When he debuted in 1939’s Whiz Comics #2 as Captain Marvel, Shazam quickly won the hearts of readers. The character regularly outsold competitors Superman and Batman, thanks to his whimsical premise and his fantastic rogues gallery. Readers returned month after month to see Captain Marvel battle mad scientist Doctor Sivana, magical baddie Black Adam, and the Monster Society of Evil, led by telepathic space worm Mister Mind. So even though Shazam! featured a variation of Doctor Savana and Black Adam stars in his own solo film, producers of Shazam! Fury of the Gods had plenty of comic book choices when it came to choosing the next baddie to battle Billy Batson and his super-powered family.
That’s why it’s a little surprising to learn that the movie’s antagonists will be the Daughters of Atlas, characters with no clear comic book antecedent. Who are these evil gods and how do they relate to established comic book characters?
Hellen Mirren as Hespera
As seen in the recently-released trailer, Helen Mirren plays Hespera, who leads the Daughters of Atlas against Shazam and his wizard mentor to retrieve the power they stole from the gods. Hespera is a variation of the Hesperides from Greek mythology, nymphs of dawn and dusk. They usually protect a garden with a golden apple tree, sometimes helping those who encounter them and other times acting as tricksters. Often portrayed as daughters of Atlas, the Hesperides appear in stories about Hercules and Jason and the Argonauts.
Outside of minor references here and there, neither Hespera nor the Hesperedies appear in DC Comics. However, the few glimpses of Hespera shown in the trailer recall Wonder Woman villain Circe. Based on the witch from Homer’s Odyssey, Circe played a major role in the 1991 DC Comics crossover War of the Gods, where she put Shazam (then still Captain Marvel) against Wonder Woman. Fury of the Gods director David F. Sandberg may be trying to use Hespera as a version of that baddie, without stepping on the toes of Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins.
Lucy Liu as Kalypso
Again, Kalypso is a character not from DC Comics but from Greek Mythology. Like the Hesperides, Calypso is a nymph charged with protecting the island Ogygia. In the Odyssey, Calypso falls in love with Odysseus and traps him for seven years on the island, enchanting him with her magical song and dance. When sorrow for his wife Penelope overtakes Odysseus, he cries out to the gods, who force Calypso to let him leave.
In the trailer for Shazam! Fury of the Gods, we see Kalypso using her powers to grow a giant tree in a stadium. Several comic book villains have similar abilities, including Jason Woodrue the Floronic Man and, most notably, Poison Ivy. As with Hespera, Kalypso may be a way for the filmmakers to use a character like Poison Ivy without violating anyone with plans for a Batman film.
Rachel Zegler as Athena
Here’s where things get a little more grounded in the comics, at least a little. One of the major goddesses in the Greek pantheon, Athena plays a big part in many myths and epics and regularly appears in DC Comics. Most famously, Athena created Wonder Woman from clay to answer the prayers of Hippolyta the Amazon. Athena participates in the War of the Gods, but it’s Shazam who brings Wonder Woman back to life after Circe reverts her into clay, using his magic instead of calling upon the goddess.
Clearly younger than the other Daughters of Atlas, Rachel Zegler‘s Athena appears only twice in the trailer, separate from the other baddies. In one shot, she’s being struck by Shazam’s lightning, which may be a variation of the resurrection plot from the comics.
What About Atlas?
While the Daughters of Atlas do not appear in DC Comics, Atlas himself does! In fact, DC has several characters called Atlas — one is the Titan of myth, who carries the world on his back; others are super-people with powers that rival Superman. A variation of the former did battle an evil Shazam recently as part of the Dark Knights: Death Metal crossover, but it seems unlikely that any of that story will make its way into the movie.
We’re sure to learn more about the Daughters of Atlas as we near Shazam! Fury of the Gods‘ release date on December 21 2022.