After years of waiting, Shazam! has finally arrived, bringing the first superhero movie story to actually put a fan of DC superheroes in the starring role. And in a world filled with Batman, Superman, and the rest of the Justice League, there are far too many Easter Eggs, DC Comics references, and secret references to catch in even multiple viewings.
There is plenty to discuss about the future DCEU movies to follow Shazam! and how Billy Batson’s role could grow larger as a result. And given just how strange the post-credits scenes for Shazam! are going to seem to anyone but the most dedicated comic book readers, audiences might think the only secret details or bits of fan service are aimed at the hardcore fans of Shazam comics. But to make sure that no fan of the movie ends up missing some of the coolest Easter Eggs, impossible to catch inside jokes, and comic book and pop culture references, we’re breaking each and every one of them down. From Annabelle dolls to Batman and Joker references, we’ve got them all in one place.
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Needless to say there will be SPOILERS for Shazam! as we dissect the movie’s secrets, scene by scene. Here is our complete breakdown of Shazam! Every Easter Egg & Secret Reference.
If you told us years ago that two of the most anticipated and surprisingly well received DC movies would come from the minds of two directors with horror sensibilities, we would have had questions. But after James Wan blew the doors off the box office with Aquaman, and now David F. Sandberg brings the most child like superhero to life, the responses speak for themselves. But neither forget where they came from.
Thankfully, the nightmare inducing cameo from the Annabelle doll isn’t as difficult to spot the second time around. In Aquaman, Annabelle lay at the bottom of the ocean, difficult to spot among other ocean floor refuse. To find her in Shazam! audiences won’t have to wait long, either. When the police officers first enter the pawn shop at Billy’s urging, keep your eyes on the shelf in the lower left side of the screen, and lock eyes with Annabelle before you can even prepare for it.
When Billy Batson speaks with the social worker trying to find him a home now that he’s fled from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, the assortment of smiley face mugs, balls, and buttons on her desk might seem like some dark humor (considering how distinctly unhappy both Billy and his social worker seem to be with the current situation).
But knowing just how large the shadow of Alan Moore’s Watchmen graphic novel looms over the medium, and Zack Snyder’s film version is pointed to in contrast to his own DC film, fans asked director David F. Sandberg is the allusion was as clear as some claimed. His response? A simple “of course,” confirming the Easter Egg for fans in the know.
Before fans get too excited by the Watchmen smiley faces to miss the scene’s other clever inside jokes, pay close attention to the small plastic toy to the left of the frame (from Billy’s point of view). Considering the context, the smiley faces make sense–even if the attempt to lighten the mood may not be a success. But a small plastic figure if a crocodile? Try explaining that.
We can’t give a justification in the fiction of the film, but fans know that a nod to crocodiles is no coincidence at all (and this isn’t even the most memorable Easter Egg related to them). But as an appetizer of what’s to come, and the other allusions to crocodile comic characters like Sobek, or the evil Crocodile Men Captain Marvel once fought, it’s a fantastic touch.
Look, we’re as disappointed as anyone that the Shazam! movie didn’t find a way to insert an anthropomorphized, walking, talking, sapient tiger man. If they had, we might even have allowed them to not explicitly namr him “Mr. Tawny,” the comic book character known and beloved by ever Captain Marvel fan. But even in the movie’s lighter, adventurous tone, that would be hard to buy. Sadly, there isn’t even room for Billy to enchant a regular, or even stuffed tiger into a massive version (like the New 52 comic reboot).
What fans do get are a ton of nods to “Talky” Tawny connected to Billy’s love of tigers. His desire for a stuffed version is called back to in beautiful fashion, and most fans will spot the tiger stitched onto his backpack. What they might miss are the two tiger heads screwing his cape into the lightning bolt on his chest, as well.
The references and mentions of Superman are hard to call out as Easter Eggs since they’re counting on audiences catching them, and recognizing that these movie characters inhabit a world as filled with superheroes as our own. But a direct reference to Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie? Now THAT is something else entirely.
