Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Every One Of Shazam's Powers And Abilities Explained

Shazam, also known as Captain Marvel (but not to be confused with Marvel's superheroine of the same name) is one of DC Comics' most powerful and oldest heroes. First appearing in "Whiz Comics" in 1940, DC's Captain Marvel has been the feature of a live-action television show, an animated children's program, and most recently flew onto the big screen for a largely lighthearted portrayal by Zachary Levi, with a sequel set for 2023. Meanwhile his archnemesis, who shares nearly identical abilities, made his film debut in 2022's "Black Adam."

Regardless of the stacks and stacks of Captain Marvel content available, there is still some confusion from fans regarding his long list of super talents. Bestowed with magical gifts, in the care of an ancient wizard, Shazam is a heavy hitter that can stand toe-to-toe with the likes of Superman. However, this does not mean that Captain Marvel's powers are identical to the Man of Steel. 

The Shazam name is an acronym that represents the different deities from which Captain Marvel draws his powers. Meanwhile, the child Billy Batson, who transforms into an adult-sized superhero, integrates his own unique skills into his crime-fighting career. Keep reading to get the full picture of Captain Marvel's seemingly endless list of powers and abilities and learn why Shazam may be the most powerful superhero of them all.

Pure of heart

It all began with an ancient wizard. Confusingly, this powerful being also goes by the name Shazam, likely because he was the first "champion" to be bestowed the powers of the gods. As the wizard aged he searched the world over for a rightful successor, who he found in an Egyptian slave, called Teth-Adam. Unfortunately, Adam was corrupted by having such power and the wizard was forced to banish his champion, now more commonly known as Black Adam. Following his mistake, the powerful sorcerer searched for a new successor, one who would not take advantage of the gifts and use the powers of Shazam for goodwill. This brings us to Captain Marvel's first and foremost power: being pure of heart.

The wizard Shazam waited for centuries in his pursuit of someone with such a pure heart that they deserved the mightiest powers one could bestow. He eventually found his successor in a young child named Billy Batson

A homeless orphan who had survived years of abuse from his Uncle Ebenezer, young Batson was led to the Rock of Eternity where the sorcerer gifted him the powers of six gods: Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury. Unfortunately, the wizard perished moments later as the cave toppled from above. However, the sorcerer has since proven to be even more powerful in death, frequently assisting his champion.


The first ability passed to young Billy Batson is perhaps the most valuable. Upon calling the wizard's name, "Shazam," the scrawny 12-year-old child is struck by a bolt of lightning and instantly transformed into a fully-grown muscular man. The change seemingly ages Billy Batson, as both versions share similar attributes, including black hair and blue eyes. Additionally, the full-grown version is transformed with an all-red outfit featuring a lightning bolt down his chest and a white and gold cape. Boasting a new title, Captain Marvel, and a plethora of new superhuman abilities, Batson maintains his oath to the wizard to do good and becomes known as the world's mightiest mortal.

The ability to instantly age into the superhero was commonly a curse as much as a gift, as whenever the character uttered the word "Shazam," the transformation would occur whether intended or not. Additionally, in certain iterations like 1995's "The Power of Shazam," Batson is able to make slight alterations to his appearance such as adding a spacesuit or taking on the appearance of his uncle Ebenezer. This ability has not been revisited since the 1990s, but has not been discounted by DC Comics either.

Wisdom of Solomon

The first benefactor of Shazam's many powers is Solomon. Based on the real-world monarch of ancient Israel, DC Comics adapted the former king as Shazam's champion of wisdom. According to "Shazam" vol.1 #14, Solomon was bestowed from God the ability to "discern between bad and good." Subsequently, Captain Marvel gains many unique traits from the biblical figure.

Despite having the mind of a child, the superhero has an enhanced intellect with a wide scholarly knowledge, including strengths in mathematics and fluency in ancient languages. Additionally, Marvel has an eidetic memory with perfect recall, a power that served him well when he was able to craft a metal that could restrain ghosts (per "Captain Marvel Adventures" #100). Meanwhile, his rich wisdom and philosophical understandings have been known to throw off Justice League teammates who know that he is a 12-year-old boy. Finally, this power of wisdom has also granted Shazam the power to hypnotize, although he rarely uses this ability. Still, the hypnosis can be doubled with a special punch that can cause a victim to suffer from temporary amnesia, as he did with Black Adam in "Shazam!" #28.

