In the origin story printed in Whiz Comics #2, homeless newsboy Billy Batson is led by a mysterious stranger to a secret subway tunnel. An odd subway car with no visible driver takes them past seven statues depicting the Seven Deadly Enemies of Man (Pride, Envy, Greed, Hatred, Selfishness, Laziness, and Injustice) to the lair of the wizard Shazam, who grants Billy the power to become the adult superhero Captain Marvel. Immediately afterward a stone above Shazam's head falls and crushes him, but his ghost says he will give Batson advice when a brazier is lighted in this chamber. In order to transform into Captain Marvel, Billy must speak the wizard's name, an acronym for the six figures who had agreed to grant aspects of themselves to a willing subject: the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury. Speaking the word produces a bolt of magic lightning which transforms Billy into Captain Marvel; speaking the word again reverses the transformation with another bolt of lightning.
Captain Marvel wore a bright red costume with gold trim and a yellow lightning bolt insignia on the chest. The body suit originally included a partial bib front, but was changed to a one-piece skintight suit within a year. In 1994, the DC Comics version of the costume had the partial bib restored. The costume also included a white-collared cape trimmed with gold flower symbols, usually asymmetrically thrown over the left shoulder and held around his neck by a golden cord.
Aspects of this version
- Captain Marvel and Billy Batson have two separated personalities. The way that Captain Marvel acts is clearly like an adult and particularly one imbued with the wisdom of Solomon. Batson is a curious and intelligent child but has the maturity of some between 12 and 14 years old.
- Captain Marvel's area of operations was New York City and later retconned by DC as Fawcett City.
- Captain Marvel begun his career in 1940; a Suspendium trap was used as explanation of him and his recurring characters have not aged since the Golden Age.
- A Marvel Family exists with Captain Marvel; Captain Marvel, Jr.; Mary Marvel; and three Lieutenants Marvel forms: even when more than one member of the Marvel Family is active, each has the full power level. (The heroes are sometimes accompanied by non-powered Uncle Dudley and Freckles Marvel or Hoppy the Marvel Bunny.)
- Black Adam killed a unknown pharaoh before being banished to a faraway star by Shazam. Black Adam derives his powers from Egyptian gods: Shu (stamina), Hershef (strength), Amon (power), Zehuti (wisdom), Anpu (speed), and Menthu (courage).
- Captain Nazi acted during World War II; he crippled Freddy Freeman during the same period.
- Billy's parents were killed in a car accident when he was a baby. His alive relatives are his twin sister Mary and his uncle Ebenezer, who stole his fortune.
- Mary had been adopted by the Bromfields (their first names are unknown). Mary derives her powers from Selena (grace), Hippolyta (strength), Ariadne (skill), Zephyrus (speed), Aurora (beauty), and Minerva (wisdom).
- Shazam beckoned Billy Batson to the Rock of Eternity because he knew that his death was imminent and he needed a representative of pure heart on Earth; he starts acting like a ghost in future adventures.
- Sivana is widower of two wives. His children are Beautia, Georgia, Magnificus, and Thaddeus, Jr.
- Ibac gained his powers after sold his soul to Satan.
- Chain Lightning is an occultist who endowed herself with electric powers.
- Sarah Primm was the nurse who took care of Billy and Mary when babies, giving Mary to the Bromfields.
- Oggar was originally one of the Elders along Solomon, Hercules and others.
- The stories are generally light-hearted and include elements of comedy and funny animal stories.
The first Post-Crisis appearance of Captain Marvel was in the 1986 Legends (Volume 1) miniseries. In 1987, Captain Marvel appeared as a member of the Justice League in Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis' relaunch of that title. That same year (spinning-off from Legends), he was also given the miniseries Shazam!: The New Beginning (Volume 1). Writers Roy and Dann Thomas and artist Tom Mandrake attempted to re-launch the Captain Marvel mythos and bring the wizard Shazam, Dr. Sivana, Uncle Dudley, and Black Adam into the modern DC Universe with an altered origin story.
The most notable change that Thomas, Giffen, and DeMatteis introduced into the Captain Marvel mythos was that the personality of young Billy Batson is retained when he transforms into the Captain; this change would remain for most future uses of the character as justification for his sunny, Golden-Age personality in the darker modern-day comic book world instead of the Golden Age depiction which tended to treat Captain Marvel and Billy as two separate personalities.
