Black Adam is a fictional comic book character, created in 1945 by Otto Binder & C.C. Beck for Fawcett Comics. Originally created as a one-shot villain for Fawcett Comics' Marvel Family team of superheroes, Black Adam was revived as a recurring supervillain after DC Comics began publishing Captain Marvel/Marvel Family stories under the title Shazam! in the 1970s. As originally depicted, Black Adam was a corrupted ancient Egyptian predecessor of Captain Marvel, who found his way to modern times to challenge the hero and his Marvel Family associates.
Since the turn of the 21st century, Adam has been redefined by DC writers Jerry Ordway, Geoff Johns, and David S. Goyer as a corrupted anti-hero attempting to clear his name. Featured roles in comic books series such as JSA, Villains United, Infinite Crisis, and 52 have elevated the character to a level of prominence in DC Comics.
When Adam says the magic word "Shazam", he is transformed into a super-powered being, Teth Adam (literally translating into "Mighty Human"). Possessing the same powers that Captain Marvel would later be granted, Adam is soon corrupted by the vastness of his powers. The wizard Shazam originally gives him ancient powers derived from Greco-Roman deities (Later stories establish that the names of gods from the Egyptian pantheon make up the acronym Shazam for Black Adam).
Deciding that he should rule the world, Adam overthrows the pharaoh and assumes the throne. An angry Shazam gives his errant champion a new name -- "Black Adam" -- and banishes him to the most distant star in the universe.
Adam spends the next 5000 years flying back to Earth. By the time he makes it back, in 1945, Shazam has appointed three new champions to take his place: Captain Marvel, Mary Marvel, and Captain Marvel Jr. Adam does battle with the trio, known as the Marvel Family, but since all are equally invulnerable, the fight goes on and on without resolution. At the suggestion of the wizard Shazam, Uncle Marvel tricks Black Adam into saying the wizard's name, transforming him back into his mortal form. Adam's natural aging process takes hold, and he withers away into a skeleton within moments.
Adam's original design bore a resemblance to actor Boris Karloff, albeit with pointed elfin ears. He wore a costume similar to Captain Marvel's, except that the red portions were black, and Adam did not wear a cape (later depictions of the character gave him a black cape similar to the ones worn by the Marvel Family).
Black Adam is reintroduced to the DC Universe in The Power of Shazam! graphic novel by Jerry Ordway in 1994. In that story and the subsequent Power of Shazam! ongoing series, Adam is a deadly and evil adversary for Captain Marvel.
In this revised origin, Teth-Adam is the son of the ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Ramesses II, and impresses one of the high priests, the wizard Shazam, with his good deeds. The wizard gives Teth-Adam the power to become the superhero Mighty-Adam by speaking the name "Shazam", an acronym for Mighty Adam's powers: the stamina of Shu, the swiftness of Heru (Horus), the strength of Amon, the wisdom of Zehuti, the power of Aton, and the courage of Mehen.
Mighty Adam serves as Egypt's champion for many centuries, but becomes corrupted by the charms of a mysterious woman, revealed to be Shazam's evil daughter Blaze in disguise. The bewitched Adam is convinced that he and his mistress should rule Egypt, so he kills the Pharaoh and appoints himself ruler. Shazam learns of this treachery and strips Adam of his powers, encasing them in a mystical scarab necklace. Adam's depowered body rapidly experiences the aging process that the magic had staved off, and the former hero withers away into a dried cadaver in seconds.
Shazam buries both the body and the scarab in the tomb of Ramesses II, where he plans for it to remain for all eternity. In death, the former hero is referred to as "Khem-Adam" ("Black Adam"). Disillusioned by what he perceived as Adam's betrayal, Shazam waits several millennia before appointing a second champion to fight evil in his name.
Thousands of years later, during the late 20th century, an unscrupulous archaeological aide named Theo Adam finds himself assigned to the Malcom Expedition, financed by the Sivana Foundation to excavate the tomb of Ramesses II. Adam uncovers Khem-Adam's tomb in a secret passageway, and leads his superiors, C. C. Batson and his wife Marilyn, to the discovery. Upon first sight of Khem-Adam's scarab, Theo Adam becomes obsessed with the artifact, and kills both Batsons in order to steal it. Escaping Egypt, Theo Adam soon made his way back to America.
