It’s been a long time coming, but your New Champion of Shazam has arrived! For the first time in 77 years, Billy Batson’s foster sister Mary Bromfield is headlining her very own comic as The New Champion of Shazam! In 1935, Mary was the star of Mary Marvel, and the first teen heroine with her own comic book. After Billy’s heroic sacrifice as shown in Teen Titans Academy, it’s now Mary’s turn to use the power of Shazam to protect mankind from its deadly enemies. And with She-Ra and the Princesses of Power’s Josie Campbell on the script, and Convergence: Shazam!’s Evan “Doc” Shaner on art, there couldn’t be a better team to bring Mary back into the spotlight. The first part of this four-issue miniseries is available now, but whether you’ve already read it, or are deciding whether to pick it up, it’s worth taking a few minutes to get better acquainted with our electrifying hero.
So, How is She Related to Billy?
Modern stories of the Shazam Family depict Mary as Billy Batson’s older foster sister, living together in the Vasquez family home with four other siblings. But for most of their history, their relationship was quite different. In 1942’s Captain Marvel Adventures #18, Mary debuts as Billy Batson’s long lost twin sister. With both of their parents killed in a car crash as infants, the Batsons’ nursemaid Sarah Primm saves Mary from a childhood in an orphanage by swapping her for the deceased infant of the Bromfield family in her charge. Once Billy discovers his sister’s existence, Mary learns that due to her genetic similarity to Billy, she too can call upon the Power of Shazam. As a protector of Fawcett City, she adopts the name “Mary Marvel.”
In the 1990s retelling of the Shazam Family origins in Jerry Ordway’s The Power of Shazam!, Mary is still Billy’s twin sister, and the two were raised together for a brief time by their archaeologist parents. On an expedition to Egypt with their associate Theo Adam, the Batsons take Mary along with them, but leave Billy home. But when Theo Adam—soon to become the modern day Black Adam—kills the Batson parents to keep the treasures they’ve uncovered for himself, Theo’s sister—once again, Sarah Primm—takes Mary into her care to be raised by her own childless employers, the Bromfields. Like Billy at the time, this Mary too goes by the name “Captain Marvel” when transformed into her superpowered self.
In 2011, the New 52 offered refreshed origin stories for most of our heroes, and Mary was no exception. Here, Mary truly was unrelated biologically to Billy Batson and only received the Power of Shazam along with his other foster siblings when he chose to share his power. This modern incarnation of Mary sometimes goes by “Lady Shazam,” but you can call her by the name on the cover of her new solo series: The New Champion.
What Are Her Powers Like?
Most of the time, Mary is depicted with the exact same powers as Billy. In the Golden Age stories published by Fawcett Comics, Mary channeled her powers from a different set of godly patrons: the grace of Selena, the strength of Hippolyta, the skill of Ariadne, the swiftness of Zephyrus, the beauty of Aurora and the wisdom of Minerva. But in practice, her powers were identical to any other Shazam Family member.
In the ’90s, a new wrinkle was added to the power set. Since Billy, Mary and Freddy Freeman all take their abilities from the same source, the potency of those powers would be halved or thirded depending on how many of them happened to be using them at any given time.
The only times we’ve seen a distinct, demonstrable difference in Mary and Billy’s abilities has been in the graphic novel Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil and its follow-up series Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! There, Mary maintains her childlike form even when she calls upon her power and lacks the strength of her brother, but makes up for it with greater speed. The other time was in the apocalyptic out-of-continuity tale DCeased: Unkillables, where Mary receives martial arts training from Cassandra Cain and Lady Shiva…making her as powerful as Superman and as skilled in fighting as Batman, and the only person alive who could equal the Anti-Living Wonder Woman.
Who Are Her Enemies?
As part of the Shazam Family, Mary’s faced many of the same enemies as Billy Batson and Freddy Freeman over the years, like Doctor Sivana, Black Adam and Mister Mind. But in her own original solo series, Mary’s enemies included:
- Egbert Alvin Pfoe, “The Mad Poet”
- The Color King, who could manipulate emotions through colored rays
- Doc Younger, anti-aging mad scientist
- Dicehead, underground gambling crimelord
- Nightowl, a criminal with enormous eyes which grant him perfect night vision
Mary’s most persistent enemy, however, was Georgia Sivana (below), daughter of the ignominious Doctor Sivana and “the world’s wickedest girl.” Georgia was created specifically as a foil for Mary in Mary Marvel #1, and if anyone has the strongest claim to being Mary’s specific arch-enemy, it would be her.
Not that others haven’t given it their best. After all, in the ‘90s, we learn Black Adam played a significant role in the deaths of Mary’s parents. And Eclipso, Desaad, Darkseid and Lady Blaze have all done their part to make Mary’s life miserable in recent years. As Mary begins her new tenure as a solo superhero, the villains that await her next remain to be seen.
Didn’t She Turn Evil, Like, a Bunch of Times?
Yeah, it was really a bit of a problem. After the end of the ‘90s Power of Shazam! series, the Shazam Family didn’t have much of a place in the DC Universe until Geoff Johns shifted focus to Black Adam in his JSA series. Billy and Mary keep their eyes on their once-mortal enemy for the duration, waiting for the veneer to drop. This centralization of Black Adam has a direct effect on Mary, who after losing her connection to Billy’s power in Day of Vengeance comes to rely on borrowing Adam’s powers in Countdown. Adam’s dark influence leads Mary down a sinister road up to and through Final Crisis, passing her through the hands of Eclipso and Darkseid before ultimately becoming a vessel for the Apokoliptian torture god Desaad. As the new Captain Marvel, Freddy Freeman returns to redeem Mary, but it wouldn’t be her last temptation. Later, the Shazam family enemy Lady Blaze makes Mary an offer to restore her powers if she kills Freddy herself, and she appears to agree to these terms before turning on her. Troublingly, a rejection-laden Mary in the Young Justice animated series was last seen seduced into darkness once more by Granny Goodness, as one of the newest Furies for Darkseid.
So, what sets her apart in The New Champion of Shazam! then? How can we be sure that she won’t be tempted by darkness again? Well, this is DC, and you can never be sure what the future holds. But we have faith in our Mary that, given this awesome power and responsibility, she’ll find the strength to live up to her title as Champion and protect mankind from the evils which have deviled her in the past.
After all, you can’t say she lacks the experience!
The New Champion of Shazam! #1 by Josie Campbell and Evan "Doc" Shaner is now available in print and as a digital comic book.
Alex Jaffe is the author of our monthly "Ask the Question" column and writes about TV, movies, comics and superhero history for DCComics.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexJaffe and find him in the DC Community as HubCityQuestion.