When Mark Strong was cast as Dr. Sivana, it seemed pretty clear that the brilliant British actor was going to be a fearsome foe for Asher Angel’s Billy Batson and Zachary Levi’s Shazam. But what we weren’t expecting before Shazam! released earlier this month was for one of the comics’ oldest and most mysterious team of villains to play a major part in director David F. Sandberg’s hit big screen adaptation. Just in case you’re not sure who we’re talking about, they’re called the Seven Deadly Enemies of Man and were created by C.C. Beck and Bill Parker, but you might know them better as Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy and Pride—the Seven Deadly Sins.
The Seven Deadly Enemies of Man first appeared in the comic that introduced the world to Captain Marvel, the enigmatically named Whiz Comics #2—and no, there was never a Whiz Comics #1. In a story that is almost directly replicated in the movie, the Seven Deadly Sins are monstrous representations of the classical ideal. Trapped by the Wizard’s Council in the Rock of Eternity, the demons are housed inside gothic statues and kept prisoner as a way of protecting the outside world.
If you’re wondering why the earliest iterations of the group were known as the Seven Deadly Enemies of Man rather than the Seven Deadly Sins, you can chalk that one up to self-censorship by Fawcett Comics, Shazam’s original publisher, who also went so far as to rename the sins, switching out Lust, Gluttony, Sloth and Wrath for Hatred, Laziness, Selfishness and Injustice. Just like the Sins in the movie, the monsters were usually released by another villain, though Sandberg subverts that by adding an interesting twist which sees the Seven Deadly Sins take on a powerful role in Dr. Sivana’s origin.
Even if you haven’t read the classic Shazam comics you may well have come across the sins as they’ve made appearances in the main DC Universe and fairly recently to boot. The most notable is when Geoff Johns reintroduced them in a series of Shazam backup stories that ran in the New 52’s ongoing Justice League title. Those stories, which heavily inspired the plot of Sandberg’s Shazam! and have been compiled into a single graphic novel called Shazam!: Origins, saw the iconic Shazam villains Black Adam and Dr. Sivana hunting down the mythical madness of the Seven Deadly Sins, bringing them back to the forefront of Shazam lore and readying them for their starring role in the newest DC film.
Each of the monsters harnesses the powers of the sin that they represent, and due to the esoteric nature of their creation, they have come across some of the most powerful people in the DCU. Though they’re best known as the foes of Billy Batson and his super-powered alter ego, they’re also the sworn enemies of Pandora. Introduced in the Flashpoint event, this version of the classic mythical character was, just like the woman who inspired her, cursed forever after opening a box full terrifying plagues which introduced evil—including the Seven Deadly Sins—into the mortal world.
It goes without saying that trying to adapt a property like Shazam! is tough, not only because it’s such a high concept, but also because the villains associated with the character aren’t well known like the Joker or the Reverse-Flash. But with the Seven Deadly Sins, DC has found something quite unique, as the sins represent a twisted reflection of the powers of Shazam. With Billy imbued with the powers of Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury, it’s hard to imagine a villain who can defeat him, which is why the sins make so much sense as they’re an equivalent evil group who make a terrifying adversary for Billy and all of his immortal powers.
If you enjoyed Shazam! and are curious about his comic book universe, there’s never been a better time to delve into the weird and wonderful past of the mythical magic of the Seven Deadly Sins. Just don’t give in to their temptation…
Shazam!, starring Zachary Levi, Asher Angel and Mark Strong, is now in theaters. To discover more about DC’s latest movie, click here.
Rosie Knight writes about comics, movies and TV for DCComics.com and DCUniverse.com. Be sure to follow her on Twitter at @RosieMarx.