After 80 years, a name change and a variety of publishers, Billy Baston finally has his own feature length movie. Even better, it’s a movie that’s remarkable true to the comics. Shazam! takes heavy inspiration from Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s Shazam: Origins and is packed full of Easter eggs to boot. So, naturally, we thought we’d share a few of them with you, now that the movie’s been in theaters a week. However, if you haven’t seen Shazam! yet, be aware that there are spoilers ahead!
Now, let’s dig into some of Shazam!’s more intriguing hidden (and not-so-hidden) gems…
This movie pulled bits and pieces from all eras of Shazam’s magical history, but as mentioned above. most of its story beats came from Johns and Frank’s 2012 storyline that is now referred to as Shazam!: Origins. (Origins is a complete story—and a great first dip into Shazam’s comic book universe—but it actually began as a series of backup stories that ran in Johns’ Justice League comic.)
If you check out the comic, you may be surprised to discover how many of Shazam!’s scenes were pulled from its panels. The Philadelphia setting, Billy rejecting Darla as a sister, Shazam wrecking the Breyers’ car, the out of control ATM, the Christmas timeframe, the clumsy fight with the mugger, Glover the social worker, the wizard Shazam’s look and the convenience store scene were all pulled directly from Origins. And that’s just the beginning! There are plenty of other concepts that the movie took from this story, and we’ll touch on others below.
It’s very fitting that the first line Billy Batson says in the movie is “holy moley,” since that was his catchphrase in the comics. It may be a corny thing for a teenage boy to say, but in the comics Billy was a boy who wore his corniness proudly on his sleeve. The lad first uttered his catchphrase in Special Edition Comics #1, and it’s been a part of his lexicon ever since.
Like his movie counterpart, Dr. Sivana was the first villain Shazam ever fought. Captain Marvel first thwarted Sivana’s sinister schemes in Whiz Comics #2, and they’ve been at war ever since!
Sivana Industries made a memorable appearance in the movie, though in the comics, it’s Sivana’s company, not his fathers. Meanwhile, the whole storyline of him investigating the Rock of Eternity, teaming up with the Seven Deadly Sins and gaining a glowing blue eye comes from the Shazam: Origins graphic novel.
If you’re interested in learning more about Mark Strong’s menacing baddie, check out this primer we put together on him.
When the wizard Shazam is granting Billy his power, he mentions that he had once chosen another champion who had betrayed him. The wizard’s last champion was the villain Black Adam, who first appeared in The Marvel Family #1. Teth-Adam was an ancient Egyptian who let his newfound powers go to his head. He became corrupt, so he was banished to the outer reaches of space. By the time he returned to Earth, it was the 20th Century and he faced Captain Marvel and his allies, eventually becoming one of their reoccurring foes. As anyone who follows movie news knows, Dwayne Johnson has been cast as Black Adam for an eventual Black Adam movie…and hopefully, a future Shazam! sequel.
Some of you may have wondered what the deal was with Shazam!’s mid-credits scene. If that’s you, you should check out this earlier article that explains the scene in detail, but the short version is that the miniscule menace who visits Dr. Sivana goes by the name Mister Mind and he’s one of Shazam’s deadliest enemies.
I know some of you are probably thinking “how hard could it be to defeat a little worm?” But don’t be fooled! Mister Mind makes up for his tiny size with his gigantic intellect and colossal thirst for destruction. He was first heard as a voice in Captain Marvel Adventures #22 (and remember, he’s first heard as a voice in Shazam! as well), then had a “hiding in plain sight” cameo during Captain Marvel Adventures #26, before finally revealing his true form in Captain Marvel Adventures #27. By the way, the scene with him and Sivana was inspired by a similar moment with the duo at the end of the Shazam: Origins comic.
All that Tiger Imagery
You might have noticed that Shazam! had a particular focus on tigers. Young Billy asked his mother for a stuffed tiger, there were tiger buttons on Shazam’s cape, there was a tiger patch on Billy’s backpack and more.
