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Director Peter "Get Smart" Segal is currently developing "Billy Batson and the Legend of Shazam" from a screenplay by John August, based on the 1940's comic book hero, to be produced by Michael Uslan for Warners.
"There've been several incarnations," Segal said to SciFi Wire.
"And there's a new incarnation about how Billy has to win the approval of the individual gods before he can gain their powers, and that's a completely different take from the original. So, once again, we're staying very faithful to the source material, and we're just continuing to work and try to make the script as good as it can be...You have to please the original fans, but also make it survive on its own for people who might not be familiar with the series. So we try to do both, and that's constantly the balancing act. But I think the underlying similarity between adapting [i]Shazam[/i] and adapting [i]Get Smart[/i] is you have to love the source material, you have to embrace it..."
Created in 1940 by artist CC Beck and writer Bill Parker for comic publishers Fawcett Publications, premise of "Captain Marvel" focused on homeless newspaper seller 'Billy Batson', confronted by a stranger who leads him into the New York subway system to the lair of the wizard 'Shazam'.
The wizard reveals Billy has been chosen to be 'the world's mightest mortal' and commands the boy to say his name 'SHAZAM': 'S' for Solomon (wisdom), 'H' for Hercules (strength), 'A' for Atlas (stamina), 'Z' for Zeus (invulnerability), 'A' for Achilles (courage) and 'M' for Mercury (the ability to fly).
Saying the name, Billy is struck by a clap of lightning and transformed into a 6' 4", 250 lb superhero. Saying the name again reverses him back into Billy Batson.
Billy confides in his sister 'Mary Batson' who becomes 'Mary Marvel', a disabled friend 'Freddie Freeman' becomes 'Captain Marvel Jr.' and Billy's 3 cousins, saying "SHAZAM" simultaneously change into 'Lieutenant Marvels'.
Throughout the 1940's, "Captain Marvel" was an easily accessible comic book fantasy and a popular 15-part feature film serial, starring stunt man/western film star Tom Tyler.
The comic book itself began outselling industry leader "Superman", published by National Periodicals (DC). DC sued Fawcett for plagiarism, stating similiarities between the two characters. After years of litigation, Fawcett went into receivership and DC was awarded the Captain Marvel catalogue, reviving the character in the early 1970s. Because of a similarity in names to rival comics giant 'Marvel', the character's adventures were published under the "SHAZAM" title (Marvel since creating their own 'Captain Mar-vell' character.)
DC eventually introduced the entire Fawcett line of characters into their 1980's comic book mini-series "Crisis on Infinite Earths", fully integrating "Shazam" into the DC comic book Universe ...