This revised version of Captain Marvel also appeared in one story-arc featured in the short-lived anthology Action Comics Weekly #623–626 (October 25 – November 15, 1988). At the end of the arc, it was announced that this would lead to a new Shazam! ongoing series, which failed to materialize.
DC finally purchased the rights to all of the Fawcett Comics characters in 1991 and scrapped this version of the Captain Marvel story. Crisis on Infinite Earths: Absolute Edition would later dub this Earth-85 but the Justice League appearances are still considered in continuity for New Earth.
Aspects of this version
- Captain Marvel and Billy Batson shares the same personality.
- Captain Marvel's base of operations is San Francisco, California.
- No necessary explanation of the characters have not aged, as the story begins in current times.
- No Marvel Family.
- Black Adam killed the pharaoh Menes before being banished to another dimension by Shazam. Black Adam derives his powers from Egyptian Gods Shu, Heru, Amon, Zehuti, Aton and Mehen.
- Captain Nazi created during current times.
- Billy's parents were killed in a car sabotage when he was 15 years old; Billy has two living uncles: Dudley and Dr. Sivana.
- Shazam was smashed by a giant rock after he endowed Billy with his powers and then mentors Captain Marvel as a ghost.
- Sivana's marital status is unknown but he is divorced or widower of at least one wife. His children are Beautia and Magnificus.
- No Ebenezer, Mary, Freddy Freeman, Oggar, Ibac, Sarah Primm, and Chain Lightning.
- Darker stories with more realistic themes.
In 1994, due to the unpopular revision of the character from The New Beginning, Captain Marvel was retconned again and given a revised origin in The Power of Shazam!, a painted graphic novel written and illustrated by Jerry Ordway. This story became Captain Marvel's official DC Universe origin story (with his appearances in Legends, War of the Gods and Justice League still counting as part of this continuity).
Ordway's story more closely followed Captain Marvel's Fawcett origins, with only slight additions and changes. For example, in this version of the origin, it is Black Adam (in his non-powered form of Theo Adam) who killed Billy Batson's parents, and the "mysterious stranger" who leads Billy to the subway tunnel with statues of the Sins and the wizard Shazam is revealed to be the ghost of his father. The graphic novel was a critically acclaimed success, leading to a The Power of Shazam! (Volume 1) ongoing series which ran from 1995 to 1999.
Captain Marvel appears in several cross-overs and storylines from War of the Gods and Panic in the Sky to The Final Night and Crisis Times Five. Marvel Family characters are key actors in JSA (Volume 1), Final Crisis, Day of Vengeance, and 52 (Volume 1). In 2007, Jeff Smith creates Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil (Volume 1 1) which has its own version of the character that isn't referenced in other publications; several details contradict the mainstream New Earth version of Captain Marvel.
The Johnny DC title Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! (Volume 1) began in 2008 and ended after almost two years. It has simpler stories about Captain Marvel and his cast targeted to young readers.
Aspects of this version
- Captain Marvel and Billy Batson shares the same personality.
- Captain Marvel's area of operations is Fawcett City.
- A spell cast by Ibis the Invincible reduced the flow of time in Fawcett by various years; as result, the architecture, cars, clothes and customs of its inhabitants are 1940s based.
- A Marvel Family with Captain Marvel; Captain Marvel, Jr.; and Mary Marvel. When more than one member of the Marvel family is active, they share their powers, rather than each having the full power level. Mary Marvel also gets her own iteration of the Captain Marvel costume in white.
- Black Adam killed a pharaoh before being stripped of his powers by Shazam in Ancient Egypt, aging and dying. He was reincarnated as Theo Adam in current times. Black Adam derives his powers from Egyptian Gods Shu, Heru, Amon, Zehuti, Aton, and Mehen.
- Captain Nazi acted during World War II but he crippled Freddy Freeman during current times.
- Billy's parents were killed by Theo Adam. His living relatives are his twin sister Mary and his uncle Ebenezer, who stole his patrimony. Mary is younger than Billy.
- Mary had been adopted by the Bromfields; their first names are Nicholas and Nora. Mary derives her powers from the same gods of Captain Marvel.
- Shazam was smashed by a giant rock after he endowed Billy with his powers but survives. 
- Sivana is divorced from Venus, his first wife and is now married to Portia. His children are: Beautia, Georgia, Magnificus, and Thaddeus, Jr.
- Isn't clear how Ibac gained his powers. He may have sold his soul to Blaze, since he has acted as her henchman since the 1940s.
- Chain Lightning is a meta-human.
