And now, the answer to speculation about why I was busy reading up on DC Comics mythology. As announced today in The Hollywood Reporter, I’m writing Captain Marvel. And I’m very, very stoked.
Captain Marvel is a superhero roughly as powerful as Superman, minus the heat-vision and cold breath.2 What’s unique about the character is that in ordinary life, he’s teenager Billy Batson. Speaking the name of the wizard who gave him his powers (Shazam) calls down a magic thunderbolt, transforming him into the studly superhero. But he’s still a teenager in there.
If this to you sounds, “Like Big, but with superpowers,” then congratulations! You now understand Hollywood.
The process of getting hired to write it has taken months. It started with a call from my agent, asking, “Hey, have you ever heard of Captain Marvel?”
The answer was an enthusiastic yes. I was vaguely aware of the character growing up,3 but it wasn’t until the character’s recent resurgence in the DC Comics universe that I started paying attention. Not more than a month before my agent’s call, I’d read a JSA and thought to myself…Someone should make a Captain Marvel movie. And now they were.
Pete Segal and producing parter, Michael Ewing, had already signed on, so the next step was meeting with them and figuring out if we shared the same tone for the movie. It’s not Spider-Man plus jokes. It’s a comic book movie where the characters in it read comics. The story needs to be funny and dramatic even if the villain never shows up. (Don’t worry, there’s a great villain.)
Once we agreed on the framework for the movie, Geoff Johns from DC was gracious enough to come in and idiot-check it for us. Having witnessed the uproar over Spidey’s organic web-shooters, we were all sensitive towards cavalierly changing things. Fortunately, Captain Marvel is pretty movie-friendly already, so we hadn’t bent or broken any mythology.
Between my time at Sundance and Pete’s prep schedule for his next movie (Get Smart), it took weeks to get a meeting with New Line. Going in for the pitch, I was warned that there would be a lot of people in the room. But I wasn’t prepared for the fact that four of the attendees would be sitting in by videoconference. It was incredibly awkward, but I got through it. And I got the job.
In my head, the movie’s called Captain Marvel, but for legal reasons, it will almost certainly be some variation on Shazam! I grumble because people will inevitably assume that the hero’s name is Shazam, when it’s not — Shazam is the old wizard. It’s like calling the Harry Potter movies “Dumbledore.” Then again, the hero isn’t a Captain, and doesn’t live in the Marvel universe. So you’re going to have confusion either way.
I can already anticipate the natural questions which will come up, most of which I can only answer, “I don’t know” or “I’m not allowed to say.” And I should re-iterate the standard disclaimer: most movies don’t get made. But I’m really hoping this one does.
- The Wikipedia article is terrific, and worth a read if you’re curious. ↩
- That’s a lazy comparison, but in my experience, the average moviegoer is familiar with roughly five superheroes: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man and Wolverine. And of those, Supes is the closest. ↩
- Yes, I saw the live-action show. Let us never speak of it again. ↩