It’s finally happening: Black Adam is getting his own solo movie. He may not be the most famous comic book character around, but with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson set to play the mighty Khandaqi, that’s all about to change. Black Adam has largely been defined as Shazam’s perennial nemesis, but with the news that the character will likely have his name on the marquee first, it’s clear Geoff Johns and the DCEU intend to expand his reputation.
Neither hero nor villain, Black Adam is firmly in the antihero camp. Though armed with god-like powers and devil-like rage, he is a servant of justice with a strict (albeit flexible) moral code. When given the choice between playing Shazam and Black Adam, Dwayne Johnson expressed his excitement for the latter, saying, “I just love [his] backstory, and I think that Black Adam has always been, for me, the most intriguing superhero.” Take a gander at his many accomplishments and it's easy to see why.
Here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Black Adam:
Long before his acquisition by Detective Comics, Black Adam was created by Fawcett Comics writers Otto Binder and C.C. Beck. He first appeared as the Ancient Egyptian “Teth-Adam” in the 1945 issue of The Marvel Family #1, a good-hearted man handpicked by the wizard Shazam to become an all-powerful hero. Adam had to simply say the word, “Shazam,” and boom! Black Adam was born, replete with a host of powers and an all-new black suit.
Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for Adam to turn to the dark side. Corrupted by his potential, he killed the Egyptian pharaoh and took over the throne. Devastated, the wizard Shazam knows he can't strip Adam of his powers, so he exiles him to the far reaches of the universe before finding a suitable replacement for his corrupted pupil. Enter Captain Marvel, the future Shazam himself. Black Adam travels for several millennia to get back home, and when he does, he fights with the Marvel family until they trick him into mispronouncing the word that gave him his powers. After saying “Shazam” incorrectly, Black Adam loses his omnipotence and is quickly overwhelmed by thousands of years of repressed aging, reducing him to ashes in an instant. He didn't stay dead for long, of course.
Following his unfortunate demise against the Marvel Family, Black Adam went dark for a number of decades. Though he would resurface in the 1970s, he didn’t make his full return until Geoff Johns and David Goyer got their hands on him. In the New 52, Teth-Adam gets a new origin story and starts at the bottom of the rung, an angry slave in the oppressed country of Kahndaq. All of Adam’s family has been murdered in cold blood, and his only surviving relative is his kind nephew, Aman. While under siege, Adam saves his nephew from the Kahndaqi guards but is mortally wounded in the process.
Though given the chance to reach safety, Aman returns to save his battered uncle. As they flee their prison cells, Aman and Adam are suddenly teleported to the Rock of Eternity. As in the 1945 comic, Adam finds himself before the sagacious wizard, Shazam. Only this time, Adam is not the center of attention. Having witnessed Aman's sacrifice, Shazam bestows his ancient powers on the young boy, whom he recognizes as a true leader.
Upon returning to Kahndaq, Aman plans to use his powers for peaceful means and rebuild his home country anew. Adam balked at the idea, desiring instead to obliterate the dictators and eliminate everyone who killed his family. Knowing Aman would do no such thing, Adam killed his nephew and stole the powers for himself.
Though Black Adam derives his powers from saying “Shazam," the word invokes the powers not of the white-bearded wizard, but of the six Egyptian gods: Shu, Heru, Amon, Zehuti, Aton and Mehen. Fueled by the bellows of his voice, “Shazam!” is Black Adam’s war cry, and it makes him nearly unbeatable.
‘S’ stands for the god Shu, a deity that imbues Black Adam with incredible endurance and the ability to survive nearly every kind of counterattack.
‘H’ represents the speed of Heru, which enables Black Adam to fly faster than 2 miles per second on earth and at lightspeed in outer space. He's so fast that he once loaned Heru's power to The Flash himself.
‘A’ signifies the power of Amon, which helps make Black Adam one of the most powerful superheroes in the universe.
‘Z’ stands for the knowledge and wisom of Zehuti, which gives Black Adam a level of intelligence uncommon in the average superhero. He can also speak multiple languages and hypnotize people.
‘A’ delivers the force of Aton, enabling Adam to wield thunderbolts, travel across dimensions and even change forms at will.
‘M’ represents the fortitude of Mehen, giving Adam boundless courage and an inner reserve of strength to enable rapid healing in battle.
Not many superheroes can lay claim to starting a global conflict, but Black Adam is in an elite club. World War III started with a betrayal. His dear friend, the talking crocodile Sobek, had been a loyal companion for many years. Unfortunately, the reptile was actually the assassin Famine, the Fourth Horsemen of Apokolips who was created specifically to destroy Black Adam. Sobek and the other horsemen obliterate Adam’s household and kill his dear wife, Isis. In her dying breath, she urged Adam to seek glorious revenge.
Black Adam took her words very seriously and started by slaughtering 2 million people in the nation of Bialya. Like the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand before World War 1 (only demonstrably worse), this event started it all. All of Earth would rally together against the berserker Black Adam, who wrecked the globe and its many landmarks, including the Leaning Tower of Pisa. He single-handedly battled and defeated China’s top superheroes, the Teen Titans, the Doom Patrol, and countless others.
