Bring Back the Justice Society
Shazam! and the Future that Could Have Been
It's weird spending a single week talking about a single film but, up until now, we haven't really had a precedent for the kind of cinematic shakeup we're getting. The DC Extended UniverseStarted as DC Comics' answer to the MCU, the early films in the franchise stumbled out of the gates, often mired in grim-dark storytelling and the rushed need to get this franchise started. Eventually, though, the films began to even out, becoming better as they went along. Still, this franchise has a long way to go before it's true completion for Marvel's universe., in most forms and functions, is ending. We've had cinematic universes fail to start (Universal and their Dark Universe, Bloodshot failing to kickoff the ValiantComics Universe) but we haven't had one that managed to go a substantial number of properties (and over ten should be considered "substantial") and then blowing up. But that's just what's happening here.
As such it feels only right to go over the how, why, and what could have been for this universe, and that leads us into the last article for this impromptu "Shazam Week" on the site with, finally, a look at what spin-offs and sequels we could have had from Shazam!: Fury of the Gods:
The first and most obvious sequel was the one hinted at by the post credits scenes of not just Shazam! Fury of the Gods but also the first Shazam! film. Those scenes we find the first film's villain, Dr. Thaddeus Sivana, in prison, meeting with a weird alien caterpillar, Mister Mind. The film promised that the two villains would team up to take on Shazam! so Silvana could have his revenge while the caterpillar would do... something.
Mister Mind is a pretty deep cut villain, as far as the larger DC ComicsOne of the two biggest comic publishing companies in the world (and, depending on what big events are going on, the number one company), DC Comics is the home of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and just about every big superhero introduced in the 1930s and 1940s. universe. He made regular appearances in Captain Marvel Adventures as printed by Fawcett comics, before the character was executed for his crimes after World War II. Then, when DC took over the Fawcett characters, Mister Mind was brought back. Eventually he created the first "Monster Society of Evil", teaming various villains together so they could work to take over the world.
Presumably we would have seen a similar team up happen here. Silvana would have been the first villain recruited, and then other Captain Marvel / Shazam! villains would have joined the fray as well, giving many of them their first live-action, cinematic debuts. That's certainly more interesting than three goddesses that never appeared in the actual comics launching some half-baked plan that even the film couldn't commit to. But then, really, you have to think just about anything would have been better than that (except then you look at the other storylines from within the DCEU and you really begin to wonder.
Black Adam 2
Had Black Adam been a hit (and there are ways it could have been) we likely would have seen the hero grow into his place in the larger DCEU. The film promised as much, with an end credits sequence where the antihero shared a brief scene with SupermanThe first big superhero from DC Comics, Superman has survived any number of pretenders to the throne, besting not only other comic titans but even Wolrd War II to remain one of only three comics to continue publishing since the 1940s.. That was clearly the match-up the Rock wanted to pursue, with his superhero taking over Superman's spot as the most powerful hero in the cinematic universe.
Of course, there are issues with that. For starters, Black Adam and Superman are very different kinds of heroes. Superman is a beacon of hope for the whole world and while Black Adam tries to position its antihero in a similar way, making him the Champion of Khandaq, the two heroes have different methods, different ideals. Had the two heroes faced off it's like we would have gotten something akin to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, with the two having an unnecessary fight before deciding to team up instead.
Now, that team up could have been cool, and would work in context. Black Adam introduced Intergang, the criminal organization that had Apokolips tech. They were regular foils for Superman, and thus we could have had a good plot for both heroes, working together to stop a larger threat to the world (something that justifies having two of the strongest heroes around in the same film). Of course, then that could have led to the build up for the next phase of the DCEU, with Darkseid finally coming back to invade Earth (as he does).
But then, the other way this whole battle between heroes could have gone is with a fake out. Superman could say, "hey, you need to stay here, in Khandaq, and don't cause trouble or I'll be back." Then, Black Adam causes trouble and in comes the hero to stop him... except it's not Superman, it's ShazamOnce known as "Captain Marvel", this superhero (created by Fawcett Comics before they were bought by DC) has seen many changes to his story over the years. One thing has remained the same: his awesome, god-like powers.. Thus we could get the proper fight between the two heroes with access to the Shazam force (or whatever you wanna call it). That's the epic showdown the comics have delivered on time and again and, really, it's all the fans wanted. Either version of this film, frankly, sounds great.
Captain Marvel, Jr.
In the comics Captain Marvel had a young boy, Freddy, who gained access to the Shazam powers and became Captain Marvel, Jr. He proved popular enough that he moved beyond the pages of Captain Marvel into his own eponymous book. Of course, in the movies Freddy is Billy Batson's best friend (and foster brother), and the whole "Captain Marvel" name was dropped for all the characters. But if there was anyone who would be an obvious character to spin-off into his own adventures it would be Freddy. There's history for this kind of launch.
