Billy Batson, better known as Shazam, might be the World’s Mightiest Mortal, but what’s a hero to do when he has so few enemies to fight?
Shazam might be one of DC Comic’s strongest heroes, but how will he handle his surprising lack of super-villains to fight? Shazam, originally Captain Marvel, was introduced in the 1940’s as Billy Batson, a young boy who was granted limitless power once he spoke aloud the magic word “Shazam!” As Shazam, Billy would transform into an adult, and acquire powers similar to that of Superman’s, including flight, super-strength and speed. Billy would not fight evil alone however, and over the years he would acquire a family of Marvel’s to fight alongside. Though Billy’s super-heroic name and history have changed over the years, his good nature and willingness to fight evil has not. However, Billy would soon come to realize that, despite his limitless strength, he has fewer enemies to fight than even he realized.
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In Shazam #12, Billy Batson and Freddy Freeman, Billy’s foster brother, encounter a robbery in progress at the hands of Herkimer, an anthropomorphic crocodile wearing a business suit. Billy transforms into Shazam and, after a brief confrontation, defeats the villain with ease. On the way home however, Freddy playfully insults Billy’s lack of arch-enemies, and how Billy is forced to fight odd, quirky, enemies like Herkimer. When Billy mentions the likes of Dr. Sivana and Black Adam, Freddy mentions that heroes like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman have a more memorable rogues gallery than Billy does. Billy responds that, as he is still new to the heroic life, he is trying to figure out what it is he needs to do. Freddy suggests that Billy could possibly do more than he currently is, which gives Billy an idea: travel to Gotham City and fight one of Batman’s villains.
When Shazam arrives in Gotham City, he overhears that the Scarecrow is out on the loose. Despite being warned by Freddy that he shouldn’t enter another heroes territory, after some trial and error, Shazam manages to track down the Scarecrow at chemical treatment facility. Shazam initially believes the Scarecrow to be an easy villain to subdue, as Billy has the power of the gods, and Scarecrow is just an ordinary man in a scarecrow suit. However, even Shazam is susceptible to Scarecrows fear gas which had been flooding the room since Shazam entered the facility. As Billy becomes overcome with fear, Batman enters the scene and manages to subdue the Scarecrow, and get Billy to overcome his innermost fears. After Scarecrow is defeated, Billy and Batman have a heart to heart, with Billy still unsure of what he should do with all of his power. Batman tells him that, since he was a child, he forced himself to become Batman, whereas Billy is still a child and has plenty of time to figure out what he wants from his life. After Batman leaves the scene, Billy has a renewed sense of optimism, thanks to his team-up with the caped crusader himself.
While it’s true that Shazam may not have the most memorable villains in the DC Universe, he still has a long history of battling unique villains all his own. Black Adam, often considered Shazam’s arch nemesis, has a long history of being both a villain and an anti-hero, and his relationship with the wizard “Shazam” and Billy make him a compelling character. Mr. Mind, though he might be a literal worm, is incredibly smart, and with the help of his Monster Society, often give Shazam more trouble than one might expect. Even a villain like Dr. Sivana, though he might not be as nuanced as Lex Luthor for example, is still a compelling take on the “evil scientist” archetype. Though many of Shazam’s enemies like Captain Nazi have largely been forgotten, Billy Batson’s villains are still unique in their own right.
While not every hero has a massive rogues gallery like Batman or Spider-Man for example, it’s important that heroes have a sizable amount of villains for them to fight. If a hero only has a few villains that give them a challenge, then readers could easily predict who the villain of the month might be, and know exactly how the story will end. Having a fair amount of villains in a heroes rogues gallery allows for new and exciting story-lines, and could further explore even the most obscure villains history, and make them interesting. On the other hand, having a smaller rogues gallery allows for the expansion and development of these characters, rather than having several dozen rogues that rarely get used. While Batman has some interesting villains like Rat-Catcher, they are often ignored in favor of more popular characters like the Joker. Despite not having a large rogue’s gallery of his own, after this adventure with Batman, maybe Shazam realized that fighting Crocodiles might not seem so bad after all.
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