On a normal day, Billy Batson transforms into Shazam (previously Captain Marvel) by saying "Shazam!" and being struck by lightning. Upon being impacted by the lightning, he switches between his two forms.

But on several instances, he's shown to use this phenomenon as an attack, holding someone above him and shouting "Shazam" so that the lightning bolt hits his opponent.

enter image description here

Notably, in these instances where something blocks the path of the lightning bolt, Billy/Shazam isn't transformed. It seems that, if the lightning doesn't reach him, it doesn't effect him. And more importantly, it's possible for the lightning not to reach him.

I'm not too familiar with the character, so maybe this is a common occurrence, but are Billy's powers effectively nerfed if he's kept in a bunker or a building with a lightning rod? Does he have to have access to an open sky to transform, or can he summon "local lightning" to transform him anywhere?

  • In Batman: The Brave and the Bold he transforms indoors (and underground on at one occasion).
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 5:34

4 Answers 4


No. The lightning bolt which strikes young Billy Batson to transform him into Captain Marvel is not actually lightning - it is the physical manifestation of the Power of Shazam. However, there ARE some caveats:


In the post-crisis reality, Marvel's lightning bolts acted very much like actual lightning, and could be blocked by most materials that would block a lightning strike. That said, it was also seen numerous times to destroy roofs, walls, or other obstacles when called. The lightning was also directly connected to the wizard Shazam.

That changed when the Laws of Magic were re-written following the

death of Shazam at the hands of The Spectre.

Afterwards, Billy found himself with even more power, and quickly learned that he could control the lightning to much greater effect than before. Ultimately, he discovered that this was because the lightning now represented the Power of Shazam - the magic ability granted to Captain Marvel & his heirs from the Rock of Eternity. Billy further learned that

he had inherited Shazam's place as the avatar of that magic. He therefore took the name Marvel, with Captain Marvel Jr. (Freddy Freeman) taking his place on Earth with the code-name Shazam. While undertaking the trials to inherit the Power of Shazam, Freddy learned that

he could call the lightning without even saying the name - rather, it responded to his will.

New 52

To date, the New 52 reality has more or less kept with the final Post-Crisis definition - that the "lightning" is actually the physical extension of Captain Marvel's magical ability. Also, Billy/Marvel has the ability to control the lightning and even transform with a thought rather than a spoken word. Therefore, we must assume that - in current continuity - a roof or other obstacle would likely not stop the lightning and/or transformation.

Invincible enemies, however, such as Superman or Black Adam, COULD potentially block or deflect the bolt and thereby prevent Billy's transformation.

  • Do you have any supporting evidence for the last line?
    – T.J.L.
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 18:28

It depends on the quality of Roof.

I remember from Justice League that Superman once blocked the lightning by his body, which successfully prevented the transformation.

So, a strong roof should prevent that.

  • 1
    I'm pretty sure the scene you're talking about is the one in the picture I posted, in which case Shazam was using it as an attack and didn't want to be transformed. Do you know of any instances in which someone prevented him from transforming when he wanted to?
    – Nerrolken
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 0:13
  • 3
    @Nerrolken In Batman The Brave and The Bold, when Shazam teams up with Batman, one of Shazam's enemies (an old scientist I think it was) trapped Shazam inside a cage which was designed to absorb Shazam'z lightning srikes to power some machine. I think Shazam tries to de-Shazam himself to fit through the bars of the cage.
    – Daft
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 14:18
  • 1
    Here's the ep: The Power of Shazam
    – Daft
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 14:19
  • I won't bother posting this as an answer, because I don't know if The Brave and The Bold is canon or not.
    – Daft
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 14:25
  • @Daft Marvel Family canon is the old Fawcett books.
    – user14111
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 21:27

First, a small qualifier to others' comments. In the Pre-Crisis contiunuity, the lightning does not come from The Old Wizard, but from Zeus. There's a story from the Fawcett era (Captain Marvel Adventures #50) where we learn that when Billy says the magic word, it's Zeus' job to deliver the magic lightning. In the story, a batch of faulty lightning bolts made by Vulcan accidentally swapped Cap's powers to Billy for a time.

enter image description here

The bolts have regularly appeared within enclosed rooms, unimpeded by roofs of any masonry, nor do they cause damage to anything above Billy or Cap. From this, we can extrapolate that the bolts don't "come from the sky" as much as they simply appear Billy or Cap.

While there were stories in the Fawcett era where Sivana and other villains successfully blocked the lightning from reaching Cap, I don't recall any post-crisis stories where the lightning caused damage to roofs and masonry, or being blocked by anyting that wasn't a deliberate villain plot. I'll not dispute it, just don't recall any.

In the post-fifth age of magic, as others have said, Captain Marvel now wields the power of Shazam himself, and has taken the name Shazam. (the actual, real-world reasons behind that are annoying, but not germane to the discussion) He is no longer restricted to only saying the magic word when he wants the magic lightning. In fact, he changes the magic word for Black Adam, so he can't transform. Adam discovers the new word, accidentally

enter image description here

(Totally not on topic to the question, but this is too good a moment not to share)

At this point Cap/Shazam has total control of the lightning himself, and it's only at this point that we see him "weaponize" it, and use it to attack another person, and not to transform.


No. The lighting-from-the-sky thing is just a pretty effect. The important thing to remember is what's actually happening: Billy is calling a magic entity to cause his transformation, which has nothing to do with the magnetic fields of the planet he is on. Even if the magic-lightning did have to 'enter him' from the sky or wherever and he was indoors, it would simply find it's way in i.e. through windows, crack under door, obliterating the roof over him to get to him. I don't think it's a real issue.

Besides New52 billy is more 'shazam' than his pre-52 counterpart that was probably literally calling for the power to be given by Shazam. I'm not sure if Billy is actually drawing anything external into himself these days since Shazam pretty much died giving him his power. It's most likely just more of a battlecry now, or a spell that just triggers the transformation but doesn't draw on any external energy.

  • 3
    Your suggestion that the transformation doesn't depend on the lightning doesn't match up with the facts in my question. As I pointed out, on numerous occasions he shouts "Shazam", but the lightning impacts an opponent and Billy remains untransformed. Clearly, the transformation can be stopped if something blocks the lightning.
    – Nerrolken
    Commented Apr 14, 2015 at 18:18
  • @Nerrolken the question is tagged as dc-comics and I answered accordingly. Your example is a screenshot from a TV show which isn't valid. Writers at DC do not always directly control the cannon of the TV series and Movies, and it rarely lines up 100% with the pre-established character. I have not seen an instance of New52 (dc-comics) Billy having his transformation blocked by this method. It's comical, they wouldn't do it. Commented Apr 14, 2015 at 18:22

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