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For even longer than Shazam has officially been slated for the DC Extended Universe, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has been attached to play one of the eponymous hero's greatest enemies: Black Adam. However, due to The Rock now being one of the most popular movie stars in the world, Black Adam's importance in the DCEU has been increased. In addition to eventually appearing in a Shazam movie (though not necessarily the first one), DC announced that Black Adam will also star in his own movie. Even weirder, there's chatter that he might appear in Aquaman as well. DC has no trouble with giving villains the cinematic spotlight, as evidenced by Suicide Squad and the in-development Gotham City Sirens, but the news of Black Adam's upgraded status came as a surprise, though certainly not an unwarranted one, given the character's complexities and Johnson's fame.
Even though there's still a long wait ahead for Shazam and the Black Adam movie, we've put together a comprehensive list of everything you need to know about the anti-hero before he appears on the big screen, from what his powers are to where he's appeared outside of the comics. Let's start with information about his past.
Where He Came From
There are two individuals associated with Black Adam: Teth-Adam, his original form, and Theo Adam, his descendant. Let's start with Teth-Adam first. Although Teth-Adam originally hailed from ancient Egypt in the DC continuity, in the modern era, his home country has been switched to the fictional country Kahndaq. Due to DC continuity continually shifting around and relaunching, Black Adam's history has gone through a number of changes, so we'll only be covering the most important points.
The 1994 comic book series The Power of Shazam! showed Teth-Adam as being the son of the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II, and after impressing the wizard Shazam, he was granted the ability to become the superhuman Mighty Adam upon saying the wizard's name. For centuries, Mighty Adam used his amazing abilities (which we'll discuss in the next section) to protect Egypt from its enemies, but he was later corrupted by a woman revealed to be Blaze, Shazam's daughter, and went rogue, becoming Black Adam. After learning of Adam's turn to the dark side, the wizard stripped him of his powers, which caused Teth Adam's age to rapidly catch up with him, and eventually he became a dried corpse.
Fast forward thousands of years, and that brings us to Theo Adam, who accompanied Billy Batson's parents on an expedition as their aide. After discovering Black Adam's tomb and the scarab where the wizard Shazam kept Black Adam's powers, Theo killed the Batsons and claimed these powers for himself. Only when he transformed into Black Adam did Theo realize Teth-Adam was his ancestor. By the time Theo returned to the United States, Billy Batson had already been selected by the wizard Shazam to become Captain Marvel. So when Theo noticed Marvel's resemblance to C.C. Batson, Billy's father, he immediately realized this was the empowered son of the couple he murdered. They battled, but Captain Marvel defeated Black Adam in the end.
While it originally seemed as if Theo Adam and Black Adam were one and the same, this was later changed to them being separate beings entirely when Black Adam returned to Earth and claimed to be free of Theo's influence. This was proven when Black Adam's fingerprints were shown not to match Theo's, meaning he was not the one who killed Billy Batson's parents. From that point forward, whenever Black Adam said the word "Shazam," he would transform back into Teth-Adam, the original product. Starting with Geoff Johns and David Goyer's run on the JSA book, Black Adam was changed from an Egyptian to a Kahndaqian.
As of the New 52, Theo Adam no longer plays any role in the Shazam mythology. In this continuity, Adam was a Kahndaqian slave who escaped captivity with his nephew, Aman. Adam was mortally injured during the escape, but before he and Aman were taken again, they were rescued by the wizard and magical ruling council, who picked Aman to be their champion. Upon returning to Kahndaq and healing his uncle, Aman wanted to use his powers to free his people and cure their former slavemasters, Adam only wanted to exact vengeance for years of brutal treatment. So when Aman next said "Shazam," Adam also said the word, killed his nephew and let the magic lightning strike him, thus receiving the full powers of Black Adam. He soon eliminated all of Kahndaq's warlords and ruled over the country in a way he perceived to be fair, but after the magical council learned that Aman was dead, they fought Black Adam and locked him away. In the present era, Doctor Sivana accidentally freed Black Adam from his imprisonment, leaving the latter to continue his crusade of "justice."
How He Fights
As mentioned several times, Black Adam calls upon his powers the same away the Captain Marvel/Shazam does: by exclaiming the word "Shazam." Initially in the New 52, the names that make up the Shazam anagram are the same as the hero Shazam's; Black Adam has the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles and the speed of Mercury. However, in the older DC continuity and following Black Adam's New 52 resurrection in the Forever Evil: Black Adam one-shot, those names now belong to Egyptian gods; the stamina of Shu, the swiftness of Heru, the strength of Amon, the wisdom of Zehuti (more commonly known as Thoth), the power of Aton and the courage of Mehen.
So what does this all mean exactly? Basically, even though the deities may vary, Black Adam's abilities are almost exactly the same as Shazam's. He can fly, has super strength, is incredibly durable, is extremely fast, can cast magical lightning strikes and can call upon a vast amount of knowledge, among others. So ability-wise, he and Shazam are on equal footing, but due to Black Adam's more ruthless nature, having an adult mentality and occasional enhancement, that sometimes gives him the advantage of the World's Mightiest Mortal.
