10:40am PT by Richard Newby
Where Will 'Shazam!' Sequel Go?
[This story contains spoilers for Shazam!]
The DC movie universe has a new champion. David Sandberg’s Shazam!, the seventh film in the universe, proved to be a mighty success over its opening weekend, exceeding expectations and earning $155.5 million worldwide. While that may seem modest in comparison to Wonder Woman (2017) and Aquaman (2018), Shazam! boasts a production budget between $80 and $100 million and was never positioned to be a billion-dollar earner. For a film based on a B-list character unknown to most non-comic book readers, Shazam! can’t be seen as anything less than a major win for New Line and a new franchise launcher for DC’s growing cinematic universe.
In terms of franchise potential, producer Peter Safran admitted to Collider that they’d like to move quickly on a sequel before the film’s child actors become too old for the roles. Should Sandberg return to helm the sequel, the chances of a quick production schedule seem entirely plausible given the filmmaker’s horror background and the tight schedules those films tend to run on. Beyond continuing the story of Billy Batson and his family, a spinoff of Shazam!, Black Adam, has long been in the works from producer Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who is also set to star as the titular villain/anti-hero. Johnson took to Instagram this weekend to revel in the success of Shazam! and discuss his excitement for Black Adam, in which he revealed that he expects the film to start shooting in 2020. While Black Adam has yet to name a director, there’s a possibility that we could see a Shazam! sequel and Black Adam by 2021. With that in mind, here are a few possibilities for these Shazam! follow-ups.
Mister Mind and the Monster Society of Evil
In the film’s mid-credit scene, which has to be the best mid- or post-credit scene we’ve seen from the DCEU so far, we got a dose of classic comic book goodness with the introduction of Mister Mind, voiced by Sandberg himself. Viewers wondering what the deal was with the caterpillar in the glass dome in the Rock of Eternity got their answer, as the worm introduced himself to an imprisoned Sivana (Mark Strong) at the film’s end. While the idea of a villainous worm, no more than a few inches, may seem silly… OK, it is silly, but Mister Mind is one of the most threatening beings in the DC Universe and one of Shazam’s (Zachary Levi) oldest foes. While he’s had different origins throughout DC’s ever-shifting continuity, Mister Mind is a telepath and master of manipulation. In the maxiseries 52 (2006), it was revealed that Mister Mind’s worm form was simply his larval state and he evolved into the Hyperfly, a giant winged insect with the ability to alter time and space, and thus create the differences in reality that appear across DC’s 52 alternate Earths. In the currently ongoing storyline in Shazam by Geoff Johns and artist Dale Eaglesham, Mister Mind is currently living inside Doctor Sivana’s head, as he makes a play to control the Seven Realms of Magic (we’ll get to those).
On numerous occasions, Mister Mind has pit the Shazam family against his Monster Society of Evil, a collection of Shazam’s biggest foes including Sivana, Archibald (a satyr), Dummy (a living dummy), Captain Nazi (self-explanatory), Ibac (a criminal who sold his soul to the devil for super strength), Crocodile Men (who make a cameo during the film’s third act) and many other unsavory types. Given Sandberg’s horror background, which was so thrillingly put to use in Shazam!, I can’t imagine the Monster Society of Evil won’t be the central threat in the next film. While many are expecting Black Adam to be the sequel’s big bad, he seems like a threat that the Shazam Family would encounter after they’ve learned to use their powers together against other challengers. If you recall the chamber of doors housed in the Rock of Eternity, these magic worlds and alternative universes could provide quite the roster for Sivana and Mister Mind to plot their revenge against the Shazam Family and claim magic for themselves.
You may have noticed that Billy Batson (Asher Angel) has a thing for tigers. A stuffed tiger was the prize he wanted his mom to win for him at the carnival we see in a flashback; a tiger also adorns his backpack, and Shazam fires off lighting to the tune of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.” But the tiger has more meaning than just a repeated motif. It’s a reference to one of the Shazam Family’s oldest allies, Mister Tawky Tawny, an anthropomorphic tiger who dresses in a suit and wishes to live among humans. Like most of DC’s characters, Tawny has gone through numerous iterations. He was originally a regular tiger who after accused of killing a man, was given a serum by a hermit that allowed him to stand, speak and defend his innocence. While Tawny’s presence decreased as DC pushed Shazam further away from kid-friendly fantasy, he has returned to his a classic suit-wearing appearance as recently as the latest issue of Shazam, No. 4. Now hailing from one of the seven Magiclands, Tawny is a denizen of the Wildlands, and currently under arrest for refusing to follow the natural chain of nature and eat the species beneath his tier.
