While New Line Cinema has not yet released an official first look at Zachary Levi in costume as Shazam, numerous fan and paparazzi photos of the actor in costume have leaked online following several days of on-location shooting in Toronto.
The buzz has been pretty significant, with fans weighing in both in favor of and against the costume (which... well, that's comics fans for you), but little in the way of looking beyond the surface, so we figured we could take a few minutes to run down the various features of the super suit and contextualize some of what you're seeing if you aren't a big Shazam fan.
Check out our thoughts below, and chime in at the bottom if you have any comments to add.
Shazam has had, essentially, three (really two and a half) major costume designs during his long history.
One popular version was a costume that was very mythological in its look. The cloth fabric featured a tunic that fastened across the front of his body, and there was no visible metal anywhere. The lightning bolt itself was just a decal on the tunic.
There was a variation on this, seen in his earliest appearances, which was that same costume but without the fasteners. It looked like just a red unitard with a lightning bolt on it.
Later, when he was reimagined for DC's 2011 reboot The New 52, Shazam got a more traditional (for the time) superhero costume, with textured tights and no visible "tunic" element fastening. The area around upper chest and shoulders had a series of lines spanning it.
That is the version we see here, more or less, right down to the detailing and lines around the shoulders.
That there is no "fastening" part of the tunic and the belt has visible gaps gives the impression that this is definitely a one-piece bodysuit, not unlike what Henry Cavill wore as Superman, whereas in some versions of the comics it more distinctly resembles pants and a top. We can touch on that a little bit more soon.
Again, there are a few different takes on this but really not many.
For most of his publishing history, Shazam has worn a cloth belt or sash that is reminiscent of the Arab/Egyptian roots of most of the mythology underlying his powers.
The New 52 version wore a segmented, golden/metallic belt with a clasp detail around the left side of his belly. Again, that is essentially what we are looking at here.
The segmented, metallic version would obviously cut into the actor if it were as 100% “gap-free” and flush to the body as the version in the comics, so here we get a version that has a metal band across the front, decorated with lightning bolt cut-outs and what looks to be a light-up lightning bolt in the middle, and a back that looks like essentially metal watch band, so that there is give and flexibility when the actor has to move.
Captain Marvel's cape has been largely unchanged for years, until The New 52 came along.
One thing that does happen, dependin gon the artist, is that sometimes he can be drawn with a layering effect, where it looks a bit more like a cloak, with the bottom layer of cape hanging behind his back while a top, wider layer goes over his shoulders and stops around the shoulder blade.
Traditionally, his cape has abeen affixed to the costume with a simple rope, although later artists added one or more metallic clasps.
The New 52 reinvention did away with the rope altogether, and added a hood that could go over Shazam's head. This update actually dates back to somewhat before The New 52, when Billy took over from the Wizard Shazam and other members of the Marvel family ended up taking on his earthly roles, but it was inconsistently rendered until The New 52, when his redesign became static.
The movie version of the cape has both the layering effect around the shoulders AND the hood, creating a bunch of fabric at his back that will likely look dynamic in motion but is one of the things fans are not thrilled about when seeing stills.
It also has done away with the rope, opting instead for stylized clasps that we will talk about a little more later.
The bright yellow of the lightning bolt in the set photos feels a bit like something that will be replaced in post-production, but we will see.
In any event, this is another instance where it is kind of an odd middle ground. For years, the lightning bolt was just a bold, yellow insignia on his chest. Some artists drew it as metallic or reflective, but it was relatively rare.
In The New 52, they introduced a version where the lightning bolt was outlined in reflective, metallic gold which descended all the way down to his belt. The bolt itself was generally illuminated, and sometimes -- especially when he was powering up -- filled with Kirby Krackle, the dots that serve as a visual shorthand for a sizzling, high-intensity energy in comics.
In the set photos, the gold trim on the bolt does not look as metallic and does not go down nearly as far, but it remains a gold triangle enveloping the bolt.
The boots are something redesigned from whole cloth for the movie, as far as we can tell.
In the classic comics, Billy wore buccaneer boots, a la Captain America. They were yellow but not particularly depicted as "golden."
In The New 52, the buccaneer boots gave way to metallic, armored, layered boots with a design that aped his traditional wrist gauntlets.
Here, they have picked a kind of middle ground, modernizing the boots and giving them a golden look but not a metallic one.
The lightning bolt detailing at the top of the boots reinforces the lightning bolt motif from his chest, but also looks a bit like something The Flash might wear on TV, given the material of the boots.
The gauntlets are interesting; in the early days, they were banded metal that went up from the wrist about halfway to the elbow.
The segmented version seen in the set photos, with cutouts that shine yellow light through, seem like exactly the kind of reimagining that Johns and Frank would have gone for in The New 52, considering how much more perasive they made teh lightning motif and the glowing...but nope. They actually simplified the gauntlets down to basically the small wristbands you might have seen on an '80s He-Man toy.
The movie splits the difference, with the larger bands but adding the cut-out detail for energy effects and to break up the color.
A close look at the clasps holding Shazam's cape to his costume reveals that the medallions atop the clasps feature tiger heads.
Given that it is Shazam we're talking about, fans immediately took this to be a wink-and-a-nod reference to Mr. Tawky Tawny, a character who first appeared in 1947 and has been a part of the "Marvel Family" on and off ever since.
(For context, Shazam was originally called Captain Marvel. At one point, the deal was that DC could continue to use the Captain Marvel name in the pages of the books but that it could not be the comic's title. Eventually DC gave up even that and just started referring to the character as Shazam.)
Mr. Tawky Tawny is an anthropomorphic, erudite talking tiger, usually depicted as wearing a suit.
Previous set photos featured a stuffed tiger in a toy store, which fans also spotted and took to be a Tawky Tawny Easter egg.
While the first few shots of the costume looked like straight-up tights or, failing that, the kind of tights-like high-density nylon that Captain America wore in Marvel's The Avengers.
A closer look, available today, showed that it does indeed seem to have that rubberized texture at least in places, with the kind of "basketball" texture popularized with Man of Steel and The Amazing Spider-Man.
There is also a padded look to the costume, which both fleshes out Levi's musculature, and also gives him something of a more dated appearance. Where more modern superheroes are sculpted muscle gods like Ben Affleck's Batman or Chris Hemsworth's Thor, Levi in these shots more closely resembles George Reeves's 1950s Superman -- a no-nonsense, beefy everyman hero with the strength and presences to back up his bluster.
That "old-fashioned" look is backed up not just by the overall nostalgic look and feel of the suit, but by Levi's jet-black, Brylcreemed hairstyle, clearly inspired by the '40s haircuts that spawned the look of the character originally.
Shazam! will tell the story of Billy Batson (Asher Angel), a young Philly foster kid who is granted the power to become a mystical superhero, by an ancient sorcerer (Ron Cephas Jones).
The film will be loaded with DC Universe Easter eggs, and a possible cameo from Henry Cavill's Superman. It also happens to be one of the only prospects that DC Films has in the next two years, so there's a lot riding on it.
The theatrical cut of Justice League is now available on Digital HD and hits Blu-ray on March 13th with deleted scenes. The DC Extended Universe continues with Aquaman on December 21st, Shazam! on April 5, 2019, Wonder Woman 2 on November 1, 2019, Cyborg in 2020, and Green Lantern Corps in 2020.