Who Is That 'Shazam!' Mystery Villain?

Shazam!-Publicity Still 7-H 2019
Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Is the DC universe setting up its next big thing?

[This story contains spoilers for Shazam!]

Shazam! may be setting up something big.

The new film's post-credits scene reveals a villain that few saw coming (and that many in the audience may not even recognize).

After the first round of credits roll, we touch base with Dr. Sivana (Mark Strong), who is now incarcerated for his many crimes. The walls of his jail cell are covered from floor to ceiling in what looks to be nonsensical scrawling. In this case, however, we know that they are magical symbols and that Sivana is attempting to bring back some of his lost power after the Seven Deadly Sins were extracted from his eye socket by Shazam (Zachary Levi).

Just as he's putting the finishing touches on his little arts and crafts project, the doctor's piece of chalk snaps, leaving him with nothing. He screams in aggravation when silent (and unsettling) laughter begins to creep into his cell. A robotic sort of voice tells Sivana that symbols are so rudimentary and that there are other ways to acquire magic.

Finally, Sivana sees who is talking and can barely believe his eyes: It's a caterpillar (the one we see in the wizard's cave near the start of the movie) with a small voice box slung around its neck. As Sivana whispers his amazement, the creepy crawler states that all Seven Realms will soon belong to them both.

While the appearance of a talking insect may understandably confuse some viewers, a bit of light research will tell you that the caterpillar is Mister Mind, a vintage Shazam villain who dates back to the early 1940s.

A megalomaniacal alien worm and longtime ally of Sivana in the comics, Mister Mind has always been obsessed with the conquering of other worlds and even founded the Monster Society of Evil. And while he may be a very old character, Mister Mind's cinematic encounter with Sivana seems to be inspired by a relatively recent comic, 2013's Justice League No. 21 in the New 52 continuity.

Mister Mind's introduction in that post-credits scene feels a lot like Thanos' introduction in 2012's The Avengers. Many in the audience may not have known who he was then, but there were big things ahead for him.

Thanos can trace his roots back to the early '70s, when Jim Starlin first debuted him to the world. There was plenty of debate and explainers online about his small cameo in The Avengers. Could DC be going for the same effect? After all, it has picked a well-established villain from the past that has never shown up in live-action before and few would expect to show up in a big-budget superhero movie.

In a way, it feels like Mister Mind is DC's self-aware answer to Thanos. Where the latter is this big muscular alien warlord who relies on brute strength to defeat his enemies, the former is a twerpy insect who relies on his vast intellect to achieve the same ends. Nevertheless, both are consumed by the idea of fully conquering other planets and peoples.

Mister Mind's small stature would be almost comical if his synthesized voice wasn't so disconcerting and eerily reminiscent of the late Glenn Shadix's performance as The Brotherhood of Evil's Brain on the original Teen Titans animated TV show. Of course, Mister Mind doesn't have to stay small. In the comics, he once metamorphosed into a giant and grotesque bug with sharp pincers, red eyes, yellow wings and the hunger to consume an entire universe.

After the disappointment of 2017's Justice League, Warner Bros. has de-emphasized the shared universe aspect of its films. Aquaman was largely a stand-alone and earned more than $1 billion, while movies like the upcoming Wonder Woman 1984 and Shazam! don't necessarily set up the big sort of team-up movie you'd see from Marvel Studios.

Before Warners switched gears, it was assumed the Justice League director Zack Snyder was building toward a confrontation with Darkseid as the universe's big bad, but those plans are dead.

Still ... is there potential for Mister Mind to step in as a big bad for the universe, steadily gaining power and spreading foreboding across all of the upcoming movies with Sivana at his side?

Shazam! is in theaters now.