Billy Batson is back in the spotlight. Aside from the recent release of the second Shazam! feature film, DC is set to launch a new ongoing series for The World’s Mightiest Mortal. Debuting as part of this year’s ongoing Dawn of DC initiative, the new Shazam! series comes from the World’s Finest creative team of writer Mark Waid and artist Dan Mora, joined on the title by colorist Alejandro Sánchez and letterer Troy Peteri. Set in the aftermath of the recent Lazarus Planet event which saw all the DC Universe’s magic users experiencing disruptions in their powers, the new series finds Billy Batson unable to share his abilities with the rest of his family, and facing threats old, new, and super-weird as only he can.
The Beat chatted with Waid and Mora separately about working on Shazam!, what their collaborative relationship is like, and how The Captain ended up riding a dinosaur in the first issue. You can find that, as well as an unlettered preview of Shazam! #1 showcasing Mora and Sánchez’s artwork, below.
Joe Grunenwald: Mark, you’ve written Shazam as a supporting character a few times in the past, but this is the first time you’ve really gotten to dig into him. Is writing a Shazam solo book something you’ve always wanted to do?
Mark Waid: Yeah, it’s always been one of my bucket list characters, the ones that I’ve always wanted to get a hold of and do something with. Yeah, absolutely. I’ve loved that character since I was a kid.
Grunenwald: What about him do you love?
Waid: The simplicity of it, and the fact that saying a magic word does the trick. Anybody can be Billy Batson, right? If you’re going to be Batman, you’ve got to have a million dollars and go through twelve years of intense training. If you want to be Superman, you’d have to come from an alien planet. This is as simple as just saying a word.
Grunenwald: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. When you wrote him in Underworld Unleashed, the crux of that story is that Billy is a pure soul that can’t be corrupted. Do you feel like that’s still true when you write the character today?
Waid: He’s not quite as pure, he’s not squeaky clean like I envisioned him back in the day, because he’s a little more modern kid. But he’s still, at heart, a very good kid.
Grunenwald: Dan, can you tell me a little bit about what your experiences with Shazam? Have you have you read many stories with the character?
Dan Mora: I wasn’t familiar at all with Shazam. I knew the movies and I knew the character from TV, the Justice League animated series, but I wasn’t too familiar with the character. So Mark Waid is trying to fix that with this book. I’m learning with each script, and with everything that Mark writes about the character.
Grunenwald: So he’s using the script as an introduction for you.
Mora: He’s teaching me, yeah.
Grunenwald: What’s Billy’s relationship with his family like right now? He had been sharing his powers with them, and now that’s sort of cut off. I imagine there’s probably some strain there. Can you talk about that a little bit?
Waid: There is some strain there. It’s mostly from Billy’s point of view. The other kids understand. And let me reiterate, the kids will show up in issue 2, the kids are not lost, the kids are not exiled, the kids are very much a part of the book. But because of the events of Lazarus Planet, magic has changed in the DC Universe. And now, as much as he would love to share his powers with the other kids, [Billy]’s having a difficult time figuring out a way to do that, although it is an ongoing concern of his. So the kids are not forgotten.
Grunenwald: What can you tell us about the villains that he’s going to be facing in this book? Are we going to see any of the classics or do you have have new characters in mind?
Waid: Definitely a mix. We’ve already promised Gorilla Grodd and Garguax, the Doom Patrol villain from the Moon, as starters. I think that the lighter villains work better. I don’t really necessarily want to see Billy versus The Joker anytime soon. But all that said, there have to be stakes in the book. It can’t all be just light, breezy adventures without any real consequence. So you will see Sivana, you will see Mr. Mind at some point, you will see Mr. Atom sooner than later, although you do get a glimpse of him in the first issue. Beyond that, I’m open for suggestions, and I’m easily found on social media, so the weirder the better.
Grunenwald: I like the idea of bringing in villains from other rogues galleries. Grodd I hadn’t considered, or Garguax, I’ve never even heard of.
Waid: As we’ve seen in World’s Finest, this is one of my favorite things, is to take characters you’ve never seen [together] before, and put them together in a story and see what sparks ensue.
Grunenwald: That’s great. Dan, you’ve been drawing Superman in World’s Finest for give or take twelve issues now. As you’re switching over to draw Shazam, is there anything that you keep in mind when you’re drawing Shazam to physically differentiate him from Superman? Aside from, they have different faces.
Mora: I tried to make Shazam’s nose a little bigger and round and not as angular. And I think I give him a little bit more recession in the hair. I think that’s the big difference. And I tried to do his eyes a little bit closer, more like squinted.
Grunenwald: The first issue has a very classic look, very reminiscent of the early Shazam illustrations. Beyond the character specifically, do you feel like you’re doing anything differently with your art on this book? Are you are you doing anything consciously just to try and try and stretch a little bit as an artist?
Mora: No, I’m just trying to be able to finish on time. [laughs] I’m doing the same as I do in the other books. I think it looks a little bit different because it’s a different team, because I am with Alejandro for colors, and in World’s Finest Tamra [Bonvillain] does the colors. Each book looks totally different, but I think it’s mostly because of the colors than for the lineart, because I just do the same thing.
