Warner Bros. is coming off the sterling release of Aquaman and now has its sights set on Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker movie in October. But, before the clown prince of crime terrorizes Gotham, audiences will be treated to another movie: Shazam!

Even saying the title out loud is fun. Shazam! SHA-ZAM! That name (or word or phrase, whatever you want to call it) is actually a big part of the character’s identity, in that it allows Billy Baston to magically transform into a powerful superhero.

With Batman, Superman, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman getting all the attention over the past several years, casual comic fans might not be familiar with Shazam (aka Captain Marvel). But he has a surprisingly complex backstory, and his powers and abilities make him one of the strongest heroes ever.

So, who is the World’s Mightiest Mortal? And what’s his new movie all about? Read on to find out.

All the latest Shazam! news

February 12 – New featurette introduces us to Shazam

You may be unfamiliar with the character of Shazam, but don’t worry, you are not alone. He doesn’t demand to notoriety of a Superman or Batman, and that is a very good thing. There’s something about having a blank canvas with a new character and Shazam is proving to be just that for DC. A new featurette on the movie explains exactly why.

Unlike the heavy and overly dramatic origin stories of Superman or Batman, Shazam is just a kid, Billy Batson. However, when he is blessed with super powers, everything changes and he can transform into a burly superhero with the utterance of one word: Shazam! This should provide a fun and dynamic dimension for a superhero we seldom see nowadays.

January 21, 2019—Excellent new footage showcases powers, bad guys, and more

Even Shazam! is questioning the DCEU’s preference for dark and brooding. In a new TV spot, the marketers at Warner Bros. makes it crystal clear that Billy Batson and Shazam are fun and lighthearted. “He’s not so serious,” copy for the movie reads. Well, that settles it then.

That’s a sentiment that’s been present in the movie’s marketing from the beginning—and it matches nicely with the tone of the film. When a kid suddenly gets superpowers by uttering the name Shazam—and becomes an adult in the process—it’s hard not to be silly. But the new footage also shows a few more serious look at the film, including a showdown with Dr. Sivana.

Shazam! looks like a comedy first and foremost, but it’s also a superhero movie. We’ll see if Warner Bros. successfully blends the two genres when Shazam! hits theaters on April 5.

Here’s when it comes out

First and foremost, Shazam! hits theaters on April 5, 2019, which is just a few months away! Awesome. But I am a little concerned about the movie’s release date.

While Shazam! doesn’t have much competition immediately before or after its release on April 5, it is sandwiched between two highly anticipated Marvel movies: Captain Marvel on March 8 and Avengers: Endgame on April 26.

I don’t have to remind you that these movies are among the biggest releases of the year. In fact, according to a Fandango poll, Shazam! isn’t even in the top ten most anticipated movies of 2019. Avengers: Endgame and Captain Marvel took the top two spots.

That may not say much about Shazam!’s chances of becoming a success. But it shows that people might not be aware of what the movie is all about.

Who is Billy Batson?

Wait, Billy Batson? It’s a little confusing at first. Billy Batson is a young boy, unremarkable in that he has no powers. One day, after standing up to school bullies, he finds himself being summoned by an ancient wizard named Shazam (Djimon Hounsou). (Hey, wasn’t Hounsou in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?)

So, Shazam tells Billy that if he wants endless power, he must say the wizard’s name. Shazam is actually the names of six immortal elders: Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury. Once he invokes their names, he’s bestowed with their powers and turned into an adult superhero, played by Zachary Levi.

The difference between Billy and other superheroes is that he transforms into a different person. Well, he transforms physically. He still has the mental capacity of a young boy even when he turns into Shazam. Which is played for some fun laughs in the movie’s first trailer.

What’s the deal with Shazam?

In the first trailer, Billy is shown coming to terms with his newfound powers as Shazam. When asked what his superpowers are, he doesn’t even know. “Superpowers?” Billy says. “I don’t even know how to be in this thing!”

The truth is Shazam is one of the most powerful heroes in DC’s arsenal of characters. In the comics, he has everything from invulnerability to Superman-level strength to super speed, just to name a few. He’s so powerful, in fact, that in one mini series, a mind-controlled Shazam handily beats Superman. Which, you know, doesn’t happen all that often.

In the movie, it looks like his powers are being downplayed—at least initially. It could be that Billy just doesn’t know how to fully tap into or control his powers, making him a shell of his actual self. Or, it could be that the movie wants to tone things down for narrative purposes.

You don’t want to introduce a character who is all powerful and can’t be beat. He has to overcome obstacles and learn to harness his powers for good. Plus, it’s funny to see Billy go through his whole training montage as he tries to figure out what he’s actually capable of.

The doctor is in

Billy Batson won’t just be dealing with bullies in Shazam! In the trailer, audiences are briefly introduced to Dr. Thaddeus Sivana, who is being played by Mark Strong. We’re not entirely sure how Dr. Sivana will factor into the film, but it’s clear that he’s no ordinary doctor.

In the comics, Sivana is a mad scientist type character. Think of him as Shazam’s version of Lex Luthor, in that he’s a persistent nemesis and evil genius. Sivana also has a particular interest in science, which he uses to create weapons for doomsday scenarios.

Seeing Strong in the role gives him less of a dorky scientist vibe and more of a brute tactician vibe, sort of like Bane in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Rises. Last summer, we learned that Shazam! will actually tweak the character’s backstory a bit to fit the narrative.

Apparently, Sivana previously encountered the wizard who bestows Billy Batson with superpowers. The difference, however, is the Sivana was deemed unfit to wield such power. Even still, Sivana manages to acquire powers that allows him to do things that even Shazam can’t.

There has been some speculation that Sivana will receive his powers from the Seven Deadly Enemies of Man, which are demons that embody the seven deadly sins (pride, envy, greed, anger, sloth, gluttony, and lust). Why they’re asking Sivana to do their evil bidding is unclear, but it likely has to do with taking over the world.

What about Black Adam?

Based on what we know, all signs point to Black Adam not appearing in Shazam! The supervillain is a longtime archenemy of Shazam’s, prompting many people to assume he’d be in the upcoming film. But that doesn’t appear to be the case—though there could be a post-credits scene that hints at the character’s arrival.

What we do know is that Black Adam will get his own solo movie with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson taking on the role. Which is a little out of character for Johnson, who typically portrays the good guy. Still, it’ll be awesome to see an actor of Johnson’s magnitude enter the DCEU.

It’s technically part of the DCEU

By the way, Shazam! is technically part of the DCEU. There are actually a few references in the trailer, including a shot of a Batarang and a newspaper article that talks about Superman. Unfortunately, neither character is expected to cameo in the film, although Henry Cavill’s Superman was at one point reported to appear in the film.

Let there be light

Shazam is an interesting character because of how powerful he is, but he’s also just a young kid. As the trailer shows, there will be plenty of hijinks as Billy learns how to harness his powers for good. Many people have complained about the DCEU’s lack of humor.

Shazam! is definitely a departure from the usual formula and looks to lean heavily on the silliness that comes with a young kid who is suddenly a superhero.

Shazam! hits theaters on April 5, 2019.