Tuesday, November 7, 2017


So the casting rumors, speculation, suggestions, etc fall away one by one as another casting choice for DC's "Shazam!" movie is revealed!

As reported in Variety, Asher Angel, Best known in his young career as Jonah Beck in the TV series "Andi Mack," will be playing the young boy who transforms into the World's Mightiest Mortal by saying the magic word, "SHAZAM!"

Not being familiar with his work, I cannot critique the choice on the basis of his acting chops, but he does look the part. Of course, Billy Batson was drawn generically enough that almost any young boy with black hair could look the part (in fact, my trans-gender ex-girlfriend went through a phase in his transition in which he could have played the role - ahem - marvelously).

At age 15, Asher is, of course, the first actual minor playing this role in a live-action film or TV show. The previous two actors, Frankie Coghlan, Jr in "The Adventures of Captain Marvel" and Michael Gray in "Shazam!" were both securely in their 20's when they landed the role.

One thing that will be interesting to me is if Asher and Zachary Levi (who is playing the hero) will be able to sync up their performances to create a believable illusion of the same person inhabiting both bodies. Of course, back in the original Fawcett comics from 1940 - 1953 and the DC comics from 1973 - 1986 Billy Batson and Captain Marvel had separate personalities, though they shared memories. They would refer to each other in the third person, buy each other Christmas presents, and even had an argument at least once! It was only when Roy Thomas created "Shazam! A New Beginning" that the concept of Captain Marvel as a boy in a grown-up's body began. This was after the Crisis on infinite Earths (one of the first big company-wide crossover events in comics) re-ordered the original DC multiverse and put Captain Marvel and Superman on the same planet.

While Roy Thomas played this dynamic for drama, the new Justice League series that came out that year played int for laughs, having Captain Marvel suggest singing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" as the team grew bored during a long flight, for instance. His juvenility led to him being underestimated in his value to the team, and he left after just a few issues.

Though DC dropped the ball on a continuing series with the World's Mightiest Mortal (a topic for another time), Jerry Ordway picked it up and re-booted the character in 1994 in "The Power Of Shazam!" graphic noel and ongoing series. He maintained the boy-as-adult-hero paradigm, balancing drama and humor. From that point there was going back. The Ordway version became the version that DC maintained until they began the New 52 in 2012. Now the default assumption is of the paradigm is "Big" as a superhero, and every appearance of the character follows that theme.

Several animated cartoon movies and series have done well with that in the balance of comedy and drama, but to me, it is not what the character was originally created to be. The wish fulfillment is that when you say a magic word, you can transform into a grownup! Your mind changes so you can think grown-up thought, handle grown-up situations. It's sort of like "Being John Malkovitch" as a superhero. You exist inside the mind and body of a mighty superhero, sharing experiences and memories, but having the time of your life on not being psychologically tortured like Roy Thomas' invention of Rick Jones and Captain Mar-Vell.

But the director, David F. Sandberg has come out and said that it will be "Big" with superheroes, so I guess that is what we are going to see.

One interesting thing about "Andi Mack" that I just discovered in researching this post is that it is "the first series on The Disney Channel to depict a character coming out as gay" (ABC News). The character of Cyrus on the show, played by Joshua Rush, came out just last month, breaking ground for the youth-oriented, family-friendly network. This adds to a surprisingly long list of connections between the name of Captain Marvel and LGBT culture. This list goes all the way back to the "Adventures of Captain Marvel" 1941 movie serial, in which the role of the wizard Shazam was played by Nigel deBrulier, who was involved in an allegedly all-gay silent film production of Oscar Wilde's Salome, a clip of which appeared in the documentary "Before Stonewall"

One last interesting thing about this casting choice. Just as the hero will be played by a man who shares my initials, ZL, the actor playing Billy Batson shares a birthday with me: September 6! This movie is becoming more and more entwined with me by the week!

And here is the now-traditional "clickbait roundup" of web articles carrying this news...
The Hollywood Reporter
The A.V. Club
Den of Geek
Movie Pilot
Nerd Reactor
Heroic Hollywood
The Wrap
Screen Rant

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