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It was all the way back in 2006 that director Peter Segal became attached to direct the DC Comics movie Shazam!, a superhero film about the character best known as Captain Marvel. The project made a good amount of progress building towards production, landing John August to pen the script and Dwayne Johnson to play the villainous Black Adam, but despite its efforts the film wound up falling in Hollywood's dreaded development hell anyway. Given how popular comic book movies are nowadays, it's strange to think that a project as high profile as Shazam! could fall apart, but now the director has revealed to Coming Soon exactly what happened behind the scenes.
While Black Adam may have been Captain Marvel's big screen foe, the character's biggest enemy behind the scenes of Hollywood is Superman. According to Segal, Captain Marvel has always had a problem co-existing with the Man of Steel, as the two characters have very similar powers. As a result, any time that a movie about him has been in development it has been undercut by the guy in red and blue tights. Said the filmmaker,
"As long as Superman stays hot in the market place, there seems like a little bit of a crossover between the two characters. After Bryan Singer's Superman Returns, it seemed like there was a moment in time where Shazam! was going to see the light of day. That's when you heard those stories. Now that Superman is being invigorated and going up against Batman, I think it's difficult for DC to figure out how to launch this character in the wake of Superman's resurgence.
The director also notes that back before DC Comics owned Captain Marvel the company actually sued the original owners for stealing their idea for Superman (the latter was introduced one year before the former). Both characters can fly, are invulnerable and have both have super strength and speed, so it's not hard to understand the comparisons. Their origin stories, however, could not be more different.
In the comics, Captain Marvel was born as Billy Batson, a 12-year-old homeless newsboy. One day he is led into a subway tunnel and taken to the lair of a great wizard named Shazam who bestows upon Billy a great gift. By shouting the wizard's name, Billy becomes Captain Marvel, an adult superhero with the abilities of Solomon (wisdom), Hercules (strength), Atlas (stamina), Zeus (power), Achilles (courage) and Mercury (speed). It may sound like a more kid-friendly story, but Segal says that his feature take was a bit more mature. Said the director,
"At its core, it's a lot like Superman. There's this boy trapped inside of a superhero's body. He's still a boy inside, so there's this opportunity to play a lot of humor with the action. Originally, Stan Lee brought me Fantastic Four a number of years for that very reason. I always have the question when people bring me superhero properties, 'Why me?' With Stan, he said, 'It's because there's a sense of humor within all Marvel characters.' These characters are flawed and, within those flaws, there is humor. When Toby Emmerich came to me with Shazam!, it was because of those same reasons. To draw from that humor and to mix it with great action and pathos. I've always loved Shazam!, but I don't know if it's going to see the light of day anytime soon."
Perhaps we may never see a solo Captain Marvel movie, but perhaps he could show up somewhere down the line in the developing DC Cinematic Universe? Given the love for the character out there, it would be cool to see.