If you've ever poked around the DC Universe of days gone by, there's a chance you've stumbled across a group of characters referred to as the "Marvel Family," which, let's be honest, sounds a bit strange now. The name comes from the original comics, back before DC was even DC, starring Billy Batson and his super-powered friends. Things have since been updated and we don't call Billy's alter ego "Captain Marvel" anymore, but the family aspect that existed during his Golden Age adventures is still very much there.
As you already know if you’ve seen Shazam! Yes, spoiler alert in case you still haven’t seen the Zachary Levi film, but the Shazam Family makes quite a memorable appearance in it. Only, it’s clear that not everyone seeing Shazam! in theaters know who the Shazam Family—or, as I like to call them, the “Shazamily”—actually are. So, if that’s you, let’s clear things up with a little “Who’s Who.”
Here's what you need to know about the modern Marvel Family—er, Shazam Family.
Let’s just get on with it, shall we?
The boy who started it all is, obviously, Billy himself. And to be honest, Billy hasn't really changed all that much from his Golden Age roots, other than his superhero name, of course. Billy's a foster kid who wound up creating his own family almost by accident after the Wizard Shazam empowered him and now he's a 14-year-old superhero.
Billy exemplifies the powers each member of the Shazamily is endowed with: the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles and the speed of Mercury.
Freddy has gone through a bit more of a transformation overtime than Billy has. An original Golden Age "Marvel Family" member, Freddy has been one of Billy's very best friends for longer than many of us have been alive. But back in the ’40s and ’50s, Freddy’s superheroic alter ego was pretty different than it is today.
Known as "Captain Marvel Jr," Freddy was empowered to be one of Billy's sidekicks, and instead of using the magic word "Shazam!," he used the magic word—er, phrase "Captain Marvel!"
Instead of transforming into an adult. Freddy was just given a cool costume and superpowers, but otherwise remained a kid. Hence the "Jr" on his name. Fans of the original incarnation of Freddy will often call him "CM3," because while he used the Captain Marvel Jr. moniker, he couldn't actually introduce himself without triggering his transformation. That's not such a unique problem to have now that Shazam’s name has changed, but if you're ever reading an old pre-New 52 comic and run across a character talking about "CM3," now you know who they're talking about.
These days Freddy, like the rest of the Shazamily, triggers his powers with "Shazam!" and becomes an adult. You can pick him out of the lineup by his bright blue costume. In the movie, Freddy is played by Jack Dylan Grazer in his child form and Adam Brody as a superhero.
Another original Marvel Family member, Mary Bromfield was actually originally known as Mary Batson, Billy's long-lost twin sister. Back in the Golden Age, she became a superhero just like her brother, but went by the codename Mary Marvel.
Modern comics have revised Mary and Billy's biological relationship, so she's a member of the foster family rather than a long-lost twin. She's also typically the oldest member of the family, so her transformation from kid to superhero is much less pronounced. She's the only other member of the family to wear a red uniform like Billy himself, but her costume comes with a skirt rather than pants.
Mary is played wonderfully in Shazam! by Grace Fulton and by Michelle Borth in her heroic form.
Darla is one of the three brand-new New 52-introduced members of the family, and typically the youngest in the lineup. A bubbly, talkative young girl, Darla's superpowered Shazam form wears a purple uniform and is generally much faster than her siblings…even after you factor the whole “speed of Mercury” ability into the equation.
In the movie, young Darla is played by Faithe Herman, while her adult form is embodied by Meagan Goode.
The second newly created Shazamily member, Eugene is a tech-loving gamer. In his Shazam form, Eugene is a technopath, while also possessing the family's typical powers, meaning he's able to actually manipulate and communicate with technology using only his mind. His uniform is grey or silver in color.
Eugene was played by Ian Chen in Shazam!, and by Ross Butler after his transformation.
The final newcomer to the foster siblings is Pedro, a reserved boy with some pretty lofty physical fitness aspirations. Luckily for him, in his Shazam form, he's basically a powerlifter. Much more physically intimidating and strong than his siblings, Pedro wears a hunter green costume. He’s brought to life by Jovan Armand in the movie, and by D.J. Cotrona in costume.
So which member of the Shazam Family is your favorite? And are you jealous you and your siblings couldn’t secretly turn into superheroes when you were growing up? I don’t know about you, but that was pretty much my dream as a kid. And, um, maybe today.
If you liked seeing the Shazamily in Shazam!, you should absolutely check out DC’s current Shazam! comic series. It’s written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Dale Eaglesham, and it features the full family from the very beginning. Also, be sure to read our recent article on the actors who played the adult Shazam Family. There’s a lot more to some of those cameos than you might have realized.
Shazam!, starring Zachary Levi, Asher Angel and Mark Strong, is now in theaters. To discover more about DC's latest movie, click here.
Mason Downey covers movies, TV and comics for DCComics.com, and writes two monthly columns for the site, "Gotham Gazette" and "Relationship Roundup." You can follow him on Twitter at @rustypolished.