Among the many trailers that were revealed at the 2018 San Diego Comic-Con was the new Shazam trailer. In the spring of 2019, Shazam will hit the theaters as another installment from the mythos of the DC Cinematic Universe. Let’s face facts, the DCU has been a bumpy ride with not too much fan success. From the looks of this trailer, this time DCU is deciding to go with a little lighter side in telling the story of the world’s mightiest mortal.
The upcoming movie which will hit theatres in 2019 will star Zachary Levi as the title character Shazam, Asher Angel as Billy Batson, Mark Strong as Dr Sivana, Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy Freeman, and Djimon Hounsou as The Wizard.
Who is Shazam? The characters original name was Captain Marvel created in 1939 by writer Bill Parker and artist CC Beck. Captain Marvel first appeared in Whiz Comics dated February 1940 published by Fawcett Comics. Captain Marvel was so popular in the beginning, the comic even outsold DC Comic’s Superman. In 1941, Captain Marvel was the first superhero to star in a Republic Pictures film serial entitled The Adventures of Captain Marvel.
Little known fact is that this character originally started out with a different name and concept. Originally, Parker wrote about six superheroes who received six different powers from a mythical being. Then it was suggested that the powers be combined into one hero and Captain Thunder was born. Because of trademark issues, Captain Thunder could not be used and the characters name was changed to Captain Marvelous. Once the character came to print the name was shortened to Captain Marvel.
Another little-known fact about the original Fawcett Comics version of Captain Marvel is that there was a character in the comic in the 1940’s that was no longer used due to an appeal from the public. The character Steamboat was introduced in 1942 as an Afro-American man who was a food truck owner until he helped Captain Marvel stop a gang of crooks.
In that event, his food truck was destroyed putting him out of business. Billy Batson gave Steamboat a job at Whiz Radio where Steamboat basically served as Billy’s valet. The characters speech and appearance were such a negative representation of Afro-Americans even in the 40’s that an appeal for the Youth Builders, an integrated group of about 11,000 school students from New York and Philadelphia, forced Fawcett to stop using the character in 1945.
Then Captain Marvel started having other problems. In 1953, Fawcett Comics stopped publishing Captain Marvel due to a copyright infringement lawsuit from DC Comics. DC Comics had accused Fawcett of making their hero too close to the likeness and powers of their own Superman. In a strange turn of event, DC Comics ended up buying the rights to Captain Marvel from Fawcett Comics and put the character back in publication.
However, at this time Marvel Comics was formed and had trademarked the name Captain Marvel for their character. Therefore, DC Comics called the character Shazam! and marketed Captain Marvel under that name. Other monikers like the World’s Mightiest Mortal and The Big Red Cheese have also been used to describe the character.
The origin of Captain Marvel/Shazam has been slightly altered over the years but basically remains the same. Orphan Billy Batson is given powers from the wizard Shazam. In all versions of the origin, Billy Batson is led to a subway to get access to the Rock of Eternity where he meets the wizard and gets his powers. The wizard tells Billy to receive his powers he only must speak his name which each letter in that name representing a Greek mythical God. Billy would receive the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury: Shazam.
Although Shazam has been featured in old serials and various cartoons, my personal favorite childhood memory of the Shazam TV show of the 70’s where Billy Batson and Mentor travel the highways and byways of the land. This version had a much older Billy and Mentor travelling from town to town in an RV solving problems which would lead to Shazam showing up for some heroics at the end.
Judging a movie by it’s trailer is sometimes like judging a book by its cover. The new Shazam trailer seems to suggest the movie will take a light comedic stance towards the character. This will be a shift from the DC/ Warner Bros usual dark take on their characters. If this is the case then hopefully this is a change for the better because the darkness and less humor of the DC Cinematic Universe has not been extremely popular with the fans.
We started to see a lighter tone with the Justice League movie in 2017 although it still didn’t do much for the movie itself. In the trailer, we are treated to laughs as a boy is suddenly turned into a man with super powers as he learns how to use those powers. That’s got to be fun for a kid and fun to watch. Let’s hope there is a balance in that humor and the trailer shots aren’t the only humorous parts.
In comics, Shazam is often treated with a little humor even to show that this is actually a kid in an adult body. In the 70’s and 80’s a lot of Shazam stories were light-hearted and more youth-focused as compared to the other comic stories during that time. Maybe this is the feel the DCU and Warner Bro are going for which would be a breath of fresh air and would also mean that the showrunners actually read a comic and researched their characters.
We will find that answer in 2019 in the meantime I’m going to ride every subway I can until I end up at the Rock of Eternity with an old wizard. I could use some powers like that.
Leave a comment and give us your opinions about Shazam and the character’s past and future.
Kenny Walker Jr