Shazam: 20 Powers DC's Captain Marvel Has (That Only Real Fans Know About)

Comic books had only really been a thing for a couple of years when the whole industry was rocked by Action Comics #1, which contained the first appearance of Superman. The Man of Steel was a sensation and soon, rival comic book companies were trying to do their own knockoff versions. Of course, the big-ups at National Comics (now DC Comics) either sued or threatened to sue them all for stealing their idea. One of the companies that it forced to drop an imitation hero was Fawcett Comics, who had a Superman knockoff called Master Man. Fawcett dropped Master Man, but then introduced Captain Marvel in 1940, who was also a Superman riff, albeit with the added twist that he transformed back and forth from a boy when he shouted the magic word, "Shazam!"

SHAZAM was an acrostic that stood for Captain Marvel's powers: 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. Initially, though, all of those powers just translated into "the same powers as Superman," which is partially why National Comics eventually sued Fawcett and ultimately won, with Captain Marvel ceasing publication in 1952. The character was later purchased by DC and his name changed to Shazam. However, while his powers originally were just the same as Superman, they soon evolved into some strange directions, including a number of powers that Superman could only dream of having himself (NOTE: While he was known as Captain Marvel once, we're going to call him Shazam for the purposes of this list)


Probably the most powerful ability that Shazam has is that he is literally immortal. This is not to say that he is highly difficult for him to expire, we mean that he absolutely cannot pass this mortal coil. Therefore, no matter how bad things get for him, he will find a way to get out of it and heal himself.

The magical lightning that transforms him from Billy Batson into Shazam also serves to heal his body after he is injured. Even if it didn't, though, he cannot actually pass on. That leaves open the question, though, of what would happen if he was beaten so badly that he wished that he could pass on.


Shazam is such an old character that he was around when atomic bombs were just introduced; thus, there was a grand fascination in the 1940s of all things atomic. Therefore, it was no surprise when Shazam's most powerful punch was now named an "Atomic punch."

The distinctive nature of an atomic punch is that when Shazam put his full energy into it, the contact would cause a little mushroom cloud to erupt from the spot where the punch landed. After two atomic bombs were actually used on Japan at the end of World War II, the punch didn't seem quite as cute, so it was slowly phased out of the book.


The wisdom of Solomon serves Shazam well when it comes to languages. He can speak literally every language on Earth. In fact, his language skills are not just confined to Earth, as he also can speak any alien dialect, as well.

As seen in the featured image, he is even able to communicate with animals. You can't possibly have wisdom if you can't understand what everyone else is saying, right? Interestingly, his language skills also apply to dead languages, as well, since he has traveled through time on a number of occasions, so it comes in handy to be able to speak the languages of the past.


It is one thing for Shazam to live forever, but his abilities go beyond just that. The body that Billy Batson transformed into is, in effect, the last body that he will ever transform into. That is to say that even as Billy Batson himself gets older, his Shazam body will remain the same age. This likely has to do with the Stamina of Atlas.

The confusing aspect of this power, though, is that the wizard who granted Billy his powers had access to the same abilities as Billy and the Wizard is also immortal, but he chose to remain in stasis as an old man for some inexplicable reason.


When Superman debuted, he famously could "leap over tall buildings in a single bound" and was "more powerful than a locomotive." Since Shazam was designed to be a riff on Superman, his power levels were at a similar nature early on. As time went by, however, both characters saw slow but steady "power creep" until they were at a whole other level than when they began.

For instance, both characters famously became strong enough that they could juggle planets and move whole suns. Similarly, both characters saw their strength levels pared down in the last few decades. Nowadays, Shazam could probably still juggle some meteors, but not planets.


As noted, when Billy Batson says the word, "Shazam," a magical bolt of lightning comes from the heavens and transforms him. Initially, this was mostly used as a symbolic event. The actual lightning was not worked into the story. Over time, though, stories began to treat the magic lightning as something that Billy could use to his advantage if he timed it correctly.

The most famous example of this was actually in an alternate timeline. In Kingdom Come, Superman and Shazam fought against each other and Shazam repeatedly called down his magic lightning to hit Superman during their fight, in the hopes of weakening the Man of Steel, who is notably vulnerable to magic.


While both Superman and Shazam were unable to fly when they were introduced, it was actually Shazam who beat Superman to the skies, as he gained the ability to fly just three issues after he debuted while Superman took years before he would confuse people over whether he was a bird or a plane.

Still, even after he began to fly, Shazam's flying skills never reached the same levels as the Last Son of Krypton, who could fly so fast that he could break the time barrier. Shazam used other means of traveling through time. Eventually, though, Shazam gained the ability to fly faster than the speed of light so that he could visit the Rock of Eternity.


As we mentioned before, the whole stamina aspect of Shazam's powers have led to some unusual questions about what, exactly, is Shazam. In other words, if he is immortal and he does not age, then is he a god? Is he an artificial being? Was he once human? What is his deal?

It doesn't get any simpler to understand how his body works when you learn that he does not need to eat, drink or sleep. The real answer is that we shouldn't put too much thought into a fanciful power set, but it is still rather confusing as to how his body is supposed to function without any of those things.


Shazam's clairvoyant abilities are demonstrated in a couple of different manners. One of them is tied to the wisdom of Solomon while the other one seems to be plucked out of thin air. In the first example, his clairvoyance allows him to quickly sum up situations and figure out all of the angles and know what he is supposed to do to turn things around into his favor.