- Sarah Primm was Mary's babysitter, giving Mary to the Bromfields. She was sister of the current Black Adam incarnation.
- No Oggar.
On March 5, 2012, DC revealed in a New York Post article that Captain Marvel will be renamed "Shazam" for his New 52 incarnation. He made his debut on March 21st in Justice League (Volume 2) #7. A series of back up stories in Justice League (Volume 2) entitled "The Curse of Shazam" and was written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Gary Frank and was later compiled in Shazam!.
At Comic-Con, it was revealed by Geoff Johns that Shazam would be joining the Justice League, and that he would have a close friendship with Cyborg, similar to that of Hal Jordan and Barry Allen or Booster Gold and Ted Kord.
Billy Batson is an orphan, one of the older children living in a foster home. He met his prospective foster parents, the Vasquezes and seems surprised that they would want him rather than a toddler or younger child. When they leave, he reveals his true colors—Billy Batson is trouble. Billy arrives at the Vasquez's and meets Mary and Freddie Freeman, as well Pedro, Eugene, and Darla. He quickly negates the fact that he is part of this new family, claiming none of them are really related. This causes Darla to become upset, and Mary to become angry with Billy. After this, he sit in his new room, looking at an old photograph of his parents at a zoo, and regretting his harsh statements.
The next morning, Darla wakes Billy, already forgetting about the events prior, and the children all head to school. As the day ends and the group head home, the Breyer brothers begin to pick on the adopted family. Billy intervenes and beats them up, because he "doesn't like bullies", but is caught and sent to the principal's office. He is scolded by the principal, but gets off the hook with the help of his foster father. On his way out, Mr. Breyer threatens Billy, throwing both he and Mr. Vasquezes to the ground before speeding away.
Later that night, Billy sneaks out to visit Mr. Tawny at the zoo from the photograph, and is followed by Freddy. Billy is startled at first, but after learning how his clash with the Breyers helped his adopted family, he and Freddy plan to "get back at them". Their plan fails due to a car alarm, and the Breyers make a mad dash after them. Billy shoves Freddy into the bushes, knowing he couldn't outrun them, and distracts the boys leading them on a wild goose chase through the city. As Billy narrowly escapes the boys onto the subway, it transforms around him into a magic train, and open it's doors to reveal the old mystical fortress known as the Rock of Eternity.
Billy wanders the halls in awe, looking at the magical sights and touching everything. As he flicks on illusions of the Seven Deadly Enemies of Man, a voice calls him down a dark hallway to the throne-room of the Wizard. The aging Wizard claims to be the last of his brethren, the others murdered by his prior champion Black Adam, and explains to Billy that he needs a new champion, one of pure good, to defend the realm of magic. The Wizard tests Billy for pure good, but finds that he, like every other mortal, is not pure of heart. Billy argues with the Wizard that pure good does no longer exist, due to the corrupting nature of the modern world, and the wizard sees wisdom in the boy and tests him for the "embers" of good. When Billy passes this test, the Wizard demands to speak the word "SHAZAM!", but must do so with purpose and belief, with good intentions, and he shall transform into his greatest potential. Billy utters the word and is magically transformed into the magical musclebound champion of the lightning, and as he does so the Wizard dissolves, telling him he is all that remains between the world and magical threats.
Billy is then returned to Earth, and reveals his new super-identity to Freddy. His first deed is preventing a mugging by punching a robber through a car. The lady kindly thanks him and rewards him with $20, to which he and Freddy decide to use these new powers to get rich.
Next when the two are spending their $20 fortune, they purchase some clothes for Billy's super-hero form, which is a bit of an issue because of how "jacked he was". The two then decide to spend their last 10 buck to get food.
Billy and Freddy are then fooling around with the powers of Shazam. Freddy convinces Billy to try to use his lightning to get money from an ATM. Instead, the electricity makes the machine surge and spit out bill after bill, and meanwhile, a bank robbery is in progress. Three goons in animal masks bump into Billy and shoot up his disguise. Angered, Billy throws them back into the bank, unwittingly saving the day. The hostages run out, asking for the hero's name, to which Billy responds "Uh... Shazam?", and Freddy drags him away from the scene along with $40.75.
"Shazam" and Freddy make their way to a liquor store, wondering what drinks to get (neither having any prior experience with alcohol), when another robber appears and attempts to rob the owner. Shazam whomps the robber on the head, and the owner graciously asks how he could ever repay Billy for saving his life. They end up asking for "all the junk-food [they] could carry", and depart from the liquor store, and soon walk into a guy hot wiring a car. Shazam tosses him into a stop sign and continues on his way.