Yes, Shazam has a bit of a thing for tigers, which makes sense since one of his best friends from the Golden Age was one. Captain Marvel Adventures #79 introduced the world to Tawky Tawny, a tiger who was given a serum that gave him the ability to talk. Mr. Tawny was a sophisticated feline who preferred to live in society and frequented the halls of local museums.
Okay, who were those guys? We have your answer right here!
While the kids are searching for a way out of the Rock of Eternity, Eugene opens a door to find some very agitated anthropomorphized crocodiles ready to gobble them up. While that may have seemed like a fun one-off gag, the Crocodile Men were regular adversaries of Shazam (back when he was called Captain Marvel) during his Golden Age adventures. They might look like Florida natives, but they’re actually from the planet Punkus and were first seen in Captain Marvel Adventures #31. (Fun fact: The Crocodile Men from the movie were played by Shazam! director David Sandberg.)
Learning to Fly
The cinematic Shazam had some trouble learning to fly and had to practice with giant leaps. Well, don’t feel bad, Shazam, your comic book counterpart didn’t fly for his first few adventures either! In fact, during his first appearance in Whiz Comics #2, Billy had to take an elevator to the top floor of a skyscraper so he would be high enough to do a giant leap to the next building.
After a few issues of traveling with giant leaps, Captain Marvel first displayed his ability to fly during a trip to the Artic in Whiz Comics #7.
During the movie, Billy and Freddie attend a school that has a name that holds a surprising amount of significance to Shazam’s history—Fawcett. The school was named after Fawcett Comics, the company that originally published Shazam’s adventures, back when he was still Captain Marvel. When Shazam moved over to DC, his base of operations was renamed Fawcett City (in Who’s Who #4) as a tribute to his roots. When Billy’s origin was revamped during the Shazam: Origins storyline, his home city was changed to Philadelphia, but his school kept the name “Fawcett,” same as in the movie!
The Rock of Eternity
Things got REAL obscure during many of the Rock of Eternity scenes. You may have missed them in all the excitement, but there were some deep cuts in the background including the Mirror of Francesca from Shazam: Origins, which is a looking glass named after the sorceress who uses it to give Shazam guidance. We also saw a flaming fiddle from Captain Marvel Adventures #64, where one of the wizard’s former champions used it as a weapon. Sharp-eyed viewers might have also caught the Ibistick, from all the way back in Whiz Comics #2. It’s the wand of the reanimated Egyptian prince, Ibis.
Galaxy Broadcasting System
Did anybody catch the news channel the citizens of Philadelphia were glued to? Longtime Superman readers might recognize it as Galaxy Broadcasting System, the media giant that first appeared in Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #133. For a period of time in the Bronze Age, Clark Kent served as the channel’s on-air anchorman. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case in Shazam!
Shazam was created by writer Bill Parker and artist C.C. Beck in 1939, and the movie made sure the two men got their props. Did you notice the name Beck written in graffiti on an alley wall outside of the strip club? Also, when Billy finds out who his parents are, we learn his father was named C.C. Baston (a name he was given in the Power of Shazam graphic novel). It seems fitting since C.C. has often been called “the father of Shazam.” Finally, if you stuck around for the post-credits scene, you might have also noticed that two characters in the film were named after the duo. They’re right there in the credits, though kudos to any fan who actually spotted them in the film. I’ve seen Shazam! several times now and I still have no clue which characters they actually are.
We said twelve Easter eggs, and that’s twelve Easter eggs! Looks like my basket is full! I can’t fit anymore goodies in there, but that doesn’t mean these are all the Easter eggs Shazam! has to offer. See how many you’re able to find during your next viewing! If you catch any cool ones that I missed, feel free to share them with me on Twitter.
Shazam!, starring Zachary Levi, Asher Angel and Mark Strong, is now in theaters. To discover more about DC's latest movie, click here.
Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com and DCUniverse.com, and is a regular contributor to the Couch Club, our weekly television column. Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.