The Batsons' son, Billy, has been left behind in the United States, and is drafted by Shazam to become the wizard's second champion, Captain Marvel. When Theo Adam first encounters Captain Marvel, he notes both Marvel's identical appearance to C. C. Batson and the lightning-bolt insignia on Marvel's chest that had also decorated Khem-Adam's tomb. Adam therefore has a revelation, and realizes that he is a reincarnation of Khem-Adam. Grasping his stolen scarab, Adam speaks Shazam's name and is transformed into the super-powered Black Adam. Black Adam reveals himself to Captain Marvel as the Batsons' killer, and the two battle. Captain Marvel emerges victorious by snatching Adam's scarab, and therefore his power, away from him. Marvel brings Theo Adam to Shazam, who wipes Adam's memory and takes away his voice, so that he can not access his powers. This solution proves temporary, as Blaze re-enters her former lover's life and helps restore his voice, his memory, and access to his powers.
Although Adam appears during the Power of Shazam! ongoing series' first year of publication as a villain, towards the end of the series' run, Adam returns and announces that Black Adam and Theo Adam are separate personalities. Black Adam stands trial again for the murders of the Batsons, and is acquitted when it is revealed that his fingerprints do not match those of Theo Adam's.
The reformed Black Adam is still vulnerable to his murderous host's influence, and he attacks the Justice Society of America under Theo Adam's control in JSA #6 (1999). In subsequent issues, Adam joins supervillain Johnny Sorrow's Injustice Society after Sorrow removes a malignant brain tumor from Adam's brain. Adam soon betrays Sorrow, and he and the JSA defeat the Injustice Society. Claiming to be free of Theo's evil influence again, a repentant Black Adam requests membership in the Justice Society, and is granted a probationary membership in JSA #21 (2002).
During his tenure in JSA, writers Geoff Johns and David S. Goyer redefined Adam's personality and background, focusing on the character's old-fashioned and militant ideals of justice, and his officious and strongly opinionated attitude. Despite this, he has stated on many occasions that he respects the Justice Society, particularly members such as Jay Garrick. Several other JSA members are shown to be skeptical of Adam's reformation; primary among them is Atom Smasher, who later becomes Adam's close friend. The writers also created added tension in the book by having Captain Marvel, who is wholly unconvinced that Adam has reformed, join the team. One JSA story arc (issues 39 through 44) features Marvel, Hawkgirl, and Mr. Terrific venturing back in time to ancient Egypt, where they meet Mighty Adam before his corruption. During this visit, Mighty Adam is grateful to meet Captain Marvel, as Marvel's presence demonstrates that his legacy will survive him even with his children gone, and, when Marvel transforms back into Billy Batson, Adam expresses admiration for the young man's ability to handle the power of Shazam at such a young age, something he doubts he could have achieved himself.
Johns and Goyer used this story arc to slightly alter Adam's origin. The hero now hails from the fictional North African nation of Kahndaq, not Egypt, although he serves for the Egyptian prince Khufu (who is later reincarnated as JSA member Hawkman). The character of Blaze is completely removed from the origin story, and Adam's rage is described as having resulted from the conquering of Kahndaq (and the murder of his wife and children) at the hands of a magically powered supervillain named Ahk-ton (whose powers resemble future hero Metamorpho), who is working with the notorious DC immortal Vandal Savage. Mighty Adam kills Ahk-ton during the struggle, and returns to Kahndaq to reclaim it by any means necessary, including murder. The wizard Shazam does not agree with Adam's actions, and robs Adam of his powers and kills him.
In JSA #45 (2003), Black Adam and his teammate Atom Smasher both defect from the Justice Society. During the next few issues, Adam forms his own organization, which administers justice the way Adam wants it: "an eye for an eye". His roster includes a mix of DC heroes and villains, including Atom Smasher, Brainwave (who is possessed by Mister Mind), Northwind and the rest of the society of Feithera, Nemesis, and former JSA museum curator Alex Montez, the human host of the demon Eclipso. Adam's collective executes Kobra, a villain who has been acquitted by the legal justice system. Adam then turns his attentions to his old homeland of Kahndaq, now ruled by a militant dictator whose actions had long been ignored by the United Nations.
