Shazam’s first and most persistant nemesis.
Shazam is the next big DC hero joining the DC Extended Universe in 2019. But his first DCEU outing won’t pit him against Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam, as many fans expected. Instead, he’ll be clashing with another of his long-time enemies, Doctor Sivana (as played by Mark Strong).
Sivana may be a big part of the Shazam comics, but don’t fret if you’re unfamiliar with this mad scientist villain. We’re breaking down everything you need to know about Doctor Sivana and his rivalry with the World’s Mightiest Mortal. Read on!
If Shazam is like Superman, then Doctor Sivana is very much his Lex Luthor. This mad scientist is Billy Batson’s oldest and most persistent foe. And where Shazam is a magical hero empowered by six mighty gods, Sivana has the power of science at his disposal. Sivana is a super-genius who believes the world doesn’t appreciate what he has to offer (hence why he found a new home on the planet Venus). As a result, he’ll keep inventing new doomsday weapons to hold the world ransom until the day he finally overcomes the meddlesome Captain Marvel Family.
Powers and Abilities
Sivana typically has no inherent super powers. However, he’s an extremely intelligent scientist and gifted inventor, abilities which allow him to conjure up weapons and devices most men couldn’t even imagine. That’s allowed him to become quite a thorn in the side of Shazam and his fellow heroes.
Sivana is also a skilled strategist and tactician. That’s occasionally made him a valuable ally to his fellow villains and allowed him to serve in multiple incarnations of the Secret Society of Supervillains.
Thanks to DC’s New 52 relaunch, Sivana does have one minor superhuman ability nowadays. After being burned and half-blinded by a magical lightning bolt, Sivana can now see magical energy with the naked eye.
Origin and Background
Doctor Sivana is a character as old as Captain Marvel/Shazam himself, having also debuted in the pages of 1940’s Whiz Comics #2. He also holds the distinction of appearing in more stories than any other Shazam villain.
Sivana established his supervillain cred early on, deducing his enemy’s secret identity and attempting to hold the world ransom a number of times. However, Sivana’s tragic origin story set him apart from the one-dimensional villains of the time. Early Captain Marvel stories established that Sivana was once a promising inventor whose work was shunned by the world, compelling him to withdraw to the harsh climate on Venus and plot revenge against his own people. He even built a family of his own on Venus, with his Venusian children joining in his vendetta against the Captain Marvel Family.
Like Shazam, Sivana went into publishing limbo due to legal disputes between publisher Fawcett Comics and DC Comics. Eventually, both characters were revived and integrated into the DC Universe. At this point, Sivana’s personality and backstory were overhauled to fit the new setting. The 1987 miniseries Shazam! The New Beginning revealed that Sivana is also Billy Batson’s step-uncle, while 1994’s The Power of Shazam! established that Sivana, like Lex Luthor, was once a successful business tycoon whose hatred of his sworn enemy caused him to lose everything.
Sivana began to play a more active role in the DCU even outside the context of Shazam’s adventures. He was a prominent player in the 2006 weekly series 52, where Sivana and his fellow mad scientists took up residence on Oolong Island and wound up sparking World War III after getting on Black Adam’s bad side. Sivana also briefly played the hero in 2008’s Final Crisis, where he and Luthor helped turn the tide against Darkseid and the reincarnated New Gods.
Most recently, Sivana received another origin overhaul for DC’s New 52 relaunch. A backup story running in the pages of the monthly Justice League comic in 2012 established that Sivana is desperately searching for a magical cure to save his diseased family members. After failing to form a lasting alliance with Black Adam, Sivana is now in league with Mr. Mind, a telepathic caterpillar who’s been another long-time nemesis of Shazam. But with the New 52 making way for DC Rebirth, it’s unclear when or if this open-ended story will be continued.
Beyond the Comics
Despite the immediate popularity of the Captain Marvel franchise, it would be a long time before Sivana made the jump to other media. Fans have noted the obvious similarities between Sivana and the scientist villain in “The Magnetic Telescope,” a 1942 Superman animated short. However, Sivana wouldn’t officially appear on TV until 1979, when he was featured in both episodes of the live-action Legends of the Superheroes special (played by Howard Morris).
Sivana then played a recurring role in the 1981 animated series The Kid Super Power Hour With Shazam! (voiced by Alan Oppenheimer). He’s since had minor roles in animated projects like Batman: The Brave and the Bold and Justice League: Gods and Monsters.
For the most part, however, Sivana hasn’t been able to tag along with his nemesis on his various multimedia adventures. For instance, while the Captain Marvel franchise found a resurgence in the mid-’70s thanks to the live-action CBS series, that show downplayed the character’s rogues gallery in favor of more grounded threats. However, Sivana will finally be making his big screen debut in 2019 thanks to the Shazam movie, where he’ll be played by Mark Strong. With any luck, that’ll be the jump-start Sivana’s Hollywood career needs.