After the worldwide success that the MCU’s Captain Marvel had, Marvel Comics continues to dominate the film and television industry. Yet heading further into 2019, Warner Bros. and DC Comics seem determined not to give up on their own films. After Aquaman became a huge success for the comic book company, fans have been eager to see what film would come next and determine whether the DC Extended Universe could continue forward despite the initial setbacks of the Justice League film. Well, fans are going to get their answer soon, as DC’s Shazam is set to premiere in theaters.
The story of Shazam is an interesting one. Originally known as Captain Marvel in the hero’s origins, teenager Billy Bastion is called upon by the wizard Shazam and bestowed with the power the wizard himself held for centuries. Upon shouting the name Shazam, Billy Bastion becomes an adult superhero with nearly godlike power. Flying around the world and stopping threats, the hero’s known to be a mirror image of Superman’s own powers and abilities, yet possess the mind and maturity of his pre-teen/teenage self (depending on the era of comics you read.) With Zachary Levi set to bring this superhero to the big screen in DC’s first comedic superhero tale, casual fans and hardcore fans alike might be curious just what Shazam is capable of.
That’s what we are here to find out today. It’s time to take a deep dive into the world of Shazam and find out 15 powers that the hero keeps hidden, and 10 strange weaknesses you never knew he had.
As powerful as Superman is, one thing fans have seen in the comics is Superman aging, albeit at a much slower rate than humans. Yet one thing that stands out immediately as a pretty insane power that most don’t know about is Shazam's immortality. That’s not to say he can’t get hurt at all or anything, but he literally cannot pass the mortal coil. The lightning that gives the hero his power also carries with it the ability to heal him from injuries he sustains, keeping him tied to the mortal realm always.
One thing most fans of modern day Billy Bastion and Shazam don’t know about is that early on in the 1940s, Shazam (or Captain Marvel for longtime DC fans,) could have an atomic punch. That era was when atomic warfare first came into play, after all.
He could put all of his power into a single punch, which would create a mushroom cloud where the punch landed. However after the events of World War II transpired, the atomic punch was slowly phased out of circulation.
One thing that is so obvious that fans often don’t think of it is the fact that Shazam’s power relies heavily on Billy’s ability to speak. Often in DC comics and the subsequent animated films/shows, there will be times when Billy is forced back into his human form, and before he can shout “Shazam!,” his enemies or even allies can cover his mouth and prevent him from speaking. Superman even did this in an episode of the animated series Justice League: Unlimited. This could put him out of the fight quite easily.
One thing that will surprise fans is that Shazam has the ability to speak all languages. The wisdom of Solomon that comes with his abilities allows Billy to speak not only all languages on Earth, but all alien dialects, dead languages, and even allows him to communicate with animals. This allows him to hear what enemies are saying in another dialect or communicate in order to prevent violence from occurring between two factions who speak different languages. It’s quite a handy ability.
Besides being immortal, one thing that defines Shazam has to be his ability to not age. That doesn’t mean Billy himself can’t age, just his Shazam form. So as Billy Bastion ages normally, the body he gets from his Shazam power will remain the same age forever.
This is tied to his abilities thanks to what is known as the Stamina of Atlas. The wizard who gave him his power also has this ability, yet remains in stasis as an old man for some reason. Either way, Shazam cannot age, and will retain this body forever.
A big part of the comics for Billy Bastion and his journey as Shazam has to be the use of magic. The hero’s own power derives greatly from the use of magic, especially since it was a powerful wizard that granted him his abilities. Only the highest of magics can affect Shazam. Being a hero of magic himself, it would take quite a lot for him to be weakened or damaged by magic. It would take the power of someone like The Spectre to have a chance to taking Billy out with magic.
When we say the hero Shazam’s own power could be considered “godlike,” we don’t say that lightly. Early on in Shazam’s career (then Captain Marvel,) his powers mirrored those of Superman. Much like the Man of Steel, Shazam could move and even juggle whole planets using his strength, and could even move entire suns if need be. While his power has diminished in more modern times, he could still move meteors and falling asteroids if need be using that same strength.
When the lighting bolt was introduced as Billy’s way of summoning the power of Shazam, it was used more as a symbolic thing than an actual physical ability. However, as the lightning bolt became more prominent in the story of Shazam, he has gained the ability to wield the bolt as a weapon.
The most famous case of this came in the alternate story Kingdom Come, when he battled Superman. In that fight, he called upon Shazam to summon the bolt of lightning to hit Superman several times, who is vulnerable to magic.
One thing that fans have obviously noted about the hero is his reliance on electricity and electrical power. It may seem strange, but despite his reliance on lightning for his power, Billy is highly susceptible to electricity. This means that if he is hit with a powerful enough blast of electricity, Shazam will be transformed back into Billy Bastion. This is a strange weakness to have, as you’d think a hero with such a powerful connection to lightning would be impervious to electricity.
The world knows Superman as the hero who took to the skies. However, strange enough, Shazam actually beat Superman to the skies in the comics. It took years before Superman began flying, but Shazam began flying after only three issues of his original comic series. Yet it was Superman who gained the ability to fly so fast that he could travel through time. However Billy eventually gained so much speed that he was able to travel faster than light, which allowed him to visit the Rock of Eternity.
You would think with all of the stamina he uses and the fact he doesn’t age and is immortal, that Shazam would need constant sources of energy to survive. Even the Flash, with all his speed, needs constant food and energy to survive.
So many shows and films have shown the Flash consuming large amounts of food and drink just to get his metabolism in check. Yet for some reason, Shazam needs none of those things. This has led to questions of whether or not Shazam is some sort of god-like being or something more.