No, we’re not referring to the use of the John Williams theme, either. There are too many superhero-themed newspaper headlines in Freddy Freeman’s bedroom to spot, let alone read upon the first viewing. And the same could be said for the newspapers tossed or highlighted by Daily Planet editor Perry White in Donner’s classic. However, a headline like “CAPED WONDER STUNS CITY” isn’t one that’s easy to forget. So when it returns this time around, it’s one of the movie’s most exciting, and unexpected surprises.
Even after Freddy Freeman explicitly introduces his collection of Justice League souvenirs as proof of his fandom, viewers are guaranteed to miss at least some of the incredible items scattered throughout the room. The Superman mug, hat, and action figures might be caught (and are actual merchandise available in our own works, too).
But his books examining superhero psychology and its impact on the human world, an issue of TIME Magazine published shortly after the attack on Metropolis by General Zod, and others are going to require eagle eyed scanning, and another excuse for repeat viewings.
Page 2: The Rock of Eternity’s Secrets & a Smallville Nod!
If you’re a fan of DC Comics, you know actor John Glover, even if the role is different. But one thing is for sure: when Shazam! begins by driving home just how awful the Sivana family is to young Thaddeus, his insulting father is going to feel… familiar. For more reasons than it seems at first, as a matter of fact, since he possesses an innate believability in the role of a man responsible for raising a future supervillain.
Most DC fans will know Glover for his time as Lionel Luthor, father of Lex Luthor in the TV series Smallville–where he was also a corporate genius, also had a complicated relationship with his twisted, villainous, bald son, and also got what was coming to him. Hey, when it works, it works.
Even for casual fans, it’s easy to tell that when Billy Batson steps out of his subway train and into the magical Rock of Eternity, he’s picking his way through some of the most iconic magical relics and artifacts that the DC Comics Universe has to offer. Thankfully, audiences don’t need to look too hard to see how the movie has adapted the same locations and artifacts from Geoff Johns’ New 52 comic book.
The easiest to spot is the enormous gilded mirror propped near the entryway. As tempting as it will be for the fairy tale fans to see this as a nod to the “mirror mirror on the wall” from the classic Snow White story, the mirror is actually host to its own entity, named Francesca. The face in the mirror doesn’t appear in the movie, but that’s doesn’t mean she won’t in the future.
We wish we could give a clear explanation of the fiddle burning with magical flames next to Francesca’s mirror, beyond an assumed connection to the Roman Emperor Nero fiddling as the city burned. And the same goes for the golden helmet positioned nearby (it isn’t the Helmet of Nabu, unfortunately for Doctor Fate fans). But one item that looks practically identical to the comics is the glass case holding the devious caterpillar Mr. Mind.
The changes are worth noting, of course: the Wizard of the movie seems to be far more generous a jailer than his comic book counterpart. Where Mr. Mind was held inside a glass flask, inside a glass case, the movie version is given greenery to perch upon (and presumably eat). It worked out terribly for both of them, in the end.
No, once again, the Helmet of Fate doesn’t make an appearance in the Shazam! movie’s version of the Rock of Eternity (not that we can spot, anyway). The above image is taken from NBC’s Constantine, and the relic fans should be paying close attention to is the golden scepter located behind the Helmet. That triangular-topped golden wand is the real treasure, and actually CAN be seen in the Rock of Eternity’s entryway.
The scepter is known as the Ibistick, and it is the key magical device used by Ibis the Invincible. He’s a Golden Age throwback if there ever was one, first appearing in 1940 in the pages of Fawcett Comics (the same birthplace as Billy Batson). It’s a clever throwback to fans of the early days of fantasy and magic adventure comics, but we wouldn’t expect this Egyptian prince to be awoken by the Ibistick in our modern world any time soon.
What started as a common thread between Man of Steel, Wonder Woman, and Justice League has now become a full blown touchstones for any DCEU movie. We’re referring to the tendency of the films to pause their plots, and enjoy a flashback or expositional sequence usually involving storytelling, recounting of history, and often employing a wondrous physical medium or art style to do it.
Shazam! is no exception, as the Wizard scatters glowing gold energy from his staff to tell his story through a magical moving diorama. The story tells Billy about the Council’s previous champion, and his work in destroying all of them save the Wizard Shazam. Fans know that this fallen champion is none other than Black Adam. And even if Dwayne Johnson has yet to appear as Black Adam, enemy to Shazam, it’s nice to see him play a role in the story all the same.
