Origins: Black Adam

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From Hugh of @hughv302

On October 21st, the first live action adaptation of Black Adam will finally debut on the
big screen after many years since Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson announced he would
portray the character back in 2014. While there are many people who are excited to
finally see the character arrive in theaters there are others who may not know anything
about the character going in. Who is Black Adam? What do we need to know about him?
Find out more below!

Origin

Like most comic book characters, Black Adam has had multiple origins and adaptations
to his character but for this overview we are going to focus on the specific origin that the
film is drawing the most inspiration from, which is the New 52 origin from 2011. As with
most live action comic book adaptations, not everything you will read here is guaranteed
to be accurately depicted in the film as there might be many changes made based on the
filmmaker’s creative liberties or influences from other comic book stories involving
Black Adam. Black Adam, formerly known as Teth Adam, was born in the fictional
multicultural country of Kahndaq but became a slave when an evil tyrant named Ibac the
First invaded it. Ibac murders Adam’s his entire family except for his nephew, Aman.
Adam would protect Aman during their time of enslavement and after saving his life,
nearly dying in the process, Aman was then approached and chosen to be the champion
of the Wizard, allowing Aman to save Adam’s life in return. Upon discovering his
nephew’s powers, Adam wept upon discovering Aman would not use them to get revenge
on Ibac for what he did to their family and their people. Therefore Adam chooses to steal
his nephew’s powers, killing Aman in the process, and activates them by saying the word
Shazam. Adam became Black Adam, the hero of Kahndaq, and brutally eliminates Ibac’s
forces and his tyrannical rule by turning Ibac to stone. His country was now free but
Adam soon fell from grace as he then chooses to betray the Wizard and his counsel.
Adam ended up murdering those that represented the powers of Shazam, sparing only the
Wizard himself. However, he was subsequently imprisoned by the Wizard, with escape
only being possible if one were to utter the word Shazam outside of his resting place.
Many years pass till modern times where Black Adam’s tomb gets unsealed by Doctor
Thaddeus Sivana when he utters the word Shazam allowing Black Adam to return in full
might. He kills Sivana’s crew but spares Sivana himself demanding to know where the
Wizard is. Sivana attempts to explain to Adam how much civilization had advanced since
the days of Kahndaq but Adam refuses to believe it and decided to reshape the world for
the better in his own image. But before he could do any of that he discovers that the
wizard has made a new champion that he considers a potential threat to him and his new
goal. Adam rampages through the city of Philadelphia to find the champion who is none
other than Billy Batson. Adam demands that Batson gives him his power threatening to
kill him and all he loves of he doesn’t comply. Batson refused to channel his powers into
Adam, instead he gave them to his foster siblings and friends, using them to fight Adam.
Despite the combined power of the newly formed Shazam family, Adam still seemed to
be completely unstoppable. It was only when Batson tricked Adam into reverting into his
human form did the fight end. The years caught up with Adam and aged him faster than he could say Shazam, making him little more than dust in the wind. As always with most
comic book characters Adam would not remain dead forever. Shazam scattered Adam’s
ashes in the deserts of Kahndaq, which were later gathered by a rebel group. They wanted
to resurrect Adam to make him their new champion and free their country from a new
oppressive ruler. With a spell recited by one of the group members, Adrianna Tomaz,
Adam returns to life and was blessed with the power of Egyptian gods: Shu, Heru, Amon,
Zehuti, Aton and Mehen. Following his return, he overthrew the leader and ruled once
more as Kahndaq’s protector. From that point on Black Adam would have frequent
conflicts and alliances with many heroes and villains of the DC universe but ultimately
his true allegiance was always to his people and his ideals of true justice. He would even
on occasion be a part of different super teams including the Shazam family and the
Justice Society whenever their goals aligned with his resulting in him being an anti-hero
in some circumstances rather than being a villain.