Shazam! proved how much affinity the filmmakers had for the classic comic books and fantasy elements, and without the weight and expectation of having to be grounded, a talking tiger showing up in the sequel could not be more warranted. The comedic banter alone between a foppish walking tiger, Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer), and the rest of Billy’s foster siblings is just too good an opportunity to pass up. Plus, if the Shazam family is facing off against the Monster Society of Evil they could definitely use someone with claws on their side.
The Seven Realms of Magic, or Magiclands, are a recent addition to the Shazam comics, so recent that only a couple of them have been explored so far. But just as Shazam! borrowed heavily from Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s Shazam miniseries (2011), we expect Johns and Eaglesham’s current series to be just as much of a blueprint for future films. In those pages, Billy and his siblings are introduced to the existence of the Earthlands, Funlands, Gamelands, Wildlands, Monsterlands, Wozenderlands, and the Darklands. Once, ages ago, the Wizard Shazam and his family each oversaw one of the Magiclands. But after they died, the Magiclands became a wild and uncharted space. The Shazam Family is challenged with trying to find their purpose in the Magiclands and discover how it relates to their roles as champions, as well as finding the seventh member to join the Shazam Family.
In Shazam! the Wizard Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) mentions six other wizards and we see seven thrones. By the film’s climax, and one of its most satisfying moments, Billy shares his power with his foster siblings, Freddy, Mary (Grace Fulton), Darla (Faithe Herman), Eugene (Ian Chen) and Pedro (Jovan Armand), who each become adult superheroes respectively played by Adam Brody, Michelle Borth, Meagan Good, Ross Butler and D.J. Cotrona. That’s six thrones filled, but one empty. Perhaps the Shazam Family’s battle with the Monster Society of Evil will take them to several of the Magiclands and allow them to further explore the meaning of family in their search for a final member.
Black Adam and the Black Marvel Family
I expect Black Adam to detail the character’s origin and Teth-Adam’s rise as champion, failure and banishment. And no doubt we’ll see him established as dictator of the nation of Khandaq. Black Adam will likely be very different in tone than Shazam!, which adds a level of excitement to their inevitable crossover. Though morally compromised, Black Adam has used his powers to protect his nation and create a utopia out of bloodshed. So encountering a teenage boy who uses his powers to protect a city, goof around and be satisfied with his place as one of his country’s minor heroes, is certain to set Black Adam off and lead to a conversation about power as a force of change. As many times as Shazam (as Captain Marvel) and Black Adam have fought over the years, they’ve also developed a mutual respect and understanding, and Black Adam could serve as another father figure for Billy despite the fact that two must inevitably come to blows over who deserves to hold the magical powers they’ve been bestowed.
While Black Adam has constantly sought more power, he’s also not above sharing it. In 52, he created a family of his own with Adrianna Tomaz and her brother Amon, who became Isis and Osiris of the Black Marvel Family, along with an anthropomorphic crocodile, Sobek. Though this family ultimately fell apart in the face of shocking tragedy (seriously, read 52), these characters would also be great additions to the DC film universe and give the Shazam Family, particularly Freddy, Mary, and Tawky Tawny individual counterparts to face off against. And on the subject of face-offs, let’s just pause for a moment to appreciate the pure battle of charisma that will result in Zachary Levi and Dwayne Johnson sharing the screen together.
Black Adam and Shazam certainly have more to offer each other than as simply adversaries, and it will be interesting to see how they’re developed across two franchises, and maybe more should the DC film universe introduce the Justice Society of America. But that’s a story for another day. For now, we can rest easy with the satisfaction that Shazam, a character who once outsold even Superman, is a major player in the superhero movie landscape.