Late 2003 began the publication of a JSA/Hawkman crossover story arc titled "Black Reign", written by Geoff Johns alone, which features Adam and his militia's hostile takeover of Kahndaq. A war soon breaks out, with Adam, his comrades, and the Kahndaqi people on one side, and the Justice Society on the other. By the end of the arc, the JSA leaves Adam in control of Kahndaq, provided that he does not leave its borders, convincing him that he can't enforce his rule on the world or he is no better than the dictator he'd defeated. Brainwave is saved by the JSA, Mister Mind is apprehended thanks to the actions of the Atom, and Nemesis and Alex both die during the battle when Alex loses control of Eclipso. Only Northwind and Atom Smasher remain at Adam's side. As Kahndaq's ruler, Adam is depicted as fiercely working to protect his people and his nation.
The Society is run by Alexander Luthor, Jr., a character from the alternate world Earth-Three, who disguises himself as the Lex Luthor of the post-Crisis Earth. The Infinite Crisis limited series centers around Alexander Luthor's plan to restore the Multiverse. Needing a member of the Marvel Family to power the apparatus he has designed to recreate the alternate earths of the Multiverse, Luthor has the Society betray and capture Black Adam. With the help of the mind-controlling powers of the Psycho-Pirate, Luthor is able to control Adam and have him call down the magic Shazam lightning bolt to fuel the apparatus; the Spectre's rampage during the Day of Vengeance storyline has reverted all magic in the DC Universe to a raw, chaotic structure, and the death of the wizard Shazam has transformed him into a tether that can be used to harness the magic and use it to power his equipment. By the end of the miniseries, Black Adam is freed by Superboy and Nightwing. Adam quickly kills Psycho-Pirate and, following a failed attempt to defeat Superboy-Prime (which reveals that magic does not affect Superboy-Prime, as Adam's blows allegedly only 'tickled'), joins the heroes- although he is generally regarded as being on his own side by the other combatants- in the Battle of Metropolis, destroying Amazo shortly after his arrival.
Black Adam appears as a featured character in DC's weekly 52 comic book. Depicted as the violent protector of the nation of Khandaq, Adam kills several super-villains in public and on television to demonstrate his views. As a result, he is distrusted by the superhuman community. He creates an international metahuman coalition against the perceived metahuman supremacy of the United States. In 52, DC introduces Adrianna Tomaz, a slave offered to Adam by Intergang as a token to curry his favor. After Adam deals harshly with the slavers, Adrianna becomes Adam's love interest, and her counsel proves wise to him. In week 12 of the series, Adam uses a magical amulet, hidden on the scarab in which Shazam imprisoned him, to transform Adrianna into the superheroine Isis. Weeks later he proposes, and the two are married under the auspice of Captain Marvel and the rest of the Marvel Family.
In 52 Week 23, Black Adam and Isis, with the assistance of the Question and Renee Montoya, find Isis' brother Amon. Due to a failed escape attempt, Amon suffers near-fatal wounds. In order to save his life Black Adam bestows a portion of his own power on the boy, as Captain Marvel did for Captain Marvel Jr. Isis' brother then becomes a new addition to the Marvel Family under the name Osiris.
Osiris is accepted into the Teen Titans. Upon returning from a mission, he and the rest of the Black Marvel family are attacked by the Suicide Squad. The Black Marvels successfully defeat the Squad, but not before footage of them in battle (including Osiris' accidental killing of a Squad member) is captured by Amanda Waller, who uses it to further ruin the Black Marvel Family's reputation. Meanwhile, Khandaq is struck with a number of natural disasters, which seem to have a supernatural origin.
Wracked with guilt over the death of the Persuader, Osiris ventures to the Rock of Eternity and pleads with Captain Marvel to have his powers removed, as he fears Black Adam's influence (and those of his gods) has tainted him with evil. Black Adam arrives and the two battle until subdued by Isis and the Marvels. Osiris relents and accompanies the Black Marvel Family back home, only to be betrayed and brutally devoured by his friend, the talking crocodile Sobek, while in his mortal form.