On the other hand, though, he also has the ability to seemingly just sense when danger is near and bring himself to it. It is unclear where this power came from, as it doesn't seem to tie into wisdom very well.


It appears as though his "Wisdom" powers are sort of a catch-all for all of his powers related to his mind. One of these is Shazam's supernatural charisma. He can charm even the most hardened souls if he is given enough time to talk things out with them.

His smooth talking has found his way out of the most dire of circumstances. Generally speaking, despite having the strength of Earth's Mightiest Mortal, Shazam would most commonly prefer to talk things through rather than fight. It is what makes him such a charming fresh change of pace from most superheroes.


In the world of superheroes, it appears as though hypnosis is likely the one power that seems to be the most plucked out of thin air. For instance, what about Superman suggests that he would be able to perform "Super-Hypnosis?" And yet he does and so Shazam did, as well.

In one notable story arc, Shazam's friend and fellow superhero, Spy Smasher, was brainwashed into fighting against his friend. Shazam used his hypnotic powers to overrule Spy-Smasher's conditioning and bring him back to normal. This is one of his powers that does not seem to have lasted into the modern era.


As a sort of corollary to his hypnotic abilities, Shazam is also able to resist mind control himself. This is an especially handy skill to have when one of your biggest enemies is an alien worm who brainwashes people.

Of course, while he can resist brainwashing, that does not mean that he immune to the effects. A powerful enough mind-controller or a brainwasher with enough time could likely break Shazam's will. Famously, he was mind controlled in the aforementioned Kingdom Come series. Even there, though, he ultimately broke free and used his magical lightning to redeem himself in the end.


Another area where Solomon's wisdom has played a part in Shazam's power set is that it makes him exceptionally difficult to fool. Essentially, there is no way that you can trick him with an illusion, as he will see right through it due to his wisdom powers.

This actually takes him to a bizarre level at times, as he can actually also see through evil schemes, as well. For instance, if someone were to try to con him, he would be able to tell what they're doing it. It seems as though the main lesson from this is -- don't play poker with Shazam!


Teleportation has a strange history with Shazam, power-wise. In the early days, he had the ability to teleport, but it was a very narrowly applied power. It was used only for him to travel back and forth from the Rock of Eternity, where he would visit with the Wizard. So he could not use it for other purposes.

Ever since the New 52 came about, however, Shazam has gained the ability to just teleport outright. This was demonstrated in a Justice League story a couple of years ago where Shazam was hanging out with a recuperating Cyborg when the League was in the middle of a big battle. Cyborg told the impatient Shazam that he could just leave, so he teleported to the fight.


In a lot of ways, Shazam's powers are distinct derivations of those he received from the gods. You know, like, "Hey, he has the wisdom of Solomon, so that could mean that he can see through illusions!" or "He has the Stamina of Atlas, so he doesn't need to eat or sleep."

Then, however, you have stuff like Shazam's freeze breath that sure seem to just be, "Hey, Superman has that power and it looks cool! Why shouldn't Shazam have that power, too?" His freeze breath has not been used that much in the last few decades, so it is unclear it he still has the ability.


Generally speaking, the Courage of Achilles gets a bit of a short shrift when it comes to Shazam's power set. It is a bit of an intangible "power" for him to have, outside of giving him generic optimism and bravery that helps him get through dangerous times.

One interesting aspect of it, however, is that, for whatever reason, the courage has also given him impressive fighting skills. This obviously comes in handy, since Shazam has often fought against villains who are as strong as he is and thus he needs more than just strength to pull out the win.


In the New 52, besides changing Billy Batson's background so that he is now part of a large foster family of kids and making his name Shazam, another notable change is that Shazam's lightning is now more than just what transforms him from Billy Batson to Shazam.

Now, he can shoot lightning out of his body as an active offensive power. This is different from his use of the magic lightning from the past, since he has strict control over this electricity. For instance, he used it to zap a bank cash machine to force it to expel a bunch of money.


The other notable change to Shazam's power set is that he is now seen as, in effect, the "receptacale" of the Wizard's magic, so he actually has magical powers of his own.

Having the capability to cast spells, however, is a lot different than actually being able to get the spells cast. This was demonstrated when he was in the Justice League headquarters with Cyborg and he cast a spell for what he wanted to bring to the League and it turned out to be... a ping pong table! He has yet to figure out how to turn that into a more active skill.


During the Justice League event, "The Darkseid War," a number of members of the team saw their powers altered dramatically. In the case of Shazam, he lost his connection to the gods who gave him his original powers. The Wizard, then, had to find him different gods to use for his power set.

The Z in "Shazam" was now Zonus, the last of the Old Gods. He gave Shazam the ability to manipulate the Source, which is the... well, it's the source of the New Gods' power. Shazam could now transport in and out of the Source itself, which gave him a huge advantage against Darkseid.


We mentioned before that Shazam's freeze breath seem like it was simply a riff on Superman's similar power. However, during "The Darkseid War," Shazam gained a breath power that Superman could only dream of having!

You see, the H in "Shazam" now belonged to H'ronmeer, a notable Martian god. On Mars, the end of life is symbolized through fire, which is why flames are the only weakness of the Martian Manhunter, the last survivor of Mars. Therefore, H'ronmeer gave Shazam fire powers. He can shoot fire from his hands but he also has fire breath! Let's see Superman do that without Red Kryptonite!

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