One recurring joke in Shazam! subtly makes the Marvel character canon in the DCEU and creates a small but obvious problem with the continuity of the franchise. The DCEU may have started on shaky ground with a number of divisive films, but Shazam 2019! received widespread praise for the much-needed levity he brought to the DCEU. By telling the story of Billy Batson, a boy endowed with the ability to transform into the powerful hero Shazam, the film was able to bring humor and a slightly more lighthearted tone to the franchise, which was especially important after criticism that the DCEU was too dark and rude.
Shazam! serves as the origin story of the main character in the DCEU, and as a result, much of the film focuses on how Batson learns to manage his new dual personality. After discovering his powers, he starts looking for a superhero name, and it is often joked in the film that Billy finds it difficult to choose a definitive nickname for his alter ego. One of the many names given to Shazam when he starts trending online is “Zap-tain America,” a name that repeats once or twice throughout the film. This is an obvious allusion to Captain America from Marvel, taking into account Shazam’s lightning-fast abilities as a pun.
The use of a pun seems to make Captain America canon in the DCEU, despite the fact that he has never been mentioned before. While he may just exist as a fictional character in the franchise, the idea that the DCEU has both very real, tangible heroes and individual fictional ones is a little annoying. It also raises the question of what other Marvel characters exist in the DCEU and why they don’t appear more often (especially because the franchise’s stories focus on superheroes).
Although this is nothing more than a passing phrase, there is no mistaking the idea of a joke. The “America” part of the pun doesn’t make sense in any other context, and that’s why the Shazam characters! they know about the existence of Captain America. This is not much different from the reference to Superman from The Eternals, which also creates a strange and unnecessary problem as to how and why Marvel and DC continue to refer to their rivals’ heroes in their films. It seems that there is no hostility in the references, but the lack of any elaboration is a blatant and annoying inconsistency that makes the joke clearly unfunny.
Although the joke about Shazam’s inability to choose a name serves as a subtle reference to the actual name change of the character, the use of a pun with Captain America was completely unnecessary. Nodding to the Marvel hero, Shazam! seemingly confirmed the existence of Marvel in the DCEU canon, and did so without any additional context or explanation. The worst part, perhaps, is that the joke doesn’t make sense even on any other level, which is why Captain America is from Shazam! mentions nothing more than a vaguely confusing and ultimately meaningless inclusion.