David F. Sandberg (“Annabelle: Creation”) directs New Line Cinema’s “Shazam!,” the origin story that stars Zachary Levi (TV’s “Chuck”) as the titular DC Super Hero, along with Asher Angel (TV’s “Andi Mack”) as Billy Batson, and Mark Strong (the “Kingsman” movies) in the role of Super-Villain Dr. Thaddeus Sivana. Peter Safran (upcoming “Aquaman,” “The Conjuring” and “Annabelle” films) serves as the film’s producer.

We all have a superhero inside us, it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out. In Billy Batson’s (Angel) case, by shouting out one word—SHAZAM!—this streetwise 14-year-old foster kid can turn into the adult Super Hero Shazam (Levi), courtesy of an ancient wizard. Still a kid at heart—inside a ripped, godlike body—Shazam revels in this adult version of himself by doing what any teen would do with superpowers: have fun with them! Can he fly? Does he have X-ray vision? Can he shoot lightning out of his hands? Can he skip his social studies test? Shazam sets out to test the limits of his abilities with the joyful recklessness of a child. But he’ll need to master these powers quickly in order to fight the deadly forces of evil controlled by Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Strong).

“Shazam!” also stars Jack Dylan Grazer (“IT”) as Billy’s best friend and ultimate superhero enthusiast, Freddy, part of the foster family that includes Mary, played by Grace Fulton (“Annabelle: Creation”); Darla, played by Faithe Herman (TV’s “This is Us”); Eugene, played by Ian Chen (TV’s “Fresh Off the Boat”); and Pedro, played by Jovan Armand (TV’s “Hawaii Five-O”). Cooper Andrews (TV’s “The Walking Dead”) and Marta Milans (TV’s “Killer Women”) play foster parents Victor and Rosa Vasquez, with Oscar nominee Djimon Hounsou (“Blood Diamond”) as the Wizard.

Firmly set in the DC universe but with his own distinctly fun, family-centric tone, the screenplay is by Henry Gayden, story by Gayden and Darren Lemke. Shazam was created by Bill Parker and C.C. Beck. Christopher Godsick, Jeffrey Chernov, Dwayne Johnson, Dany Garcia and Hiram Garcia serve as executive producers.

Sandberg’s creative team includes his “Annabelle: Creation” director of photography Maxime Alexandre, production designer Jennifer Spence, editor Michel Aller and costume designer Leah Butler.

A New Line Cinema production, “Shazam!” is set for release on April 5, 2019. It will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

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Well, THAT didn't last long ...

Captain Comics said:

Is that the original MSoE story, or the modern update by Jeff Smith? And if it is the original, will it be bowdlerized? Inquiring minds want to know!

Not the first time this has happened. I'm destined to never read that story.

I get the reason why they're not going to republish this. Honestly, I probably wouldn't read it if they did, because I really don't dig anything from the Golden Age nor the Silver Age.

But still, I think it would be worth reprinting as long as they put a piece at the beginning about how it was a different time, and how racially insensitive it is and was, but to take it for the historical piece it is.

Then again, as a white 44-year-old man, I'm not the guy to really speak to what's fair. All I know is that--in a teaching classroom--I would use it during a discussion about how people used to actually think.

Captain Comics said:

Not the first time this has happened. I'm destined to never read that story.

Tricky isn't it? I've read the Jeff Smith version, but not the original. Obviously, DC doesn't want to create a firestorm of controversy, especially with a movie coming out, but there's no getting around the racism of past pop culture. You either have to avoid the old stuff almost entirely, or expect you're going to encounter some really offensive concepts.



Doctor Hmmm? said:

Well, THAT didn't last long ...

Captain Comics said:

Is that the original MSoE story, or the modern update by Jeff Smith? And if it is the original, will it be bowdlerized? Inquiring minds want to know!

I think the racism is all the more reason to publish it, especially -- as suggested here -- with some sort of explanation or acknowledgement at the front that it's not OK now ... but was then.

Because we need to remember our history. We ought to be uncomfortable looking at racist material from the past. We ought to be made uncomfortable about racist material from the past. Because we're not all that far from it, and could go back it. Progress is not assured.

"I'm destined to never read that story."

I wish I would have known you had never read it and wanted to. I actually had it with me at "CapCon 1." (Beechler wanted to see it and I loaned my copy to him over the weekend.)

Spot on, Cap. If I'm not mistaken the retail price on the book was $49.99, seems unlikely that a young, unsuspecting reader would be picking this up anyway.  Golden Age reprints are mostly of interest to older, hard core fans that are going to know ahead of time that there may be some material within that could offend.

Captain Comics said:

I think the racism is all the more reason to publish it, especially -- as suggested here -- with some sort of explanation or acknowledgement at the front that it's not OK now ... but was then.

Because we need to remember our history. We ought to be uncomfortable looking at racist material from the past. We ought to be made uncomfortable about racist material from the past. Because we're not all that far from it, and could go back it. Progress is not assured.

resurrected photo res.gif

I finally saw SHAZAM! yesterday. Did anybody else? I'm a little surprised by the utter lack of chatter about it.