Isis and Adam confront Sobek, who reveals that he is Famine, the Fourth Horseman of Apokolips, one of four creatures created by Intergang to attack Black Adam. Adam swiftly disposes of Sobek, and does battle with the other three Horsemen. One of them, Pestilence, infects Isis with a deadly disease before Adam kills him and his partner War. A gravely ill Isis saves Adam from Death using her powers, and tells Adam with her dying breaths that she was wrong to try to change his views on justice, and that he should avenge both her and Osiris.
Seething with fury, Adam flies to the neighboring nation of Bialya, where Death has taken refuge. Adam slaughters everyone within Bialya - the government, the army, and the citizens - while hunting for Death, whom he defeats in battle, then tortures the creature into revealing the whereabouts of its masters. Intent on revenge, Black Adam flies to Oolong Island, hideout of a coalition of evil DC Universe scientists who created the Horsemen. However, the scientists subdue him and he suffers weeks of torture at the hands of Dr. Sivana. The "Science Squad" then announce to the world that they plan to sell Black Adam as a living weapon to the highest bidder. The Justice Society assaults the island, freeing Adam. It is revealed that Chang Tzu had built the Horsemen under orders of China, who wanted Adam and his family to be assassinated after Adam left the Freedom of Power Treaty. Adam refuses to be taken into custody and once more flies off, seeking revenge for the death of his family
Enraged to the point of madness, and with his gods' blessings, Black Adam flies to China, causing massive civilian casualties and billions of dollars in property damage when various superhumans get in his way. He tears through the ranks of the world's superhumans, killing Young Frankenstein and Terra of the Teen Titans, and seriously injuring several others. He attacks China, continuing the destruction until the decimated Great Ten allows the Justice Society and a coalition of other metahumans onto Chinese soil. Captain Marvel, though unable to take away Black Adam's powers, works with a group of mystics, including Zatanna and the Phantom Stranger, to transform Black Adam into the mortal Teth-Adam. Using his abilities as the new guardian of the Rock of Eternity, Marvel changes Adam's magic word from "Shazam" to an unknown one (Later revealed to be "Chocolate Egg Cream") to prevent him from ever changing back. Despite his defeat, Teth-Adam escapes thanks to the intervention of his one-time ally Atom Smasher. He is left a mortal wandering the Middle East, unsuccessfully guessing at the word that will restore his power.
Finally reaching a secluded cave, Teth Adam resurrects Isis using a Lazarus Pit. The process is imperfect however, and Isis' new skin decays and her body literally falls apart. Adam returns her to death to end her suffering. Teth-Adam then journeys to Doctor Fate's tower, hoping to retrieve Isis' amulet. He encounters Felix Faust, who offers his assistance in return for being freed from the tower, in which he was trapped by Ralph Dibny during 52. It is also revealed here that Teth Adam's previous attempt at bringing Isis back at the Lazarus Pit failed because one of Isis's fingers was missing; an individual's remains must be fully intact for a Lazarus Pit to work properly.
With Faust's help, Black Adam's power source is changed from his six patron gods to the residual mystic energy contained in Isis' corpse. "Isis" now works as his new magic word of transformation. Once again in his superhuman form, he sets off to retrieve the scattered pieces of Isis' amulet. Faust warns Adam that this is only a temporary solution, as every time he draws power from Isis' bones, they become more fragile and less able to sustain her resurrection.
In retrieving the first part of the amulet, Teth Adam encounters Hawkman. The two have a savage battle in the sky, leading to Hawkman's serious injury. After the fight, the Justice League is notified and the team begins trying to find Black Adam. Meanwhile, while resting at a riverbank and contemplating his mission to bring back his wife, Teth Adam is shot down and badly wounded by members of the same organization that attacked him in issue one. He is, however, strong enough to speak the magic word "Isis" and transform into Black Adam. After promptly dispatching the assassins with extreme prejudice, he visits a veterinary hospital to have his wounds repaired.
After leaving the hospital, the doctors who save Teth Adam's life are attacked by the assassins. Teth Adam sees this happening, saves the two doctors, and kills one of the assassins and captures the other two. He kills them both, one by striking him with lightning and one by flying him up into the thermosphere, after getting information from them. The Justice League talk to the two doctors as part of their hunt for Teth Adam, and learn about his heroic act of saving them from the assassins. This further develops Teth Adam's anti-hero character, as it is one of his first acts of heroism since the events of World War III.
