Shazam! comes to home release this week, bringing the latest entry in the ever expanding DCEU to new audiences. Possibly one of the bigger gambles that DC has made, Shazam! introduced a lot of new people to a character that has existed for decades, but has never really reached mainstream awareness. With that in mind, here are five books that are totally worth checking out for anyone wanting to learn more about the character.
Recently re-released in a new edition for the movie, Shazam! Origins collects together several issues of Justice League following the New 52 relaunch. These issues tell the new, revised, origin story for Billy Batson and the superhero Shazam. This version of the character is incredibly close to the one seen in the movie, and several plot points and characters that were new to this version of the character were featured in the film.
However, one way that this book differs from the origin story as seen in Shazam! is that the main villain for this story isn’t Doctor Sivana but Black Adam. Possibly the most iconic villain in Shazam’s rogues’ gallery, the conflict between Shazam and Black Adam is legendary, and this book makes great use of both characters.
Shazam! Origins was written by Geoff Johns, one of the most prolific writers in comics in the industry, a man responsible for reinventing and popularising series such as Teen Titans, Justice Society of America, and Green Lantern. Artwork was provided by Gary Frank, who has worked on titles like Action Comics, Superman: Secret Origins, and Wonder Woman.
The Trials of Shazam!
Written back when Shazam was still known as Captain Marvel, The Trials of Shazam! is set shortly after the events of Infinite Crisis, where the entity known as The Spectre destroyed the Rock of Eternity and the wizard Shazam. Following these events Captain Marvel becomes the new wizard, using the name Marvel, leaving the title of Captain Marvel vacant.
Freddy Freeman, Billy’s friend and the former Captain Marvel Jr. takes it upon himself to take up the mantle of Captain Marvel, but first has to set out on a quest to prove himself worthy to the ancient gods that bestow their powers upon the hero. However, Freddy isn’t the only person vying for these powers, and he finds himself competing against the evil sorceress Sabina. Culminating in a huge battle involving several heroes and an army of demons, The Trials of Shazam! was such a big story that it ended up being spread over two volumes.
The series was written by Judd Winick, a popular DC writer who had previously worked on titles such as Green Lantern, Batman, and Green Arrow. Winnick’s work has been celebrated in the past for his inclusion and diversity. Artwork on the book was provided by Howard Porter, until a hand injury prevented him from finishing the book, which was then completed by Mauro Cascioli.
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Shazam! Power of Hope
Shazam! Power of Hope shifted its focus from the hero to his alter-ego Billy Batson, in a story that highlights that despite his appearance, the hero is still a young boy. When Billy receives a letter from a terminally ill child in hospital he decides to visit them as Captain Marvel. Billy wows the children with stories of his exploits, and even takes some of them flying in an attempt to make them happier.
The book took some very dark themes and tried to use them to show that even in some of the worst circumstances hope still exists, and made Billy face some difficult realities. One scene, in which he goes to the father of one of the children as the hero and threatens him not to hurt his son anymore is a particularly powerful moment.
The book is written by legendary superhero writer Paul Dini, a man who has worked on numerous titles over the years, but may be best known for his work on Batman: The Animated Series, where he created the character Harley Quinn. The artwork is provided by the phenomenal multi-award winning Alex Ross, who hand paints every panel of the books he works on.
Superman/Shazam!: First Thunder
Superman/Shazam!: First Thunder tells the first meeting between the two heroes. Unlike a lot of first meetings between superheroes, where they end up fighting each other until they realise they’re on the same side, the first meeting between Superman and Captain Marvel proves to go remarkably well. The two characters find a mutual respect for each other, and quickly become good friends. The story tells more of a ‘laid back’ adventure as the two of them help each other to tackle a plot that puts innocent people in the crossfire.
The story also marks the point where Superman discovers Billy’s true identity, something that ends up causing him to confront the wizard Shazam for bestowing these powers on an 11-year-old boy. By the end of the book Superman becomes something of a mentor to the young hero.
The book is written by Judd Winnick, who also worked on The Trials of Shazam!, with art provided by Joshua Middleton, who has also provided art on books such as X-Men Unlimited, NYX, and Street Fighter.
Shazam! The Greatest Stories Ever Told
Shazam! The Greatest Stories Ever Told collects together stories from across the DC universe to bring readers a series of stories that span the entire history of the character. The book gives a good insight into not just the various versions of the character, but how comics in general have changed over the years.
The book includes Whiz Comics #2 from 1940, which was the very first appearance of Captain Marvel; as well as stories that showcase members of the Shazam Family, and their many villains. Collecting stories across more than 50 years, the book is an incredibly interesting read for anyone who wants learn more about the characters origins.