There may never be a movie version of DC’s Kingdom Come, but at least the star of Shazam! is using the iconic graphic novel as inspiration for his version of Captain Marvel.
There’s a good chance that even casual comic fans have at least heard of Kingdom Come, regardless of how much they actually know about Alex Ross and Mark Waid’s vision of a broken future, and Superman returning to put the pieces back together. The “wild card” in the world-ending showdown between DC’s heroes and villains was Billy Batson, known back then as Captain Marvel. And for all the similarities that the coming Shazam! movie has with Geoff Johns’ New 52 origin story, star Zachary Levi reveals its was Kingdom Come that helped him create his take on the hero.
Levi explained his inspiration during our visit to the set of Shazam! just weeks into shooting, which came as an obvious surprise. From the very first official image of Shazam, to multiple moments in the eventual trailers, it seemed the New 52 Shazam! comic was being adapted practically scene by scene. Since it was easily the most high-profile “Shazam story” in half a century, the adherence made sense. But Levi’s research into the adult version of Billy Batson led him somewhere else…
As soon as I got the job, Geoff Johns sent me a whole bunch of stuff, and some other friends recommended stuff. I wanted to read those to kind of familiarize myself, but, also, see if there were little nuggets or little things. But the truth is The New 52 is really…not canon for this… because this is even different than what The New 52 is.
I did quite like Kingdom Come. Even though that’s a completely different situation, it shows Captain Marvel in a really incredible… the innocence. He’s an adult and he still has that heart. I thought that’s such a cool thing to be able to take that in, and it’s ultimately a sacrificial move at the end and all of that. I just found that was more inspiration for me than even The New 52, in a lot of ways.
For the interested Shazam! fans out there who will instantly read the graphic novel to get a glimpse into the movie hero’s mindset, we would offer a bit of a warning. For most of the series, Captain Marvel/Shazam appears as a personal servant to Lex Luthor (thanks to brainworms, the comic eventually reveals). The scene that Levi is referring to, we presume, doesn’t actually arrive until the climax of the story. When a now-adult Billy Batson is made to see reason by Superman, a nuclear bomb falls to wipe out Earth’s superheroes so that humanity can decide its own future. As a member of both sides, and no longer a child playing pretend, Billy must decide who he really is: a man, or a super-man.
The moment is memorable for the very reasons that Levi refers to, so fans of Kingdom Come will be pleased to hear that he’s used that story to bring the ‘adult’ Billy to life… even if he is, technically, “basically fifteen” in his heart. Considering how impossible a (faithful) Kingdom Come movie would be in today’s movie studio and shared universe landscape, we’ll take all the tributes we can get.