Once known as Captain Marvel, DC acquired Shazam in the 1970s and became one of their most powerful heroes. Though initially only licensed by the company, DC Comics took ownership of Shazam in the 1990s, paving the way for an era of brilliant comics starring the hero. Ever since, he has become the magical counterpart to Superman, often teaming up with the Man of Steel – or fighting him.
Shazam, also known as the World’s Mightiest Mortal, is the superhero form taken up by Billy Batson, a wholesome American boy who can transform into the hero by speaking the magical word of Shazam. Both as a solo hero and with his Marvel Family, the hero has faced down some of the most creative villains in comics. Since joining the world of DC Comics, the hero has had an incredibly consistently enjoyable run of comic book stories.
In 1999, DC gave the Justice Society of America their first ongoing title since All-Star Squadron ended in the Bronze Age. Under the writing of Geoff Johns, Shazam rejoined the JSA, serving as the team’s answer to Superman. With his magical powers, the book established Shazam as a rightful member of the team.
JSA was a brilliant run on the team, and one of its highlights was the JLA/JSA Thanksgiving issue, which compared the wholesome nature of Superman and Shazam. However, the key arc was “Black Vengeance,” which sent the team into the heart of Kahndaq and united them with Black Adam. The story explored Adams’ motivations and how he butts heads with Marvel.
9 Superman Vs Shazam Special
The 1978 Superman vs Shazam Special, for many, marked the true beginning of Shazam in the world of DC Comics. It also remains the definitive battle between the two titular heroes. The series saw the two heroes do battle under the influence of Karmang the Sorcerer and a disguised Black Adam.
The series set the stage for decades of subsequent fights between the two heroes, and was one of the first major comic book grudge matches. It established Shazam’s magic as making him a contender to take on the Man of Steel. The comic was impressively action-packed, and even laid the groundwork for Superman vs Black Adam stories.
8 Stan Lee’s Just Imagine: Shazam
In the early 2000s, Stan Lee collaborated with DC Comics to deliver a series of reimaginings of key heroes of their universe, from Batman to Green Lantern. One of the most interesting of these was his take on Shazam, who he recast as a monstrous transformation akin to a heroic Jekyll and Hyde.
Just Imagine: Shazam follows an InterPol agent, Robert Rogers, who gains the ability to transform into the monster Shazam while on a mission in India. When he transforms, the monster takes over as his own personality – much like Hulk – and protects a woman from assassins and foils a terrorist plot.
7 Crisis Times Five
JLA united the creativity of Grant Morrison and Howard Porter to resurrect the classic A-list line-up of the team. After a strong slew of the team going on adventures, they had their first big crossover in “Crisis Times Five,” a story that united the JLA with the JSA in the face of imps from the Fifth Dimension.
“Crisis Times Five” played up Superman’s vulnerability to magic, allowing Shazam to step in as the most powerful hero in town to foil the machinations of the reality-warping Djinn. The League and JSA were trapped in a war between the LKZ and YZ houses of the Fifth Dimension, prompting Shazam and Kyle Rayner to appeal to the leaders of the dimension directly.
6 Billy Batson And The Magic Of Shazam
Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam was created to work as an out-of-continuity take on the hero aimed squarely at kid readers. With an art style that matched popular cartoons of its time, the series was as much a story of Batson’s school life as it was his super heroics. It had him butt heads with Theo Adam, Black Adam’s kid self, who had forgotten the magic word.
Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam was successful in capturing the wholesome, kid-friendly nature that makes the world of Shazam work so well in the comics. For kid readers, the series made for a perfect introduction to the character, his family and his villains, as he tried to navigate the difficulties of adult life and balance them with school. Not every hero is suited to this style, but Shazam proved perfect for an all-ages, whimsical adventure book.
Flashpoint followed a world in which Barry Allen broke the timeline in a bid to save his mother by traveling back in time to rescue her. After his change, Allen woke up to find an Earth on the brink of Armageddon as the armies of Atlantis and Themyscira clashed in Great Britain.
Shazam was reimagined on this world as the hardened, gritty Captain Thunder. Rather than the main world where each of the Shazam family become their own hero, Captain Thunder was created by merging the Thunder family. With a scarred face and gruff personality, he more closely resembled a Frank Miller hero than he did the wholesome kid of Fawcett City.
4 Shazam 2023
Though the series may be recent, Mark Waid and Dan Mora’s team-up for Shazam has been a fantastic book that ushered the hero into a new age of DC. The story began with a tour of the world of Shazam, with the hero facing a slew of classic foes like giant robots and dinosaurs.
Shazam has since followed the hero caught in the middle of a feud between the six gods who granted him his powers. The comic, though new, has been one of the best written comics of the hero since the Geoff Johns run, with all the optimism and wholesomeness the hero deserves.
3 Shazam 2018
Geoff Johns’ return to Shazam in his 2018 series remains one of the most underrated comics of DC’s post-Rebirth era. The 15-issue run of Shazam took the Marvels on an adventure into the Magic Lands following the unexpected return of Billy Batson’s father.
The series was full of great stories, including a one-off adventure with Batman in Gotham City and the finale in which Billy learns the meaning of responsibility. However, the series’ highlight was seeing the hero battle an alliance between Sivana and Mr. Mind.
2 Kingdom Come
Kingdom Come is seen by many as the definitive ending of the Justice League, as well as one of the most important comics in DC history. The story takes place in a distant future of the DC universe, where Superman has gone into retirement and a younger generation of heroes and villains fight a reckless, destructive war with regular people caught in the middle.
Kingdom Come had a subplot in which Billy Batson was under the control of mind control worms for the Legion of Doom. After being rescued, Shazam made his return. After a fight with Superman, Earth’s Mightiest Mortal made the ultimate sacrifice in diverting a nuclear missile away from the heroes.
1 The Power Of Shazam
Jerry Ordway’s legendary take on Shazam remains the most essential reading for Billy Batson fans, especially for its run through his rogues’ gallery. The series came after DC officially acquired Shazam for keeps, and was a great tour of the hero’s world, his rogues gallery and lore.
Beginning with a graphic novel of the same name, the series lasted 47 issues and, although some newer series have come close, it remains Shazam’s best run. With Ordway’s art and writing combined, he didn’t just create Shazam’s best comic but one of the greatest runs of ’90s DC.
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