Billy Batson’s adoptive family is the focus of Shazam! Film franchise where Billy shares the powers of Shazam with his foster siblings – a concept that has its roots in comics.
And with Shazam!: Fury of the Gods villain Hera on a quest to reclaim Shazam’s powers, the new film focuses on the relationship between Billy Batson and the Shazam family.
But how is the Shazam family in comics? Well… kinda different and often kinda weird. For one, they used to be called the Marvel family, although modern incarnations have taken the Shazam family name.
Almost as long as Billy Batson “Shazam!” and when he transformed into a superhero, he shared his magical powers with an entire Shazam family of superheroes, including sisters, best friends, uncles, and even a talking tiger.
Billy Batson, whose classic superhero name Captain Marvel is now best associated with Marvel Comics’ Carol Danvers thanks to the trademark’s magic, first debuted in 1940 – and in 1942 he shared his powers with a long-lost sister named Mary Marvel.
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Like Captain Marvel for Billy Batson, Mary Marvel is the classic adult superhero alter ego of Mary Bromfield, who was born Mary Batson. When Billy Batson’s parents died, Billy Batson lived alone while Mary was adopted by a wealthy family called the Bromfields.
When Billy was reunited with his younger sister, he immediately began sharing his power with her, with the blessing of the wizard who bestowed Billy’s powers in the beginning. This origin is just a little bit different than Shazam’s Mary Bromfield! Movies, but we’ll get to that.
Interestingly, although Captain Marvel himself would ultimately be viewed as an overly accurate copy of his predecessor Superman, thanks to a lawsuit against Shazam’s publisher Fawcett Comics, Mary Marvel actually predates Supergirl as a female spin-off of a popular male hero.
Soon, Captain Marvel and Mary Marvel were joined by Billy’s sidekick Freddie Freeman, who became a teenage superhero named Captain Marvel Jr. when he said the name “Captain Marvel,” which is pretty impractical given his codename.
Though this core trio became the staples of the Golden Age of superhero comics, and Captain Marvel Jr. even inspired some of Elvis Presley’s most iconic stage outfits, the growing Marvel family didn’t stop there, adding numerous other heroes through 1943.
There was also Uncle Marvel, Billy and Mary’s clumsy Uncle Dudley H. Dudley and Cousin Freckles Marvel who didn’t actually have powers but were allowed into Shazam! family because they loved them.
And there were three so-called Lieutenant Marvels, also played for comic relief, who gained their powers by being… also coincidentally named Billy Batson. But to set them apart there was “Hill Billy” who was kind of a hillbilly. “Tall Billy,” which was really tall, and “Fat Billy,” which was just the kind of unfriendly stereotype you could imagine.
1948 saw one final addition to the original Marvel family – Tawky Tawny, an anthropomorphic talking tiger with the personality of a posh Brit who became best friends with Billy Batson and Captain Marvel, and even Hoppy the Marvel Bunny, who… you got the idea
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Members of the Marvel/Shazam family appeared in most Shazam comic stories up until the original Golden Age Captain Marvel and its offshoots in 1953, thanks to the aforementioned DC lawsuit that resulted in Shazam!/Captain Marvel being branded legal became, all publications adjusted an unoriginal derivative of Superman.
After Shazam/Captain Marvel and its related Fawcett Comics superheroes were licensed for publication and later purchased outright by DC in the ’70s, most of the Shazam family characters were also revisited and revamped (thankfully the Lieutenant Marvels are mostly along lost to time). .
For most of Captain Marvel’s DC history, Mary Marvel, Captain Marvel Jr., Uncle Dudley, and Tawky Tawny have all been in and out of his stories, with most of their origins receiving slightly tweaked modern makeovers.
Then, in 2011, DC introduced a new concept of the Shazam family in the Flashpoint limited series, which presented an alternate reality in the DC Multiverse while paving the way for a full DC continuity reboot.
In Flashpoint (which is the direct comic inspiration for the upcoming Flash film), each of Shazam’s six powers is shared by six different people – not too dissimilar to how each of the film’s adopted Shazam siblings shared Billy Batson respectively a specialty has one of the skills they all share. When all six heroes “Shazam!” Immediately they would summon the hero Captain Thunder.
Although this was only a passing alt-reality version of the Shazam Family, the concept later informed of a more recent mainstream DC Universe incarnation of the group that more closely resembles the film version, with Billy Batson sharing his abilities with his six foster siblings.
This, of course, became the Shazam family’s version, now moving into their movie sequel, Shazam!: Fury of the Gods, which hits theaters March 17th.
Then Billy Batson gets a new Shazam in June! Comic title that sees him hanging out with none other than Tawky Tawny, bringing another iconic character from the Shazam family into the modern era.
Shazam!: Fury of the Gods has its big spoiler reef cameo already revealed by DC.