Who are the new gods that give [Shazam] his powers?
So, for those who may not know, during the current Darkseid War event – which, funnily enough, hasn’t had really that much Darkseid or even that much of a war – a bunch of the Justice League got new powers. Flash merged with the Black Racer, Batman is having a nice sit on Metron’s chair and, most importantly, Shazam – yes, the guy who used to be called Captain Marvel – got a whole new pantheon of Gods and a new title: the God of Gods!
I’ve covered Captain Marvel/Shazam before on this blog, in a post on the differences between Superman and Captain Marvel, but in this post I’ll be focusing purely on where his powers come from so that you can better understand what’s changed since Darkseid War!
And to do that, we have to go back in time to 1940! Well, kinda.
The Old Pantheon
So, when Captain Marvel (as the character was then known) first appeared he wasn’t actually part of DC but at a rival company called Fawcett Comics. Long story short, DC sued them because he was too much like Superman, won and Fawcett had to shut down, and to rub salt into the wound, DC then bought the character and eventually started publishing him themselves. Anyway, DC first reintroduced Captain Marvel and his family as part of an alternative earth called Earth S up until 1985 when Crisis on Infinite Earths destroyed the Multiverse and saw them all join the main DC Earth.
If you want to know more about all this, go read my earlier post. ;)
Anyway, what does this mean? Well, throughout all this time the origin of Captain Marvel’s powers remained pretty consistent: a wizard called Shazam choses a boy, Billy Batson, to be his champion and that meant being imbued with the powers of the Gods!
See, when Billy says the magic word “Shazam!” he’s not just calling out to the Wizard, each of the letters stands for one of the Gods that give him his powers. The line up since the Fawcett days was as follows:
- S – Solomon
- H – Hercules
- A – Atlas
- Z – Zeus
- A – Achilles
- M – Mercury
Now, you may be noticing they’re not actually all Gods, but I’ll get to that in a second, along with the help of the Shazam wiki article which does a great job at tying each of the various skills and powers he can use thanks to this pantheon. Basically, they’re all the DC versions of their real world myths:
Solomon – Wisdom
Solomon wasn’t a god but a king from the Bible, so it’s kind of weird that he’s on the list, right? Anyway, he’s especially known for being a pretty wise dude – as his lengthy Wikipedia article attests:
Solomon is the Biblical king most famous for his wisdom. In 1 Kings he sacrifices to God and prays for wisdom. God personally answers his prayer, promising him great wisdom because he did not ask for self serving rewards like long life or the death of his enemies.
Perhaps the best known story of his wisdom is the Judgment of Solomon; two women each lay claim to being the mother of the same child. Solomon easily cuts through the dispute by commanding the child to be cut in half and shared between the two. One woman promptly renounces her claim, proving that she would rather give up the child than see it killed. Solomon declares the woman who showed compassion to be the true mother, entitled to the whole child.
So yeah, if you’ve ever wondered which DC hero is the best to go to about chopping babies in half, Shazam has your back. Anyway, Solomon’s wisdom isn’t just about the character being able to make good calls, it has direct powers and skills associated with it:
- Superhuman Knowledge: Captain Marvel has exceptional photographic recall and mental acuity allowing him to read and decipher hieroglyphics, recall everything he has ever learned and solve long mathematical equations. Instantaneously he can make intuitive guesses based on limited data; to the point his guesses are almost always correct; also he has a great understanding of divine phenomenon in the mortal world.
- Clairvoyance: Captain Marvel possesses an uncanny awareness of his circumstances that allows him to turn disadvantages into advantages.
- Hypnosis: Through sheer power and magic he can hypnotize people for length of time (undetermined). Only those of great willpower can overcome this ability.
- Omni-lingual: He can speak every language known to humans as well as ancient or dead languages and is able to understand aliens.
Hercules – Strength
Everyone should know Hercules – and not just because of the awesome Kevin Sorbo TV show – but because he’s certainly one of the most well known figures from mythology. From Wikipedia:
Hercules is the Roman name for the Greek divine hero Heracles, who was the son of Zeus (Roman equivalent Jupiter) and the mortal Alcmene. In classical mythology, Hercules is famous for his strength and for his numerous far-ranging adventures.