Powers & Weaknesses

Black Adam gained his powers from the same Wizard who granted Billy Batson his
powers so therefore they both share the same magic based abilities that can be activated
by shouting the word Shazam. These abilities include superhuman strength, superhuman
speed, superhuman endurance, superhuman knowledge, invulnerability, flight and electro
kinesis. This makes him as strong as heroes like Superman and Shazam but is considered
more dangerous due to his lack of morals and willingness to kill anyone he deems as a
threat to him or his people. His weaknesses include vulnerability to significant magic and
lightning attacks that can cause damage and can cause Black Adam to revert back to his
mortal form. One of his former weaknesses was that he couldn’t revert to normal because
if he did, he would age all the years he didn’t, meaning he would die. But after his first
defeat, magic made the dust return to his body, which in turn was rejuvenated to the age
he was when he gained his powers.

Hierarchy of Power

Dwayne Johnson has spoken highly of how Black Adam’s inclusion drastically changes
the current hierarchy of power in the DCEU. And he is not wrong because Black Adam
has a history of fighting and even defeating many powerful heroes and villains in DC
comics. Even superhero teams like the Shazam family, the JSA (Justice Society of
America) and the Justice League have been defeated by Black Adam, which shows how
powerful and dangerous he can be. The only two heroes that truly match him in terms of
strength and power are Shazam & Superman but even they have struggled with Black
Adam individually due to one thing, restraint. Both Shazam & Superman hold back from
using their full strength due to their morals and fears of harming any innocents in their
surroundings. Black Adam on the other hand never holds back when he fights and shows
no mercy to his enemies. However, there was one time where Superman chose not to
hold back in a fight with Black Adam when he realized that Black Adam is able to take a
lot of heavy hits without getting severely injured. This resulted in a more equal fight
between two godly beings that could have ended one way or the other but would result in
a draw for this time. This is the reason why many people, including Dwayne Johnson himself, are desperate to see him go toe to toe with Henry Cavill’s Superman on the big
screen.

What to expect?

Based on what has been shown in the trailers for the upcoming film and frequent
discussions from Dwayne Johnson and his crew, we may expect to see a slightly altered
version of the New 52 Origin for the character similar to the slightly altered version of
Shazam’s New 52 Origin, which were both in the same comic together. But with the
additional inclusion of the JSA and the Shazam villain Sabacc we may be seeing
influences from other stories featuring Black Adam and Shazam woven into the film.
Dwayne Johnson’s portrayal of the character seems to be pretty spot on with the comics
both physically and emotionally but there could also be some changes made to the
character’s story and personality based on any creative liberties from the filmmakers or
Dwayne Johnson who has been heavily involved with production for this film. The JSA
members chosen for this adaptation of the team all seem to have been given solid casting
choices so far with the most notable being Pierce Brosnan as Doctor Fate and Aldis
Hodge as Hawkman. However, these two characters alongside Atom Smasher and
Cyclone all have their own expansive origins and importance in the DC universe that it
would be hard to cover it all in one film without making it feel too overstuffed especially
since the focus seems to be more on Black Adam and his story. The JSA members will
likely serve as supporting characters that are getting their big screen introduction to the
DCEU alongside Black Adam but could potentially get their own future spin offs that can
expand on them individually similar to Peacemaker from The Suicide Squad. What all of
this means going forward is currently unknown due to the current lack of direction for the
DCEU but I firmly believe that Black Adam’s inclusion and establishment in the universe
will have him eventually confront his arch rival Shazam on the big screen. Black Adam
was directly referenced in the first Shazam film as the Wizard’s first champion that was
chosen recklessly teasing a potential future confrontation with Billy Batson just like in
comics. Even though the DCEU has been massively criticized for its lack of planning and
connectivity it feels like this teased confrontation has been the one thing that has been
planned and may continue to gain traction when Black Adam arrives in theaters this
October and Shazam Fury of the Gods arrives in theaters next year. Like Batman &
Joker, this is another iconic rivalry that many comic book fans like myself have dreamed
of seeing on screen and with Black Adam getting his own film to establish him in the
same universe as Shazam, that dream could become a reality.

Black Adam hits theaters on October 21st, 2022.

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