Now that a new Shazam is taking over, perhaps the franchise’s most frustrating issue will finally have a chance at being resolved. Turns out, Billy Batson isn’t the only one who’s had some issues with a superhero name in the past.
Though the hero goes by Shazam now, there isn’t a comic fan that isn’t at least passingly familiar with the biggest controversy for the World’s Mightiest Mortal. Because of legal battles and trademark disputes, Billy’s alter ego, which was originally Captain Marvel, was prevented from having his name used as a title in anything the character starred in. Captain Marvel became Shazam permanently when the character was rebooted along with the DC Universe in the New 52, ceding the Captain Marvel name to Marvel once and for all. While it disappointed some fans, the new interpretation finally gave Billy a name of his own.
And yet, in creating a new status quo, an entirely new problem for the young hero and his allies emerged. In DC’s new continuity, Billy shares his power with his foster family, each one becoming a Shazam-like hero when they utter the magic word. But a problem came to light in Geoff Johns and Dale Eaglesham’s Shazam #1. The Shazam Family is on a field trip when a robbery breaks out, forcing the kids to become their heroic forms and save the day. The kids easily take care of the criminals, but the real trouble comes when they try to wrap things up with the police. One officer asks for their names and for who’s in charge, but it’s blatantly apparent that the kids don’t have an answer for either. Even worse, Darla blurts out Mary’s name, causing Mary to speculate that having codenames would make things a lot easier.
Fortunately, the name issue will be slightly resolved when Mary becomes the new champion Shazam. Granted, that still leaves Freddie, Darla, Eugene, Pedro and, ironically Billy without a name of their own. It’s frustrating that characters that have existed since the New 52 nearly a decade ago still don’t have names, but the new era of a new champion presents an opportunity to correct this long-standing oversight.
One of the most intriguing parts of the Shazam legacy is that it’s always been a family endeavor. Whether its the family the heroes are born with or the family they choose, the bonds the children share are what give the Shazam Family their unique identity. Mary taking over as Shazam is an interesting direction, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of her siblings. Eugene, Darla and Pedro are wonderful additions to the Shazam cast and deserve proper hero identities of their own. Mary’s always been portrayed as an anchor for Billy to remind him of his family, and now that she’s in the spotlight, she has the opportunity to lift up her brothers and sister and potentially get everyone the identity they deserve. No matter who ultimately winds up as Shazam, space should be made for all the kids to shine as heroes of their own.
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Author: Justin Epps