With these abilities also come the same weaknesses, namely that saying "Shazam" will turn him back into a non-powered human. As of the New 52, though, both Shazam and Black Adam have to say the word with meaning rather than just simply say it. In fact, the only way Billy Batson was able to defeat Black Adam during their first battle in the rebooted continuity was by tricking his opponent to turning back into Teth-Adam. By doing so, Teth-Adam's age caught up with him, and he disintegrated into dust. Rarely, though, does Black Adam choose to be a normal human, as he prefers wielding his power all the time.
Why He Fights
In Black Adam's early years, he was more of a stereotypical super villain who was only interested in himself. In the modern era, though, he has shifted to being more of an anti-hero rather than a full-blown evildoer. He despises those who would hurt and enslave others for greed, power, self-satisfaction, etc, and he will do everything he can to make sure that justice reigns supreme and oppression is eliminated. As an example, when the Crime Syndicate of America projected a message across the world proclaiming that the world was theirs during the Forever Evil event, Black Adam (freshly resurrected) became angry upon seeing those words, stating "The world belongs to no one." That's why he joined Lex Luthor, Captain Cold, Batman, Sinestro and others to overthrow the Crime Syndicate.
The problem is that he is more extreme and violent with dispensing justice. At the start of the 2000s, when Black Adam was transitioned from villain to anti-hero, he joined the Justice Society of America, and understandably, he was suspiciously viewed by some of his teammates. For a while, he was a valued addition, but he eventually departed the team because he believed their methods of protecting the world were ineffective. In his eyes, they weren't willing to cross the moral line necessary to establishing true peace and order. Although he has worked with other like-minded superpowered individuals in the years since, he's mostly been ostracized by the superhero community, and he's fine with that, because to him, they aren't doing enough to get the job done.
Although Black Adam is dedicated to keeping the entire world safe, he's primarily focused on protecting his home, Kahndaq. Both in the past and the present, he's overthrown the totalitarian regimes in that country so he can rule over the nation in a way he sees fit, which usually means killing anyone he believes to be a threat to the Kahndaqians without providing a trial or due process. Black Adam's word is law, and if you go against him, you will be punished. That may seem harsh to people living outside of Kahndaq, but to its citizens, it means they're free from enslavement and persecution. However, even when he is ruling, that hasn't lessened the rage buried deep in Black Adam's heart born from his personal losses.
Who He Fights
As has been stated many times already, Black Adam's primary enemy is Billy Batson, a.k.a. Captain Marvel/Shazam. Some of the best comic book super villains are foils of their respective heroes, and longtime Shazam fans know that Doctor Sivana, Shazam's other primary enemy, fulfills this role by being a weak, yet extremely intelligent, scientist. However, Black Adam also fulfills the foil role nicely by showing what would happen if Billy were to be corrupted by his powers. Shazam, like the other DC heroes, fights for justice and to keep the innocent safe, but he doesn't believe in the ends justifying the means. Black Adam, on the other hand, will do whatever it takes to deliver his version of justice, no matter what the cost.
Even though Captain Marvel/Shazam is Black Adam's main nemesis, the latter has battled other heroes in the DC universe, including Superman on several occasions. Again, though, it's worth reminding those reading that his battles with heroes in the modern era isn't because he wants to kill them for the hell of it. Usually it's because they're interfering with his activities, like keeping the people of Kahndaq safe in the way he sees fit. Villains, on the other hand, earn his full wrath, and he's been known to execute evildoers from time to time. Still, even with his incredible abilities, Black Adam has lost on occasion, like when Ultraman (Superman's evil counterpart from Earth-3) broke his jaw during Forever Evil.
His Appearances In Other Media
Dwayne Johnson's portrayal of Black Adam in the DCEU will be a lot of people's first exposure to the character, but it won't be Black Adam's first time appearing outside of the comics. His first animated appearance was in The Kid Super Power Hour with Shazam!, and in more recent years he's appeared on Batman: The Brave and the Bold (seen above), Young Justice (albeit silent) and Justice League Action. In video games, he's been a playable character in Injustice: Gods Among Us and the latter two Lego Batman video games.
However, Black Adam's most prominent on-screen appearance so far is arguably the animated short film Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam, where he was voiced by The Mummy's Arnold Vosloo. In this tale, Black Adam returned to Earth to cause chaos after spending 5,000 years in exile, and Superman is the only one around to keep humanity safe. However, due to the Man of Steel's weakness to magic, Black Adam has the advantage. In the midst of this battle, Billy Batson's origin story unfolds, where he is taken to meet the ancient wizard Shazam and is granted the powers of Captain Marvel. Between Superman and Captain Marvel, they were able to overpower Black Adam, but in the end, the antagonist was permanently defeated the same way he's been on multiple occasions in the comics: he was tricked into saying "Shazam," causing Teth-Adam to turn to dust due to thousands of years catching up with him.
Now that you know the most important details about Black Adam, let us know in the comments below what you're looking forward to most about Dwayne Johnson's iteration of the character in the comments below. If you're already a Black Adam fan, feel free to also share one of your favorite moments of his from the comics or another media story.