clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

A Shazam! sequel could go almost anywhere — as long as it’s weird

New, 8 comments

Plumbing the bizarre depths of Shazam! comics canon

JACK DYLAN GRAZER as Freddy Freeman and ZACHARY LEVI as Shazam in New Line Cinema’s action adventure “SHAZAM!,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Warner Bros. Pictures

It’s no surprise that Shazam! sets itself up for a sequel. The latest installment in the DC Films universe wraps up with a cliffhanger mid-credits sequence — a pretty safe bet that we have not seen the last of Billy Batson or his heroic alter ego.

This of course begs the question: Where can the Shazam franchise go next? Thanks to his incredibly tangled comic book history, wealth of supporting characters, and roster of vintage villains, Shazam’s options for future adaptations are a little bit more complicated than your average superhero franchise.

[Ed. note: This post will contain spoilers for Shazam!]

MARK STRONG as Dr. Thaddeus Sivana and ZACHARY LEVI as Shazam in New Line Cinema’s action adventure “SHAZAM!,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Warner Bros. Pictures

The monsters are (probably) coming

The meatiest of Shazam!’s two post-credits stingers features Dr. Sivana, hunched over and mumbling in his cell, as he frantically sketches glyphs on the wall. Then, an unexpected savior interrupts his mania: A caterpillar wearing a mechanical “talk box” invites him to be a part of something greater.

This is a perfectly normal sentence for Shazam stories, because comics are awesome.

Mister Mind and Dr. Sivana in Shazam!, DC Comics (2012). Geoff Johns, Gary Frank/DC Comics

The caterpillar is Mister Mind, one of the weirdest and most wonderful classic villains from Billy’s golden age stories. He’s attempting to recruit Sivana for something that will likely become the cinematic version of Mind’s iconic “Monster Society of Evil,” a super villain team that traditionally mounted all sorts of grand, arbitrarily megalomaniacal plans.

In the 1940s, Mister Mind the evil caterpillar was designed to be a kid-friendly pastiche of European fascism during and after World War II, and he’s not the easiest character to fit into a modern, serious superhero universe. The comics might be classics, but they weren’t made to be all that deep or nuanced. Usually Mind and the Society weren’t really gunning for anything specific, other than “power” or “world domination,” and for no real reason other than their own inherent evilness — not exactly the most cinematic motivation.

However, Mister Mind and the Monster Society have had a few modern comics that could be remixed a bit for big screen adaptation.

The Power of Shazam

The Power of Shazam, a mini series published in 1996 by Jerry Ordway, featured a reinvented Mind who heralded the looming threat of a worm-based invasion of Earth.

Conquering caterpillars might not be the most intimidating super villains to face, especially after the Shazamily literally took down the Seven Deadly Sins themselves, but it would certainly be fun and funny — which would help keep the tone of the franchise as upbeat and heartwarming as it is now.

There’s also plenty of room for multiple different Mind stories to come into play in the movies — some weirder and sillier than the others. We can guess that Mind’s been up to no good before, as the Wizard clearly had him trapped in the Rock of Eternity for a reason. Maybe Mind’s actually had more of a hand in the history of the DCEU than we ever could have guessed. Maybe the space caterpillar invasion was already tried and thwarted, and now Mind has some different tricks up his non-existent sleeves.

A transformed Mister Mind in the final issue of 52, DC Comics (2007).
Mister Mind in the final issue of 52.
Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid, Keith Giffen, Mike McKone, Justiniano, Eddy Barrows, Chris Batista, Pat Olliffe, Darick Robertson/DC Comics

52

In an even more recent reinvention, Mind was given a major power boost in the year-long 52 series, when it was revealed that his cartoon caterpillar form was actually just his larval state. Like a real life caterpillar, Mind made a chrysalis and metamorphosed into a giant, universe-consuming moth monster that could travel through time.

Again, another perfectly normal sentence for Shazam comics.

That particular story focused less on Mind’s formation of the Monster Society, but did enlist Sivana’s help for much of Mind’s transformation, so it could go either way. We could end up with a goofy supervillain team lead by a CGI worm, or a very serious, high-stakes cosmic adventure with a CGI worm manipulating other villains into helping him out.

Aside from Mister Mind and Sivana, the only other Society member we’ve seen was in a blink-and-you-miss-it Easter egg. As the kids run through the Rock of Eternity, they interrupt a very weird poker game between three anthropomorphic crocodiles in suits. These are the Crocodile Men, Herkimer, Jorrk, and Sylvester, who are on-again-off-again members of the Society’s sillier incarnations.

Whether or not they’ll show up again is really anyone’s guess, but at least they’re definitely around.

What about Black Adam?

Another famous DC supervillain was alluded to during Shazam!, as the Wizard told Billy the story of an “ancient champion” who held the power of Shazam but became corrupted. He’s the whole reason why it’s so important for the champion to be “worthy.”

Black Adam on the cover of 52 #45, DC Comics (2007).
Black Adam, reclining.
J.G. Jones, Alex Sinclair, DC Comics (2007).

That ancient hero is Black Adam, a name that may or may not be familiar to you if you’ve been keeping up with superhero movie casting rumors. Dwayne Johnson is reportedly set to helm his very own Black Adam movie at some point — he’s even listed as a producer on Shazam! — and that one moment was just enough to establish that Adam does, in fact, exist in this universe.

Black Adam is the closest thing Billy and company have to a Dr. Doom-like arch-nemesis. In the comics, Adam is the ruler of his own country, a frequent anti-hero and chaotic neutral force whose motivations are less about random evil than they are about securing and protecting the subjects of his kingdom or rehabbing his own villainous reputation.

It’s also worth noting that Black Adam has also been a member of several Monster Society of Evil incarnations, meaning he’s definitely up there on the list of potential teammates to flesh out Mind’s plans. So we might not get a proper Black Adam focused story next time around, but the chance he could show up after being recruited by a caterpillar remains very, very real.

This all sounds really weird

Superhero movies have long since abandoned slavish devotion to their source material, but Billy Batson’s history takes it all a step further: It would be nearly impossible, given the current landscape of both DC’s comics and cinematic universe, for future Shazam films to directly adapt any one comic plot reliably. But weirdness is what makes Shazam so fun.

Any Shazam! sequel could develop the magic side of the DCEU even further. It could even completely sidestep Monster Society build up (maybe creators will tease that out Thanos-style, who can say) and go a totally new direction. The most recent line of Shazam! comics has dealt with the family exploring new realms of magic entirely separate from our plane of existence.

Billy Batson is the sort of character who has the flexibility to flit from cataclysmic, existential stakes to slapstick humor and back without missing a beat. The sky’s the limit for the future of the franchise.