There are few in the DC universe who can rival the strength of Superman or Shazam, but they can certainly rival each other. While the two have gone head-to-head a number of times over the years with varying results, Shazam has proven he’s more than capable of knocking Superman out – in fact, he’s done it with a single punch.
Funnily enough, Shazam was initially created by Fawcett Comics to be their own version of Superman after they saw how well Action Comics were selling. The character was initially called Captain Marvel, but in recent years has mostly been referred to as Shazam – likely to avoid confusion with the Marvel comics hero of the same name. Eventually, after DC sued Fawcett Comics for copyright infringement, Fawcett stopped publishing all their superhero comic books, including Shazam. Years later, DC licensed some of the Fawcett characters and started their own Shazam series, which was eventually integrated into the main DC universe after Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Shazam may be similar to the Man of Steel in a lot of ways, but one key distinction is that Shazam’s powers come from magic. While Superman isn’t weak to magic in the same way he is to kryptonite, he is vulnerable to it, which gives Shazam an edge whenever the two have to fight. That, when coupled with the element of surprise, makes it remarkably easy for Shazam to take Superman down.
In JLA Vol 3 #29, the Earth is under attack by beings called Djinn that come from the fifth dimension – also home to Mr. Mxyzptlk, a longtime adversary of the Man of Steel. In order to stop the attack, Superman plans to go into the fifth dimension, and he wants Shazam to come with him. However, right after Superman explains his plan, Captain Marvel delivers a lightning-charged punch right to Superman’s face, which knocks him out cold. Even Hourman is impressed. “Not many people can do that,” he says.
As it turns out, Billy only sucker-punched Superman to prevent him from going to the fifth dimension. “If something goes wrong in the fifth dimension, the Earth’s going to need Superman much more than it needs me,” he says. Shazam knows he’s better off going alone, and knocking Superman out proved to be a quicker solution than arguing with him. Shazam also acknowledges that he was only able to take Superman down so easily because of his vulnerability to magic, and the fact that the attack was unexpected. Even still, it’s pretty impressive.
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