Where could Freddy have gone with his stories? While it's doubtful we would see Freddy fight some of his earliest villains (namely Captain Nazi), there are threads from his early books that could give us insight into a Freddy film series. Captain Marvel, Jr. worked to fight poverty and social injustice, themes that are relevant today again. And, I mean, he could have to deal with a group of Neo-Nazis, as those are also on the rise as well. Maybe it would be hard to keep up the light tone of the Shazam! films while tackling heady subjects like these, but if Black Adam can bring up Western Imperialism, Freddy could fight social injustice.
That, or they could follow the comics plot line where Captain Marvel, Jr. tried to join the Teen TitansStarted in The Brave and the Bold back in 1964, the Teen Titans were a supergroup formed of the younger sidekicks of the more famous heroes in the DC Comics line. Over the years the team has been reformed, rebooted, and relaunched, but always with that basic premise in place.. That would have allowed the DCEU to introduce a new host of younger heroes which, in turn, could have been back door introductions for more adult heroes, too. That is all predicated on the DCEU actually continuing, of course, but that still sounds like a solid brand extension.
Before Mary was (re)introduced as the older foster sister for Billy Batson, she was first his twin sister, granted superhero powers by the wizard Shazam. She was one of the first female superheroes to get her own spin-off (predating Supergirl by more than a decade). An argument could be made that even more than Captain Marvel, Jr., Mary Marvel (aka Lady Shazam, aka just Shazam!) deserves her own spin-off film. Hell, the films basically have her already starting to look for her own life, her own adult circle of friends. You could easily see her moving off to a new city to start a new life... while also being Shazam on the side.
It would have been interesting to see Mary go off on her own, out from the shadow of the whole Shazam super team (while still able to visit them just by taking a doorway to the Rock of Eternity). She could go to another city and meet other superheroes, having fun team up adventures, or just be on her own fighting a new host of villains. Mary being an adult, and able to be out on her own in a new life, presents opportunities for her character that wouldn't be available to the rest off the Shazamily for a few more years.
Of course, the most famous plot line for Mary Marvel is he getting infected by the power of Desaad and becoming an agent of Apokolips. Then she would have been a villain and the rest of her Shazamily (and maybe a few cameo heroes from the Justice LeagueThe premiere team at DC Comics, their version of the Avengers (which actually came before the Avengers and, really, has existed in some fomr since the early 1940s), the Justice League is the team-up to end all team-ups, featuring some of the most popular, and longest running, characters in all of comics history (and also Booster Gold).) would have been needed to stop her. This could tie back into the "Shazam vs. Black Adam" mega-storyline we discussed above, and nicely ties in Intergang and Darkseid as well. It's almost like all these storylines could easily have written themselves, if only the producers had managed to follow the obvious trail.
Finally, of course, we had the promise of more adventures for the Justice Society. As introduced in Black Adam, we had Hawkman, Doctor Fate, Cyclone, and Atom Smasher, and those were just the heroes for this film specifically. When we're talking about a superhero team the possibilities for where they could have gone would have been limitless.
Think of all the superheroes that could have been introduced. Obvious inclusions would have been Jay Garrick / The FlashStruck by lightning while working in his lab, Barry Allen became a speedster known as The Flash, launching an entire set of super-fast superheroes., Alan Scott / Green LanternMade up of aliens from sectors scross space, the Green Lantern Corp. defends the universe against threats with the power of the Green Light of Willpower., Powergirl, Stargirl, Hourman, Hawkgirl, Wildcat, and so many more. That team is just as large as the eventual Justice League and just about anyone from DC Comics superhero history could eventually have been on one team (or both, legitimately). Using Black Adam as a back door pilot for a Justice Society film is a much better was to do it than how Zack Snyder was working towards the Justice League (even if he redeemed it with his Snyder Cut).
And that doesn't even get into all the spin-offs we could have gotten from a Justice Society film. A movie about Hawkman and Hawkgirl? The Hawk was pretty kick-ass in Black Adam and I would have loved to see more. A Red Tornado film with Cyclone building an android to honor her grandmother? That sounds legitimately cool. An Alan Scott Green Lantern film to wash away the taste of 2011's Green Lantern? God yes.
Look, the simple fact is that DC is in a bad place with their cinematic universe and, frankly, a reboot is what's call for to get audiences interested again. Black Adam and Shazam! Fury of the Gods weren't great films but they were watchable. A few years earlier (before COVID and audience fatigue with the whole genre) both of these movies would have made way more bank at the Box Office. Instead they fizzled and guaranteed any potential continuations were squashed. If DC could have done some solid cinematic world building with these characters and films five years earlier I think we would be looking at a very different DCEU today. It was just never meant to be.
And now we end "Shazam Week" here on Asteroid G. We'll have to see if I decide to do the same thing for the other upcoming films in the DCEU before the universe comes to a close.