Warning: This article contains SPOILERS for Shazam!
The Superman cameo in Shazam! may be the most obvious DCEU connection fans will be talking about, but it’s not the biggest. Thanks to one tiny Easter Egg, Shazam! seems to confirm that Bruce Wayne has retired as Batman once already. AND the identity of his replacement.
In hindsight it’s a shame that BOTH connections to the DCEU’s Batman and Superman are bittersweet, since neither Henry Cavill nor Ben Affleck are likely to ever appear in the roles post-Shazam. But as Warner Bros. pumps the brakes on fleshing out their shared movie universe, it’s up to the fans to start filling in the gaps. So even if Justice League gave Bruce Wayne a brand new mission to save the world, Shazam! gives a terrific nod to the story that saw him abandon the role in DC’s New 52–and to the fan-favorite, shredded Gotham cop who took over as Batman in his place.
- This Page: The Batman Easter Egg in Shazam! Explained
- Page 2: Bruce Was Replaced as Batman By [SPOILER]?
There are honestly too many DCEU Easter Eggs and references in Shazam! to count so far, and that’s mostly thanks to Freddy Freeman’s obsession with Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, and the rest of DC’s heroes. Whether it’s the t-shirts worn by Freddy, the souvenir Batarang he has in his bedroom, or the newspapers referencing the Man of Steel attack and Superman’s subsequent headlines, it’s clear that these are directly connected to the movie versions of the heroes. And in a world where the Justice League are celebrities and not just fictional characters, they are used to sell merchandise all the same. A point made perfectly clear when Shazam! shows what a toy store looks like in the DCEU post-Justice League.
The audience may have some difficulty taking in all of the merchandise contained inside the toy store, since Billy Batson is running through it in terror, pursued by Dr. Sivana. A large toy version of Batman is used to draw attention to the pop culture status of the world’s actual heroes, but one other item is likely to be missed. The Batman figure? That just acknowledges Batman’s existence. But this toy… acknowledges so much more.
After Billy tosses aside the Batman figure, and immediately before he is tackled off of the Big-esque floor piano, one toy can be seen in the lower right corner of the frame. The yellow-accented Bat symbol will be easy to spot, but the blue armor (complete with shoulder-mounted, yellow-tipped rockets) surrounding that symbol may be harder to place. After conducting some research, we can confidently say that the toy in question is the Fisher-Price Imaginext® DC Super Friends™ Batbot Xtreme.
So why should DC fans care? Because the toy wouldn’t exist without the comic book Bat Armor that it’s based on… and that armor wouldn’t exist if Bruce Wayne hadn’t retired from Batman. The presence of the Batbot toy in the DCEU is all the encouragement we need to connect the dots, and also consider the Batman story it’s based on as fair game. Not only confirmation of Bruce Wayne’s retirement, but his replacement by Detective Jim Gordon, too.
Page 2: When Bruce Retired, Jim Gordon Became Batman (Yes, Really)
On the off chance that moviegoers never witnessed the completely unexpected “Superheavy” arc of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman run, we’re more than happy to explain (even now, it’s hard to believe it’s truly DC canon). We’ll spare the details that got Bruce Wayne to a near-death defeat in fighting The Joker, and simply say that with Batman missing in action Gotham City needed a replacement. The answer came from Geri Powers, a billionaire mogul who absorbed Wayne’s operations and immediately initiated “Project Batman.” The centerpiece of which was the Batman Exo-Suit, a “graphene armor exoskeleton” that could be piloted by anyone. But a job that only Jim Gordon–a smoke-free, buzzcutted, physically fit Jim Gordon–was right for.
It’s this blue and yellow, horned, rocket-firing Batsuit that the DC Super Friends™ Batbot Xtreme is modeled after, turning an incredible piece of Batman technology into a children’s toy. But after director David F. Sandberg confirmed that every DC toy in the store was approved of for continuity purposes, the presence of the Batbot is an Easter Egg fans should get excited about:
I mean, everything exists that we had in there. It’s all these DC toys–they’re all real DC toys that are in there. I mean, for some [the studio/producers] were like, “Hey, you can’t have that character, because that character’s not in the universe yet. You have to stick to these characters.”
So if the “Superheavy” Batman story is being referenced in the DCEU by including a toy based directly on Bruce’s retirement and Jim Gordon’s substitution, at least somebody on the studio side of things knew fans would notice its inclusion, and come to the the most obvious conclusion. But the main reason we’re accepting these clues as the new DCEU head canon? It finally explains why Zack Snyder cast the ridiculously muscular J.K. Simmons to play his version of Gotham Police Commissioner Jim Gordon.
Few will ever forget the first time they got a glimpse of J.K. Simmons flexing his absurd muscles while training ahead of Justice League. While impressive, the actor eventually explained that his physique and his role were unrelated… but it always seemed like a missed opportunity. After all, Simmons’ part in Justice League was a minor one to begin with, even before the infamous reshoots sliced several characters out of the film completely. So if fans were left wishing they could have had more of Jim Gordon in the DCEU, Shazam! is the movie to deliver. Not in actually getting to see a larger role for Jim in the Batman legacy, but at least a playful suggestion that he already did years in the past.
To be clear, we’re not suggesting that Snyder or then-Batman director Ben Affleck ever intended to make “Gym” Gordon a physical threat in the Justice League continuity. That said, Simmons himself admitted he hoped to portray a “badass” version of Jim Gordon, and “a guy that can take care of himself, a guy that’s a real partner to Batman, not just a guy that turns on the bat signal and goes ‘Help! Help, Batman!’”
Does Shazam! prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jim Gordon got to play exactly that, stepping into his own Batsuit during Bruce Wayne’s temporary retirement–a Batsuit that would be adapted into toy form along with every other DCEU superhero? Maybe not. But now that all the pieces are there for fans who wish to believe it… just try and tell us it never happened.