Shazam is a comic book character created by Bill Parker and C. C. Beck for Fawcett Comics. He is an ancient sorcerer (Whiz Comics #2 gives his age as 3,000 years) who gives young Billy Batson the power to transform into the superhero Captain Marvel. Because DC Comics has billed Captain Marvel's adventures under the name Shazam! since 1973, the superhero is often mistakenly referred to by his mentor's name.
Shazam informs Billy that he is an ancient Egyptian wizard who has been using his powers for many centuries to fight the forces of evil, but that he is now old and not long for this world. He therefore passes along part of his power to Billy, who shouts his name — "SHAZAM!" — to transform into Captain Marvel. Although Shazam is killed, as prophesied, by a giant granite block falling on him, Billy/Marvel can summon the ghost of Shazam for guidance by lighting a special brazier in Shazam's lair (the Rock of Eternity). More superheroes soon joined Marvel in carrying on the legacy of Shazam, including Marvel Family members Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr. Shazam tells that once, 5000 years before, he gave powers to Black Adam, but banished him to the furthest star in the universe for trying to use them to take over the world.
When Billy first meets him, Shazam tells Billy that his name is an acronym for six ancient heroes. Each letter empowers him with certain attributes:
S The wisdom of Solomon;
H The strength of Hercules;
A The stamina of Atlas;
Z The power of Zeus;
A The courage of Achilles;
M The speed of Mercury.
Originally, the wizard's name was Shazamo, the last letter standing for the hero of magic, Oggar. However, Oggar became corrupt and tried to take power from Shazamo. The wizard defeated Oggar and cursed him to live amongst the world of mortals. He was given cloven hooves as a sign of his inner evil, and could cast each magic spell only once. Shazamo then dropped the last letter of his name.
In a story written by E. Nelson Bridwell for World's Finest Comics #262 (cover date April/May 1980), Shazam's origins are further explored. This gave him a backstory in which he was a young shepherd who becomes the Champion, one of the world's first superheroes in ancient Canaan, over 5,000 years ago. By speaking the magic word "VLAREM!" Vlarem (an anagram of "Marvel"), he gained the power of the following fictional gods:
V for the strength of Voldar The Champion has incredible amounts of super strength, and is able to easily bend steel, punch through walls, and lift massive objects.
L for the wisdom of Lumian As the Champion, Shazam has instant access to a vast amount of scholarly knowledge, he can understand all languages.
A for the speed of Arel By channeling Arel's speed, the Champion can fly and move at unlimited speeds.
R for the power of Ribalvei Ribalvei's power, besides fueling the magic thunderbolt that transformed the Champion, also enhances the Champion's other physical and mental abilities, provides physical invulnerability, and grants magic resistance against most magic spells and attacks as well as allowing for interdimensional travel.
E for the courage of Elbiam Like wisdom, this aspect is primarily psychological and gives the Champion superhuman amounts of inner strength on which to draw. It also makes him highly resistant to mind control.
M for the stamina of Marzosh Using Marzosh's endurance, the Champion can withstand and survive most types of extreme physical assaults. Additionally, he does not need to eat, sleep, or breathe and can survive unaided in space when in his Champion form.
At one point, the Champion is seduced by a demoness disguised as a beautiful woman, and the two of them conceive two half-demon offspring, Blaze and Satanus, much to the displeasure of the gods. The Champion later creates the Rock of Eternity from two large rock formations — one from Heaven and one from Hell — to hold the Three Faces of Evil, a dragon-like demon, captive. Shazam trapped demons of the Seven Deadly Sins in statues of themselves and imprisoned them at the Rock of Eternity.
Many centuries later, the Champion, now going by the name of Shazam, feels the need to pass along his powers to a successor. He selects the pharaoh's son Teth-Adam to receive the power to become the superpowered Mighty Adam by speaking the word "SHAZAM!". However, Blaze interferes with this succession and Adam is given powers from the following deities instead:
S The stamina of Shu;
H The speed of Heru;
A The strength of Amon;
Z The wisdom of Zehuti;
A The power of Aton;
M The courage of Mehen.
As her mother did, Shazam's daughter Blaze takes on the form of a beautiful woman and seduces Adam, convincing him to kill the pharaoh and take over the kingdom. An angry Shazam draws Mighty-Adam's powers out of him and into a large jeweled scarab, thereby killing Adam as he ages to death. Shazam then seals his remains and the amulet in a tomb. A wicked reincarnation of Teth-Adam named Theo Adam would steal the scarab many centuries later, and use the power of Shazam to become Black Adam. Shazam was upset by this, and did not consider passing on his powers for millennia.
The wizard resurfaces as an aide on the 1940 Malcolm Expedition, one of many archaeological expeditions into the tombs and pyramids of ancient Egypt. The sarcophagi of Ibis the Invincible and his mate Princess Taia are uncovered and brought to the United States. Shazam follows the sarcophagi and, once they are on display at the Fawcett City Museum, uses ancient spells to resurrect Ibis. Ibis then joins Bulletman, Spy Smasher, Minute-Man, and others to fight evil during the World War II era.
In 1955, a thug knocks Shazam across the head with a crowbar and causes him to lose his memory. A clueless Shazam wanders around Fawcett for the next forty years until C.C. Batson, a young man Shazam had met on the Malcolm Expedition, recognizes the old man and brings him to the museum to restore his memory. Shazam feels that he has truly found his successor in the upstanding Batson, but before he can act on this, a possessed Theo Adam murders Batson and his wife Marilyn for the magic amulet. He therefore decides to enlist C.C. Batson's young son, Billy, as the successor to his power. In the Marvel Family series he was shown in some early issues carving the Marvel Family adventures into the Rock of Eternity.