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Comic Book / Shazam! (2012)

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Shazam! is a comic book storyline produced by DC comics, a reboot of Captain Marvel as part of their New 52 relaunch. It was written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Gary Frank, running as a back-up to Justice League (2011) through issues #7 through to #21 (except for issues 12, 13 & 17, which it skipped, along with being the main story of issues #0 and #21).

Once upon a time, there was a wizard known as Shazam, who was looking for someone to bear the power of the gods and be the champion of magic, Earth's mightiest mortal. And he found a champion in the kind and pure-hearted Billy Batson, who became Captain Marvel, fighting enemies such as Black Adam, Doctor Sivana and Mister Mind.

This isn't that story. In this story, Billy Batson is a bad-tempered little jerk, who can't stand his adopted siblings, and the wizard has been searching among dozens of candidates for a new champion, to no luck. Which is a problem, as one Doctor Sivana has freed the fallen champion Teth-Adam from his tomb in a desperate attempt to save his family. Billy might not be the best choice, but with the wizard running out of options, he'll just have to do. And maybe, hopefully, use his newfound powers for good.

This origin and plots setup here would later be revisited in Shazam! (2018), also written by Johns.

SHAZAM! (2019) is based largely on this, with elements taken from other versions.

Shazam! provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Sivana no longer has the gonky appearance of his usual depictions. No pointed ears, pronounced overbite, hunched posture and coke-bottle glasses, he just looks like... a normal guy. At least, until the magic starts damaging his body.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: Billy Batson. Formerly one of the nicest, sweetest people imaginable, here... well, he starts off as an obnoxious little shit. As the comic goes on, he shows he does have a heart of gold buried down there.
  • Adaptational Superpower Change: In addition to the usual Flying Brick powers, Shazam also gets a few new ones (the ability of Shock and Awe, learn languages instantly, control electrical devices, share the powers between family).
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Freddy goes from black hair to blond hair.
  • Adaptation Name Change: The big one: Billy's transformed state is no longer called Captain Marvel, but Shazam (DC having figured "well, everyone calls him Shazam anyway").
  • Age Lift: Part-time; Freddy takes on an adult form when powered up in this version whereas all earlier versions of him remained a teenager.
  • Arc Words: "Family".
  • The Artful Dodger: Freddy, who helps kids with tests for a fee, or forges sick notes.
  • The Baby of the Bunch: Darla is the youngest of the Vasquez kids. Even when everyone else gets Shazam'd, her form is a teenager, as opposed to everyone else's young adult.
  • Big Eater: Billy, in his transformed state. A bigger body means he's going to be hungrier than he is as a pre-teen.
  • By the Power of Grayskull!: Guess. Billy's first time saying it doesn't work, and the Wizard fills him in - it's not enough to just say it.
    Wizard: You must say it with purpose. With belief. With good intentions. With thoughts of your parents and your family. Say it and you will be transformed into your greatest potential.
  • Canon Immigrant: The various kids adopted by the Vasquezes - Darla, Pedro and Eugene - had previously appeared in Flashpoint as that reality's Billy's adopted siblings, and components of Captain Thunder.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: While wandering through the Rock of Eternity, Billy finds the plinth for the Seven Deadly Sins, which are empty. Black Adam and Sivana start gathering them up.
  • The Chooser of the One: The Wizard, who's having some serious problems actually finding someone pure of heart in the modern day and age.
  • Color-Coded Characters: When Billy Shazams his foster siblings, each of them has a different color costume - Mary's is red, hinting at her connection to Billy, Freddy's is blue, Pedro's is green, Eugene's is grey, and Darla's is purple. Black Adam, meanwhile, has a black costume and cape, with the crackling lightning and gold ornamentation signifying his shared connection to the living lightning.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: One Mister Gray, who screwed his employees over. One of Black Adam's first acts in the modern world is dropping him onto the sidewalk while he's screaming at police officers for not getting rid of said employees as they protest.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Black Adam was once an ordinary man of Kahndaq, until Ibac and his men invaded it and enslaved everyone, doing... things to his wife and children. Then, when he was given the power of the lightning, he killed his own nephew to keep it so he could get revenge.
