Head geek and father of all fanboy bloggers, Harry Knowles blessed my tweet in response to his about Warner Brother‘s plan for Shazam. I have postulated that Shazam could be their Spider-Man as well as another Harry Potter for WB.

You have a boy imbued with magic powers who can transform into a powerful superhero when he says a magic word. What 6-13 year old boy would not want to see that happen to them, let alone to an actor in the movies.

Shazam is a classic DC character whose history actually stretches back well beyond DC’s. First known as Captain Marvel, Shazam was created in 1939 by artist C.C. Beck and writer Bill Parker for Fawcett Comics.  Shazam was brought back to life by DC by Carmine Infantino, who licensed the character from Fawcett in 1972. By this time, Marvel Comics had trademarked their own Captain Marvel, so DC published their book under the name Shazam!. Shazam became fully integrated into the DC Universe during 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths limited comics series, ultimately becoming a frequent guest star in Justice League of America books.

His alter ego is Billy Batson who was a radio news reporter and was chosen by a wizard, also named Shazam, to be a champion of good. In later incarnation, Batson would be a young orphan who was given the powers to help differentiate himself from Superman.

As the story goes, after Billy stumbles into some trouble, the wizard Shazam seeks him out because he makes the right and good choice in a dicey situation. In order to transform into Captain Marvel, Billy must speak the wizard’s name, an acronym for the six legendary figures who agreed to grant aspects of themselves to a willing subject: 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.

Like Peter Parker, Batson was frequently near homeless or penniless, but would still have to save the world.  The Batson character is also like Harry Potter for obvious reasons in that a young child must learn the ways of magic to fend of a deadly foe, in this case, Black Adam.

Today, Shazam was given a major role in the development of the New 52 storyline of DC Comics by having his own “end-credit” series on the new Justice League books. The feature was written by Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank who updated his story and his look. Frank gave him a long cloak and hood. Johns also wanted to root the character in fantasy and magic more than ever before. Now, the New 52 has Billy as less virtuous, arrogant, and troubled 15 year old foster child living in Philadelphia. He is reluctantly given the powers by the wizard, but makes bad choices when transformed into Shazam, making the character much less of a boy scout than earlier iterations.

A film series on Shazam may not go on for 7-8 films, but has the potential to be a Potter-esque success.  I think this is mainly because of subject matter: a regular kid becomes a superhero. A simple concept, but with some added bonuses like Shazam not only has his own cool adventures, but eventually will become part of the Justice League. The unique convention of the hero is that he is a child in a man’s body who control his powers, but has the disposition of a child. Shazam would ohhh and ahhh at hanging out with Superman and Batman, but, if the story was written this way, neither of those gods would know that he was a kid in real life.

New Line Cinema, a subdivision of WB, had been developing a Billy Batson and the Legend of Shazam! live-action feature film, with Peter Segal (The Longest Yard, 50 First Dates) as director and Michael Uslan as producer. Actor and former wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson had agreed to appear in the film as Black Adam, but the project has been abandoned.

Shazam would also be a great film adaptation because of his relationship with his enemies. Black Adam is essentially an evil version of Shazam who is crazed for power. Regularly, Shazam would have to come up with original ways for Black Adam to say his name to transform back into a human. Maybe you don’t have them face off in the first film since Black Adam’s weakness is so unrefined, instead, you wait it out a film or two and have Shazam deal with Dr. Sivana or another villain in his gallery. Ultimately, Black Adam is his Voldemort.

Shazam is also a unique character because, technically, he is as powerful as Superman. As an equal to Superman, it would make for a a nice dichotomy to see Supes make adult decision, while Billy makes questionable decisions in fighting crime. Some versions of the comics have also had Clark as an unwitting mentor for Billy, which may be a stretch, but it would be cool to see him mentor Billy and Shazam. Another unique feature of their relationship is that Superman has an aversion to magic that mutes some of his powers, like x-ray vision.

I think that Shazam is a gold mine waiting to be plumbed by WB, but will they take advantage of it. I suppose we will find out in a few weeks at Comic-Con in San Diego where it is alleged that WB will reveal their plans for their DC Universe. So far, the rumor is that Shazam will have a stand alone film right after Justice League, but there is no word whether he will be part of the JL or not.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

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