Strength of Hercules

While it may sound self-explanatory that Captain Marvel gains his incredible strength from the demigod known as Hercules, it is difficult to detail how strong he truly can be. For us mere mortals, the strength of Shazam is unfathomable; thankfully, we have comic books to help weigh things. The inherited intensity from time's strongest man gifts Shazam the ability to throw punches with DC's toughest — in fact, he is considered one of the strongest in the universe. It is this near-invincible power that has constructed one of comic book's most significant rivalries, Shazam vs Superman.

Superman is the icon and embodiment of comic book strength, as creators have spent decades trying to imagine ways to beat the unstoppable Kryptonian. Truthfully, Shazam may be one of the very few that would stand a chance. 

Despite the two characters starting life under different publishing companies, their paths crossed many times before landing under the same badging in the 1970s. Since then, Superman and Captain Marvel have squared off, teamed up, and covered for one another countless times with their strength decidedly equal. Still, Captain Marvel did manage to knock big blue's lights out at least once using nothing but sheer muscle. In 1984's "All-Star Squadron" #36, brainwashed and under the control of Adolf Hitler, Shazam gave Superman one of his few career TKO's; thankfully, the rest of the Squadron was there to back up the Man of Steel.

Stamina of Atlas

Atlas is a Titan from Greek mythology best known for depictions of him holding the world upon his shoulders. The legend says that Atlas was sentenced to hold the sky up for eternity, following his role in the battle with the Olympians. With the Titan as one of Shazam's benefactors, this assures that the superhero has near-limitless endurance. Additionally, it is commonly noted that Captain Marvel gains a supernatural metabolism from Atlas, and does not require food, water, or even air to survive — although, he has been known to eat for pure enjoyment.

Another power purportedly blessed by Atlas is the ability to never grow old. While human-form Billy Batson ages at a regular pace, Captain Marvel will remain in peak condition regardless of time. This is showcased with Black Adam, who in many depictions will revert to a centuries-old man, or sometimes to dust, if tricked into saying that fateful magic word. Interestingly, this resolves a common dilemma in the superhero genre. While many of Shazam's peers should have aged by decades according to their catalogued adventures, Shazam's visage is one of the few that is supposed to never show the wear and tear that comes with old age.

Power of Zeus

It is the power imbued upon him from Zeus that truly separates Shazam from similar superpowered beings. While Superman and other carbon copy superheroes share many of the same physical attributes that are seen with Captain Marvel, they lack the magical powers gifted to him by the king of gods himself. The Man of Steel specifically has been documented as having a weakness in the face of magic, so this power has given Shazam the upper hand in more than one of their encounters. Conversely, Captain Marvel's connection to magic makes him equally impervious to its spells and attacks.

Shazam's magic gifts are inherent in his powers. The transformation that occurs between Billy Batson and Captain Marvel is exclaimed by a strike of so-called "living lightning, a powerful electric strike that Shazam can project from his body. The lightning gifted from Zeus can also heal Marvel instantly, and he has used it to heal others as well. Most notably, it is this ability that allows Shazam to travel dimensions, including voyages to the Rock of Eternity, where he was first given his abilities.

Courage of Achilles

Compared to super strength and magical abilities, the courage of Achilles doesn't seem to offer Shazam much. However, psychological and spiritual fortitude is an essential element in any superhero. The best example is Captain America, whose powers are limited to making him a mortal in peak physical condition. Yet, the resolve of Steve Rogers has seen him hold his own against the mightiest of Avengers, as well as the Mad Titan Thanos. Unwavering courage and willpower can make a significant difference in battle — and thanks to Achilles, Shazam has inner strength in spades.

Achilles is the primary character in Homer's "Illiad," and he was the greatest warrior of the Trojan war. He is also famous for having a specific weakness in his heel. Still, due to his steadfast resolve, the Greek warrior was able to best the Trojan prince Hector and lead his people to victory. As a benefactor to Captain Marvel, the superhero is granted unimaginable willpower. This ability is so powerful that Shazam is nearly impervious to telepathy and mind control, confidently approaching any conflict with an unshakable constitution. As stated in "Captain Marvel Adventures" #144, Shazam earns his tactical skills as well from Achilles, although it is likely Batman also taught him a thing or two.

Speed of Mercury

Lastly on Shazam's list of bestowed abilities is the speed of Mercury, a Roman god best known for his quickness. 

In a universe where the Flash and his speedy doppelgangers are running around, this blessing from Mercury is essential for any top-tier superhero. With Shazam's high speed documented as matching a lightning bolt, or at least the speed of light, Captain Marvel would undoubtedly give the scarlet speedster a run for his money. Superman even put his bet on Captain Marvel in "Justice" #7, when the Man of Steel admitted that Shazam was speedier than himself, and the power of a god should make him quicker than the fastest man.

