he has returned, brighter and more admirable than ever, with a similarly redeemed Batman and entire League of heroes by their side.
Now, imagine being 14 years old like Billy Batson and growing up in the DCEU where the Black Zero event happened when you were eight, Superman died fighting the Kryptonian monster Doomsday, and then he came back to life to join other superheroes to ward off an alien invasion - all before you've finished middle school. This is the unique POV Shazam! offers, and it's telling that Billy and his friends came out of the last few years still big supporters of Superman and his friends.
When Billy gets his powers from the Wizard Shazam and can now inhabit a muscular adult body with powers similar to Superman, he tries to get a handle on his newfound abilities. Luckily, he has an ace-in-the-hole: his foster brother Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer). Though Freddy is disabled, he's a huge fanboy of the Man of Steel and his super friends. Freddy even has a catalog of Justice League merch he's collected to show off his devotion, just like any real-life fan. Together, Billy and Freddy will work out what exactly Billy can do and how he should behave as when he's the Big Red Cheese.
Of course, they have a natural superhero role model: the Man of Steel, himself. It's no surprise Freddy demands to know if Billy can fly like Superman, because "heroes can fly!" Their perception of Superman is clearly the resurrected and "new" version of Superman who stands for truth and justice (it's even possible that Billy or Freddy met Superman before he died and Shazam! could redeem Justice League's worst scene). However, this isn't to say Billy and Freddy ignore the controversies Superman and Batman sparked - they are schooled in the Black Zero event and all the damage the heroes caused in the past. But as kids, they wouldn't share in the cynicism; they'd see Superman as the hero he really is.
Shazam Could Make DCEU Defenses Actual Canon
It says something important that the kids in Shazam! look beyond past mistakes and sees the superheroes both for what they are and for the best of what they could be. In this way, the film suggests that maybe fans should do the same about the Worlds of DC's future as the shared universe tries to forge ahead. There's no doubt Superman and Batman have made very public mistakes; so has Wonder Woman for hiding herself from the world, Aquaman for not embracing his destiny as ruler of Atlantis (something his solo film will address), and the Flash for not living up to his potential until Batman came calling. The Justice League and the DCEU as a whole come from a dark, controversial past, but they're poised to move forward into a more hopeful tomorrow.
By arguing in favor of Superman and Batman as heroes within the context of the movie, Shazam! turns the debate into in-universe canon. Billy and Freddy would look at the Black Zero event for what it was: a Kryptonian invasion began by Zod, which Superman fought against and stopped. Yes, there was colossal damage done to Metropolis, but the kids would argue that Superman was brand-new at the "caped crusader stuff" and he did his best; and even though he killed Zod, he must have had no choice. Adults may still mistrust the Batman and Superman for their past violence, but that also isn't to say there aren't people who avidly support the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel. And the Justice League saved the world from another alien invasion full-stop. Arguing for the superheroes' best intentions would also be a meta way to defend Man of Steel and Batman v Superman; it's true that terrible things happened, but good also came out of it winning in the end.
Even as Shazam! will help to usher in the more optimistic DC universe, the kids in the movie are actually avatars for the fans who love and support Zack Snyder's vision. Freddy and Billy are growing up in a world where Man of Steel and Batman v Superman happened, but the mistakes and virtues of both films are the blueprints and the fuel for how Billy Batson will find his own path as "the next evolution" of a superhero.
This #SDCC post is brought to you in partnership with Regal Cinemas.
- Aquaman (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018
- Shazam! (2019) release date: Apr 05, 2019
- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020