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Monday, November 6, 2017

SHAZAM! Casts Asher Angel as Billy Batson


The World's Mightiest Mortal finally has a secret identity.

The Hollywood Reporter has word that the upcoming film Shazam! has cast Asher Angel as DC Comics character William "Billy" Batson, who becomes the adult superhero Shazam.

The film centers on a boy named Billy Batson, who can transform into an adult superhero by uttering the magic word "Shazam!"  The name is an acronym of the ancient world gods and historical figures Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury, from which the adult Batson obtains his heroic abilities.

Asher, 15, is probably best known as Jonah Beck on the Disney TV series Andi Mack.  His other television appearances include episodes of Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders and Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn.

David F. Sandberg will direct Shazam! from a screenplay by Henry Gayden and Darren Lemke.  Annabelle: Creation producer Peter Safran is reuniting with Sandberg for the film, and is also producing DC's Aquaman for Warner Bros.  The film is currently looking at a February 2018 start date in Toronto.

Shazam! will be the next DC Cinematic Universe movie to begin shooting, ahead of Flashpoint, the Joss Whedon-directed Batgirl, and the sequels to Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman.  DC and Warner Bros. are also currently developing a standalone film about Black Adam, Shazam’s arch nemesis, with Dwayne Johnson is attached to play Black Adam.


Created in 1940 by Bill Parker and C.C. Beck, Shazam first appeared as the Fawcett Comics superhero Captain Marvel in Whiz Comics #2.  Billy Batson, a homeless 12-year-old newsboy slept in a subway station until a mysterious man in a green trenchcoat and hat asked Billy to follow him, where a magic subway car painted in unusual shapes and colors escorted them to an underground throne room, inhabited by a very old man with a long beard and a white robe.  As the man in green disappeared, the old man on the throne explained to Billy that he was the wizard Shazam, and used the powers of the gods Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury to fight evil for over 3,000 years. However, he grew too old to continue and was in need of a successor.  The wizard explained that Billy was chosen due to his misfortune, after he had been thrown out by a greedy uncle who stole his inheritance following the deaths of his parents.  

Ordered by the wizard to speak the name "Shazam," Billy was struck by a sudden bolt of lightning and transformed into a superpowered adult in a red costume with gold trim.  The wizard Shazam declared the new hero "Captain Marvel" and ordered Billy to carry on his work, just before a stone block suspended above Shazam's throne fell on him, killing him as prophesied.  The wizard later returned as a spirit to serve as a mentor to Billy and Captain Marvel, summoned by lighting a torch on the wall of his lair.  As a spirit, the wizard Shazam lived at the Rock of Eternity, a bicone-shaped rock formation situated at the nexus of time and space.  Saying the word "Shazam" allowed Billy to summon the magic lightning and become Captain Marvel, while Captain Marvel could say the magic word to become Billy once again.

In the current DC Comics continuity known as The New 52, the character was renamed Shazam in 2011 to avoid legal conflicts with Marvel Comics' characters using the name Captain Marvel, even though those characters were created decades after DC's Captain Marvel.  Shazam made his debut in Justice League (vol.2) #7, with Billy Batson now a terrible foster child who became cold and cruel to most people following the death of his parents and his treatment thereafter.  Growing selfish and heartless, he went from foster home to foster home until he landed in an orphanage in Philadelphia and was partially forced to live with a new family, the Vasquezes.

After being adopted, he moved into the Vazquezes' home where he met Mary, Freddy, Eugene, Pedro, and Darla, who were also adopted.  Annoyed by his new family, Billy decided to leave as he's done countless times before, but he was whisked away to the Rock of Eternity where he met the Wizard.  There, the Wizard searched the boy's soul and saw that he was not perfectly good.  Billy was instantly enraged, telling the wizard off for thinking that perfect good exists.  The Wizard, seeing the boy's point, witnessed all the good that Billy had done and accepted that the world had changed and now perfection has been exchanged for the hope of becoming good.  The Wizard granted Billy the ability to wield the Living Lightning, turning him into the champion, Shazam.  As Shazam, Billy defeated the threat of Black Adam and eventually joined the Justice League for a brief time.

Asher will be the third actor to portray Billy Batson in live action, after Frank Coghlan, Jr. in the 1941 film serial The Adventures of Captain Marvel, and Michael Gray in the 1974-77 CBS series Shazam!  The character has also appeared in various animated projects, including Justice League Unlimited (voiced by Shane Haboucha), Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (voiced by Rachael MacFarlane), Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam and Justice League: War (voiced by Zach Callison), Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (voiced by Jennifer Hale), Batman: The Brave and the Bold (voiced by Tara Strong), Young Justice (voiced by Robert Ochoa), and Justice League Action (voiced by Sean Astin).

Shazam! is currently expected to arrive in theaters sometime in 2019.

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