As they continue walking, Billy is warned by the mystical mirror Francesca to beware of Black Adam, and that he needs to become the champion he was destined to be. Immediately following, Billy suddenly begins to float, Freddy pushes him on and begins to plan out awesome things for the new found hero to do, but soon realizes they need to return to the Vasquez's. Billy states he doesn't want to return, and that he's done being a kid. He and Freddy argue, and Freddy leaves, telling him he's starting to sound like an adult and calling him a "condescending tool". Billy soon realizes he was wrong and turns to see Freddy already gone. He tries going after him, but gets attacked by Black Adam.
Billy recovers from the sudden shockwave Black Adam created when landing, and comments on how Adam's black costume is way cooler than his own. Adam then claims he is the rightful keeper of the Rock of Eternity, and uppercuts Shazam, sending him flying down Main Street and into the mall. Billy gets back on his feet and realizes he's bleeding, the lights go out and Black Adam strikes from behind. Billy sends a strong punch right back at Adam, but Adam catches it and beats him back down. He then throws Shazam back out the mall, and the fearful Billy calls down "SHAZAM!", reverting to his normal self and disappears into the crowd, fleeing the scene. Black Adam managed to grab Billy Batson and then proceeded to take Billy into his mind, where he saw a flashback of Black Adam, his Uncle and his nephew saving him from the death of his parents and in turn, Black Adam killed his nephew for a sacrifice. Black Adam then threw Billy Batson on the ground, giving Billy the opportunity to change back into Shazam. After he had changed to his superhero persona, Black Adam took a hold of both Freddy and Mary after they had hit a truck into his body, prompting Billy to defend his adopted family.
In the conclusion of "The Curse of Shazam", Black Adam holds Billy's adoptive family hostage, demanding him to relinquish the wizard's powers to him. Billy, not wanting to cause any more injury, agrees and says his magic word. However, instead of transferring his magic into Black Adam, it splits off into his adoptive family, granting each of the children the powers of Shazam! It is also hinted that each kid is given a power somewhat related to the Pre-52 Shazam gods (Eugene can communicate with machines resembling the wisdom of Solomon, Pedro "feels like he could carry the world" with the strength of Hercules, and Darla receives super-speed akin to the speed of Mercury). Meanwhile, the Seven Deadly Sins wander Philadelphia to find a rotten host, and all fuse into Mr. Breyer, changing him into the demonic Sabbac.
The six Shazam kids team up to take down Black Adam, but soon branch off to protect the city from Sabbac and save the citizens, leaving Billy to go after Adam alone. Adam blind-sides Billy, sending them into the zoo where Mr. Tawny comes to Billy's aid. Billy tries to use his magic to strengthen Tawny, but in doing so, the spell enchanting the Shazam kids begins to wear off. He then realizes that he can't defeat Black Adam with his inexperience as Shazam, so he reverts back to mortal form and sways Adam to do the same and fight him. Black Adam says the magic word, but his years in enchanted form catch up with him and he collapses into dust.
As the battle clears, the nearby onlookers recognize Shazam as a Hero, and school is cancelled due to it's destruction in the mayhem. The comic then cuts to Christmas morning with Billy's adoptive family and reveals that he's decided to stay with them in an overall happy ending. However, the story ends in a cliffhanger with Dr. Sivana entering the Rock of Eternity and meeting Mr. Mind, and they have plans to do to get Shazam.
- Whiz Comics #2 (1939)
- Shazam! #1 (1973)
- Secret Origins (Volume 2) #3 (1986)
- Shazam!: The New Beginning (Volume 1) (1987)
- The Power of Shazam! (graphic novel) (1994)
- Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil (Volume 1) (2007)
- Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! #1 (2008)
- The Curse of Shazam in Shazam! (2012)
Links and References
- Shazam! #35
- Whiz Comics #2
- Shazam! #1
- Marvel Family #1
- Shazam! #34
- Who's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe #21
- Captain Marvel Adventures #18
- Captain Marvel Adventures #62
- Shazam!: The New Beginning #1
- Shazam!: The New Beginning #3
- Action Comics #624
- Who's Who: Update '87 #5
- The Power of Shazam! #12
- The Power of Shazam! #10
- The Power of Shazam! (Graphic Novel)
- The Power of Shazam! #27