This Shazam 2 Easter Egg Shouts Out A Character Name Shared By Marvel And DC

In April 2019, DC and Warner Bros. gave us the quippy and jokey "Shazam!" Directed by David F. Sandberg and produced by Peter Safran — who together with James Gunn now helms the newly-christened DC Studios — the film was somewhat of an outlier among the darker films of the Snyderverse. Zack Snyder had established the main continuity of the (now defunct) DC Extended Universe with blockbuster entries such as "Man of Steel" and "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice."

But "Shazam!" was a more lighthearted, less ambitious project, focused on a hero with much less cultural caché than DC's biggest characters. And it proved to be a hit. With a global box office take of $363 million and widespread positive reviews, "Shazam!" proved DC and Warner Bros. could do family-friendly films and be successful.

But just a month before it, Marvel Studios had churned out its latest in the form of the Brie Larson-starring "Captain Marvel." Incredibly, that movie made more than a billion dollars — while introducing one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's most powerful heroes — and bested DC's box office once again. And what made this Marvel triumph even more significant is that their superpowered Air Force pilot bore the name originally used by "Shazam!"

Comic book fans will know that Shazam started life as Captain Marvel in the pages of Fawcett comics in 1940. After several decades and a lawsuit involving DC and Fawcett, the Captain Marvel character disappeared from publication, only to be brought back by DC as Shazam, the magic word said by the young Billy Batson to transform into his superhero alter ego. Now, with "Shazam! Fury of the Gods," the sequel to Sandberg's 2019 movie, the director has managed to sneak in a reference to the titular hero's original name.

Shazam vs. Captain Marvel

In the Golden Age of comics, when he was still known as Captain Marvel, Shazam proved popular enough to out-sell even Superman comics. And DC wasn't too pleased that what they saw as a Man of Steel rip-off was getting so much attention. They decided to sue Fawcett in the 1940s, with the two companies eventually settling and Fawcett agreeing to end the publication of its comics.

But in the '70s, comic books were amid a resurgence in popularity, and DC decided to resurrect the long-retired character by way of a licensing agreement with Fawcett. Unfortunately, by that point, Marvel Comics had introduced their own hero known as Captain Marvel, which meant DC had no choice but to rename their newly-licensed hero to "Shazam!" (who even got his TV show that ran from 1974 to 1976 on CBS).

In 2023, Zachary Levi's big-screen version of Shazam returns with "Shazam! Fury of the Gods," where he'll take on Helen Mirren's Hespera alongside his "Shazamily" of super-powered foster siblings. It looks to have a similarly light-hearted tone to the first movie, even while Billy Batson's Philadelphia takes a decent pummeling if the "Fury of the Gods" trailer is anything to go by. Mirren — who took her action scenes so seriously she managed to bust her finger — also appears to be a suitably menacing adversary, who alongside Lucy Liu's Kalypso may prove to bring about Shazam's end.

But between the epic battles and vengeful goddesses, there's also a brief mention of Shazam's original name in the film. At one point, none other than Michael Gray from the old Shazam TV show tells Levi's hero: "You're the best, Captain Marvel!" And according to director David F. Sandberg, he didn't think he'd actually get that Easter egg past DC.

If Eternals can do it...

/Film's Jenna Busch joined other journalists in a post-screening Q&A with "Shazam! Fury of the Gods" director David F. Sandberg, where he explained how he managed to get the Captain Marvel name in his movie:

"[Michael Gray] actually said something different there, I don't remember what, but on the day, I was like, 'Let's do some options. They're never going to let us put this in the movie, but call him Captain Marvel.' But then DC was like 'Yeah, I mean, 'Eternals' mentioned Batman or Superman and stuff like that, so why not put it in the movie?'"

Marvel did indeed include a reference to DC's Superman in 2021's "Eternals," in a scene in which Ikaris (Richard Madden) has become somewhat of a celebrity and is promptly compared to the Man of Steel. And if Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige says it's ok to use DC superhero names in his movies, then why can't DC do the same with his characters? That seems to have been the mentality of whoever was in charge of this stuff at DC when Sandberg was trying to get his Captain Marvel Easter egg into the final edit.

And while it's unlikely to cause a major stir among fans, it's nonetheless a neat little homage to Shazam's golden age beginnings. Whether the film, as a whole, will be enough to secure Shazam's future in the new DC Universe remains to be seen.