DC Direct is generally pretty smart about their exclusive figures. They've offered four figures through ToyFare magazine, and so far they've just been slightly different versions of existing characters - but different enough to warrant a purchase. Tying in to Superman/Batman Series 1: Public Enemies was this exclusive of Superman as Shazam.
In the "Public Enemies" story,
scientists discovered a huge Kryptonite asteroid the size of Brazil headed for Earth. President Lex Luthor declared that this was a plot by Superman, and placed a $1 billion bounty on the hero. After several failed attempts to bring in the man of steel (and his apparent partner, Batman), it was the JSAers Hawkman and Captain Marvel who managed to defeat the pair and bring them back to the White House.
It was the kind of smart storytelling not often seen in fiction. Superman was fighting Shazam, and Batman was facing Hawkman. Realizing they were too evenly matched, Clark and Bruce switched partners. Yeah, that's a tactic seen in lots of stories, but Jeph Loeb threw in a twist: this time, the foes were prepared. But when they got back to the White House, the heroes began acting out of character and when Luthor confronted Captain Marvel, the truth was revealed: Shazam and Hawkman were really Superman and Batman in disguise.
From a story point of view, it was a nice Trojan Horse effort to get Superman into a position where he could confront his accuser and try to clear his name. From a reader's point of view, it's a reference to the old lawsuit in which DC claimed that Fawcett had infringed on their rights and sued them into ceasing publication (conveniently, DC only noticed this infringement after Captain Marvel began to out-sell Superman). Playing on the two heroes' similarities is a subtly metatextual bit of writing for a medium that still thinks "Mr. Evil" is a clever name for a villain. It also helps deflect criticism that artist Ed McGuinness draws all his heroes the same way by hanging a lantern on it.
Fans complained that all of DCD's Public Enemies figures looked like they were based on the same mold, but in this case that's a plus. Superman as Shazam is based on the Captain Marvel figure, obviously, utilizing the Big Red Cheese's arms and legs and the existing Superman head. The torso actually gets a new sculpt, though, to be completely comic-accurate. Supes didn't just open his shirt (Clark Kent style) to reveal the S, Luthor grabbed the front of Shazam's suit and tore it off, and this figure reflects that. They probably could have gotten away with just putting Superman's head on the Captain Marvel body, but they went further.
The figure definitely gets its stylistic influence from McGuinness - it's not just the blocky body or the sharp angles, but the design elements of the costume. The big folded boots are standard, but the ridges on his bracers are just nuts. His cape's looking nice, but it's not removable like the Kingdom Come version was. Since the front of his suit is ripped away, we don't get to see the big lightning bolt on his chest. Awww, sadface!
The paint is good. Shazam's suit is flat red, while his belt and bracers are golden.
Cap's boots are just plain yellow, though; shouldn't they match the rest of his clothes? The blue used for the Superman bit of the costume contrasts nicely with the red, but you can really see how metallic his paint job was. Is. Whatever. Clark still has the blue streaks in his hair and the little squinty eyes. Articulation is on par with DC Direct's figures: head, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees and boot tops. No one ever did figure out why this line didn't have balljointed heads, especially for the three flying characters. Superman has no accessories to aid him in his masquerade - just the same red and black S/B logo base as the other figures in this line.
Superman/Batman Series 1 was all "Public Enemies," but that was pushed aside for Series 2's (horrible) take on "The Supergirl From Krypton" (but called, for some reason, "Return of Supergirl"). The next set will return to "Public Enemies," making it officially DC Direct Superman/Batman 3 Public Enemies 2, which has to be one of the most unwieldy titles ever. We already know Captain Marvel's team-up buddy is in that assortment - maybe DCD and ToyFare will come through with a Batman as Hawkman to complement Superman as Shazam.
If he's magic-based, shouldn't Captain Marvel beat Superman easily every time? Tell us on our message board, The Loafing Lounge.