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Though Billy Batson has always been the title hero of DC Comics' Shazam! books, he's never been without help. The book is about Billy's own struggles as a boy who can transform into an ultra-powerful superhero, but it's also about family, and Billy's often surrounded by his siblings in the Shazam Family as they share in his struggles and his heroic gifts. Now, as circumstance pushes Billy aside, one of those family members will step forward to wield the power of Shazam for herself.
DC Comics announced Friday, in an exclusive report from Polygon, that Billy's sister Mary Bromfield will become Shazam's new representative in a four-issue miniseries titled The New Champion of Shazam!, arriving early next year. Written by Josie Campbell (She-Ra and the Princesses of Power) with art by the great Evan "Doc" Shaner (Shazam!: Lightning Strikes), the series aims to show us what happens when a heroic act of sacrifice pushes Billy aside and seemingly removes Shazam's power from his entire family. Then a messenger arrives to grant the power to Mary in Billy's absence, setting the stage for a whole new journey just as Mary is preparing to embrace life as a civilian, and new college student, without any super powers.
“‘Who Mary is’ is the very heart of this comic,” Campbell told Polygon. “Who she is, who she wants to be, and the roles that she’s either been forced into or has willingly joined into. [...] It’s really shining a light on her and her wants and her desires — as somebody who was part of a superhero team, doesn’t have her powers, gets them back, and then she’s got a lot of choices suddenly displayed in front of her that she’s gonna have to make real fast.”
For Shaner, whose style has made him a fan-favorite Shazam artist in recent years, it's also a chance to return to characters he loves with a fresh perspective, one he hoped would finally get a chance.
“For a long time I just didn’t have any interest in returning to anything Shazam related,” Shaner told Polygon over video chat, “But I always thought Mary should be the lead of the book for a while; and that was the one time I would return if it ever happened.”
Originally introduced in Fawcett Comics in 1942, Mary was dubbed Mary Marvel in her early adventures, and was cast as Billy's twin sister and partner in superheroics. Thanks to the immense popularity of what was then known as "Captain Marvel" in the 1940s, she even starred in her own spinoff comic book series. In DC Comics continuity, she's remained an important part of the Shazam Family, even continuing her superhero role while her alter ego has been retooled to be one of Billy's foster siblings instead of a biological relation. Now, for the first time in her DC Comics era (next year marks 50 years since the characters were licensed by DC Comics), she'll get a series of her very own.
“It’s been so long since she had her own book, since before she was a DC property," Shaner said. "We’re hoping to have the fun and the creative energy behind so much of the early stuff that Binder did, but bring that to a more modern audience and try to make it more relatable to kids or young adults today.”
The New Champion of Shazam! arrives February 8.