Grunenwald: Gotcha. So let’s talk a little bit about the two of you and your collaboration. What’s your relatonship like on this book, and how has it changed from World’s Finest to now?
Waid: Dan is so much fun to work with. This is a different situation than World’s Finest. With World’s Finest, it’s full script on my part, given to him to interpret, loosely. He’s got as much elbow room as he wants, he’s got as much latitude that I can give him because he’s a great storyteller. With [Shazam], we elected to go plot-dialogue. So I’m handing him shorter documents that are basically page by page breakdowns, but with the understanding that he’s got as much room as he wants to tell the story, because he’s a good storyteller. And he’s using that to his advantage. It fits the tone of the book a little bit better, too, because it’s a little bigger, a little more bombastic. Maybe not as many panels a page, but certainly as much impact. That’s the real difference. There’s a child-like quality that Dan brings to this. A lot of the stuff in the Rock of Eternity clubhouse was of his design. I’m inclined to just let him go as much as he wants.
Mora: Mark asked me what I wanted to draw, and the first two things that I asked him to include were dinosaurs and aliens. [laughs] So that’s what he put in the first pages.
Waid: Yeah. And we have not seen the last of the dinosaurs as of issue one. There’s more dinosaurs coming.
Mora: I wasn’t sure how [working with Mark] was going to be because he’s been in the industry for so long. But he’s really a nice guy. I met him in Brazil, and we spoke, and I think it’s been a good partnership. He gives me a lot of freedom for my designs, and for everything. So I’m really happy working with him.
Grunenwald: Mark, most of your DC work over the past year has been pretty tightly connected, where one thing sort of leads into the next. Obviously it’s a shared universe, but are you approaching it all as one giant epic? Or is that just sort of how it’s worked out for you?
Waid: It’s a combination of both. I don’t think I originally set out to do it that way. But as I work on World’s Finest, as I work on some of the other books, including some stuff that we’re going to announce next week, I see ways to integrate them that make it more exciting for me and make the stories feel just bigger overall.
Grunenwald: It seems like you’re pulling in a lot of elements that just interest you. I don’t know you personally, but I feel like you love the Doom Patrol, and I feel like you really like Metamorpho, so it’s fun to see those sort of elements brought in. Maybe I shouldn’t ask this if the possibility arises, but are there other things that you have in mind that you’re excited to get to, or that you can’t wait to find a spot to use?
Waid: Oh my god, my wishlist is three pages long. My own personal wishlist to myself of villains I want to use, heroes that I want to use, combinations that I want to use. I want to see Perry White and Commissioner Gordon share a scene, and I want to see more Supergirl & Batgirl stuff. I still want to see Bizarro and Man-Bat together as a the World’s Unfinest team. There’s so much. If you could see the wishlist, you’d be both amazed and on Google trying to figure out who half these people are.
Grunenwald: The Supergirl & Batgirl bit from the beginning of World’s Finest #13 made me laugh so much.
Waid: Thank you. That was really there just because it’s on Dan’s list. Dan also has a wishlist of, ‘Here’s characters I would like to draw.’ Great, let’s put Batgirl in. Bat-Mite is the one I’m going to have the hardest time figuring out how to fit in the book, but I’ll get there eventually.
Grunenwald: Is there anything the two of you are particularly excited or interested for readers to see when they read Shazam?
Waid: I think it’s a different take on the powers. I think that too often people think of him as just Superman without x-ray revision, and there’s more to it than that. I think that my big revelation coming to it, and what I felt cracked the code for me was figuring out the wisdom of Solomon and how that contributes. They even mentioned it in the second movie, they completely bypass it in the first movie, there’s no wisdom of Solomon that version of Shazam, he’s the same as Billy as he is as The Captain, and it’s been kind of the same in past comics as well. And I think there should be a little micro-difference between Billy and The Captain. Not huge, they’re still very much the same brain, they’re still very much the same person, but there’s something about being The Captain and having the wisdom of Solomon hovering over your head, constantly reminding you of things that you should be doing. That is going to make his speech pattern a little different sometimes, it’s gonna make his thought process a little different sometimes. We get more heavily into the idea that one of the things that the wisdom of Solomon does is gives him clarity that he doesn’t necessarily have as a kid. So if Billy sees a crisis happening and 16 things happening all at once, he’s overwhelmed, but the moment he says the magic word, he can see the pattern, he can see the way to solve the problem.
Mora: I want to see to see the reaction to everything about this book. I hope people like it. It’s a very fun book, and I think It feels like a classic, so I’m looking forward to seeing people’s reaction to that.
The first issue of Mark Waid & Dan Mora’s Shazam! ongoing series is due out in stores and digitally on Tuesday, May 2nd.
Editor’s note: an earlier version of this post indicated Shazam! was a four-issue miniseries, when it is in fact an ongoing series.
So, is Dan Mora leaving WORLD’S FINEST? to do this book?
Comments are closed.