Might as well throw up the ol' spoiler photo spoiler.gif tag:

  • The theater where I saw it had it listed on the marquee under "CAP MARVEL," which gave me a chuckle. My wide did not understand why, and the clearest explanation I could give didn't help.
  • Nor did it help that I kept referring to the guy in the movie as "Captain Marvel," because that's who I know him as. Every time I did, she wondered, "Why is he talking about the woman in the movie we saw LAST month?"
  • Actually, they made choosing a name for the newly minted hero a running gag.
  • I don't particularly favor The New 52 characterization of Captain Marvel Shazam as Billy Batson in a bigger, more musclebound body, largely because it smacks of trying too hard to say This Is Not Your Father's Captain Marvel. But DC still hasn't quite found the way to make the cartoon whimsy of Captain Marvel work in the DC Universe. As I put it to my wife, it's like putting the characters from Brooklyn Nine-Nine in Law & Order; it's just not the right fit.
  • Also, the notion of the superhero being Billy Batson in a bigger, more musclebound body was spoiled for me by Miracleman. If you could say a magic word and be transformed into an all-powerful being, why would you ever change back? 
  • Furthermore, one thing about the superhero being Billy Batson in a bigger, more musclebound body: One of the powers he possesses is the Wisdom of Solomon. But I've never (yet) read or seen any story under this new approach where the superhero demonstrates he has any such wisdom; the writers are too committed to the notion that he's a dumb 14-year-old kid. Not a smart 14-year-old kid, one smart enough to, say, get a job as a news reporter for a radio station. (How quaint.)
  • Speaking of The New 52, this movie pulled a lot from there, like how Billy and Freddy are residents of a group home for foster kids, and Billy needs Freddy's help to be a superhero.
  • I get the need to modernize the story because what worked in the 1930s just can't fly today -- like, Mr. Tawky Tawny -- and I do like some of the movie's changes. Like tying Dr. Sivana's origin to Captain Marvel's Shazam's.
  • As presented here, Billy wasn't the first person the old wizard Shazam invited to that mysterious lair with the giant statues of the Seven Deadly Sins. Old Wizard Shazam tried multiple times, but each candidate proved unworthy, Sivana in particular because he was enticed by the Sins, so Old Wizard Shazam cast him out. Sivana then spent the rest of his trying to find his way back -- and once he did, he absorbed the power of the Seven Deadly Sins and then sets out to destroy Shazam's new champion, Billy. 
  • Sivana's new champion, Billy, we must be reminded, is not a smart 14-year-old kid. He's a dumb 14-year-old kid who ditches school and panhandles for money by shooting lightning bolts from his hands. Think he needs a lesson in how with great power there must also come great responsibility? Sure he does ... even if this isn't a Marvel movie.
  • Another change: The movie delves into why Billy is an orphan, which was, so far as I know, never a concern in the series until the 1990s. I thought this was a mostly positive step, especially as it shows that Billy has spent his entire life looking for his mother. On the minus side, Billy has run away from several foster homes to pursue the search. But one social worker is impressed that, like a smart 14-year-old kid, Billy has located and ruled out 57 women with the last name "Batson." However, being a dumb 14-year-old kid, it doesn't occur to him to look for her under her maiden name.
  • The movie is better than most DC movies with leavening the grim stuff with comedy. Like a moment  where Dr. Sivana is monologuing to Captain Marvel Shazam ... who can't hear a word being said because they're a mile apart. Or a moment where Captain Marvel Shazam needs help from his fellow orphans from the group home and tells them "I need you to say my name!" and they all shout, "BILLY!" As such, it does come closer to the true spirit of Captain Marvel. 
  • WHY DIDN'T ANYBODY TELL ME MEAGAN GOOD WAS IN THIS MOVIE? She's one of my favorite actresses! She was the all-growed-up superhero version of the cute kid sister Darla. It was a bit part, but she made it shine, still conveying that kid-like wonder. The moment where she tells Santa "My name is Darla Dudley, and I've been a very good girl" just made my heart melt. 
  • Interesting choice to set the movie in a real place, and not "Fawcett City." Thumbs up for making that real place Philadelphia and not New York, Los Angeles or Chicago, which are played out.
  • Also interesting is that this is a world that has a Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman. 
  • I kept hearing rumors during production that they were trying to get Henry Cavill to do a cameo. I like how they handled it here. 

Overall, I'm pleased, and hope they might continue. But who knows?

I thought we had discussed this somewhere. Maybe I'm just thinking of the two columns I wrote about it, since that made me think about it a lot.

Anyway, I enjoyed your observations as usual, CK. I think my favorite part of the movie is when Shazam says "Say my name" and they all respond "Billy!" I was in a pretty vocal crowd at my theater and that got a lot of LOLs.

I see a few people commented on SHAZAM! over in the "Movies I Have Seen Lately" thread, starting here.

I really enjoyed it. DC has struggled to make Captain, uh, Shazam work in their universe, and this reinvention at least feels true to the goofy but heroic spirit of the source material, even if Billy starts the movie as a bit of a jerk.

I reviewed it awhile back over here.

ClarkKent_DC said:

  • If you could say a magic word and be transformed into an all-powerful being, why would you ever change back? 

This is precisely the reason I've proffered over the years, regarding the question of whether Billy Batson becomes Captain Marvel, or merely changes places with him.

During the Golden Age, the evidence was strongly on the side of Billy and Captain Marvel being two separate entities, albeit privy to the knowledge that the other gained.  However, it wasn't one hundred per cent; there were a few stories that blurred the issue.

When DC revived the character in the early '70's, the writers were coy about whether Billy changed places with or became Marvel.  Essentially, the question was ignored, and in nearly all of the stories, it was moot, anyway.  However, one scene in "Silence, Please", the Captain Marvel story in World's Finest Comics  #  274 (Dec., 1981), clearly establishes that Cap and Billy are two separate individuals.  (The fact of that wasn't underscored in the tale, so it's possible that writer Nelson Bridwell wasn't paying attention; yet, knowing Bridwell, I wouldn't be surprised if he was deliberately taking the stand that Cap and Billy are two persons, not one.)

Now, granted, in the post-Crisis Captain Marvel canon, DC has insisted that Billy becomes Cap, and its his adolescent mind in a grown-up body.  It's plainly established, so I cannot deny that.  However, as far as before the Crisis is concerned, the most logical scenario is that Billy and Cap are two discrete individuals.  The point that CK raises above adds to that logic.

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