When young orphan Billy Batson says the magic word, a bolt of magical lightning comes from the sky and transforms Billy into Shazam, the World’s Mightiest Mortal, an adult-looking, Superman-like hero that has at his disposal abilities like the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, etc. Billy Batson/Shazam looks like he’s cut from the same archetype as Superman, but his purview is the magical threats within the DC universe. He is also perhaps the most misunderstood. Though he has been portrayed as old-fashioned and hopelessly naive, even his nemesis Dr. Sivana refers to him as “The Big Red Cheese,” this is because he is a child in an adult body, which happens to be a popular power fantasy among children who have very little autonomy. Approaching the world with a childlike earnestness, Shazam also operates in a world where magic is real and dangerous, meaning there are plenty of opportunities for fantastical whimsy that’s perfect for kids of all ages. Librarians with fantasy fans and superhero readers will find plenty to love about the World’s Mightiest Mortal (or the Big Red Cheese).

Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam!: Family Affair

Mike Kunkel

At least a spiritual successor to Jeff Smith’s take on Shazam, this all-ages comic doubles down on the whimsical fantasy, thanks mostly to the artwork and the subject matter. Billy is still an adult when transformed, while Mary transforms into the same girl whose superspeed reflects her own boundless energy. Even antihero Black Adam is portrayed as a boy Billy’s age until he discovers the secret word and then becomes his archenemy.

Appeals to

Librarians (and readers) looking for an all-ages book, fans of sibling dynamics.

Shazam and the Seven Magic Lands

Geoff Johns

Dale Eaglesham

A continuation of Geoff Johns’s story, this book finds Shazam and his foster siblings fighting crime while keeping their superheroic activities a secret. Then the kids discover a train car that takes them to the aforementioned magical lands where they encounter everything from talking tigers to tin men. This also leaves their world at the mercy of villains like Dr. Sivana and Mr. Mind. Johns both creates a fun story with high stakes and expands the Shazam universe.

Appeals to

Fans of the movie and of Geoff Johns’s take on Shazam.

Shazam: A Celebration of 75 Years

Bill Parker

C. C. Beck

One jam-packed book that introduces every era of Shazam, from his days at Fawcett to his current movie starring Zach Levi. A collection of some of his best-known stories, this volume has everyone from the Shazam/Marvel family to antihero Black Adam. And at a price point of about $35 dollars (depending on where your library buys graphic novels), it won’t break the budget.

Appeals to

Those who want an overall introduction to Captain Marvel/Shazam, librarians who want to save money.

Shazam!: Origins

Geoff Johns

Gary Frank

The origin story that inspired the movie. Writer Geoff Johns, responsible for most of the current DC Universe, imagines Billy Batson as a brash teenager who still has a good heart, which is why he’s chosen to be the wizard Shazam’s champion. Of course, as he discovers his powers, he also uses the fact that he looks like an adult to buy beer while also doing good deeds. This story also introduces a different kind of Shazam family, featuring sidekick Freddy Freeman and older sister/voice of reason Mary Marvel.

Appeals to

Teens who love magic and protagonists who aren’t squeaky clean.

Content Notes

Appears in the final part of Shazam!: A Celebration of 75 Years. Also reprinted as Shazam!: Vol. 1 (The New 52).

Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil

Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith, writer of Bone, offers a retelling of Billy Batson becoming the champion of magic. This series is notable because it presents Billy Batson and Shazam as two distinct personalities who switch places when one utters the magic word. It also offers some charming dynamics between Billy and Shazam, as well as Billy and his younger superpowered sister Mary, while also offering some retro thrills that might remind readers of rollicking adventure comics like The Adventures of Tin-Tin and The Rocketeer.

Appeals to

Kids (and adults) who like adventure comics, superhero comics, and Jeff Smith

Content Notes

Issue #2 is contained in Shazam!: A Celebration of 75 Years

Superman/Shazam!: First Thunder

Judd Winick

Joshua Middleton

Judd Winick, writer of Batman: Under the Red Hood and Hilo, tells the story of the first meeting between the World’s Mightiest Mortal and the Man of Steel. This book features the oft-repeated ritual of two heroes bonding over battling giant monsters and maniacal supervillains, but Winick, who also wrote the powerful biographical book Pedro and Me, knows how to give the reader an emotional gut punch that makes the meeting between these two heroes all the more sincere.

Appeals to

Fans of Superman, Shazam, and of comic team-ups in general. Fans of emotional depth in superhero stories.

These titles showcase Shazam’s appeal across different age groups while also keeping the basics of the character intact. Readers might see a lot of themselves in Billy Batson, and they should feel the tiniest bit of electricity when he says his magic word.

  • James


    Circulation Librarian, Clark County Public Library | He/Him

    James Gardner is a Circulation Librarian at Clark County Public Library in Kentucky. Along with writing his own stories, he reviews horror for his own blog The Foreboding Home of the Scary Librarian and other places. But graphic novels are another love of his, having grown up loving Spider-Man and the X-Men. Reviewing graphic novels is a dream gig because the graphic novel is a medium that is full of great stories. One of the best things about being a librarian is always having an excuse to read graphic novels among other books, which is because readers’ advisory depends on reading books (while advising is the other half, of course). He also enjoys role-playing games, which is another opportunity for him to immerse himself in a story.

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