The movie brings many scenes from Geoff Johns’ 2011 comic reboot to life exactly as they’re depicted on screen, but it also preserves one of the biggest changes that series made to the original. Previous to that series the heroes of the Shazam Family resided in Fawcett City, USA. It was a nod to the original Fawcett Publications than created and published stories starring Billy Batson, then known in his superhero identity as “Captain Marvel.” The rebooted comic lifted the action to Philadelphia, and the movie does the same.
The fimmmakers still found a way to pay homage to the character’s beginnings, however, by having Billy and the rest of the foster kids attend Fawcett Central, a school named in honor of the first publisher to make Captain Marvel a superhero rivaling even Superman in his golden years.
Page 3: ACE Chemicals, and Captain America!
Yes, believe it or not the Shazam! movie doesn’t just reference Batman through use of his batarangs or “caped crusader” nickname, but using his greatest enemy, The Joker. Well, at least the chemical company that indirectly led to the birth of the Joker when the man he was before tumbled into a vat of madness inducing toxins. Toxins that bleached his skin, dyed his hair, and snapped his psyche for good.
Oddly enough, ACE Chemicals is also the birthplace of Billy Batson’s superhero identity, since they own the warehouse where he and Freddy test out his powers on camera. The ACE Chemicals logo is only visible on the massive steel tanks filling the space in one shot, but keep a look out and you can’t miss that iconic logo.
The legality of the Shazam/Captain Marvel name means that DC only makes general, passing jokes to the name that the hero originally claimed. But thanks to one invented moniker by Freddy Freeman, fans may be able to confirm that Shazam takes place in the same universe as Marvel’s Avengers.
When Freddy begins to upoad video after video of Billy’s superhero exploits and abilities, he does so under a variety of names. The most commonly visible are “Red Cyclone” and “Thundercrack,” but at least one described him as “ZAP-tain America.” That’s a clever name, given his superpowers over electricity… but the joke really only makes sense if Captain America is a common icon. Either as a living hero or a comic book invention, it’s nice to see DC and Marvel can play nice outside of the spotlight.
The odds that both Marvel and DC’s versions of the superhero “Captain Marvel” would release a movie within weeks of eachother must be astronomical, but they are making the most of it. Stars Zachary Levi and Brie Larson are sharing the love, and the Shazam! movie actually makes a Captain Marvel joke, even if fans will miss it in all but the rarest of circumstances.
Among the names Freddy cooks up for Billy’s hero, the worst is without question “Captain Sparklefingers.” Believe it or not, that’s a reference to Carol Danvers, as her modern comic series from writer Kelly Sue DeConnick makes the same joke. With Carol referred to playfully as “Princess Sparklefists”–a nickname actually made into MCU canon by the tie-in novel–at least Billy Batson gets to have the “Captain” name back.
Fans would assume that it would be Ben Affleck’s version of Batman being referenced in this movie, considering it’s part of the DCEU. But just as Christopher Reeve’s Superman legacy is incorporated, so too is Christian Bale’s take on Batman. At least judging by Billy Batson’s vision of the ultimate superhero lair.
When Freddy describes the kind of secret base they’re looking for to a real estate agent, his vision is an acceptable, universally cool castle. But Billy? Billy is looking for a base overlooking water, with a waterfall that you can drive through to access. That’s a perfect and key description of the Batcave from Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, and as unforgettable to fans as it is to Billy.
At this point its practically mandatory for a superhero movie or TV show to adapt a super hero’s signature catchphrase. Or lacking that, at least use their most iconic exclamation when pushed to the limits. For the original Billy Batson of the comics, that’s an old fashioned “Holy Moley!”–and the movie delivers it twice.
Fans will remember when Shazam first zooms beneath the bus teetering off a bridge, and let’s out an exasperated “Holy Moley” in response to… well, having no idea how to solve the problem. But it’s also the very first words Billy speaks when he enters the film, feigning a ‘gee golly’ innocence to get the better of the police.
