Superhero Secrets: Shazam

You Want Secrets? Just Say The Word.

Remember: Shazam can mean several things, so the Shazam Backstory rules apply. The hero is called *Captain Marvel, his mentor is The Wizard, and the incantation remains Shazam.

*Not to be confused with Carol Danvers, the Captain Marvel of Marvel Comics.

Shazam: “Yes! Carry my name! And with it, you carry all my powers! 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!

Shazam (2019)

Captain Marvel is the picture perfect hero for comics. A young boy named Billy Batson was granted the powers of gods (and a Biblical king) by a wizard to become Earth’s Mightiest Mortal: Captain Marvel. But as powerful as the champion is, he’s blundered through a few misadventures. This ten-year-old hero is keeping a fair number of secrets.

What have The Wizard and his champion hidden in The Rock of Eternity? Let’s find out.

#5 Shazam vs. DC Comics

[New recruit Captain Marvel has Superman out of sorts]
Superman:Why are you… why is everyone defending him?
Batman:We like him. He’s… sunny.

Justice League: Unlimited “Clash” (Season 2, Episode 7)

Doctor Sivana is supposed to be Captain Marvel’s arch nemesis, but there are foes that even he can’t match. Our first Shazam Secret is his struggle against the Man of Tomorrow and his legal team.

Captain Marvel was the most popular superhero of the 1940s. His comics regularly sold millions of copies. The first superhero movie was “The Adventures of Captain Marvel, ” and an aspiring musician named Elvis Presley based his hairstyle on Captain Marvel Jr. But trouble was on the horizon for the big red cheese.

DC Comics sued Fawcett Publications for copyright infringement, claiming that Captain Marvel ripped-off Superman. The legal battle lasted years, ultimately ending with Fawcett settling out of court and agreeing to stop publishing Captain Marvel comics.

Captain Marvel was out of commission for twenty years until DC bought the character rights. They planned to publish new stories, but the conveniently named newcomer Marvel Comics had snapped up the name and created their own Captain Marvel. DC went ahead with their plans, but labeled the new series Shazam, which became so ubiquitous that the hero was renamed. You win this round, DC.

#4 Shazam Secret: The Marvel Family

[Giant monsters are rampaging, preventing Shazam from chasing Sivana]
Lieutenant Marvel: [flies in on a jetpack with his team] “Lieutenant Marvels, reporting for duty!
Tawny:Monster-hunting weaponry at the ready, RRAWWR!

The Multiversity: Thunderworld

Even a kid with the power of the gods can’t be everywhere at once. Sooner or later, Shazam needs backup. Our next Shazam Secret is how he gets by with a little help from his friends.

Billy received a letter from a dying nurse named Sarah Primm. She revealed that he had a twin sister named Mary who Sarah had arranged to be adopted by a rich family after their parents died. Billy found Mary and revealed his identity to her. The children were kidnapped by criminals who wanted to ransom her. Mary said Shazam and to everyone’s surprise, she transformed into Mary Marvel. The new hero trounced the crooks and joined her brother as a superhero.  

The siblings found another ally when Billy met a dying newsie named Freddy Freeman. The Wizard was unable to heal him, but revealed that Billy could by sharing his powers, thus creating Captain Marvel Jr.

The Marvel Family ranks continued growing. Billy’s bumbling Uncle Dudley became the non-powered Uncle Marvel. Captain Marvel met a trio of other children coincidentally named Billy Batson and recruited them to become the Lieutenants Marvel. 

The strangest addition was Mr. Tawky Tawny, a tiger who drank a magic potion that let him stand upright and talk. Tawny became an erudite gentleman and tour guide who occasionally assisted the heroes. I have no proof that Tawny is related to Calvin’s stuffed tiger Hobbes, but choose to believe so anyway.

#3 Miracleman

Mickey Moran:I’m Miracleman… I’m back!

Miracleman #1

We aren’t out of the courthouse yet. The next Shazam Secret takes us across the pond to jolly old England, back to the U.S. of A., and ends somewhere marvelous. So what is Shazam’s connection to this Miracleman chap?

DC’s legal tactics stopped Captain Marvel from being published in America, but black-and-white reprints were popular in Britain. UK rights holder Len Miller collaborated with Mick Angelo to alter the Captain Marvel comics they had to a character named Marvelman.

Marvelman was a reporter named Mickey Moran who could become a superhero by shouting “Kimota!” (Atomik spelled backwards). His powers were radiation-based and bestowed by an astrophysicist instead of a wizard. Alongside a team of other Marvels, he fought villains like Dr. Gargunza (his version of Dr. Sivana) and Young Nastyman (ditto for Black Adam).