Another power inherited from Mercury is flight, a necessity for powerhouse superheroes. Yet interestingly, Captain Marvel didn't start out with the ability. Much like Superman, who would "leap tall buildings in a single bound," Shazam was equally grounded when first introduced. However, despite it being a common debate amongst fans, it was Billy Batson who took to the air first, back in "Whiz Comics" #5. It was this minor difference that helped then-Fawcett Comics when DC Comics sued over the similarities between the two superheroes.

It's all about magic

It is also worth mentioning that Captain Marvel has many other magical abilities beyond the control of the living lightning bestowed from Zeus. After being bestowed gifts from the ancient wizard, Shazam became the sole guardian of the Rock of Eternity, where many of the wizard's artifacts and spell books were kept. While Marvel originally struggled to use any sort of magic, he perfected the art by studying the Book of Champions. Additionally, in "The Trials of Shazam" miniseries, Batson was temporarily trapped; at the Rock of Eternity, he gained many of the former wizard's powers, which only helped him hone his spellcasting.

Over the years, Shazam has showcased a variety of magic tricks, including mastering the living lightning, to strike whether he is in his child or adult form. Captain Marvel was able to change his size when he shrank down to fight Mister Mind in "Shazam" Vol. 3 #13. One issue later, Shazam was able to project fire to deflect Superboy's ice breath. Still, one of his most impressive tricks was conjuring a ping pong table in Justice League headquarters by uttering a few magic words, as seen in "Justice League" Vol. 2 #31.

The power of sharing

Shazam has one more magic trick up his sleeve, and it is worth deeper exploration. 

Much as the wizard was able to bestow almighty powers onto Billy Batson, Captain Marvel is capable of sharing his super gifts with others. This ability is showcased in the climax of the 2019 "Shazam" feature film, when the superhero transformed his foster family members. It's worth noting that the wizard considers power distribution to be Marvel's greatest ability, admitting in "Shazam" Vol.3 #9 that he chose Batson because he wanted all seven friends to be champions.

The concept of Captain Marvel sharing his superpowers with his closest friends has long been a theme in the superhero's stories. As far back as 1942, the "Marvel Family" was introduced in "Captain Marvel Adventures" #18 with the arrival of Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr. The family has grown through the years, specifically in more recent rewrites of the character that saw him sharing his gifts with six foster brothers and sisters. There are even more offshoots of Captain Marvel known as the Lieutenant Marvels; these three heroes, however, earned their gifts by the happenstance of sharing the name Billy Batson.

A skilled thief

Becoming Shazam gave Billy Batson a plethora of supernatural abilities and unimaginable power; however, the young boy brought a few tricks of his own to the table as well. 

Before ever encountering the ancient wizard, he had a talent for stealing. Orphaned and living on the streets, the child was forced to pickpocket Batson's skillset could easily have seen him become a criminal had he not earned his powers. This begs a question: How is Billy Batson considered to be pure of heart if he is in the habit of committing crimes?

The original version of young Batson, as depicted in the early comics, never would have stolen anything. In fact, in his first appearance, Uncle Ebenezer tried to get the child to steal for him and Billy refused. Like a young Arthur pulling a sword from the stone, Batson was so unwaveringly honest and good that he earned his magical powers. 

It is in modern iterations, specifically the post "New 52" era, that has seen the character pulling off these minor crimes; this remains the current canon for Batson.

He's still just a kid

Above all else, Shazam has a special trait that makes him unique amongst the gods and warriors that fill the pages of comic books. Where most comic characters are adults capable of unfathomable accomplishments, Billy Batson is still just a child. For young comic readers, Captain Marvel is instantaneously relatable. Unlike Superman or Batman — who behave like the mythological beings they are — Shazam is one of the few characters that children can believe in becoming, should they remain pure and good. All a young reader would need to imagine is meeting an ancient wizard and speaking the magic word themselves, and they could have great wisdom, strength, stamina, power, courage, and speed.

For the character, maintaining the naivety and innocence of a child is every bit as endearing a personality trait. While it may sound like a setback when standing among the powerful adults of the Justice League, the bright optimism, creativity, and awe that Batson brings to the crimefighting world are unique. Shazam is the one character who can remind the dark, brooding, and sometimes self-defeating superheroes that what they do is right, just, and amazing. It is inherent youth that puts Shazam among DC's most unique, interesting characters.