Yeah, it’s kind of weird in the DC universe to have the Roman gods when we also have the Greek ones play a prominent role, especially in Wonder Woman stories, but in the past DC have explained that they were actually basically the same entities:
The Roman gods were avatars of the Gods of Olympus, created to further their influence in Latium. Hercules was an avatar of Herakles.
Latium is Italy, by the way.
Regardless, Hercules’ strength is the most literal reason as to why Captain Marvel/Shazam is known as Earth’s Mightiest Mortal, and he’s been shown to hold his own against Superman, Wonder Woman and others over the years so he’s certainly tough. Sadly strength doesn’t have a lot of varied applications, he’s just strong. Really strong.
Atlas – Stamina
You’ve also probably heard of him. He’s the Titan – basically the generation of Gods that came after the primordial deities and before the Olympian deities, like Zeus – who is most famously depicted lugging a globe around on his shoulders:
In Greek mythology, Atlas … and his brother Menoetius sided with the Titans in their war against the Olympians, the Titanomachy. When the Titans were defeated, many of them (including Menoetius) were confined to Tartarus, but Zeus condemned Atlas to stand at the western edge of Gaia (the Earth) and hold up The Heavens on his shoulders, to prevent the two from resuming their primordial embrace.
So yeah, I guess the guy who holds up the whole world isn’t as a good a source of strength as Hercules, but whatever. Anyway, stamina is useful too:
- Self-Sustenance: He does not need to eat, sleep, or breathe as Shazam.
- Superhuman Stamina: His incredible metabolism endows him with practically infinite endurance and inexhaustible stamina.
Zeus – Power
Finally, a real god who’s not a Titan, demigod or even just not a God at all! Most people are well aware of Zeus, from this propensity for throwing lightning around to the fact he’s a philanderer who humped his way back and forth Greek mythology:
Zeus … was the sky and thunder god in ancient Greek religion, who ruled as king of the gods of Mount Olympus.
In most traditions, he is married to Hera, by whom he is usually said to have fathered Ares, Hebe, and Hephaestus. At the oracle of Dodona, his consort was said to be Dione, by whom the Iliad states that he fathered Aphrodite. Zeus was also infamous for his erotic escapades. These resulted in many godly and heroic offspring, including Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Hermes, Persephone, Dionysus, Perseus, Heracles, Helen of Troy, Minos, and the Muses…
…and I guess, in her post-Flashpoint origin, Wonder Woman!
While Zeus’ power does allow him to throw magical lightning around, and fuels the lightning that strikes the hero when he transforms, it has a number of other applications:
- Magical Resistance: This boosts his Invulnerability and Endurance powers to god-like levels. Making him only affected by the most potent of spells and abilities.
- Physical Enhancement: His muscles, height increase, weight, mass and all physical properties that differ from Billy Batson’s are a magical enhancement.
- Inter-dimensional Travel: This can only be used to travel to the Rock of Eternity.
- Spell Source: He is the focal point and immediate source of Mary Marvel and Freddy Freeman’s powers. Just as Shazam is the source of Billy Batson’s powers.
- Sorcery: Captain Marvel is a creature of pure and ancient magic. This allows for his ability to resist and cast magic spells, Zeus’s Lightning being the most notable.
- Advanced Healing: If he is injured in battle he may call on the magical lightning to heal himself and mend wounds. If wounded, his divine and supernatural energies enable him to recover at other worldly speed.
Achilles – Courage
Oh come on, we were doing so well with Zeus! Now we’re back to using Greek heroes, although one that supposedly had magical parentage:
In Greek mythology, Achilles … was a Greek hero of the Trojan War and the central character and greatest warrior of Homer’s Iliad. His mother was the nymph Thetis, and his father, Peleus, was the king of the Myrmidons.
Achilles’ most notable feat during the Trojan War was the slaying of the Trojan hero Hector outside the gates of Troy. Although the death of Achilles is not presented in the Iliad, other sources concur that he was killed near the end of the Trojan War by Paris, who shot him in the heel with an arrow. Later legends (beginning with a poem by Statius in the 1st century AD) state that Achilles was invulnerable in all of his body except for his heel. Because of his death from a small wound in the heel, the term Achilles’ heel has come to mean a person’s point of weakness.
And that’s why the tendon in our foot is called that too! Supposedly is mother Thetis – Nereids are basically sea nymphs, not even real gods – held him by his heels when she dipped him in the River Styx to make him immortal, hence why that’s the only part that was vulnerable. Anyway, helpfully he shares this invulnerability with our hero:
- Invulnerability: Captain Marvel is virtually invulnerable, and resistant to all types of physical injuries. His resilience to damage is on par with beings such as Superman, but without the weaknesses.
- Optimism: With the Courage of Achilles combined with the Wisdom of Solomon and the boyish personality of Billy Batson this creates a certain kind of optimism of which Captain Marvel is supremely known for. Able to smile down most opponents and using his powers in special ways other than fighting, Captain Marvel will forever remain the staple “boy scout”.
Mercury – Speed
Damnit! I mean, sure, Mercury is at least an actual God – but now it’s the Roman aspect instead of the Greek? I guess so that his name isn’t Shazah? Anyway, as with the whole Hercules/Herakles thing, Mercury is meant to just be an aspect of the Greek God, Hermes. He’s the son of Zeus, so at least it’s a kinda nice father/son thing?
Mercury … is a major Roman god, being one of the Dii Consentes within the ancient Roman pantheon. He is the patron god of financial gain, commerce, eloquence (and thus poetry), messages/communication (including divination), travelers, boundaries, luck, trickery and thieves; he is also the guide of souls to the underworld. He was considered the son of Maia and Jupiter in Roman mythology.
In the Captain Marvel/Shazam mythology, Mercury is responsible for the fact he’s fast but also, apparently, why he can fly:
- Superhuman Speed: He can move at incredible speeds making him at least fast enough to race the Flash on foot. Captain Marvel can move fast enough to render himself invisible and seemingly vanish and disappear at will. Even Superman himself (who is one of the fastest beings on Earth) admitted Captain Marvel as faster than him, and even considered him fast enough to catch an unstoppable Flash.
- Flight: Captain Marvel can also mystically fly through the atmosphere. This enables him to soar effortlessly sub-orbital levels and travel across the planet in blinding speed. He can travel through space, but has sometimes uses devices to ease communication during interstellar travel.
The New 52 – a correction!
So, did you read my last post? At the end I mention that things may have been a bit different since Flashpoint regarding the source of his powers:
In this incarnation of Shazam/Captain Marvel, Billy is not given the typical powers as he is normally given. His powers do not come from multiple gods but rather all from Shazam himself. One of the missing powers is the Wisdom of Solomon.
In my defence, both the wiki writers and I had interpreted the first Shazam story since the reboot as implying this. However, as you’ll soon see, it seems that isn’t the case and that the source of his powers was, until Darkseid War, the same pantheon it had always been.
post-Darkseid War Pantheon
So, in Darkseid War, something happens: Darkseid dies, killed by the Anti-Monitor. I mean, that’s kind of interesting – and could totally be the inspiration for a future post – but for this post the important thing is that the death of Darkseid is so huge it, somehow, disrupts Billy’s connection to his pantheon. The one-shot Justice League: Darkseid War – Shazam deals with this with the Wizard – who was meant to have died, but is apparently back – putting together a new team whose initials, yes, once again spell Shazam.
- S – S’ivaa
- H – H’ronmeer
- A – Anapel
- Z – Zonuz
- A – Ate
- M – Mamaragan
I mean, it’s kind of ridiculous. Did he reject all the other Gods that he could have picked simply because they didn’t have the right name? Regardless, it’s an interesting idea.
As before there are six gods but now half are original DC characters and the other half are from actual, real world mythology, as opposed to the old list which were all DC versions of real world gods. Also, the new ones are way more obscure than the original lineup. Anyway, below I’ll note whether they’re real world gods or DC characters.
Also, if the one-shot is any indication, the new Gods will talk to Billy a lot more as voices in his head unlike the old ones who were for the most part just invoked by name. Anyway, without further ado, lets meet the new team!
S’ivaa – Strength [DC Character]
S’ivaa is n ‘Old God’ in every sense of the word as he was one of the group, called the Old Gods, who proceeded the New Gods like Darkseid, Orion, Highfather and the rest. Certainly he was, well is, a powerful figure and “as a shadow elemental, he was immune to the powers of Gods, like Omega Effect and Astro-Force.”
After the death of the Old Gods and before the rise of the new, there was a time when monstrous shadow elementals walked he cosmos. The last of them remaining is S’ivaa, the Dancer of destruction, a powerful monster whose dance could destroy the universe. When the New Gods came to power, S’ivaa fell asleep under the eternal sea on New Genesis, there sleeping undisturbed for eons.
When Darkseid corrupted the Source S’ivaa awoke, and immediately proceeded to carry out his purpose. With all the Gods either powerless or uncaring due to the madness in the Source, S’ivaa made way to the middle point between Apokolips and New Genesis. There, he began his dance of destruction, which, when completed, would tear apart the fabric of space and time. To battle him, Highfather called upon Superman and Orion to stall S’ivaa, while himself and Darkseid sought to breach the Source and undo the damage Darkseid has done.
Eventually, S’ivaa was defeated when Superman and Orion tossed him through a hole in space he himself created, hurling him to the rupture in the Source Wall created by Highfather and Darkseid. S’ivaa was pulled into the Source Wall, becoming a part of it forever.
Now, that sounds like a bit of a problem but as the Wizard later explains, Gods don’t die by return to the Source which seems to be where S’ivaa still is when he is roped into powering Shazam. You can see his first meeting with Billy here:
H’ronmeer – Fire [DC Character]
A Martian God of fire – you’ll probably have heard Martian Manhunter mention him – and the source of Shazam’s new fire powers which will be very interesting to see how they’re integrated into his style.
H’ronmeer is recognized as one of the more powerful and active Gods within the Martian pantheon.
The Green Martians are not always in agreement concerning H’ronmeer’s true motives and function. Some factions consider him the God of Death and Fire, while others consider him the God of Light and Life.
As H’ronmeer is a God of Death, he may function as an analog, or even an aspect of The Endless entity known as Death. Many members of the Endless are recognized by different names in different alien cultures. Death’s little brother, Dream, for example is known as the Martian God of dreams, L’zoril. It stands to reason then, that H’ronmeer actually is Death, albeit in a different form.
I really like that we’ve got a God who’s not from Earth, or one of Kirby’s Old/New Gods. For now, other than being able to summon fire, it’s unclear exactly what H’ronmeer will be contributing though as his power set is kind of… vague:
The full range of H’ronmeer’s abilities are unknown. It is known that he can communicate with the deceased and usher souls into the afterlife. He can communicate with other individuals either by vocalization or telepathy. He can alter his size and shape to a limitless degree, and he can traverse time and space without the aid of external resources.
Anyway, you can see his first meeting with Billy here:
Anapel – Compassion [Real Mythology]
A Goddess of reincarnation, it’s interesting that her attribute is mentioned as Compassion rather than making Shazam somehow able to come back from the dead. From Wikipedia:
Anapel is the goddess of reincarnation and birth worshipped by the Koryak people of Siberia. Her name means “Little Grandmother” in the Koryak language. She was worshipped at ceremonies following the birth of a new child.
If you’ve never heard of her you’re not alone! The Koryaks (or Koriak) are not exactly a huge or well known culture:
Koryaks (or Koriak) are an indigenous people of Kamchatka Krai in the Russian Far East, who inhabit the coastlands of the Bering Sea to the south of the Anadyr basin and the country to the immediate north of the Kamchatka Peninsula. The Koryak are typically split into two groups: the coastal people Nemelan (or Nymylan) meaning ‘village dwellers,’ due to their living in villages. Their lifestyle is based on local fishing and marine mammal hunting. The inland Koryak, reindeer herders, are called Chaucu (or Chauchuven), meaning ‘rich in reindeer.’ They are more nomadic, following the herds as they graze with the seasons … According to the 2010 census, there were 7,953 Koryaks in Russia.
Oh and that language she’s called Little Grandmother in? Apparently there’s only about 1700 native speakers of it!
It’s not surprising given this that there’s not a clear picture of this Goddess and Godchecker.com actually doubts whether or not she is a God but instead just a rock on a string!
What’s in a name? Quite a lot, according to the Koryak people of Siberia. From ancient times their traditional beliefs have included reincarnation. When a child is born, the Koryak supreme deity dispatches a deceased soul into the body of the infant.
Luckily, the father can consult the ANAPEL — the ‘Little Grandmother’. The name refers to a simple stone which dad dangles on a piece of string while speaking aloud the names of dead relatives. When the stone begins to spin, he knows he has uttered the name of the returned soul. And then — hopefully — it’s congratulations all round.
So, the stone tells you who the baby is a reincarnation of, which is useful, but is it Anapel making the stone spin or is this just the name of the stone?
Many books erroneously claim that ANAPEL is a Goddess of Childbirth. This appears to be an error due to over-simplification. We have consulted what appears to be the original research by Waldemar Jochelson (and also Maria Czaplicka). No goddess involved. Just a stone on a piece of string.
I wonder if the writers knew this? If they did they may disagree with her just being a rock as this is what she looks like in the comic:
Zonuz – Source Manipulation [DC Character]
Another Old God, in fact the last of them, and along with being Darkseid’s father he’s also now the source of Shazam’s ‘source of manipulation’, and the fact he might be on Team Shazam for selfish reasons was a big part of the one-shot! When you know his background it’s not that surprising, either!
Zonuz was the last Old God, original wielder of the Torment Sanction and the first God of Evil who adopted the name Yuga Khan. He also wielded the Anti-Life at one point in his life.
Reanimating the Old Gods his son murdered, Yuga Khan was decided to eliminate the New Gods so the Old Gods never die, but his children joined against him and was ultimately slain by the resentful, power-hungry Uxas while he was about to kill Izaya, his first-born son and Uxas’ older brother.
Uxas here is better known as Darkseid just like Izaya is better known as Highfather. From the post-Crisis/pre-Flashpoint version:
Yuga Khan was the most powerful New God and the ruler of Apokolips for a long time. Yuga Khan was the former patriarch of Apokolips and its first ruler, whose misguided attempt to unravel the unknowable mystery of the Source left him a helpless captive for countless thousands of years. Yuga Khan’s wife Heggra later died by the machinations of their son Uxas, known more prominently by the name Darkseid, who took control of Apokolips, gaining the throne for himself in the process.
In the Promethean Galaxy Yuga Khan broke his bonds, and consumed the planet Velos. His return to living existence constituted a greater threat to life than even his son Darkseid. Khan next destroyed a Thanagarian probe station, which attracted the attention of Lar Gand, who managed to save the lives of a few Thanagarians. After draining another world and gaining more strength, Khan came to Apokolips.
For the first time in his life, Darkseid knew fear despite his bravado of claiming Khan was the past and he was the future. Khan restrained him and sarcastically asked if he was going to hug his father. Khan reclaimed his rulership over Apokolips, making life twice as hard on the populace. Desaad pledged his loyalty to him, telling him his service to Darkseid had been a lie. Khan reminded him that he’d poisoned his beloved wife Heggra and disintegrated him there. Khan cut off the Source, rendering Boom Tubes and Mother Box inoperative. He would continue his quest to find the nature of the Source, no matter the casualties. Commander Gideon launched an invasion of Apokolips, however Khan devastated his New Genesis soldiers and killed Gideon. Yuga Khan once again turned his attention to the Source Wall, where Highfather tried to stop him, warning him of the limits of godhood. Khan ignored him, subsequently transforming his body into primal energy so he could enter the Source. His second attempt was no more successful than his first, he was once again imprisoned in the Promethean Galaxy.
Anyway, much like many of the Old and New Gods, the full extent of Zonuz’s powers are pretty ill-defined, as is which of these he’ll be sharing with Shazam. Here’s a sample of powers he’s used in the comics:
- Superhuman Strength
- Energy Projection
- Superhuman Speed
- Superhuman Stamina
- Energy Construct Creation: he created a energy net to trap Lar Gand.
- Energy Absorption: His most dangerous ability; he could drain the life force of individuals or planets, adding to his own formidable power.
- Illusion Casting
- Control over the Apokolips Fire Pits
- Control over the Source itself: he could neutralize all Source-based powers with ilimited range, as Mother Boxes (and Boom Tubes), Darkseid’s Omega effect, Highfather’s Wall, etc;
Certainly in the one-shot he tried to seize the power of the other gods for himself until Shazam smacked him back down into this weird power servitude. You can see how he looks in the comic here:
Ate – Boldness [Real Mythology]
A real world god from Greek mythology, as covered by a very short Wikipedia article:
Atë is the Greek goddess of mischief, delusion, ruin, and folly. Até also refers to the action performed by a hero, usually because of hubris, that often leads to his or her death or downfall. Mythology personifies Atë as the daughter either of Zeus or of Eris.
Homer’s Iliad (Book 19) depicts Atë as the eldest daughter of Zeus (with no mother mentioned). On Hera’s instigation, Atë used her influence over Zeus so that he swore an oath that on that day a mortal descended from him would be born who would become a great ruler. Hera immediately arranged to delay the birth of Heracles and to bring forth Eurystheus prematurely. In anger Zeus threw Atë down to earth forever, forbidding her return to heaven or to Mt. Olympus. Atë then wandered about, treading on the heads of men rather than on the earth, wreaking havoc on mortals.
From the Mythology wikia she’s described as…
…the personification of the term, atë, in Greek mythology. She is known as the Greek goddess of evil, misfortune, obsession, guilt, infatuation, and mischief. She was known to lure men into actions that would end in their demise usually.
From Theoi.com we get even more:
In the tragic writers Ate appears in a different light: she avenges evil deeds and inflicts just punishments upon the offenders and their posterity (Aeschyl. Choeph. 381), so that her character here is almost the same as that of Nemesis and Erinnys.
Boldness is a bit odd as a quality, but granted we already had Achilles giving him courage so I guess this is the same sort of thing? Regardless, as with the rest, here’s what her comic book version looks like:
Mamaragan – Lightning [Real Mythology]
A lightning God from Australian Aboriginal mythology, and now the source of Shazam’s lightning powers but, as I’ll show in a bit, this is actually the least interesting thing about this character!
In Australian Aboriginal mythology, Mamaragan or Namarrkun is a lightning god who speaks with thunder as his voice. He rides a storm-butt and throws lightning bolts to humans and trees. He lives in a puddle.
Mamaragan is also known as Namarrgon and you find a lot more about him if you look him up under this name:
Namarrgon (pronounced narm-arr-gon) is the Lightning Man, an important creation ancestor responsible for the violent lightning storms Kakadu experiences every wet season.
His body is shaped like a praying-mantis. He makes lightning flashes with his lightning rods that go around his body. This is Namarrkon’s power source to light up my butts and the sky.
Namarrkon has axes on his shoulders and his knees. When he comes to earth as a lightning strike, he uses the axes to split trees.
Anyway, as I said, this background isn’t the most interesting thing about the DC comics version of Mamaragan, the most interesting thing is this: Mamaragan is the Wizard himself! Here are the relevant pages from just after Billy kicks Zonuz’s butt – and as you can see, the antagonistic relationship between Billy and the Wizard that the post-Flashpoint continuity established continues:
Since Flashpoint and the launch of the New 52 there have been a few changes to these characters. Captain Marvel officially became Shazam, and the Wizard Shazam simply became the Wizard, for example, but also of interest is that the depiction of the Wizard completely changed too!
In the past he was almost always shown as an old white man with a long white beard – it wasn’t very imaginative – but since the reboot he’s been depicted as black and seemingly Aboriginal. Here are some of his earlier appearances:
Was this plan all along? Who knows, but Steve Orlando in this issue clearly states that the Wizard is none other than this god of lightning and one that now powers Shazam directly. He also explained how last time we saw him, when Billy was getting his powers, that he appeared to die, saying that Gods don’t really die but just return to the Source.
So, there you go!
New Status Quo?
How long we’ll keep this new pantheon is anyones guess. Seeing as we still don’t have a Shazam ongoing comic – which, honestly, is ridiculous, and hopefully the positive reaction to this might mean we’ll see an Orlando lead monthly appear sometime in 2016 – it’s not even clear how much insight we’ll get as Shazam’s time in the Justice League post-Flashpoint has mostly been for comic relief in the background rather than being the focus of the story.
I am super curious to see how it all plays out though. It appears he can no longer fly and just exactly what he can do with these new found powers sounds like a super fun premise for the character. There’s also this cool splash page from the end of the comic too that shows all the aspects and his new outfit:
So yeah, big changes for Earth’s Mightiest Mortal! I guess we’ll have to keep reading to find out what happens next!