  • Death is Cheap: Black Adam transforms back to human, ages thousands of years and dies. He comes back a few months later in Forever Evil (2013).
  • Decon-Recon Switch: The saga starts off with a grittier interpretation where Billy isn't nearly as optimistic, kindhearted and trusting due to being jaded by his life experiences, but as the story goes on he grows to love his adoptive family and realize the importance of helping others, to the point of even attempting to reach out to Black Adam and resolve the conflict with conversation rather than with violence. Granted, Black Adam still lashes out on Billy, but it's nice that Billy tried to take him down peacefully in the first place.
  • Demonic Possession: Mr. Bryer gets all seven of the Deadly Sins down his throat, turning him into a giant, fire-breathing demon.
  • Does Not Know His Own Strength: Billy's first attempt at heroism has him chuck a mugger into a car, crumpling it (the guy lives), because he only just got his powers.
  • Easily Forgiven: Darla forgives Billy for snapping at her, because she's incapable of holding a grudge against anyone.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Billy is a rude jerk, at first, but he immediately leaps in to defend his adopted siblings from the Bryers. In general, he has no tolerance at all for bullies or anyone who dares to mistreat those weaker than them.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Mr. Bryer is such a colossal asshole he cannot comprehend that the Vasquezes might have adopted multiple children to give them a home, instead thinking they're just doing it to be a tax shelter.
  • Evil Uncle: This continuity's Black Adam sacrificed his own nephew to hold onto his power.
  • Exact Words: World's mightiest mortal. Mortal being the operative word - invulnerability is not among Billy's powers, and he can still be killed in his transformed state.
  • Eye Scream: Sivana's first encounter with magic gets him a faceful of lightning, and a burnt out eye.
  • Five-Token Band: The Vasquezes' foster kids prior to Billy showing up included African-American Darla Dudley, Hispanic Pedro Pena and Asian Eugene Choi; even Freddy, the only other white male, was physically handicapped.
  • Foreshadowing: Mary has a faint connection to the magic, due to her being Billy's sister, something neither character realises.
  • Fully Absorbed Finale: Justice League issue 21 is dedicated entirely to the conclusion of the story.
  • Genki Girl: Darla is nigh-endlessly cheerful and excitable.
  • Hidden Heart of Gold: Freddy, who tells Billy that his usual reaction to the Bryers coming after the kids is to hold them off while Mary fetches help.
  • High-School Hustler: Freddy, who's not that good at it, having once provided a boy with a forged doctor's note for a gynecological disease.
  • In the Hood: A new addition to the magical transformation is that it comes with a hood thrown in.
  • Jerkass: The Bryer family, to a brat. Their father uses his money to control everything in sight, and his kids are all spoiled brats who bully other kids, including cripples and little girls half their size.
  • Kick the Dog: Seconds after getting out of his prison, Black Adam crushes one of Sivana's workers with a rock for no reason. Then he fries another with lightning just because he can't understand what he's saying.
  • Lampshaded the Obscure Reference: When Billy calls the other kids the Goonies, Darla asks what he's talking about. A young girl in the 2010s isn't going to know about a movie from the 80s, after all.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: After being a complete dick, Mr. Bryer is left naked in the snow by the Seven Deadly Sins, letting everyone have a good laugh at him.
  • Last of His Kind: The Wizard is the last of the Council of Wizards, thanks to Black Adam turning on them all.
  • Lazy Bum: Sloth, who can't stand walking. Or exerting himself in any way whatsoever. Even during the dramatic scene of the Seven Sins gathered, he's lounging rather than standing
  • The Magic Comes Back: The Wizard hid magic away after Black Adam's fall. Sivana's hope is to bring magic back so he can save his family.
  • Meaningful Name: The Bryers, so named because they're used to buying their way through things.
  • Missing Steps Plan: Black Adam's plan is; get magic, kill the other champion, murder lots of people, and somehow this will save the world from those who want to enslave it. When Billy gets confused by what he's saying, Adam sneers that he's "just a kid".
  • Mistaken for Pedophile: Billy at first assumes Mamaragan is a creep intending to molest him, derisively calling him "Chester" and threatening to knock out his remaining teeth if he doesn't back off.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The name of Billy's school? Fawcett High.
    • When they get some of Billy's powers, Mary and Freddy's outfits are just slightly updated versions of their previous Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel Junior forms. Freddy tries calling himself King Shazam, a title he took in Kingdom Come.
    • The idea of Captain Marvel/Shazam being the champion of magic previously appeared in The Trials of Shazam!; here, it's part of the origin from the start.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • Whatever it is that's happened to Sivana's family, forcing him to look for magic to save them.
    • Pedro knows how to drive a garbage truck, due to a long story involving his grandfather and a moose.
  • "Not So Different" Remark:
    • The Vasquezes absently mention that Mary used to be a Tsundere like Billy when they first adopted her.
    • As Billy points out, Adam's fallen so far that he's no better than the people who caused his Start of Darkness.
  • Panthera Awesome: Tawny, a tiger in the Philadelphia zoo, and the closest thing Billy considers as his family. And he gets slightly more awesome with a free magic power-up.
  • Parental Abandonment:
    • Darla's parents just outright told their daughter they didn't want her, and left her before she was even ten.
    • Mary mentions that the Freemans are locked up. Later on, Freddy tells Billy that they've never tried to get in contact with him.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Francesca fills Billy in on some of the details of Black Adam's origin, but when she's halfway through Billy rushes off to confront him again, before she can explain everything - like the fact Adam isn't the kid from the story. He's the kid's uncle Adam.
  • Punch-Clock Hero: Billy initially takes rewards for his acts of heroism; the reaction of most people suggests that when they asked him "How can I ever repay you", they weren't expecting him to reply "Twenty bucks".
  • Race Lift: The Wizard no longer looks like an ancient white dude, instead looking like someone who's actually from the middle east. He is later revealed to be Australian Aborigine.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can:
    • Black Adam is locked away in a tomb, forty five miles north of Baghdad. Sivana lets him out.
    • Mister Mind is stuck in a jar inside the Rock of Eternity. And with the Wizard distracted, there's no-one to stop him reaching out to Sivana...
  • Sealed Inside a Person-Shaped Can: The Seven Deadly Sins were imprisoned by the Wizard in human form, since he lacked the power to bring them back to the Rock of Eternity.
  • Sequel Hook: Sivana, now starting to look more like his regular depictions, is still trying to get into the Rock of Eternity when Mister Mind speaks to him, offering an alliance. It took until the 2018 Shazam ongoing till the readers saw what became of them.
  • Setting Update: From the fictional Fawcett City to the not fictional Philadelphia.
  • Shout-Out: Freddy compares Fawcett High to The Shawshank Redemption.
  • Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!: Billy's problem, thanks to several years of being bounced around orphanages. It's left him with the belief that there are no good people, or at least that any who are good quickly get eaten by the world.
  • Supernatural Sensitivity: The blast of magic Sivana takes to the eye gives him the ability to see magic; unfortunately, he lacks the Required Secondary Powers that would let him safely channel the magic, causing him to physically wither.
  • Tautological Templar: Adam insists he's a hero, as he murders people for no real reason left and right, or allies with the very creatures he was empowered to fight to burn down the world. Billy calls him on it:
    Billy: Then kill me. Kill another kid and tell yourself it's for the good of the world. Tell yourself you're still a hero.
    Adam: (Beat) SHAZAM! I am a hero!
  • Technopath: Eugene gets this power after becoming a Shazam, which Freddy reckons is because he was holding some digital devices when the lightning hit him.
  • There Can Only Be One: Black Adam is very insistent that only he can be the Wizard's champion. He previously murdered his own nephew to make sure of that.
  • Uncertain Doom: The Wizard is last seen collapsed on the floor of the Rock of Eternity, weak and dying. The story never answers whether he actually is dead, but he returns later on.
  • The Unchosen One: The Wizard initially rejects Billy for not being pure, but after a talk with him decides that while Billy isn't pure, he has potential in him to be good.
  • Weirdness Magnet: Everywhere Billy and Freddy go on their night out on the town, they run into someone committing crimes, leading Freddy to wonder if finding crime is part of the powerset. Francesca confirms that it is.