Captain Marvel - Shazam! Movie Review and History of the Shazam Character

(Updated and expanded - April 8, 2019)

By Karl Stern (@wiwcool)

This weekend When It Was Cool headed out to the theater to see the latest offering from the DC movie universe with Shazam! Shazam (Captain Marvel) has long been one of our favorite comic book characters dating back to his return to the mainstream in the 1970s with the Mego action figure, Shazam! comic book series, Saturday morning cartoon, and live action Saturday morning series.

Over the last decade, DC Comics has made significant changes to the Captain Marvel character including altering his classic name to Shazam (it’s a long and complicated story). While I’m not a big fan of that change, well, it is what it is. While the new version of the classic Captain Marvel might rub old school purest the wrong way the new character still had the chance to be redeeming and, in our opinion, it was.

Far and away the brightest, funniest, and I dare I say the most entertaining of the DC movie universe offerings to date, Shazam! was a the story of a moral journey of lone street survivor outcast Billy Batson and his road toward understanding the true meaning of family and being a hero. Along the way you got all the superhero tropes you would want - a bad guy, monsters, super human feats, and yes… a fight scene that ran too long.

The movie isn’t perfect by any stretch. The CGI effects of the Seven Deadly Sins left a lot to be desired in 2019. The final fight scene between Shazam and Dr. Silvana went entirely too long and the characters lack of an actual proper name (which is also an element of the current Shazam! comic book series) is irritating and unnecessary.

Shazam movie.jpeg

Still, when all was said in done, we left this film feeling uplifted and excited which is certainly not the case with most of grim DC movie offerings so far. I expected the worst from this iteration of Shazam but instead was treated to a fun, inspiring, and exciting super hero movie. Two thumbs up.

The following are older news bits and history of the Shazam character from When It Was Cool.

A new official Shazam! trailer was released yesterday.  The feedback from what I have seen so far has been positive and even Eminem is on board with this one lending one of his hit songs to the score.

Shazam Movie Pic.JPG

This article was originally written before the Shazam movie was officially announced and filmed. Photos leaked online in numerous places confirm that the suit that will be used in the new Shazam movie will be a variation of a modern era costume.  When It Was Cool will continue to update this article as more movie news is released.  Be sure to also check out our review of the first time Captain Marvel / Shazam appeared in a live action film- Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941)

Captain marvel from whiz comics #2

Captain marvel from whiz comics #2

Today the When It Was Cool website celebrates one of the only pure and true heroes of the superhero genre- Captain Marvel!  Let's go ahead and clear up the confusion right out of the gate.  The character's name is Captain Marvel even though he has often been called Shazam.  Now, if only it were only that simple.  In the golden age of comics, the character's name was Captain Marvel and the old Wizard who gave him his powers was named Shazam.  By saying the Wizard's name, young Billy Batson, could transform himself into the powerful Captain Marvel.

Captain Marvel early appearance from America's Best comics in 1940. Captain Marvel got his powers from the mythical characters- S- Solomon, H- Hercules, A- Atlas, Z- Zeus, A- Achilles, M- Mercury.

Captain Marvel early appearance from America's Best comics in 1940. Captain Marvel got his powers from the mythical characters- S- Solomon, H- Hercules, A- Atlas, Z- Zeus, A- Achilles, M- Mercury.

However, DC Comics sued Fawcett Comics over the similarities between Captain Marvel and Superman.  Ultimately, DC Comics would come to own the character outright.  Of course, Marvel Comics also came out with their own various Captain Marvel characters over the years.  DC Comics revived Captain Marvel in the 1970's under his own comic book title "Shazam" and the character also got a live-action Saturday morning television show and a cartoon series and culturally many kids began simply calling him Shazam.  In the current era of comics, DC has thrown in the towel trying to call him Captain Marvel and have simply renamed him Shazam... so I suppose technically speaking he now IS Shazam... though in my heart he will always be Captain Marvel.

in 1941, Captain Marvel got his own 12 part movie serial and the character was played in live action for the first time by tom tyler.

in 1941, Captain Marvel got his own 12 part movie serial and the character was played in live action for the first time by tom tyler.

