SHAZAM! With the recent word that Dwayne Johnson will most likely be playing a major role in an upcoming Warner Brothers. adaptation of the comic character Shazam aka Captain Marvel, now seems like a good time to go over what this comic involves, exactly. Including who is “The Big Red Cheese”, his arch nemesis Black Adam, and which stories are the best “go-to’s” to learn more about both of these characters. At present, Johnson says he has yet to decide whether he’ll be the hero or the villain of the picture, but rest assured, he’s certainly built and has the charisma to play either. Hit the jump learn more about Shazam and the upcoming Shazam movie.
He Got His Powers From A Wizard
Billy Batson is your average kid. He worries about his grades, tries to keep up with his social life, and even runs a radio program out of his parents’ basement. What folks don’t know about him is that he harnesses the power of Captain Marvel, a towering superhero who is the spitting image of Superman with powers rooted in magic. By merely saying the word, “Shazam”, Billy transforms from a mild-mannered junior high student to a mild-mannered junior high student whose mind is in the body of a god-like super being. As I mentioned in the title, he literally gets his powers from a wizard (the wizard “Shazam” because why not?) when, during a dark and stormy night, Billy is transported to the wizard’s abode on a subway train. Sensing the goodness in Billy, the wizard deems for him to be the Earth’s champion and to protect the “Rock of Eternity” from both magical and science based threats.
Captain Marvel eventually joined the Justice League, of which he is still a member, and is able to go toe to toe with Superman on occasion. Marvel’s powers are very similar to the Man of Steel’s in fact, in so much as he can fly, has super strength, and speed. However, where they differ is that his powers are magic based, and he also can harness the lightning that triggers his transformation, hurling it at villains if he so chooses. Captain Marvel is also sometimes accompanied by Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr., two other kids chosen by the wizard to be protectors of Earth. Listen, this is an extremely out there concept and hopefully, Warner Brothers recognizes this and sways a tad from the grim dark themes of the Nolan Batman flicks and the recent Man of Steel.
Black Adam, Captain Marvel’s arch nemesis, was essentially the “Captain Marvel of Ancient Egypt”. Originally chosen to be the protector of the land, much as Billy was, Adam decided to rule the land with an iron fist rather than save its inhabitants. Eventually, Black Adam became a hero himself, although more of an anti-hero than anything, joining the ranks of DC Comics’ super team, Justice Society of America. Adam also found himself ruling his own country and settling down with a super powered wife named Isis….until of course she was brutally murdered and Adam went on a worldwide spree of destruction to avenge her, but alas, such is comic books.
Captain Marvel, who is being referred to as “Shazam” mostly to escape any potential lawsuits/misunderstandings from Marvel Comics’ Captain Marvel, has had numerous series throughout the years. For the most part, Marvel has been more of a team player and supporting character throughout much of DC’s history. Still, there’s no better representation of Billy Batson than in Shazam – The Monster Society of Evil. Created by Eisner award winning writer/artist Jeff Smith, most famous for his comic series Bone and RASL, this miniseries followed the origin of Captain Marvel, as well as the creation of the “Monster Society of Evil”. Man, you can’t get a much more imposing super villain team name than that can you? The artwork, story, and characters really are some of the best comic book storytelling you’re likely to find and will give you a key insight into Captain Marvel, prior to the movie’s release, whenever that might be.
Recently, the DC universe was “rebooted”, which essentially means that all the stories were swept clean and a new batch of continuities and storylines emerged, and a newer, more modern version of Captain Marvel was presented. Billy was portrayed as less of a squeaky clean do-gooder and more of a con-artist that bumbles his way into superpowers in the same method as he did in the original version. This is most likely the version we’ll be seeing in the films as Warner Bros. has been looking to “streamline” many of their properties in a similar vein. For a look into this new version of Captain Marvel, you can check out the animated Justice League: War, which features him prominently.
Finally, if you can, read Kingdom Come, a comic book story looking at the DC Universe years into the future where a brainwashed Captain Marvel is essentially “pointed” at the Justice League and Superman by Lex Luthor. Granted, this isn’t exactly the pinnacle story to get an insight into his character, but it features about the best Captain Marvel fight you’ll likely see where he fist fights Superman as a nuclear bomb is hurtling toward the ground. It’s good stuff.
As of now, Dwayne Johnson says he has the option of being either the hero or the villain in the feature film adaptation, as he is currently waffling between playing the youth minded Captain Marvel or the menacing Black Adam. In all honesty, he’s perfect for both of the roles. If you want to see Johnson with more of a juvenile mentality, check out Pain and Gain where he plays an “innocent” extortionist/eventual murderer who wanders through life with little to no understanding of how the world works. Johnson has handled a lot of comedic roles in his career, so he’d be adept at bringing the goofiness of the “Big Red Cheese” to life. Were he to play Black Adam, well you’d certainly need to find someone who wouldn’t be completely overshadowed by his frame (Jon Hamm maybe?) but check out the movie Doom, where he puts forward a good performance as the antagonist of the picture.
Warner Bros. has still yet to officially announce a Shazam movie (Johnson’s been taking the Vin Diesel route by doing most of the talking) so there’s always the possibility that this could fall through, but it’s yet another salvo in the war of comic book movies.