WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Shazam #1 by Geoff Johns, Dale Eaglesham, Mike Atiyeh and Rob Leigh, on sale now.
For as a big a name as he is in the comic book world, it has certainly been some time since Shazam -- formerly known as Captain Marvel -- has enjoyed his own series. DC has long sought a solution regarding what to do with the character. Years ago, it struggled with the brand confusion surrounding the character’s name, and, aside from Jerry Ordway’s Power of Shazam that ran for just under 50 issues, the publisher has never committed to the character in a major way.
However, with a feature film on the horizon, Shazam is finally back in his own ongoing comic series for the first time since 1999, and it's a chance for Geoff Johns and his collaborators to really establish who Billy Batson is and what core themes make up the heart of the character. Johns has been responsible for spearheading the Shazam revival for some time now. The character played a key role during his run on Justice League, but with a monthly comic dedicated to the character for the first time in nearly 20 years, Johns is able to redefine some of the biggest aspects of Shazam, starting with a last page reveal that completely changes everything we thought we knew about Billy Batson.
Shazam Family Values
Found family has always been a part of the Shazam mythos. Billy Batson and Mary Bromfield are both orphans who find each other and discover they are long-lost twin siblings. Freddie Freeman lost the closest person in his world, his grandfather, during a fight between Captain Marvel and Captain Nazi. Regardless of the lot in life they were dealt, the Marvel Family found each other and were made stronger as a result. It’s a theme Johns has been especially interested in exploring, as he expanded the family beyond the three core heroes to create a whole team of teens powered by magic lightning.
The concept was first explored in Flashpoint, where that world’s version of Shazam was Captain Thunder, who was summoned when six children each uttered one letter of the word “SHAZAM,” in a manner similar to the Forever People and how they summon The Infinity Man. Johns kept the idea of the six kids when he reintroduced Shazam in the New 52, but instead of them each creating one hero, they each gain powers when they say the magic word.
Along with Billy, Mary and Freddie, there’s also Darla Dudley, Eugene Choi and Pedro Pena. When they’re not out superheroing, they all live together as foster siblings cared for by the Vasquez family. However, this week’s Shazam #1 throws a major spanner in the works, with a final page that suggests that Billy Batson’s father is very much alive and excited to see him again.