Black Adam travels by train as a stow-away and happens to arrive at Fawcett City. Seeing this as his chance to look for clues as to what Captain Marvel changed his magic word to Teth Adam roams Fawcett City reading signs and guessing what the word is. After hours of searching he enters a malt shop and accidentally discovers that the new transformation word Captain Marvel changed back in 52 was in fact "Chocolate Egg Cream". With his original power returned, he flies to Fate's Tower and confronts Faust. Faust attempts to resurrect Isis, but the resurrection fails, and Isis' bones crumble to the floor. Faust blames Black Adam for using Isis' power too much, and distraught, Black Adam flies away, ending up in the Kahndaq embassy in Gotham City. It is revealed that the bones that Faust showed to Black Adam belonged to Ralph Dibny, and Faust resurrects Isis successfully. With her under his power, he exits the tower.
Later he resumes living in his family shrine, sleeping in his coffin and mourning his dead family. He reveals that the whole meaning of his power transfer to Mary Marvel was the hope that her innocence would eventually force Mary into surrendering back his power to him, but changed enough to allow Isis' rebirth. This attempt fails, Adam returns to his state of mourning and anger, until he discoveres a bloodied flower in his shrine, believing it a sign from Isis.
|S||for the stamina of Shu||Using Shu's endurance, Black Adam can withstand and survive most types of extreme physical assaults. Additionally, he does not need to eat, sleep, or breathe and can survive unaided in space.|
|H||for the swiftness of Heru||By channeling Heru's speed, Black Adam can move at sub-light speeds in orbit. In outer space, Black Adam can fly at trans-light speeds, while on Earth he has been depicted at running at Mach 500, while less powerful.|
|A||for the strength of Amon||Black Adam has a phenomenal level of super strength, able to easily bend steel, punch through walls and lift massive objects. Adam's strength is generally depicted of being on levels equal to those of Superman and Captain Marvel, though some writers have portrayed his strength as possibly outmatching them; on at least one occasion, he has been able to successfully hold his own against an assemblage of the Justice League, Justice Society, and the Teen Titans. This is something neither Superman nor Captain Marvel have been able to do.|
|Z||for the wisdom of Zehuti||Black Adam has instant access to a vast level of scholarly knowledge. The wisdom of Zehuti also provides him with counsel and advice in times of need.|
|A||for the power of Aton||Aton's power allows Black Adam to fly, fuels the magic thunderbolt that transforms Adam, enhances Adam's other physical abilities, and magic resistance against a massive amount of magic spells and attacks. Adam can use the lightning bolt as a weapon by dodging it and allowing it to strike an opponent or target.|
|M||for the courage of Mehen||This aspect is primarily psychological, and gives Black Adam superhuman amounts of inner strength from which to draw. His strength of mind renders him resistant to telepathy and mind control. In some depictions, the courage of Mehen also provides a degree of his invulnerability to harm.|
Additionally, Adam's senses are acutely sharpened. Black Adam has repeatedly been described as a warrior who had proven himself to be highly skilled even before he was given the power of Shazam.
Saying the magic word again initially changes Black Adam back into Theo Adam, although when the Spectre strips him of his powers during the Black Vengeance affair, he reverts to Teth Adam, the ancient Khandaqi farmer who was Mighty Adam. Subsequent depictions in the 52 series also show Teth Adam as Black Adam's default mortal identity. However, Black Adam very rarely voluntarily changes back to his non-powered form.
Although he has not appeared in any other television programs or films, the character is briefly mentioned by his alter-ego's name, Teth-Adam, during a flashback in the "Ancient History" episode of Justice League Unlimited. DC Direct has released two action figures of Black Adam, the most recent based on the work of artist Alex Ross.
New Line Cinema is currently developing a Billy Batson and the Legend of Shazam! live-action feature film, with Peter Segal (The Longest Yard, 50 First Dates) as director and Michael Uslan as producer. Actor and former wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has agreed to appear in the film as Black Adam
He also appears as a character in the Graphic Audio audiobooks for Infinite Crisis (in a small role) and 52 (in which he plays a major part).
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