The utterance of a magic word. A crash of lightning. A flash of red. A gleam of gold. And a million-dollar smile. That’s right kids, I’m talking about Shazam (the ORIGINAL Captain Marvel) and how he’s gonna help save the DCEU.
First, let me set the record straight. I’m biased. Yep. I’m biased towards my favorite superhero in the whole world. SHAZAM. Not because he’s powerful, or fast, or even that he went toe-to-toe with Superman and WON. Nope. I’m biased because he dares to be a kid. He dares to protect charm and innocence in an age of unprecedented cynicism and hollow technology. He’s here to bring goodwill, new light and a breath of fresh air to a universe we fans wish to recognize more. Though I’m fully aware that it won’t take a singular movie to change the tide—Shazam, the character, the hero, is MORE than ready to lead the charge. (And in his case, over 75 years ready.)
First, let’s catch up on the “Here Ye! Here Ye!”. On January 19th, Warner Bros. announced that the upcoming Shazam, will be split into two films. One showcasing the power of the titular hero. The other will focus on Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam. The two projects will be shot simultaneously and the decision comes hot off the heels of a successful meeting Johnson had with DC Films co-head, Geoff Johns. The studio’s “state of the union” went so well, WB execs not only gave Johnson the lead in his own film, but shifted the tone of DC films to embody “hope, optimism and fun”. A smart move considering the bleakness of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel and Batman V Superman. Heck, even David Ayers’s Suicide Squad was a divisive misfire. Though only time will tell if Wonder Woman and Justice League will leave successful marks on the tumultuous swath of destruction DC has unleashed, we’re finally starting to see the silver lining. To us fans, Dwayne Johnson as Black Adam is good news, particularly now that Johnson is greenlit to expand the character’s evolution from slave, to villain to anti-hero. (And build a separate franchise around the character. CHA-CHING!!!). Plus, speculation says that Black Adam might make a cameo appearance in James Wan’s Aquaman in 2018, though nothing this side of the “Rock of Eternity” has been confirmed yet.
In other news, writer Henry Gayden (Earth to Echo) is reportedly penning the script for Shazam with a different antagonist set to shake up Shazam’s world (*cough*cough*Sivana*cough*cough*). Though a director or casting for Shazam and his alter-ego Billy Batson have yet to be announced, fans can look forward to an April 5th, 2019 release for our long-awaited hero and his magical universe. Though it HAS been rumored that Black Adam might steal the date from the Big Red Cheese, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Which boomerangs us back to my original point; Shazam is poised to be one of the first in a series of “turning point films” that can strengthen the DCEU—if done right. So to start—why Shazam? What makes him the right guy for the job? Well, I know A LOT of fans that look at him as “just another Superman”, with similar looks, virtues and power-sets. Truth is, artist C.C. Beck and writer Bill Parker were only tapped to rival Superman in SALES, not character. They created a superhero whose greatest power is his child-like whimsy. Most characters Billy’s age were sidekicks learning the ropes from their superhero mentors. But not Billy Batson. He’s a kid blessed with the power of six (count ‘em SIX!) ancient gods and heroes from mythology. The selfless kid that finds the goodness in everything, even darkness and adversity. A “Sir Percival” of the Justice League as Grant Morrison put it.
Plus, he’s the first superhero in history to activate his powers with a simple magic word, followed by a thrilling transformation! Though many of his colossal competitors have mimicked this magical feat (including Thor, Miracle-Man and Captain Mar-vell), Shazam was the first, and arguably the BEST at this awe-inspiring spectacle. And since magic has its place among superheroes, Shazam has the potential to be the cornerstone of all things magical in the DCEU. Much like 2016’s Dr. Strange, it shifted the tone of the MCU and brought a magical, other-worldly element to the table. (Something we haven’t seen yet in a DC film.)
Which hurdles us to the subject of sales. It’s no secret that “Batman V Superman” monumentally dropped off in second weekend ticket sales, received a dismal 29% from Rotten Tomatoes and failed to reach the one-billion-dollar mark worldwide. Though social media reaction was hopeful during the film’s premiere, a steep plunge ensued among fans in the weeks that followed. This should have been momentous, inspiring and record-breaking. Instead, it was a turkey that attempted to fly, but just as quickly fell off a cliff. So where do Shazam and Black Adam fit into all of this? Well, to branch from IGN’s, “Why the DCEU Is in Trouble” by Terri Schwartz, Shazam and Black Adam have existed OUTSIDE of the DCU for many years. They can just as easily stand-alone AND mix in with the current DCEU as they’ve proven time and again in the comics. Unlike other DC heroes, this will lead to what Schwartz mentioned about “a singular vision, a solid script, strong editing and smart studio oversight”. With the WB shifting its tone, this leaves the door wide open for both franchises to succeed.
And to sweeten the sundae even more, Dwayne Johnson and Henry Cavill have recently teased a possible showdown between the villainous Black Adam and the Man of Steel himself. If accurate, this could lead to a treasure-trove of team-ups, meteoric meetings and LOTS of superhero slugfests to enjoy!
So the conclusion of our epic journey together, dear readers, leaves us with a hopeful new beginning. A sublime vision filled with iconic superheroes that ushered unparalleled excitement to fans all those years ago. A brighter, more—familiar DC for all to enjoy. And it doesn’t take the wisdom of Solomon to figure out that Shazam’s magic, history, mythology, wish-fulfillment and heroic message make him more than capable to brighten DC’s tone. Harkening back to his first appearance in the Golden Age of comics, Shazam flew into our hearts—and with his enduring spirit of hope, conquered the test of time. From outselling Superman in the 1940’s, to soaring again in Jerry Ordway’s Power of Shazam, Mark Waid’s Kingdom Come and Geoff Johns’s Curse of Shazam, among many others, the “World’s Mightiest Mortal” has risen, fell and risen again to finally reach his moment in history. A moment, that if handled correctly, can propel him and Black Adam to soaring new heights. A triumph that both characters have worked for decades to achieve…and so richly deserve.