Editors Note: All editorials are solely the opinion of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of DC Comics News or its staff.
There’s this quote going around right now, courtesy of director Peter Segal. It’s all about how a Shazam movie isn’t going to get off the ground any time soon because of the success of Man of Steel. If you’re looking for the correlation there, Segal’s argument is that Superman and Shazam have always been very similar heroes so having another Superman-like hero wouldn’t fly at the box office, pun intended.
Well, that’s ridiculous. It was ridiculous way back when DC sued Fawcett Comics and it’s ridiculous now.
First and foremost, writer John August—who had written the script for Shazam prior to the WGA strike—has already explained how the movie went from in-development to not-gonna-happen. Simply put, there were a lot of rewrites and the success of The Dark Knight coupled with the failure of Speed Racer meant everyone at Warner Bros wanted a darker, edgier movie. Ultimately, after a couple rewrite attempts from August, the whole production just kind of fell apart. Given the shift in tone, that’s probably a good thing.
Secondly, Superman and Shazam are completely different characters. Hell, they’re in completely different genres. Superman is a sci-fi icon and that’s the angle Goyer and Snyder chose to play up with Man of Steel. Shazam, on the other hand, is based in magic and fantasy. And the lead character is a young kid (instead of a depressed 33-year-old man who may or may not have ever gotten a journalism degree. Goyer. You hack.).
Recently, with the New 52, DC has relaunched the Shazam brand. And, for better or worse, it’s been headed up by none other than Geoff Johns. You may recall that Johns was instrumental in the resurrection of Green Lantern, who subsequently got its own (mediocre) film. And that he brought back Barry Allen (aka The Flash) who recently appeared in CW’s Arrow and will soon be getting his own spinoff show. In other words, Geoff Johns tends to make characters popular and then introduce them to DC’s live-action universe. It’s kind of his thing.
Should Shazam become an ongoing comic (c’mon, it will), chances are we’ll see a couple standalone Shazam animated features (he’s already appeared in Justice League Unlimited, Young Justice, a team-up direct-to-DVD movie with Superman, and will have a pivotal role in Justice League: War where he’ll be replacing Aquaman because everyone at DC hates me, I guess). If those do well, the ball will likely start to roll once more on a live-action film adaptation.
Though at first glance, Shazam and Superman have a lot of similarities (they’re both raven-haired flying strongmen in capes), the fundamentals of their stories and motivations are entirely different. Superman is an alien rocketed from a doomed world to Earth where he becomes a solar-powered champion. Shazam, on the other hand, is a young orphaned boy (or, if you’re going with the New 52 relaunch, a snarky teenager) named Billy Batson who is granted magic powers by a mysterious wizard. Oh, and did I mention that he’s: a total comic book nerd, has an extended “family” who share his abilities, owns a pet tiger (or… kind of just hangs out with a polite, talking man-tiger in a nice suit), and his villains include a mad scientist, an evil ancient Egyptian guy who shares all of his abilities, and a hyper-intelligent multi-dimensional caterpillar? Because those are all totally real things.
Even if their differences in characterization weren’t enough, DC could easily further separate Superman and Shazam by making the Shazam movie an animated feature. DC Entertainment is, frankly, kicking major ass with their direct-to-DVD animated features. It’s not a major stretch to imagine them collaborating with a CG animation studio and turning Shazam into a more kid-focused film. The audience is certainly there (Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks, and Laika have all proven that over and over and over again).
Shazam could easily coexist in theaters with Man of Steel’s sequels. Calling the characters “too similar” is a sure sign of someone who doesn’t understand either character or who’s just speculating wildly for whatever reason.
Would you watch a Shazam movie?