Longtime fans of the character now known as Shazam in the DC Comics universe know that the character has a bit of a confusing history involving multiple comic book publishers and at least one major name-change. Now that the character is headed for the big screen, played by Zachary Levi, director David F. Sandberg is setting the record straight on the character’s name in the film.
Sandberg clarifies to Entertainment Weekly that the hero played by Levi is indeed Shazam, though they may have snuck in a reference to his history as Captain Marvel as well.
“Let’s just say we’re going to have a bit of fun with that in the movie,” Sandberg teased. “But he’s basically known as Shazam, which makes sense because of the confusion.”
The character was originally called Captain Marvel and was created for Fawcett Comics in by CC Beck and Bill Parker in 1939. The character is a young boy named Billy Batson who gains the power to transform into the heroic Captain Marvel from an ancient wizard named Shazam.
The character was even more popular than Superman for a time, but Fawcett ceased publication of the character in 1953 following a copyright lawsuit brought by DC Comics claiming that the character was actually a ripoff of Superman. In 1972, DC Comics licensed Captain Marvel for publication and by 1991 had purchased the rights to Captain Marvel and his entire “Marvel Family” of related characters and introduced them into the DC Universe.
There was a problem though. In 1967, during the period when Captain Marvel was not being published, Marvel Comics had created and trademarked their own character named Captain Marvel, aka the Kree hero Mar-Vell. Because of this, DC Comics couldn’t sell comics with “Captain Marvel” in their title, and so rebranded the books featuring Captain Marvel with a title using the word “Shazam.” When the DC Universe was rebooted in 2011, DC decided to streamline things and began calling the hero Shazam and referring to the being who granted Billy Batson his powers as simply the Wizard.
Given that complicated publishing history, its fair for fans to wonder how they should refer to the cinematic version of the character, especially since the trailer Comic-Con includes a scene in which the Wizard implies that his name is Shazam in the film.
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Shazam! opens in theaters on April 5, 2019.
Other upcoming DC Extended Universe movies include Aquaman on December 21st, Wonder Woman 1984 on November 1, 2019, Cyborg in 2020, and Green Lantern Corps in 2020.