One Magic Word: The Powers of Captain Marvel

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Whether it is used as his name (which it shouldn’t be) or as the magic name of the wizard who gives his powers (which it should be), the word SHAZAM! is central to the Captain Marvel mythos.

Within Captain Marvel’s narrative world SHAZAM! is ultimately a mystical acronym of the heroic names from which all of Captain Marvel’s powers derive.


Interestingly, the description of these storied figures will sometimes show up as heroes (as above) and sometimes as gods in their own right – as in this recent panel from Injustice: God’s Among Us (Year 4) #13:


Considering the vast number of writers who have worked with the character over the years it should be no surprise that we have inconsistencies in the presentation of who gave Captain Marvel his power.  Nonetheless, when I see the Cap’s benefactors described as gods I am a bit surprised.  I realize an increasingly secular age is also increasingly uninformed about religions but, on the other hand, dictionaries exist.  By my count the list contains 1 Titan (Atlas), 2 gods (Zeus, Mercury), 1 demigod (Hercules), and two supernaturally gifted humans (Solomon, Achilles).

Accuse me of picking nits do you?  That may be an accurate charge.  My counter: this is one of my favorite characters and our language has adjectives that would, in fact, encapsulate all six benefactors (the aforementioned heroeslegends, etc).  Truth be told, I think there is some rich narrative resources for writers in the differences in category found among these power donors.  Maybe someday… (actually, if you know of anything I’m forgetting where a creator has parsed this out please let me know).

According to the official DC Comic’s Shazam character description the donated powers work out to the following in-story powers profile:

  • Super Strength
  • Flight
  • Invulnerability
  • Super Speed
  • Superhuman Hearing
  • Healing Factor
  • Intelligence
  • Magic [Shazamcast Note: I take this to mean “Can use, sense, and participate in magical resources]

Both ComicVine and the Shazam Wiki have extensive records of how Captain Marvel’s powers have manifested throughout his lengthy career.  Again, you see that while there has been remarkable consistency in the donors who give Cap his powers there has been very little consistency in how those powers specifically manifest.  Another example is Cap’s on-again-off-again ability to throw lightning bolts, as seen in the footage below from the Injustice: Gods Among Us video game.

Considering that Captain Marvel has the power of Zeus and that Zeus hurling lightning bolts is one of the most common images of Zeus dating back to antiquity it seems reasonable to me that this should be considered a regular component of the Captain’s powerset.


I would like to see an official, even if from a previous era, presentation from DC of the Cap’s strengths compared to the other heavy hitters of the DC Universe (i.e. Superman, Wonder Woman, etc), other speedsters, and other magic-wielders.  If that has been done and you have access to it please let me know.  The closest we’ve seen is the 1985 Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe.  However, as you can see below, it adds little clarity save for the notes about Captain Marvel’s athleticism and hand-to-hand prowess.


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