You've almost definitely heard of Shazam—he's got his second big movie coming up, after all—but how much do you know about his friend and sidekick, Freddy Freeman? Don't panic if you're drawing a blank. That's what we're here for!

The Origins

First introduced all the way back in 1941, Freddy Freeman was a disabled newsboy who got caught in the crosshairs of an attack by Captain Nazi. To save his life, Shazam (then still called Captain Marvel) transferred some of his own powers into him—though there was a catch. While Shazam's magic word at the time was well, “Shazam,” Freddy's magic word became "Captain Marvel," which would cause a similar magical reaction and imbue him with Shazam-like powers and abilities (though unlike Shazam, Freddy would stay a teenager).

As you might imagine, this caused a lot of weird wrinkles in Freddy's story. Namely, how is a superhero called "Captain Marvel Jr" supposed to introduce himself if saying the phrase "Captain Marvel" toggles his abilities on and off?

Thankfully, that problem had a relatively simple solution. Rather than going by "Captain Marvel Jr," Freddy simply called himself "CM3'' to avoid switching his abilities on and off, with the implication being that Billy was, obviously, the original "CM" and Mary was the second "CM." Get it? Pretty clever, right?

This incarnation of Freddy went on to become a member of multiple teams across the DC Universe, including the Teen Titans and the Outsiders. He even briefly went on to take over the Shazam mantle from Billy while Billy was out of commission.

Also, interestingly, this version of Freddy had the distinction of being Elvis Presley's favorite superhero. The King of Rock and Roll even modeled his iconic pompadour hairstyle and many of his lightning-bolt emblazoned stage costumes after Freddy's look in the comics from the '40s and '50s. The more you know!

Into the Modern Era

Naturally, as time passed Freddy and his pals had to evolve. The original incarnation was eventually phased out while the Shazamily was given a revamp. The Captain Marvel Jr/CM3 name was replaced by Shazam Jr, and his black pompadour hairstyle was traded in for a longer, blonde look. Additionally, the "Captain Marvel!" magic phrase was swapped for the traditional "Shazam!" and Freddy stopped staying a teenager when transformed. He now becomes a super-powered adult like the rest of the Shazamily.

This new version of Freddy is now Billy's foster brother, rather than a kid Billy happened to save, and he was given his powers at the same time as the rest of the group—which now also includes a handful of newly created Shazam siblings like Pedro, Eugene and, of course, Darla. If you saw the first Shazam movie, you're already familiar with the gist of how that all went down, but if you'd like to see how it shakes out in the comics, you'll want to check out Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s New 52-era Shazam! limited series, which originally ran as a series of backup features in the pages of Johns’ Justice League.

Despite these changes, Freddy's powers and abilities stayed pretty much the same. Like the rest of the Shazamily, he gets the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the healing of Apollo, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles and the speed of Mercury.

Why It Matters

Freddy may not be the most famous character in the DCU, and his origins may be a bit intimidating at first blush, but we promise getting to know him is worth it! In comics history terms, Freddy's impact is hard to ignore. Not only did he start laying the groundwork for many of the teenage sidekicks we know and love today (right alongside Dick Grayson, whose introduction preceded Freddy's own by just one year), but he also began to push the envelope almost immediately. While stories involving Billy Batson and Shazam were often campy and whimsical, Freddy's series through the '40s was often almost gritty, pitting him against serious villains and threats that required more spy-like work and espionage than they did brightly colored magic and fun.

Freddy's stories often leaned into the fact that he could use his physical size and disabilities to his advantage, allowing the people he faced off against to underestimate him, ultimately making his victories even more absolute—which is a pretty valuable lesson if you ask us!

What to Read

If you'd like to learn more about Freddy first hand, here are a few stories you might want to check out.

  • The Trials of Shazam!: This twelve-issue series explored the fallout of Infinite Crisis, and featured Freddy taking on the monumental task of proving himself worthy to take Billy's place after Billy stepped into the role of the Wizard Shazam.
  • The Outsiders (Vol. 3): While Freddy wasn't necessarily a main player on the team, he does get a handful of impactful storylines that work nicely with other major events like the year-long series, 52. These Outsiders stories also feature Freddy up against his Black Adam family analogue, Osiris, and things get messy. Just trust us.
  • Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam!: This all-ages series features a Freddy storyline that puts an interesting spin on his origin story. We won't spoil it here, but if you want to know what a possible villain arc for someone like Freddy might look like, give this one a read.
  • Shazam!: If you're looking for a purely modern Shazamily story that features Freddy and the rest of the gang, look no further than Shazam! This series started in the wake of the first film and works to establish the family's new status quo. It also serves as a Johns-written sequel to his earlier limited series that reimagined Freddy and his family.

Shazam! Fury of the Gods, starring Zachary Levi and directed by David F. Sandberg, hits theaters March 17th. Visit our official Shazam! Fury of the Gods page to buy tickets and catch up on all of the latest news, trailers and more!

Mason Downey writes about comics, movies and superhero history for Look for more of his work on GameSpot, IGN and Polygon and follow him on Twitter at @rustypolished.