The explosion of DC Universe merchandise is felt the strongest when Billy and Sivana’s first fight smashes into a toy store filled with Justice League toys. And director David F. Sandberg made a point of explaining that every product in the store is available in the real world. In fact, that meant the studio needed to approve every toy, so as not to confirm characters they had yet to adapt, or work into canon.
Which makes the appearance of the Batman: Superheavy mech so exciting. The armor can be seen as Billy flees the toy aisles (what looks like the Fisher Price version), but in the comics, it’s the mech suit worn by Jim Gordon in the absence of Bruce Wayne. So if it exists as a product for kids in the DCEU… can we confirm Jim wore the suit at some point in the past? Intended or not, we’re just going to assume.
Page 4: Director Cameos, Lucky Numbers, and Crocs!
From the very first time that the makers of Shazam! were allowed to discuss the movie, the description “Superman meets Big” became a common summation. And for obvious reasons, since the Tom Hanks movie about a kid who wishes to be an adult basically IS the story of Shazam, just with added muscles and superpowers. So it’s only right that the movie pay direct homage.
By this point, there will be many in the audience who never saw Big, and therefore never saw the film’s use of a floor-based keyboard. The version of the scene is much shorter with Billy and Sivana, and a lot less friendly. But a terrific moment for any older fans who have yet to recognize the similarities.
The specific reason that Billy Batson was abandoned has changed over the years, and the scene with his mother Rachel is a total invention for the movie. But one of the nicest details in the otherwise tragic story comes when Eugene explains the information he has found on Billy’s birth parents. Specifically, their names.
Marilyn audiences get to meet, but Billy’s father is only referred to as “C.C. Batson”–a reference to C.C. Beck, one of the creators of Captain Marvel back in his earliest Fawcett days.
Fans won’t need to be told the significance of the number 7 in this story. But we’re willing to bet that the frequency of the number will contain a few surprises. Obviously, the seven deadly sins and the Council of Wizard’s numbering seven can be explained as intentionally matched.
But once you start adding in the fact that Billy’s mother was just 17 when she left him, and now lives in apartment 707, and even the Subways system is shortened to SEPTA–the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority–is based on the number, it starts to look more and more like Billy Batson was destined to be connected to magic long before he ever realized.
You don’t show your sense of humor in the run up to release as much as director David F. Sandberg has without allowing yourself to get in on the fun. And from our first viewing, and speaking with Sandberg on the set of the movie, it looks like he has multiple roles in the movie, whether they’re credited or not. And slipping into one of the Crocodile Men suits is just the beginning.
We are almost certain that the voice of Marilyn’s new boyfriend–the one rudely shouting at her during her entire conversation with Billy–is voiced by Sandberg himself. Which would make a lot of sense… more than the rumors that he also supplies the monotone robotic voice of Mr. Mind in the post-credits scene.
When the kids are fleeing from Sivana and his Seven Sins by running through the halls of the Rock of Eternity, they come upon a sight guaranteed to delight ever fan of the comics: a collection of doors promising to open upon all manner of magical scenes. The first? The gloriously wondrous vision of a group of Crocodile Men sitting at a table, playing cards.
This is the payoff to the earlier crocodile tease with Billy’s social worker, and one that could be a sign of much bigger things in a Shazam! sequel. In the simplest, modern version of the mythology, the Crocodile Men are… well, just intelligent crocodiles. Originally, they were villainous alien henchmen, so whichever origin fans prefer until proven otherwise.
Fans will likely be so enamored with the Rock of Eternity after their first viewing, they won’t feel a need to wonder if there are other doors, to other realms, where magic is allowed to shape reality in more ways than our own. But it’s true: and the movie might actually give audiences their first glimpse of the nightmarish Monsterlands that contain enough evil to wipe out every peaceful people.
In the comics, humans reside in The Earthlands, just one of–you guessed it–seven different magical realms. The only one permanently closed off from the others is The Monsterlands. And while they’ve never been shown or explored in the comics, they would probably look something like the doorway opened by Mary: foggy, mysterious, and enticing… until it tries to kill you. Fingers crossed for the sequel.