In World War III, #1, Martian Manhunter goes out of his way to slow Black Adam's global rampage. Having slaughtered millions of people, the Mighty Kahndaqian shows no signs of stopping. When J'onn calls him out, however, Black Adam all-but vaporizes him with a burst of lightning. Martian Manhunter lies broken and charred on the ground so that Adam can easily lift him up with one arm. Using his signature telepathy to garner control of Adam's mind, Martian Manhunter is traumatized by what he sees. "Be careful what you wish for," Adam warns, knowing his mind is overcome by violence and rage.
"Take it. Every man, woman and child. The memory of all those I've killed today." Adam taunts J'onn as he turns the mind control against him, claiming, "I swim in an ocean of blood and do not drown beneath the waves." Unable to bear Black Adam's physical strength nor his emotional state, Martian Manhunter flees the scene and heads for space with tears in his eyes.
Black Adam has fought Superman on several occasions, and in each showdown, he has seemed almost totally unfazed. Not only has Adam shown he can take Superman's punches, but he has been able to respond in kind with haymakers that put the Man of Steel on the defensive. An enfeebled Supes even took note of Adam’s hits mid-fight, observing, “punches land with the volume of cannon blasts and the impact of a small bomb.” More impressive than Black Adam’s competitive combat style is his ability to evade. Though he could annihilate just about anyone, he fights Superman with a notable restraint, the kind Kal-El is often criticized for exhibiting in his fights.
Finally, Black Adam holds a key advantage of Superman. With his magical powerset, Adam can devastate Superman in ways he’s not accustomed to dealing with. Magical spells have always been the Man of Steel’s leading vulnerability (well, second to Kryptonite, anyway), and Black Adam can exploit it to the max. Should Dwayne Johnson and Henry Cavill's Superman have a showdown in the coming years, you can bet Black Adam's mystical command will be on full display.
Like many dictators, Black Adam believes control is a form of freedom. When he kills his nephew Aman and steals his powers, he does so with a morally twisted objective: to seek vengeance on those who enslaved him and destroyed his family. The ends justify the means, and as the subsequent ruler of Kahndaq, he sits on a throne forged with blood. If Black Adam’s story stopped there, it would be hard to justify his character as anything other than villainous. Fortunately, he shows a complexity that broadens him into exactly the kind of man Dwayne Johnson wants to portray.
The Rock passed on Shazam and selected his archnemesis due to his complicated history, his background as a slave, and his future as a conflicted demigod. As he told IGN, “I think we have to respect and pay homage to the true mythology and then the heroic side will come down the line.” It seems Johnson recognizes the darkness inherent in Black Adam’s origins, but knows that that’s the foundation of a compelling central character. We can't wait to see what he brings to the table.
Without his voice, Black Adam has major problems. It’s the primary mechanism for accessing his powers, and without it, he’s simply Teth-Adam in human form. Though it hasn’t happened often in the comics, there have been a few occasions where silencing Black Adam proved to be the best way to beat him. In a fight against Shazam, for instance, Black Adam got humbled to his human state and had his vocal cords severed, keeping him from powering up anytime soon.
In an even harsher instance, Adam battled Ultraman and got beaten to within an inch of his life. Impervious to Black Adam’s magical powers, Ultraman reached down to grab Adam’s mandible, saying, “No more words from you.” Silencing Adam's last-ditch effort to say “Shazam!”, the evil Superman doppelganger from Earth 3 then crushed his jaw and left Black Adam broken and silent. Though few characters could take down the Mighty Kahndaqi, Ultraman did so in the most humbling of ways.
Dictators and antiheroes can have friends, too. Over the years, Black Adam and Sinestro have made quite the dynamic duo, and they don’t get enough credit for it. They’ve taken down the Crime Syndicate together, Sinestro has helped Black Adam rebuild his shattered jaw, and they’ve even thrown massive bashes at Kahndaq to celebrate their victories. Though they were buddies long before Black Adam joined the team, Sinestro recruited his friend to join the fight against The Paling, making him an honorary member of the Sinestro Corps.
Though the prospect of a Yellow Lantern Ring-bearing Black Adam is truly frightening, that’s exactly why Sinestro tapped him for the fight. Knowing the strengths of The Paling, he empowered Black Adam due to his “ability to instill great fear” in his enemies. Thanks to their partnership, Sinestro, Black Adam, and the rest of the corps soundly defeated the Paling, and to this day, Adam has kept his ring.
Should any of your pals doubt Black Adam’s physical strength, simply mention the time he weakened Ultraman by moving the moon. In the New 52, Ultraman is practically impossible to beat, having already broken Black Adam’s jaw and decimated scores of other superheroes. In their second matchup, the evil Supes clone keeps his distance from Black Adam and focuses on more pressing matters. Knowing his own vulnerabilities, Ultraman causes an eclipse by temporarily moving the moon to shield the sun. While occupied with his takedown of Alexander Luthor, Ultraman is then hoisted by his own petard when Black Adam and Sinestro reverse the planetary shift, teaming up to move the moon back to its original place. This exposes Ultraman to the harmful rays of the sun and paves the way to his eventual defeat.
