The Creeper and The Captain from Shazam 9
(Image Source: DC / Dan Mora)

The Creeper Takes Advantage of Shazam’s Silliest Weakness

Most classic superheroes have at least one weakness that renders them powerless. Billy Batson is a rare exception, whose problems mostly stemmed from his secret identity. However, The Creeper managed to cleverly exploit an unexpected weakness of those who tap the power of Shazam.

Shazam! #9 by Mark Waid and Emanuela Lupacchino centers around the unlikely team-up between Creeper and the Captain. This is facilitated by Creeper’s alter ego, reporter Jack Ryder, who interviews Billy about his podcast devoted to the Captain. After the recording, Ryder gives Billy a ride home, and suggests he practice vocal warm-ups with some cards he just happens to have.

Billy Batson tricked into changing into The Captain by Jack Ryder Shazam
(Image Source: DC / Emanuela Lupacchino)

Reluctantly, Billy reads the cards out loud as a test of his diction. He doesn’t realize he’s been set up until after he reads the names “Kenosha” and “Zambia.” Saying the two syllables triggers Billy’s transformation into The Captain, being just close enough to the name of his wizard patron, Shazam.

Fortunately for Billy, Jack Ryder isn’t out to expose his secret identity. He just wanted backup in confronting the Shadow Thief and deduced how Billy became The Captain. However, The Captain is annoyed that Ryder didn’t think to simply ask Billy for his help directly. This is the first of many faux pas that sours the working relationship between the two heroes.

While this is played for laughs, it does highlight the awkward history of Billy Batson’s name. When he was created in 1939 for Fawcett Comics, Billy’s heroic alter ego was called Captain Marvel. The character was later bought by DC Comics, but a new problem arose when they decided to revive the character after decades of disuse.

The Problem With the Name of Shazam

Shazam Captain Marvel name problem
(Image Source: DC)

Marvel Comics copyrighted the name Captain Marvel during the years Billy Batson went unused. While DC could still call the character Captain Marvel, they couldn’t use his name as a book title. This led to Billy’s adventures being published as Shazam! and The Power of Shazam. Unfortunately, this also led to people thinking that Billy’s heroic codename was Shazam, rather than the name of the wizard who gave him his magic powers. Also, DC Comics’ management was reluctant to promote a character sharing the name of their main competitor.

When Billy’s backstory was retconned for the New 52 era in 2012, DC decided to go with the public perception. In the new timeline, Billy’s alter ego went by the name Shazam. Unfortunately, this created a new problem; the hero could not say his own codename without triggering a transformation. This was previously a problem for Captain Marvel Junior, who triggered his transformation by saying Captain Marvel. Recently, Mark Waid tried to eliminate all this confusion by having Billy Batson start calling his alter ego The Captain.

The Captain carefully says Shazam
(Image Source: DC)

Unfortunately, different writers have portrayed Billy as transforming only when he intends to do so. Other comics have depicted Billy whispering the word Shazam to avoid changing. The one thing that can be agreed upon is that it is a rather silly weakness and that Billy Batson is unlikely to stop being called Shazam.

Shazam! #9 is now available in comic shops everywhere.


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