Over the weekend, the first official trailer for Shazam! was released.

The trailer offered a full look at the new comic book movie, giving an insight into the superhero and his alter-ego, Billy Batson. If you’ve not watched it yet, then spare a couple of minutes now and give it a whirl!

Up to speed?

Good!

OK, so if you’ve landed on this particular post then you’re probably here looking for information about Shazam!, specifically the answer to the question: Who is Shazam?

Well, if you’re not so familiar with the comic book super hero then you might want to read on, for I have the answers.

Who is Shazam?

Shazam is a comic book super hero appearing in comics and graphic novels published by DC Comics. The character was created by Bill Parker and C. C. Beck and made his debut in 1939.

Who is Shazam’s alter-ego?

Shazam is the alter-ego of Billy Batson, a young boy who transforms into a super hero upon uttering the magic word SHAZAM! The word is an acronym of six different mythical beings: Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury.

So, Shazam is really a kid?

Yes – although Shazam is an adult super hero, in essence he remains a kid at heart. Basically, his physical appearance changes to look like an adult.

Still confused? Hmm… think of him as being a bit like Tom Hanks’ character, Josh Baskin in the movie Big (1988). He’s a kid trapped in an adult’s body.

Has Shazam always appeared in comics published by DC Comics?

No. Originally, the character appeared in comics published by Fawcett Comics. During the 1970s, the character was licensed to DC and he’s remained with the company ever since.

Hey wait a minute, wasn’t Shazam called Captain Marvel?

Yes – originally Shazam was called Captain Marvel – but this has nothing to do with Marvel Comics.

So, Shazam was once called Captain Marvel, but he isn’t the Captain Marvel that is a Marvel Comics character?

Yes. Here’s where things may get a little confusing…

Originally, Shazam was called Captain Marvel. However, Marvel Comics were less than enthused about the idea of a rival comic book company utilising the name Captain Marvel, so some legal tooing and froing took place to convince DC to stop using the name.

After much discussion an arrangement was made whereby DC could continue to utilise the name Captain Marvel, but only in the pages of the comics – not on the cover etc. So while the character went by the name of Captain Marvel in the comics, the title of those comics was to be called Shazam!.

So why is he now called Shazam?

The arrangement remained in place until 2011 when DC decided it was all getting a little too confusing and completely dropped the name Captain Marvel. Basically, lots of people assumed the character was called Shazam, so it made little sense to keep calling him Captain Marvel.

Was there any other reason for the name change?

Changing the character’s name also helped to distance the character from Marvel’s very own Captain Marvel who is set to receive her first solo movie in 2019. Imagine if DC and Marvel had both tried to release Captain Marvel movies in 2019 – it would have been a marketing nightmare!

Hang on a minute – isn’t there also a wizard called Shazam?

Yes. Billy Batson was given his abilities from a wizard called Shazam.

What – who many Shazam’s are there?!

I told you it was a little confusing.

To clarify, Shazam (the wizard) gave Billy Batson the ability to transform into a super hero also called Shazam, by uttering the magic word SHAZAM!

So that’s The Wizard Shazam, the super hero Shazam and the magical phrase SHAZAM!

OK, so answer me this – why is Shazam more goofy than say Batman or Superman?

Shazam was always designed as a more colourful character; he’s kind of like Superman but with a child’s sense of wonder. So when it comes to comics, movies and any other adaptation, Shazam is always meant to be a little brighter than other heroes. In fact, in the comics his nickname is the big red cheese!

Oh and as Shazam is secretly a kid, he actually looks up to Superman and his fellow super heroes as a source of inspiration. Just check out this image below from the big screen adaptation of Shazam!, which shows how much Billy (Asher Angel) and his friend Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) idolise super heroes.

Shazam

Image: New Line Cinema/DC Entertainment

As you can see, there’s a lot of super hero memorabilia on display.

(Top left) Superman baseball cap, (top right) a collection of graphic novels, a batman figure, (bottom shelf) a Superman cup, a replica Bat-a-rang, a copy of Time magazine with Superman on the cover, a Superman shield and another Superman cup.

(Behind Freddy) A copy of the Daily Planet with Superman on the cover.

(In Freddy’s hand) A zippy bag containing a spent bullet (presumably used on Superman) and a certificate of authenticity.

Hang on, who is Freddy?

Freddy Freeman is Billy Batson’s foster brother. In the comics, Freddy also has abilities and can transform into Captain Marvel Jr.! He’s part of the Marvel Family.

There’s a Marvel family?

Yeah, there’s a few characters that exhibit similar powers to Shazam. And don’t even get me started on the talking tiger.

There’s a talking tiger?!

Yep – Mister Tawky Tawny, an anthropomorphic tiger who occasionally appears in comics about Shazam. He doesn’t have powers, but he is a talking tiger!

What else do I need to know?

Shazam has had his fair share of legal battles over the years and a bit of a bumpy publishing history, but outside of this he’s a really cool character. He’s meant to be colourful, he’s meant to be optimistic and he’s meant to be a bit dorky – so embrace it.

When does Shazam! hit cinema screens?

Shazam! will arrive in cinemas in April 2019.

#SayTheMagicWord