The character was renamed Miracleman after Marvel threatened legal action. Publication ceased, until Eclipse Comics bought the rights. Nascent comics legend Alan Moore rebooted the series with mature themes. The series eventually fell into Neil Gaiman’s hands, and he examined what would happen if a Superman-esque figure uplifted civilization.

Spawn writer Todd McFarlane introduced Miracleman to his series after buying Eclipse Comics. This prompted legal action as Moore, McFarlane, and Gaiman all had claims to the rights. The courts eventually found that Mick Angelo had been swindled by Eclipse and returned the rights to him. He then sold Miracleman to Marvel.

Marvel established that Miracleman’s reboot exists on Earth-18. A recent Kang the Conqueror story featured a rival time traveler discovering the Miracleman logo. It seems the Marvel Universe is about to have their own Shazam. Somebody start the countdown until he’s in the MCU.

#2 Shazam Secret: Superman vs Shazam

Norman:I see Ragnarok at last unfold. And worst of all, I see the desperate hope of the one man who might yet stop it turned to ash and cinders… by a single bolt of lightning. [Shazam floats in front of Superman] Armageddon has arrived.”

Kingdom Come

The penultimate Shazam Secret is the one you’ve all been waiting for. 

In the Red Corner, wearing the red tights and white cape, weighing in at 215 pounds, The Challenger: Captain Marvel!

In the Blue Corner, rocking the blue suit and red cape, weighing in at 235 pounds, The Champion: Superman!

Let’s have a nice, clean match, fellas. Round 1, FIGHT!

Ever since Captain Marvel was brought into the DC universe, he’s been used as a Superman substitute. They’re equal in power and personality, after all. So naturally, the most human of questions was constantly asked of the writers: “Who would win in a fight?” We can’t cover them all, so we’ll stick to the first and the best fights.

The pair first tangled in Superman vs. Shazam. A Martian criminal recruited Black Adam and Sandman Superman to frame their counterparts for attacking each other. The heroes were fooled and fought to a draw, Captain Marvel’s magic parried by Superman’s greater experience. Supergirl and Mary Marvel discovered the ruse and convinced the heroes to team-up against the villains.

Their most famous clash came in Kingdom Come. Lex Luthor brainwashed an adult Billy Batson and forced him to masquerade as Captain Marvel. War erupted among the planet’s superheroes. Luthor manipulated the U.N. into launching a nuke at them and forced Billy to transform so he could keep Superman busy.

Captain Marvel used the magic lightning from his transformation to get past Superman’s invulnerability. Superman managed to force him to return to Billy Batson and left to stop the nuke. Billy, lucid for the first time in years, transformed again, and sacrificed his life to save Superman and minimize the bomb’s damage.

#1 First Thunder

Billy:My name’s Billy Batson. But… maybe it’s too dangerous for me to be Billy Batson anymore.
Superman: [Calmly furious] “Who did this to you?

Superman/Shazam: First Thunder

Wow, a lot of Shazam Secrets have painted Superman as Captain Marvel’s arch nemesis. Seems strange that two idealistic heroes just can’t get along. Our final Shazam Secret asks what would happen if the two met at the beginning of Captain Marvel’s journey.

Billy Batson was an orphan adjusting to becoming The Wizard’s champion. His world was flipped upside down when Superman appeared in pursuit of a gang. He wasn’t able to catch them because of a magical artifact, but Captain Marvel succeeded. The two became friends, but Superman kept Cap at arm’s length.

Dr. Sivana approached Lex Luthor for help defeating Captain Marvel. They learned his secret identity, and Sivana placed a hit on Billy. Captain Marvel defeated the assassins, but crossfire killed his best friend. Cap threatened the gunman to learn his boss’s name, damaging a police station in the process. He nearly killed Sivana before reluctantly sparing him.

An angry Superman arrived to learn what had caused Captain Marvel’s rampage, but found the other hero crying. He transformed into Billy Batson, revealing that Superman’s bastion against magical threats was only a child. Superman flew to the Rock of Eternity and exploded on The Wizard as the two argued about The Wizard putting the weight of the world on a child.

The Wizard eventually convinced Superman that Billy was the only person who could handle the burden and responsibility of being his Champion. Perhaps what he needed was a mentor? Superman agreed and visited the orphanage, revealing his secret identity to Billy. This is not the end of their story, merely the beginning.

What’s your favorite Shazam Secret? Tell us in the comments.

Image: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

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