After a long journey between delays and some reshootsthe movie of the DC antihero Black Adam has hit theaters. With the new character’s story on screen, the publisher’s cinematic extended universe takes on a whole new momentum. But, also, in some way, he returns to his origins. With 45 years of history in the world of comics, the mysterious figure played by Dwayne Johnson will mark a before and after in the Warner Bros. Discovery franchise.
But it’s not just about the arrival of a new story on the big screen. Black Adam It will include, in addition to the rebirth of the hero in the mid-nineties, the presentation of the group that accompanies him. In early trailers, footage showed Hawkman, Cyclone, Doctor Fate, and Atom Smasher. A curious addition of several of the publisher’s oldest characters, included in a novel setting.
It is a risky bet for DC, which must build a complex and almost unknown universe around Black Adam in a single movie. After all, the hero carries a history of multiple reinventions, stories and even surprising steps through editorials. Something that, to a greater or lesser extent, should show the argument, to fully understand the character played by Johnson. With as many dimensions as there are stories to tell, DC’s traditional antihero is quite the cinematic challenge.
A long road to power
Black Adam’s first comic book appearance was during the golden age of comics. The mighty figure was included in issue #1 of Marvel Family from 1945, under the Fawcett Comics imprint. At that time, the small publisher also had the license for the traditional enemy of the antihero, Shazam, then called Captain Marvel.
In its origins, Black Adam was intended to be a figure with a short life. In fact, his first battle against Captain Marvel would lead to immediate death. All in the first issue and under the notion of being a villain whose sole purpose was to allow the hero to prove himself. But his impact among readers was enough for his return five years later converted, now yes, in the main enemy of the superhero. However, by then the publisher was experiencing liquidity problems and began a restructuring that would lead to its subsequent sale.
Finally, when DC acquired much of the Fawcett licenses, Black Adam returned to the board as a major character. Always a part of the Captain Marvel universe, he made sporadic appearances for decades. Black Adam slowly went from being a villain with simple motivations (to destroy the world), to a much more complex one, and finally an anti-hero.
But it was in the 1990s that writer/artist Jerry Ordway gave him his most well-known and definitive persona. Also, the one that will surely be shown in the movie Black Adam. A figure with a personality full of facets and contradictions, but as powerful as Superman and with a clear self-awareness.
From magic, Black Adam emerged
Despite its hectic life as the intellectual property of various publishers, Black Adam’s origin story has changed little. Oddly enough, it shares some elements with parts of the movie’s plot. Shazam! by David F. Sandberg. In fact, in his prologue you can see, in broad strokes, some details of the origin of Black Adam.
The history of the antihero begins right in the story about the need for a worthy heir for great powers. In the comic, it is told how the magician Shazam looks for a successor to inherit his extraordinary abilities.. Finally, she finds him in the fictional nation of Kahndaq, in which the wise and just prince Teth Adam seems the embodiment of the ideal candidate.
Become the protector of Egypt, Teth Adam meets those who will be part of his history from now on. From the magician Nabu, the magical entity that is part of the Helmet of Destiny and that gives Dr. Fate his powers, to Prince Khufu. The latter will eventually become Hawkman and will reappear in successive reincarnations, being essentially the same character.
For decades, Teth Adam was a good-natured character, until the villains Vandal Savage and Akh-Ton destroyed Kahndaq with the Orb of Ra. The cataclysm caused the hero to go mad and, in the end, to prevent him from doing any harm, he was locked in a magical beetle and buried in a tomb. In the comic, the beetle is discovered by Theo Adam, DC’s evil assistant, and Mary Batson, Billy Batson’s parents. Opening the scarab, he unleashes the power of Teth Adam and turns into a twisted version of Shazam.
Of course, in the film version of Black Adamthe argument will dispense with the connection with the Batsons, so as not to contradict the story of 2019. In addition, as deduced from what is shown in various advances, it will modify the royal origin of Teth Adam, so instead of a prince he will be a slave. Which, without a doubt, will give a new meaning to the entire universe that surrounds the character.
Similar to Billy Batson, Black Adam invokes his powers by uttering the expression “Shazam!” Thanks to that, gains the abilities of six Egyptian gods which, combined, make him a virtually unstoppable creature. Unlike Billy’s story on the big screen, Teth Adam cannot share or create a team of superheroes from his own.
According to the comic — and apparently, the movie as well — Black Adam receives incredible stamina and invulnerability from the god Shu, and super-speed from Heru. On the other hand, from Amon, physical strength, Zehuti grants him wisdom and knowledge and Aton the ability to summon lightning. Lastly, and perhaps, Black Adam’s signature trait is that he draws, from Menthu, unflinching courage.
The mix, coupled with his temperamental and unpredictable character, makes the character a mystery. In fact, much of the promotion of Black Adam it is based on keeping the secret of how the emblematic antihero will behave. For now, one thing is certain: thanks to his arrival in the DC Extended Universe, the landscape of the franchise has become more interesting than ever.