- Check out our review of the Adventures of Captain Marvel -

Shazam the movie has now officially been green-lit and is currently filming. (Update: We are now, obviously very close to the release date of the film)  Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson had long been associated with the role of Shazam villain Black Adam but it appears that Black Adam will not be in the first Shazam movie.  Instead, the lead villain will be original Captain Marvel rival Dr. Sivana. 

The first appearance of black adam and the ancient shazam champion. according to his first appearance he had been banished to the farthest star and had been flying back to earth for 5000 years.

The first appearance of black adam and the ancient shazam champion. according to his first appearance he had been banished to the farthest star and had been flying back to earth for 5000 years.

There is a marvelous (sorry) appeal to the Captain Marvel character.  Captain Marvel is really the young homeless boy Billy Batson who becomes a childhood radio personality (at WHIZ Radio of course).  Captain Marvel has a refreshing innocence about him that is sorely needed in this era of the dark and brooding super hero.  

Even Superman has been presented in the current era in the DC movies as an unsmiling dark hero.  Captain Marvel could be the perfect antithesis to that if allowed to be.  However, the handling of the (now named) Shazam character in the modern DC Comics continuity has left a lot to be desired and is a vast departure from the classic character.

Captain Marvel was played by john davey (originally Jackson Bostwick) in the saturday morning live action series. the show ran from 1974 to 1977 and from 1975 on shared the show with isis, a female egyptian super hero. the two OCCASIONALLY teamed up as well.

Captain Marvel was played by john davey (originally Jackson Bostwick) in the saturday morning live action series. the show ran from 1974 to 1977 and from 1975 on shared the show with isis, a female egyptian super hero. the two OCCASIONALLY teamed up as well.

Here is our retro TV review podcast of the Shazam! (1974) TV series - Click Here.

DC Comics has recently resurrected the Shazam comic book series which seems to line up more with what the film will be presenting and yet another (but seemingly better) take on Shazam and his whole mythos including introducing a whole set of new magical worlds for the hero to explore with his “Marvel” family. We reviewed the debut issue on episode three of the When It Was Cool Comic Review Podcast.

the 1970's shazam animated series.

the 1970's shazam animated series.

The film has also brought with it some new Shazam / Captain Marvel related toys and action figures. When It Was Cool will have a review of those soon. So keep checking back!

an early captain marvel comic describes the sources of his powers.

an early captain marvel comic describes the sources of his powers.

the popularity of captain marvel in the 1940's saw the spin off of an entire marvel family including captain marvel, jr., mary marvel, uncle dudley, and others. captain marvel, jr. was a favorite of elvis presely who took his lightning bolt T.C.B. logo and cape from his childhood love of the character.

the popularity of captain marvel in the 1940's saw the spin off of an entire marvel family including captain marvel, jr., mary marvel, uncle dudley, and others. captain marvel, jr. was a favorite of elvis presely who took his lightning bolt T.C.B. logo and cape from his childhood love of the character.

the first appearance of captain marvel in whiz comics #2. oddly enough there was no whiz comics #1. they strangly started the numbering of the series at issue 2.

the first appearance of captain marvel in whiz comics #2. oddly enough there was no whiz comics #1. they strangly started the numbering of the series at issue 2.

in the 1970's there was a big rebirth of captain marvel popularity. his mego action figure was among the more popular early mego figures.

in the 1970's there was a big rebirth of captain marvel popularity. his mego action figure was among the more popular early mego figures.

in the 1980's captain marvel was part of the DC Super Powers action figure line up.

in the 1980's captain marvel was part of the DC Super Powers action figure line up.

in the early 2000's captain marvel was part of the infinite heroes crisis action figure line.

in the early 2000's captain marvel was part of the infinite heroes crisis action figure line.

in the 1990's there was a really high quality captain marvel series called "Power of Shazam" which is the closest the character has gotten in the modern age to a faithful rendition of the character.

in the 1990's there was a really high quality captain marvel series called "Power of Shazam" which is the closest the character has gotten in the modern age to a faithful rendition of the character.

sadly, over the last decade, DC Comics has struggled to find direction for the classic character now renamed shazam. the modern continuity now has a completely changed billy batson who is no longer an innocent child and shazam himself bears little resemblence to the classic hero.

sadly, over the last decade, DC Comics has struggled to find direction for the classic character now renamed shazam. the modern continuity now has a completely changed billy batson who is no longer an innocent child and shazam himself bears little resemblence to the classic hero.

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