Of all the superheroes that DC Comics has made modern movie adaptations for, Shazam is likely the least well known outside of comics readers. Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman have all maintained dedicated mainstream fandoms for decades, and even Aquaman has benefited from being the butt of so many jokes. Shazam (a.k.a. the hero formerly known as Captain Marvel) on the other hand has not appeared in nearly as many cartoons or other media adaptations. That is bound to change in the wake of the first Shazam trailer released at San Diego Comic-Con.
The first trailer for the film is bright, fun, and filled with laughs; everything that recent DC movies have not been known for. Just over two minutes of footage is enough to deliver the same rush of joy that something like Spider-Man 2 or Guardians of the Galaxy is capable of. So there can be little doubt that Shazam is about to gain a lot of new fans, and those fans are going to be wondering where they can find more of this great superhero.
Anyone looking for Shazam comics to read is in luck. There is nothing short of a bounty of graphic novels and collections perfect for new readers. So if you’re looking to introduce yourself to Shazam, his wonderful family, and monstrous villains, then be sure to check out these 10 great comics.
Shazam: The Monster Society of Evil #1-4
Created by Jeff Smith
This is the perfect all-ages introduction to Shazam from Jeff Smith, one of comics’ greatest living cartoonists. It captures all of the essential mythology in the midst of a riveting battle as Shazam must go up against alien invaders and his own rogues gallery of villains. This miniseries remains a captivating read no matter how old you are, and one of the best Shazam comics ever.
Justice League (vol. 2) #7-11, 0, 14-16, 18-21
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Gary Frank
This origin provides a lot of insight into what audiences can expect from the movie next year. It was originally told as a backup story in the pages of Justice League, which Warner Bros. executives have cited as the origin for their own story. It provides a modern tone and sensibilities to the classic Golden Age Shazam comics, including a cynical version of Billy Batson like the one from the trailer.
World’s Greatest Super-Heroes: Shazam
Written by Paul Dini and Alex Ross
Art by Alex Ross
Few tales capture the heart of Shazam better than this one. It taps into the childlike innocence and good nature of the character when he is shown visiting a terminally ill boy. The comic provides Alex Ross’ inspiring take on the character without any of the ugliness found in Kingdom Come, offering yet another all-ages take on this truly inspiring superhero.
Power of Shazam (original graphic novel)
Created by Jerry Ordway
This story offers another lushly painted take on the character, this time providing an updated version of his origin for the 1990s. This OGN was so popular that it helped to spawn an ongoing series that has become one of DC Comics’ hidden gems from the era -- and one that appears later in this list. The Power of Shazam is a succinct retelling of the origin without any of the cynicism or cruelty found in the New 52 era.
Shazam: The New Beginning #1-4
Written by Roy Thomas and Dann Thomas
Art by Tom Mandrake
Following the cataclysmic events of Crisis On Infinite Earths, many DC Comics superheroes received updated origin stories for a new era of comics, including Shazam. Roy Thomas not only introduces Shazam to new readers, but offers great updates on his greatest foes, Dr. Sivana and Black Adam, as well. This story also provides an excellent introduction to the extraordinary pencil work of Tom Mandrake.
Superman/Shazam: First Thunder #1-4
Written by Judd Winick
Art by Joshua Middleton
Shazam and Superman have almost always been tied together, both in their stories and reality, as they inspire one another. This reimagining of their first encounter makes it clear what makes each of these pure superheroes unique, and why they are even better when sharing a world together. It’s a tale that makes the difference between innocence and naivety clear, as it celebrates the former.
The Multiversity: Thunderworld #1
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Cameron Stewart
While this single issue does tie into the much larger events of The Multiversity, it can still be read purely as a great, modern Shazam story. Morrison and Stewart celebrate a lot of history in a very concise manner, showcasing much of the Shazam family along with plenty of villains in just over 40 pages. This story also helps readers to better understand what was great about the original Golden Age comics of this character.
Captain Marvel Adventures (vol. 1) #22-46
Written by Otto Binder
Art by C. C. Beck
While some cultural and storytelling elements from the Golden Age of comics have not stood the test of time, this expansive early Shazam story does so better than most. Over the course of more than 20 issues, it tells a single story about Shazam’s many foes in bite-sized installments. Shazam co-creator C. C. Beck is in top form on these tales alongside the great Otto Binder who defined much of Shazam and Superman’s early histories.
The Trials of Shazam #1-12
Written by Judd Winick
Art by Howard Porter
Following the events of Infinite Crisis, Freddy Freeman was given a chance to step up from being Captain Marvel Jr. into the main heroic role of his family. This series tested the young hero as he fills new shoes and struggles with changes in the world around him. It is a great update of the coming-of-age story in a classic superhero dynamic.
Starman (vol. 2) #39-40 and The Power of Shazam! (vol. 1) #35-36
Written by Jerry Ordway and James Robinson
Art by Pete Krause and Tony Harris
This crossover between the great DC Comics '90s series of The Power of Shazam and Starman showcases the strong influence of legacy on both characters. In addition to providing a thrilling adventure, it focuses on the distance between when these heroes first appeared and how they function today. For any fans of DC Comics history or the expansive universe behind the movies, this is a must read... along with the rest of each series.