Page 5: The Shazam Family, Justice League & Superman!
Remember the mirror we mentioned earlier, visible in the Rock of Eternity and bearing the face of a being named Francesca? In the comic upon which this Shazam! origin is based, Francesca takes it upon herself to urge Billy to do the right thing (appearing to him in reflections om everyday objects, even puddles). All the while trying to make him see that the Wizard granted him a “secret spell” he must eventually unlock.
Since the movie does away with Francesca, the Wizard is given similar dialogue hinting that Billy must “open his heart” so he may share his magic. In the comics, the spell is literally spoken as “Family is what it can be, not what it should be.” While the movie doesn’t make it a literal spell cast, it does make it the theme of the entire story.
What’s better than a kid who can transform into a demigod superhero by uttering a magical word? How about an entire family of kids transforming into heroes? It’s the moment that audiences will be talking about for years to come, not only because of the surprise and impact, but because of just how well it recreates the very same moment from the New 52 comic.
From their costumes to their powers, the superhero versions of Freddy, Darla, Pedro, Eugene, and Mary are taken straight from the printed page. In fact, the movie takes their specialization of powers and goes even further. Pedro remains the strongest (stronger than Shazam), Darla the quickest, and Eugene has a gift for using electricity (in the comics, he can ‘talk’ to technology). But in the movie version, it’s only Freddy who can fly. A poetic touch, considering he would “give anything” to be able to walk or run, let alone soar.
The arrival of the Shazam Family may be the emotional payoff of the entire movie, seeing Darla become a hero, Pedro become strong, Freddy fly, and more. But it follows the emotional climax of the film when the foster siblings go “all hands on deck” and grab hold of the Wizard’s staff to gain their powers. It’s also here where one of the most subtle jokes lands for comic fans.
Billy instructs the kids to do as he did, and “say my name” to have the lightning give them powers, too. But when the kids utter Billy’s name, he corrects them, explaining it’s Shazam’s name that has the magic. In the original comics Billy turned Freddy Freeman into a hero first. As “Captain Marvel, Jr.” Freddy got his powers from Billy indirectly, meaning he actually would need to shout “Captain Marvel!” to gain his own. In hindsight, it’s a weird hierarchy, so the movie is right to say so.
Seeing Adam Brody appear as the “grown up” version of Freddy Freeman is worth the price of admission alone, as millions of viewers suddenly remember who actor Jack Dylan Grazer’s comedy reminds them of. But the transformation actually gives Brody his second chance to join the DC Universe–and he’s not alone.
Back when director Frank Miller was trying to get his Justice League: Mortal movie off the ground and filming in Australia, Brody was already on set ready to play The Flash. The film has the plug pulled before cameras could start rolling, which also meant that DJ Cotrona–who plays the muscle bound adult version of Pedro–didn’t get to play Superman, either. Oh well, second time is the charm.
Most die-hard fans caught a hint or two of Superman’s cameo in the final scene before the movie officially released. And while the actor in the suit is never shown, there are a few details to note. For starters, the Superman suit has been changed from Justice League and Batman v Superman, featuring more red around the hips and ‘belt’ than when Henry Cavill wore it.
But the bigger treat for fans is the introduction of John Williams’ classic theme song for the Man of Steel. Director David F. Sandberg maintained that he didn’t use the music cue during the toy battle between Batman and Superman as a leaked trailer suggested. But he does use it in this final beat, although subtle enough to miss.
Readers will have to forgive us, since we’re still trying to process the fact that the Shazam! movie not only ends with the introduction of Mr. Mind, master mental manipulating caterpillar… but that it keeps completely faithful to the comics. Right down to the voice box he uses to communicate with his prey–we mean his partner, Dr. Sivana. How did he manage to escape the Rock of Eternity and make it to Sivana’s prison cell moving at the pace of a regular caterpillar? Don’t ask. Because seeing him speak through a robotic speaker is incredible. But getting to hear it? That is glorious.
Those are all the Easter Eggs, comic book references, and secret inside jokes fans are likely to miss that WE could spot in Shazam! But if you found some that even we failed to spot, be sure to share them on the comments.
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