The laws of super heroics have matured greatly over the years, but there are some things from the past that remain a bit odd. One strange weakness that Shazam had for a long time was his connection to the Rock of Eternity. Early on in the comics, Shazam was only allowed to be away from the Rock of Eternity for a maximum of 24 hours. He had to remain at the Rock of Eternity most of the time. However, that ended when Billy was no longer tasked with being the Rock of Eternity’s caretaker, and is now free of this burden.
Shazam’s power doesn’t just stem from his physical prowess, but his mind as well. The ability of clairvoyance plays heavily in Shazam’s power. Not only does the wisdom of Solomon allow him to see a situation from every angle and determine the best way to turn things in his favor, but somehow Shazam is tied into the ability to sense danger or a problem and is almost seemingly led to it. It’s like an invisible force is constantly leading the hero to save the day for someone in need.
The ability to control other people’s minds has been a common power used by both villains and heroes in the world of comics, but rarely by the major players in the individual comic book universes. It’s such a strange power to appear out of nowhere, but Shazam seemingly has the ability to hypnotize people.
He has such a high command of his own mental abilities that he is able to push his will onto others, which has allowed him to overrule the mental conditioning his friends and allies have gone through at the hands of his enemies.
One thing about Billy’s personality overall has become a bit of a weakness that villains often exploit. Due to the fact that Billy himself is just a kid and has yet to mature into adulthood and gain the natural wisdom that comes with growing up, he is often shown even in his Shazam mode to be immature and childlike. This allows enemies to take advantage of him and has even proven to be something that Justice League members have noticed and criticized.
Despite his immaturity, Shazam is actually quite wise. Thanks to the fact that Shazam has the Wisdom of Solomon, it is impossible for Shazam to be fooled by an illusion by his enemies. Some enemies play mind games and try to put up illusions to throw heroes off. However the Wisdom of Solomon allows Shazam to see right through them, and even see whether a person is lying or what their evil scheme is. It makes it impossible to hide anything from the hero.
Shazam’s teleportation power is interesting in that it has grown more since the New 52 debuted. Early on in the hero’s career his power of teleportation only extended to allowing him to travel between Earth and the Rock of Eternity.
However, after the New 52 debuted, Shazam now has the ability to teleport anywhere. He could be sitting down with someone one minute, and then in another teleport right into the middle of a massive battle between villains and heroes.
Shazam has never been alone in his heroics. Often times over the course of the hero’s career, Billy has been able to share his power with others in the Captain Marvel family. From Mary Marvel and Freddy to Tawny the tiger, Billy has been able to transfer and share his power to others in the Marvel/Shazam family. However when he does this, it diminishes his own power and abilities and leaves him a bit more vulnerable thanks to his power being so spread out.
Many of Shazam’s powers come from things like the Wisdom of Solomon or the Stamina of Atlas. Yet not everything in his wheelhouse comes from those forces. In fact, sometimes it’s his comparisons to Superman or a whim that give him new powers. For instance he used to be able to have his own version of a freeze breath. However, the power has not been used in a few decades, so it’s unclear whether or not he still possesses it.
One thing that is sometimes surprising is to see is just how skilled a fighter Shazam is. You’d think that being a kid who discovers he can summon this great power and transform into a hero, he would still need a lot of training.
Yet thanks to the Courage of Achilles, Shazam comes prepared with a whole skill set for fighting. This allows him to become a truly prominent force to be reckoned with. He’s even gone toe to toe with the Man of Steel himself, a truly amazing feat for a hero.
Part of the confusion that comes from the Captain Marvel/Shazam moniker is due to legalities. Due to the fact that Captain Marvel was never trademarked, Marvel took the opportunity to trademark the name. Then there was a large gap between the hero’s appearance in the final Fawcett comic series and the first issue of Shazam. In explaining this loss of time and the fact Billy and his family didn’t age, DC introduced this weakness in that his enemy Sivana was able to put the heroes into suspended animation, keeping them frozen in time. However, he had trapped himself in there as well, explaining his ageless battle with the heroes into the modern day.
One thing that has changed in recent years is just how much power he has over the lightning that transforms him into Shazam in the first place. The lightning has always been a source of his transformation, but not until recently has it been a weapon of its own. In addition to this power, he now can shoot lightning out of his body as an offensive weapon, not just by calling it down but by harnessing lightning into his own body and expelling it.
While his source of power comes from magic, Shazam himself had never shown any ability to cast magic himself. That always was left to the Wizard. However, now in recent years, Shazam has been shown to have the ability to cast his own spells.
Of course, he has yet to master this for battle, as his biggest spell to date has been to summon a ping pong table for the Justice League headquarters. However, it’s only a matter of time before this comes in handy in the DC Universe.
The most difficult thing for Shazam, and a weakness he fights to overcome, is his ability to fit into the rest of the DC Universe. When the Post-Crisis DC Universe debuted and converged all the multiverse into one universe, Shazam found himself struggling to fit in with the darker toned, more gritty storytelling of the main DC heroes. A cheerful and upbeat hero, his personality didn’t match the darker toned story they initially tried telling with Shazam. However, with the upcoming film bringing a bit of a lighter tone to the hero, it’ll be interesting to see if his own brand of heroism can fit into the larger DC universe.
During the Darkseid Wars storyline, Shazam’s connection to the old gods was cut off, and the Wizard had to find new gods for Shazam to connect to in order to use his abilities. One of these gods was H’ronmeer, a powerful Martian god. When connecting to this god’s power, Shazam found he had gained powerful connections to fire. Not only could he shoot fire from his hands, but he could now utilize a fire breath, making his a formidable opponent for Darkseid and his minions.