Black Adam is a fictional antihero character appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics. Created by Otto Binder and C. C. Beck, the character is one of the archenemies of the superhero Shazam and the nemesis of the Shazam Family. Black Adam first appeared as a one-time villain for the first issue of Fawcett Comics’ The Marvel Family comic book (December 1945). However, Black Adam was revived as a recurring character after DC Comics first licensed and then acquired the Fawcett characters and began publishing Shazam (formerly Captain Marvel) Family stories under the title Shazam! in the 1970s.
Black Adam was a perverted ancient Egyptian forefather of Captain Marvel who fought his way into contemporary times to fight the hero and his Marvel Family friends, as originally presented. However, since the turn of the century, DC Comics authors Jerry Ordway, Geoff Johns, and David S. Goyer have reimagined Black Adam as a corrupted antihero striving to redeem his name and reputation. Characters such as Justice Society of America (JSA), Villains United, Infinite Crisis, and 52 have boosted the character’s popularity in the DC Universe. Black Adam was voted the 16th best comic book villain of all time by IGN in 2009.
The character will make his cinematic debut in 2022’s Black Adam portrayed by Dwayne Johnson set in the DC Extended Universe.
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The canon version of Black Adam appeared only once during Fawcett’s initial publication run of Captain Marvel comics. In The Marvel Family #1, Black Adam is an ancient Egyptian named Teth-Adam (i.e., “Mighty Human”), who is chosen by the wizard Shazam to be his successor due to his presumed moral purity. This story is reprinted in DC’s Shazam! #8 (1973), which is his first appearance in the Bronze Age.
Black Adam’s origin, as seen in The Marvel Family #1 (1945). Art by C. C. Beck and Pete Costanza
When Teth-Adam says the magic word “Shazam”, he is transformed into Mighty Adam, a super-powered being possessing the same powers that Captain Marvel would later be granted; however, Mighty Adam is soon corrupted by the vastness of his powers. Originally, the wizard Shazam grants Adam powers derived from ancient Greco-Roman deities; later in the series, it was changed to ancient Egyptian deities.
Deciding that he should rule the world, Mighty Adam overthrows and kills the pharoh and assumes the Egyptian throne. Angered by this betrayal, Shazam renames his errant champion Black Adam and—unable to revoke the powers he gave Adam—banishes him to the most distant star in the universe.
Black Adam spends the next 5,000 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, Captain Marvel Jr. and Mary Marvel. Adam’s attempts to take over the world cause the Marvels to seek counsel with Shazam, who tells them about Black Adam. Adam succeeds in gagging Billy and Freddy while they are talking to Shazam. He then ties them up, planning to kill them later. Uncle Marvel releases them while Mary battles Black Adam, enabling them to transform.