In particular, he’s referring to a story from 1946’s Captain Marvel Adventures #64, and the story “Cult of the Curse: Flames of the Magic Fiddle” where a demon’s henchmen named Nero ends up with a magical violin that can shoot flames.
The first movie was full of tiger imagery (and if you look closely at the cape clasps on Shazam’s suit, they have tiger heads on them). Those were all nods to Tawky Tawny, the talking tiger from a magical realm who would often accompany the Shazam family on adventures. In Fury of the Gods, Darla adopts a kitten who she names “Tawny.” So once again, we’re getting nods to this beloved character from DC history. But it turns out…we almost really DID get Tawky Tawny in this movie.
“We’ve been talking about ways of getting like Tawky Tawny into the movie, and there was very early talk [doing it in] this one,” Sandberg says. “But you kind of need a little bit of an explanation for it. I don’t think you could have something like that just show up, this tiger in a suit who’s talking. You need to have a little bit of an explanation for it, I think for audiences to accept that…I think they could if if he comes from a different world through the room of doors or something like that. But it wasn’t really ready for this movie.”
THE BIG CAMEOS
Of course, the big cameo that everyone is talking about is…Michael Gray, TV’s Billy Batson from the 1970s TV version of Shazam!.
“The funny thing was that for his scene, he had a different line,” Sandberg says. “But on the day we shot it I said ‘hey, we should do a version where you say, you’re the best, Captain Marvel!‘ So we get to actually call him Captain Marvel. But I figured that they weren’t gonna let us use that. But then when I talked to DC, they were like, ‘well, Marvel has mentioned DC characters in their movies… so why not? They can’t say anything.’ So I was really happy. We got to do that reference and then put him in that shirt, so he looks kind of like he did on the old show.”
GAL GADOT AS WONDER WOMAN
OK, fine, that’s not really the cameo everyone is talking about. That one is Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, who shows up to resurrect Billy Batson after he sacrifices his life to defeat Kalypso and save the world. Of course, the first film had a fakeout with a Superman cameo that was decidedly not Henry Cavill, so the director was aware of the pressure this time, especially since they tease a cameo with a “headless” Wonder Woman earlier in the movie.