A new hero has joined the DCEU thanks to "Shazam!". But while Billy Batson and his powerful alter-ego once counted among the most popular superheroes in the world, these days many fans aren't too familiar with the guy who calls himself "Earth's Mightiest Mortal." You can fix that problem and help fill the wait until the sequel by reading these essential "Shazam!" comics.
The "Shazam!" movie is most directly based on the work of writer Geoff Johns, so it only makes sense to make those books your starting point. "Origins," as the title suggests, details the origin story of Billy Batson, one that's been updated and overhauled to fit DC's New 52 universe. Not only will you find many similarities to the film, this book also feeds directly into Johns' monthly "Shazam!" comic.
'Justice League: The Darkseid War'
After Johns revamped Shazam's origin story for the New 52, his next step was to make Billy Batson a core member of the Justice League. "Justice League: The Darkside War" is a great option if you want to see Shazam interacting with his fellow heroes and battling the biggest villains the DCU has to offer. This story also offers a taste of what might be in store if we ever get that Darkseid-centric "Justice League" sequel.
'The Power of Shazam!"
While the current Geoff Johns-penned "Shazam!" comics are great, some fans prefer a more classical, old school take on Bully Batson's world. If that's your goal, "The Power of Shazam!" may be more up your alley. This graphic novel helped integrate the character into the fabric of the DCU for the first time in the 1980's. It embraced the cheesiness of the original comics and movie serials while still ensuring that Billy Batson reads like a living, breathing character. This graphic novel features a strong take not only on Billy, but two of his biggest rivals, Black Adam and Doctor Sivana.
'Superman/Shazam!: First Thunder'
Now that "Shazam!" is in theaters, a great many DCEU fans are wondering when we'll see Shazam and Superman cross paths. "First Thunder" offers a great blueprint for that crossover. This flashback tale showcases the first encounter between these all-powerful heroes, as they join forces to battle the combined might of Lex Luthor, Doctor Sivana, Sabbac and Eclipso.
'Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil'
More than most "Shazam!" stories, this graphic novel is a loving throwback to the Golden Age comics. In fact, it's a remake of a decades-old storyline. With "Bone" creator Jeff Smith writing and drawing this adventure, you know you're in for a treat. This is also the ideal option for younger readers interested in learning more about Shazam.
'Black Adam: The Dark Age'
One disappointing thing about Shazam's DCEU debut is the absence of his greatest nemesis and predecessor, Black Adam. Luckily, DC appears to have big plans for Black Adam elsewhere in this cinematic universe, so now would be a good time to educate yourself on this villain. Adam has rarely been more compelling or sympathetic than in "The Dark Age." Set in the aftermath of a yearlong series called "52" (which is also well worth a read), "The Dark Age" sees a disgraced Adam trying to reclaim his lost power and restore the family that was taken from him.
'The Trials of Shazam!'
For many, Billy's adoptive brother/sidekick Freddie is the highlight of "Shazam!". As it turns out, there was a time in DC history when Freddie was chosen to succeed Billy as Shazam. This story follows Freddie's journey as he undergoes the tests necessary to gain the powers of the gods and become the new Shazam.
Shazam tends to be one of DC's most affable and lighthearted heroes, but even he has his breaking point. This graphic novel gives Billy Batson the "Dark Knight Returns" treatment, as he becomes a villain in a dark future where the descendants of today's heroes are running amok. Despite the dark themes, the series ultimately offers a hopeful take on the future of the DCU. It's actually designed as a critique of the industry's post-"Watchmen" obsession with grim and gritty characters.