Thursday, December 7, 2017

SHAZAM! Casts Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy Freeman

Billy Batson just got a best friend.

Deadline has revealed that the upcoming New Line Cinema film Shazam! has cast Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy Freeman, better known to DC Comics fans as the superhero Captain Marvel, Jr.  Grazer joins Zachary Levi as Shazam and Asher Angel as Shazam's secret identity Billy Batson.

According to the article, Freddy is described as "Batson’s best friend and the only person who knows the truth about Shazam."

The DC Extended Universe 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.

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.

Grazer, 14, is best known as Eddie Kaspbrak in the film adaptation of Stephen King's It.  He also appeared in the movie Tales of Halloween and on episodes of the TV series Me, Myself & I and Comedy Bang! Bang!

Created in 1941 by France Herron and Mac Raboy, Freddy Freeman first appeared in Whiz Comics #25.  During a battle with the supervillain Captain Nazi, one of Captain Marvel’s punches sent the villain careening into a lake.  An elderly man and his teenage grandson happened to be fishing in the lake nearby and, not knowing who he is, lifted the unconscious man into their boat to prevent him from drowning.  Captain Nazi immediately came to, tossed the old man into the lake, and knocked the boy out of the boat with an oar.  The old man immediately died, but Captain Marvel was able to save the unconscious boy, Freddy Freeman, and brought him to a hospital.

In his alter ego as young Billy Batson, Captain Marvel learned from a nurse that Freddy was not expected to last the night.  Billy toook Freddy to the underground throne room of the wizard Shazam, who originally granted Captain Marvel his powers.  Billy asked the wizard to heal Freddy and save his life, but Shazam said he was unable to, and instead told Billy that he, as Captain Marvel, could pass along some of his powers so that Freddy could walk again.  Shazam disappeared and Billy transformed back into Captain Marvel, just as Freddy awakened.  Looking up, he exclaimed, "Why...it’s Captain Marvel," and was instantly transformed into a super-powered version of himself.  Freddy, now called Captain Marvel Jr., resembled a younger Captain Marvel, though with a yellow-on-blue costume with a red cape, rather than Captain Marvel's yellow-on-red with a white cape.  Captain Marvel informed Junior that he couldn't remain in his superpowered form at all times, and that he needed to allow his human form to heal as best as it could.  With that, Freddy once again said his mentor's name and returned to his hospital bed.  Freddy remained permanently lame in his left leg and was forced to walk with a crutch, although Captain Marvel Jr. had no such impediment.  As a result, Junior sought revenge against Captain Nazi, and the two repeatedly battled in a number of World War II-era comic stories.

In the current DC Comics continuity known as The New 52, Freddy was reimagined in Justice League (vol.2) #8 as part of Billy's new foster family of Mr. and Mrs. Vasquez, Mary Bromfield, Pedro Pena, Eugene Choi, and Darla Dudley.  This version of Freddy, now depicted with blond hair instead of black, took Billy's coat and stole his wallet.  In the finale of the series of Shazam! origin story in Justice League (vol.2) #21, Billy shared his powers with his foster siblings, and Freddy received the traditional "Captain Marvel, Jr." color of blue for his costume.  He also remarked that he wanted to be called "King Shazam", a nod to Elvis Presley's known fondness for the character.

This will be the first time Freddy Freeman will appear in live-action, although Captain Marvel, Jr. has appeared in the animated projects The Kid Super Power Hour with Shazam! (voiced by Barry Gordon), Batman: The Brave and the Bold (voiced by John DeVito), Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (voiced by Bruce Timm), and Justice League: War (voiced by Georgie Kidder).

Shazam! is currently expected to arrive in theaters on April 5, 2019.

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