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Shazam! Raises the Question: If Superheroes Were Real, How Would They Get Money?

Shazam standing in front of the counter at a convenience store.

In addition to just being a heck of a lot of fun, Shazam! touched on some pretty heavy subjects–the foster family system, abandonment, issues of morality. But I also found myself fascinated and subsequently angered by an unspoken question raised by the movie: How is Billy/Shazam supposed to function in the world without an adult’s income?

As a child, Billy doesn’t have access to the funds needed to exist in the adult body of his superhero alter-ego Shazam. He doesn’t even enough money to play hooky from school and get something to eat. (Or drink.)

He experiments with stealing money, but settles on soliciting tips from would-be victims of crimes and using his lighting hands as a busking trick.

Other superheroes have addressed the issue of income. Peter Parker struggled to make ends meet and managed to make money off of his Spider-Man identity. Others, like Clark Kent and Kara Danvers, have day jobs to protect their identities but which also provide them with money, even if they don’t really discuss their financial issues. Then there are the billionaires, like Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark, who presumably gives the rest of the Avengers an allowance or something, since walking around money never seems to be a thing they have to think about.

But Billy’s reliance on regular people to fund his superhero life feels more realistic than the majority of other supers’ situations. Because in real life, we’re living in a world where we have to resort to crowdfunding to get pretty much anything done. Everyone knows someone, if not many people, who have resorted to GoFundMe for medical issues or other emergencies. We constantly see “heartwarming” stories in the news about people who offer help to those in need after all the established systems let them down.

I’m not saying that there should be government assistance for superheroes (necessarily). But I do think that realistically, if supers existed, we’d be seeing a whole lot of Patreons to cover their bills–not to mention an increase in GoFundMe’s to cover medical expenses of those affected by superhero/villain violence.

Really, if superheroes were real, crowdfunding platforms would be the real financial winners. Hopefully, in the alternate reality where supers exist, there’s also single-payer healthcare.

/end Superhero soapbox.

(image: Warner Bros.)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.