Having disabled the Crime Syndicate, Black Adam and Sinestro become heroes. Though they are offered to have their criminal records expunged, neither of them has any interest in the gesture and they both flee the scene.
When Black Adam is powered up and ready to fight, he knows no limits. But how does he fare when he’s just Teth-Adam and stripped of his strength, you ask? In Black Adam: The Dark Age, the inner strength of Adam’s character is on full display. Though he lacks his powers of the gods, he is filled with an ever stronger spirit: the will to resurrect his dead wife, Isis.
Adam embarks on an odyssey to rebuild his wife’s mystical amulet, the key to bringing her back to life. While on his journey, he demonstrates a fortitude of will that would make Bruce Wayne blush. While trekking through the Himalayas, Adam is attacked by a yeti on the edge of a cliff. Stabbing it in the gut, Adam rips open the Yeti’s intestines and uses them to rappel down the mountainside. Later, he gets so hungry in the frozen tundra that he kills and eats one of the men in his dwindling caravan. This is Khal Drogo-type behavior, and it’s totally awesome.
With a résumé as complicated as his character, Black Adam has been a member on a host of superhero and supervillain teams. JSA #21 saw Black Adam humble and eager, requesting to join the Justice Society of America. Though he became a member, everyone in the JSA remained cautious of his presence, and Adam himself always had one foot out the door. Around this same time, Adam also joined Johnny Sorrow's supervillain squad, the Injustice Society, and showed off his powers by killing a few enemies in increasingly creative ways. That didn't last too long, however, as Adam flipped the tables on Sorrow and partnered up with the JSA to bring down the Injustice Society. Good luck trying to pin down this guy's allegiances.
Having also fought alongside the Suicide Squad, Black Adam won over the affection of none other than Amanda Waller herself. In Suicide Squad #58, the dangerous head of Task Force X assists Adam in his raid of a dangerous island. Though it's clear Black Adam isn't the most loyal of team members, there are plenty of possibilities for his future in the DCEU.
Geoff Johns' JSA: Black Reign is widely viewed as the definitive Black Adam story. After committing a number of atrocities, Adam recognizes his volatility and does his best to change. He made peace with a great many superheroes, including Shazam (still known as Captain Marvel back in 2005). While things were looking up, Adam's penchant for retribution swelled yet again, and he convinced some of the more gullible members of the JSA to join him in a hostile takeover of his homeland, Kahndaq. Thanks to the help of his newfound disciples, Black Adam succeeded in liberating the people and resetting the clock.
When the rest of the Justice Society of America intervened, however, they saw the truth of what had happened. In addition to executing the Kahndaqi dictator and taking over the throne, Black Adam and his JSA acolytes slaughtered the entire military in one fell swoop. As it turned out, Adam intended Kahndaq to be the first of many countries that he would invade and subvert, but thankfully, the JSA convinced him to stay local and not take over the world.
Here's a tip: don’t trick Black Adam or it’ll be the last thing you do. Just ask Psycho-Pirate, who made the mistake of teaming up with Alex Luthor in his bid to build an Edenic Earth. After harassing Power Girl and several other superheroes, Pyscho-Pirate attacked Black Adam and forced him to accidentally say “Shazam,” thus powering Luthor’s world-destroying machine. Though he was trapped by Psycho-Pirate, Nightwing and Superboy quickly freed Black Adam before stopping Alex Luthor from decimating the galaxy.
Enjoying his newfound freedom, Adam only had one thing on his mind. With arms crossed, he calmly walked over to Psycho-Pirate, called out his name, then plunged his fingers into his eye sockets. To complete the mission, Adam pushed the villain's Medusa Mask and jammed it straight through his head, exploding it in an instant. “No more silly faces,” Adam says, before his comrades ask, “was that necessary, Adam?” The righteous grimace on his face says it all: “Absolutely.”
It's the phrase The Rock used to confirm his involvement in Black Adam, and it's the perfect slogan for an antihero of his magnitude. Like a Jekyll and Hyde sort of hero, Black Adam has the capacity for kindness, but usually only when all other options have been exhausted. Who can blame him? Having lived a life of bondage that saw his family destroyed and his soul corrupted, Adam must reconcile his otherworldly powers with his distinctly human heart.
He's a man of contradictions: one who loves his homeland and the people within it, yet he'll kill anything and everything that threatens the Kahndaqi way of life. He's a proponent of law and order, but when someone wrongs him, he eliminates them without hesitation. As the Black Adam movie heads into pre-production, it will be fascinating to watch how the antihero fits into the tapestry of the DCEU. With the Justice League closing in and Justice League Dark officially on the map, one wonders which characters will kneel at his feet and which ones who will get crushed by his boot.
What else should fans know about Black Adam? Are you excited for his solo movie? Let us know in the comments!