Say it with us—SHAZAM!
It’s the exclamation that makes heroes out of the young and young at heart, and always precedes a new fantastic adventure. It’s long since escaped the realm of comics, pervading 20th century pop culture as a favorite remark of surprise or excitement among readers of Billy Batson’s earliest adventures. And not just for what it represents, but because, let’s be honest here, it’s just really fun to say. But what does “SHAZAM” really mean? With new tidings of Shazam: Fury of the Gods fast approaching at DC FanDome, now is a perfect time to drill down and get familiarized with the DC Universe’s most powerful magic word.
As viewers of the first Shazam film know, young Billy Batson inherits the power of Shazam by speaking the name of the wizard who gave it to him. But that wasn’t always the Wizard’s name. Before 2011’s universe-altering Flashpoint event, the Wizard’s true name was Jebediah of Canaan. Post- Flashpoint , his original name is given as “Mamaragan.” Either way, the word “Shazam” itself is an acronym which stands for six patron deities, each of which bestows the Wizard’s champion with an aspect of their power. Which deities, and what aspects? Let’s find out!
The first of the patron gods of Shazam is Solomon, an ancient Jewish king who lived about 3,000 years ago. Solomon is not even a god, and not even Greco-Roman, as all the other characters on this list are. So, what’s the deal here?
Well, as Judd Winick attempts to explain in the 2006 series Trials of Shazam, the “gods” who lend their powers to Shazam’s champion may not literally be the figures from folklore, history and legend we know, but a separate pantheon of magical gods who express themselves through figures within the cultural lexicon who are best recognized for the attributes which each of them embody. So, while the historical and Biblical King Solomon was not a God, the Solomon of the “SHAZAM” sextumverate is one, and takes that name because Solomon is culturally regarded as a universal symbol of wisdom. Got it? Glad we cleared that up.
The main gift that Billy Batson and other champions of Shazam receive from Solomon is “Wisdom,” which is a very broadly defined term…and one which raises questions, since Billy himself often gets into scrapes by leaping before he looks. The answer is that the Wisdom of Solomon is mostly an active power as opposed to a passive one, and one which Shazam’s chosen must consciously activate in order to channel. With Solomon’s Wisdom comes perfect memory, battle tactics, mathematical aptitude, charisma in dealing with others, a limited clairvoyance which provides him with arcane knowledge and impeccable intuition, and natural fluency in every language.
Are you a fan of Shazam? Let us know in the comments!