Suspendium Your Disbelief
[Shazam has seemingly been killed]
Dr. Sivana: “Then I’ve murdered an innocent child. I’ll get over it.” – Superman/Shazam!: First Thunder
A red blur speeds through the skies. Shazam charges through an army of robots, turning the murderous machines into scrap metal. With the henchbots disposed of, Shazam bursts through the walls of a fortified laboratory. Countless lasers, cannons, and guns deploy from the walls, but nothing stops him. Shazam kicks in the lab’s front door.
The master of this domain reveals himself. He is a man more closely resembling a gremlin, with a hunched back, bald head, pointy ears, and full mad scientist regalia. The man is undeterred by Shazam’s appearance and brandishes a futuristic gun with a mocking chuckle. The battle begins as Shazam flies at Doctor Sivana.
Doctor Sivana is an archetypal mad scientist. He’s plagued the world since the 1930s, pushing Shazam and his allies to their limit to survive. So who is he? Why is he evil? How can a mere man keep up with Earth’s Mightiest Mortal? Let’s find out!
Radio Reprobate: Doctor Sivana’s Backstory
Doctor Sivana: “The fools! They wouldn’t pay what I demanded. At midnight we will drive every radio station from the air – forever!” – Whiz Comics #2
Doctor Sivana debuted in Whiz Comics #2 in 1939. He was created by C.C. Beck and Bill Parker. He was a mere mad scientist then, but his battles with Captain Marvel made him one of the most popular villains of the Golden Age of Comics. Chances are you’ve at least heard his catchphrase, “Curses… foiled again!”
Doctor Thaddeus Sivana was one of the world’s most brilliant scientists and invented countless revolutionary items to improve people’s lives. No one would fund his creations, calling him mad and claiming his science was pointless. Dr. Sivana grew bitter, deciding to conquer the universe, and force everyone to acknowledge him.
Sivana created a device that would block radio signals and held the world hostage. He was stopped by Shazam, then called Captain Marvel. Sivana swore revenge against Captain Marvel, much like a certain archfoe of Superman. Unlike Lex Luthor, Sivana quickly learned that Captain Marvel’s secret identity was 10-year-old Billy Batson. Learning his enemy was a child has never stopped Sivana from trying to kill the brat.
Playing with the Big Kids: Doctor Sivana’s History
Doctor Sivana: “Have I lied? Yes. Have I hurt people? Oh yes. Have I murdered the innocent? Sure. But I am not without my purpose.” – The Outsiders #40
DC Comics sued Fawcett Comics over the similarities between Superman and Captain Marvel, leaving Fawcett’s characters in limbo for twenty years. It was explained in-universe that Doctor Sivana had trapped all the heroes, villains, and supporting cast with a chemical that placed them in suspended animation. Then he accidentally was exposed to the same chemical.
Doctor Sivana’s backstory was retconned when Captain Marvel joined the DC Universe. Now he was a corrupt businessman and genius. Lex Luthor-lite in other words. The battles with Captain Marvel bankrupted his company and left Sivana’s life in shambles.
Despite his failure, everyone wants to team up with Doctor Sivana. He’s been a member of the The Injustice League, the Secret Society of Supervillains, and Mr. Mind’s Monster Society of Evil. Sivana worked alongside Luthor to save the world in Final Crisis and was responsible for unleashing Captain Marvel’s other archfoe, Black Adam.
Evil Eye: Doctor Sivana Powers and Personality
Shazam: “Multiple Sivana’s! Multiple universes. [picks up a comic] He got his idea from here. I guess it goes to show that even a comic book can be dangerous in Sivana’s hands.” – The Multiversity
Doctor Sivana is one of the smartest beings in the DC universe. He’s not very strong, but he can create just about anything given enough time. He has arrays of laser guns, robotic minions, jet packs, and other mad scientist paraphernalia. His most useful invention is Suspendium, the aforementioned chemical that trapped Captain Marvel for decades.
Unlike most mad scientists, Doctor Sivana has superpowers. He discovered a mathematical formula that lets him turn intangible. Even Captain Marvel can’t stop someone he can’t touch. An expedition to Captain Marvel’s base, the Rock of Eternity, gave Sivana’s right eye the ability to see magic. He can see through illusions, read magic languages, and see how spells work.
Arrogance is the name of the game when it comes to Doctor Sivana. He refuses to be seen as less than the best at anything, even spurning a Nobel Prize because he felt it was an insult to his work. It’s been implied that Doctor Sivana is actually the personification of the Deadly Sin of Pride.
The Actors Who Play Doctor Sivana
Sivana has rarely appeared on screen despite his popularity in the forties.
Writers intended Doctor Sivana to lead the Legion of Doom in Superfriends, but he was replaced by Lex Luthor because of the Shazam! TV show being made at the time. He debuted in Legends of the Superheros, with Andy Griffiths’ Howard Morris playing the role. Emmy nominee Alan Oppenheimer voiced Doctor Sivana in The Kid Super Power Hour With Shazam! Jim Piddock voiced the character in Batman: the Brave and the Bold. Finally, Daniel Hagen voiced Sivana in Justice League: Gods and Monsters.
Doctor Sivana makes his film debut in 2019’s Shazam! with Mark Strong in the role. This version’s character had been passed over for the power of Shazam and has invented several gadgets to match the do-gooder in combat.
Didya Get All That?
The World’s Wickedest Scientist.
Jared Bounacos has written for Movie Rewind since 2017.