Billy Batson made an electrifying return to the silver screen with Shazam! Fury of the Gods. Having seen the film, I can say that it’s fairly enjoyable if a bit too unwieldy. Fury of the Gods also follows in its predecessor’s footsteps by drawing inspiration from a major comic run. Specifically: the Shazam! graphic novel from Geoff Johns and Gary Frank.

Johns and Frank’s take on Shazam! began life as a series of backup stories in the pages of Justice League, which Johns also wrote during the controversial “New 52” era of DC Comics. The New 52 sought to modernize DC’s heroes, often with mixed results. On the one hand, you had creators like Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo delivering an iconic Batman run. On the other hand, fan-favorite characters like Static had their titles prematurely canceled due to the fact that editors and writers hadn’t locked down concrete details.

Shazam! (mostly) sidestepped these issues due to being a backup story, but it still garnered its fair share of fan controversy. Chief among them: the portrayal of Billy. Instead of the wide-eyed, kind-hearted kid in previous incarnations, Billy was a bitter and snarky teenager. He rudely shrugged off his foster family’s attempts at connection and even threatened to punch the wizard Shazam! in the face! There’s also the way that Billy gains his powers; in the original comic, he was chosen based on his goodness. However, Shazam had been looking for millennia for a champion and considered Billy to be a failure.

Changes To Shazam! Overall

Credit to: DC Comics

Not all of the changes were bad, however. Rather than just being innately good, Shazam chose Billy to be his new champion based on the “embers of good” within him. And as in the film, Billy ended up sharing his powers with his adoptive siblings Mary, Darla, Freddy, Eugene, and Pedro – a concept that was carried over from Johns’s work writing Flashpoint. Billy also gained the ability to cast magical spells via lightning, which he can also do in the film.

Where the comic and film differ is in their choice of antagonist. In the comic, Billy ended up doing battle with the former champion of Shazam, Black Adam. Adam was freed from his prison by Dr. Thaddeus Sivana, who had been seeking the Rock of Eternity where Shazam lived. In the film, Sivana is the main antagonist and gains magical powers by absorbing the power of the Seven Deadly Sins within the rock. Black Adam would eventually make his way to the big screen courtesy of Dwayne Johnson, who had been angling to turn the antihero into the next big box office hit. (Clearly, that didn’t work out.)

Whole scenes from the comic also made their way into the film, from Billy and Freddy foiling a robbery to Billy’s first meeting with Shazam. And Johns’ influence didn’t just extend to writing the comics the film is based on – he also served as an executive producer on both Shazam films. This isn’t the first time Johns’ work has influenced a DC adaptation; he helped develop The Flash and Stargirl for the CW, and his work was a major influence on the Green Lantern film as well as The Flash feature film (Which draws inspiration from Flashpoint.) Hopefully, future adaptations will take a page from his book, both in the literal and metaphorical sense.

Check out our review of Shazam! Fury of the Gods below!

For more on DC Comics, make sure to check back to That Hashtag Show.

Keep Reading: