Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam was a part of a DC Showcase shorts from 2010. It was the longest DC Showcase, running 25 minutes long. Superman/Shazam was the origin story of Captain Marvel/Shazam (do not get me started on this poor boy’s superhero name crisis), but with Superman already a seasoned hero whom Billy Batson idolized. Billy, orphan and somehow managing all on his own in Fawcett City’s projects, was a good kid, but the world let him down constantly. “Be good and good will follow” was what Billy tried to adhere to, because it was what his parents told him. Clark Kent befriended Billy, thanks to a story he was writing, made the point to tell him that “being good is hard, but bad is always easy.” Black Adam crashed into the diner, a moment later, to kill Billy. Naturally, Clark as Superman stepped in to defend the boy. Superman and Black Adam punched it out while Billy was confused to why someone was trying to kill him.
Billy ran down to the subway and magically transported to the Rock of Eternity (though that is not explained) to talk to the Wizard Shazam. Billy discovers his powers and fights Black Adam. Superman and Shazam team to take out the evil Black Adam. Eventually, good triumphs over evil and Black Adam was dust. Traditional Captain Marvel/Shazam origin story complete.
Overall, I liked the short. I have a soft spot for stories about down-on-their-luck orphans who are just trying to make it in the world. There are only a few nitpicks things that bothered me about Superman/Shazam. First, I think it was too short. It was enjoyable, however I do not think there was sufficient explanation for why the Wizard needed a Champion and so forth. Secondly, there was too much emphasis on Superman’s weakness to magic. There are two major weakness for the Man of Steel—kryptonite and magic. Depending on the writer, the effects of the weaknesses on Superman vary. Superman is weak to magic, it can hurt him unlike other type of attacks but everyone usually agrees that Superman is still stronger than Captain Marvel/Shazam and therefore, Black Adam (because Black Adam and Captain Marvel/Shazam are at a complete standstill—they have the same powers, though Black Adam is more adept at using his). In addition, I think Billy was way too anachronistic for his setting (really, ‘holy moley’, really). These are just a few things that I didn’t care for in the short.
However, I enjoyed that the short was action-packed with a great and fun superhero team-up. I like the dynamic between Superman and Captain Marvel/Shazam because usually Superman is the brawn to Batman’s brains. Here, Superman is the more experienced hero and thinks about what he does first, while Captain Marvel/Shazam (being a kid) is far more impulsive. The characterization of Superman/Clark Kent, Captain Marvel/Shazam/Billy Batson are spot on, in my opinion. Superman upholds his ideals without it seeming too forced. Then again, it was Bruce Timm as one of the producers and he usually has a good interpretation of Superman. Billy, despite a few things, is basically the core of the character. He is good at his basis and struggles with what the right thing to do.
What it means to be the hero is addressed in the short. Even though, it is a big question to answer in such a short amount of time, I think they did an admirable job. Doing the right thing is hard and sometimes, thankless. But isn’t that what a hero does?
If anyone just wants to watch a short, fun animated movie about a superhero team-up, I would recommend Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam.
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