While Geoff Johns's Shazam! run, launched as part of 2011's The New 52 publishing initiative, informs much of the plot of the forthcoming movie adaptation of the character, star Zachary Levi says there is actually another comic from which he drew a lot of inspiration.
Levi, who notes that the world of the movie is different from both the traditional "Captain Marvel" stories as well as the latter-day "Shazam" era, described the impact that different comics had on his performance during a visit to the set of Shazam! last year.
"As soon as I got the job, Geoff Johns sent me a whole bunch of stuff and some other stuff recommended stuff. I wanted to read those to just kind of familiarize myself but also see if there were little nuggets or little things," Levi told reporters. "But the truth is, The New 52 is really not canon for this, because this is even different than what the new 52 is."
Along the way, besides Johns's work, Levi said that he did find other comics featuring Shazam that he either read for the first time, or re-read, and enjoyed. He singled out one particular story -- Kingdom Come by Alex Ross and Mark Waid -- which he said informed his performance even more than Johns's run.
"I did quite like Kingdom Come," he said. "Even though that's a completely different situation, it shows Captain Marvel's innocence. He's an adult, and he still has that heart. And I thought, 'Oh that's such a cool thing to be able to take that in.' And it's ultimately a sacrificial move at the end and all of that I just found that was more inspiration for me than even The New 52 in a lot of ways."
Having tangible stories to tie to his performance helped Levi deal operate within the heightened reality of a superhero film.
"We get away with a lot in comics because you get to draw whatever the hell you want and you, as the reader, get to put a real voice in your head to those characters," Levi added. "But in the movies, as an actor, you really have to try and bring that to life in the most realistic way possible. And that's a really weird thing to do."
In Kingdom Come, an adult Billy Batson is manipulated into working for Lex Luthor, becoming an enforcement arm of Luthor's criminal enterprises. This ultimately leads to an epic battle between Shazam and Superman in the final issue. In addition to citing his love for Kingdom Come frequently, Levi has often joked about fighting with Man of Steel star Henry Cavill onscreen.0comments
Our set visit, in fact, came on the same day that Action Comics #1000 hit the stands. With DC celebrating Superman's 80th anniversary, Levi posted an image on Instagram of the Man of Steel being punched out by Shazam.
Shazam! hits theaters on April 5, 2019. Other upcoming DC films include Joker on October 10, 2019, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) on February 7, 2020, and Wonder Woman 1984 on June 5, 2020.