Black Adam is a fictional supervillain appearing in DC Comics. Originally created as the archenemy of the superhero Shazam, Black Adam has evolved into a more complicated antihero over the years. He is one of DC Comics’ most powerful characters and has proven to be a formidable foe for heroes such as Superman. Black Adam’s origin story has gone through various iterations over the decades, but some key elements have remained the same. He is the corrupted ancient Egyptian predecessor of Shazam who was originally named Teth-Adam. After being entombed for millennia, Black Adam is resurrected in the modern world as a ruthless being who wants to clear his name and bring justice to those he feels have wronged him. Though considered a villain, he has come into conflict with and fought alongside the heroes of the DC Universe.
Original Origin Story
Black Adam first appeared in Marvel Family #1 in 1945, created by Otto Binder and C.C. Beck. In the original Fawcett Comics origin story, Teth-Adam was a predecessor of Captain Marvel who lived in the fictional North African nation of Kahndaq during Pharaonic times. Chosen by the wizard Shazam to be a champion empowered by six Egyptian gods, Teth-Adam became corrupted by the power and was banished to the most distant star in the universe. 5,000 years later, in the modern day, an astronomical event causes Adam to return to Earth with thoughts of vengeance against Shazam. Now called Black Adam, he is determined to take over the world. Captain Marvel manages to defeat Adam, turning him back into a mortal and erasing his memory.
Revised Post-Crisis Origin Story
After DC Comics licensed and eventually purchased the Fawcett Comics characters, Black Adam’s origin story was retconned in the 1990s. In this version, Teth-Adam is the son of the ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Ramesses II, growing up in the court of his father Seti. Appointed as a champion by the wizard Shazam, Adam is corrupted by the rush of power he feels after speaking the magic word. Banished for centuries, Adam is resurrected in the modern day. This retelling expanded on Adam’s background and motivations, depicting the character as a tragic figure undone by his own hubris.
The New 52 Origin Story
Following DC’s New 52 reboot in 2011, Adam’s origin received another update. Here, he is introduced as a Kahndaqi slave in 600 BCE known only as Mighty Adam. Chosen by the Council of Wizards to be the champion empowered by the gods, Adam liberates Kahndaq but rules as a harsh dictator. The Council punishes him for his cruelty by taking his powers and burying him alive. Adam returns to life in the present day, once again determined to rule. This revised take aimed to make Adam more sympathetic by emphasizing his origins as an oppressed slave.
Black Adam’s Powers
Part of what makes Black Adam such a powerful adversary is the set of magical abilities he derives from ancient gods. When Teth-Adam first spoke the name “Shazam,” he was granted the following powers:
- S for the Wisdom of Solomon
- H for the Strength of Hercules
- A for the Stamina of Atlas
- Z for the Power of Zeus
- A for the Courage of Achilles
- M for the Speed of Mercury
This gives Black Adam superhuman strength, speed, flight, and endurance. He also has magic-based abilities like generating lightning and magical resistance to harm. After his power upgrade in the 21st century, Adam can now also generate fire, teleport, and tap into “Shazam Power” to enhance his magic. This has firmly established him as one of the strongest foes Captain Marvel and the other heroes face.
Some notable Black Adam comic book story arcs that have shaped the character over the years include:
The Power of Shazam!
In this 1990s reboot mini-series, Black Adam arrives on Earth for the first time in the modern day. His centuries of imprisonment have left him angry and ruthless. Adam battles and narrowly loses to Captain Marvel before having his powers taken away.
JSA: Black Reign
With his full powers restored, Adam conquers Kahndaq and wages war on the world. The Justice Society of America assembles to stop Adam’s violent global campaign. It culminates in an epic battle where Adam loses and has his powers bound.
After the events of Infinite Crisis, Adam goes on a year-long journey to find his path again. He takes on the role of violent antihero trying to clear his name. The series establishes Kahndaq as his homeland and introduces the Black Marvel family.
Adam joins the JSA at the request of his wife Isis, trying to find redemption as a hero. But a devastating betrayal makes Adam revert to his violent tendencies, becoming an antihero once more.
Black Adam’s Alliances
Though generally considered a villain, Black Adam has switched sides numerous times when it suits his interests. Some of his notable alliances include:
The Monster Society of Evil
|1945 debut||Mister Mind, Doctor Sivana, Ibac, King Kull|
Adam joined the original supervillain team led by Mister Mind that fought Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family.
|2000s||Wizard, Ultra-Humanite, Solomon Grundy, other villains|
Adam joined this supervillain group to torment the modern Justice Society of America.
Secret Society of Super Villains
|2000s||Sinestro, Deathstroke, Lex Luthor, other villains|
Adam joined Lex Luthor’s Secret Society in villainous plots against the Justice League.
|2010s||Deadshot, Harley Quinn, other villains|
Amanda Waller recruited a mind-controlled Adam to the Suicide Squad for deniable operations.
Black Adam in Other Media
Black Adam has made the jump to screen and video games as well:
Animated TV Shows
- The Kid Super Power Hour with Shazam! (1981-1982)
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2008-2011)
- Young Justice (2010-present)
Adam appears as an antagonist in these DC Animated Universe shows, battling Captain Marvel and the Justice League.
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2010)
- DC Universe Online (2011)
- Injustice: Gods Among Us (2013)
- LEGO DC Super Villains (2018)
Adam is featured as a boss or playable fighter in these DC Comics-based video games.
- Black Adam (2022)
Dwayne Johnson will play Black Adam in an upcoming solo film exploring the origins of the antihero.
Since his debut in 1945, Black Adam has evolved from a one-note evil villain into one of DC Comics’ most complex antiheroes. Though details of his origin story have changed, the essentials remain: he is the corrupt ancient predecessor of Shazam who becomes an immensely powerful being. Despite his turn towards being an antihero, Adam’s ruthless nature means he remains one of the most dangerous adversaries for DC’s heroes. The upcoming Black Adam film will introduce this powerful character to modern movie audiences. Adam’s moral ambiguity offers story potential, as he wrestles with his own sense of justice against the heroes’ code. This is what makes Adam an intriguing and nuanced comic book adversary.