Black Adam marks Dwayne Johnson’s official entrance into the DC Extended Universe. Despite existing for almost seventy-five years, the character isn’t one of DC’s most well-known, despite the marketing and the film itself promising a brutally action-packed epic.
DC’s best stories of the previous 20 years have revolved around Black Adam, the most nuanced (and violent) character to emerge from the Shazam mythos. A godlike being of profound honor and with an enormous capacity for violence, he has risen to prominence as one of DC’s greatest anti-heroes.
But what is it about Black Adam that makes one of the biggest action stars of his generation want to play him? That’s because he, too, has access to the awesome powers and talents that come with knowing the magic word of Shazam.
Who IS Black Adam?
To most people, the conventional Shazam acronym refers to a collection of Greek and Roman deities and heroes. When Billy Batson speaks the famous magic word, he gains the knowledge of Solomon, the power of Hercules, the endurance of Atlas, the bravery of Achilles, the swiftness of Mercury, and the strength of Hercules.
Those are relatively self-explanatory, but when Black Adam says the magic phrase, he summons the power of a new pantheon. Black Adam believes the mystical word Shazam grants him the abilities of the god’s Stamina (Shu), Swiftness (Heru), Strength (Amon), Wisdom (Zehuti), Power (Aton), and Courage (Mehen).
For the sake of dramatic convenience, let’s assume that Adam (and other members of the Shazam family) have the same level of durability as Superman and call it “stamina.” To be clear, unlike their Greek and Roman counterparts, the gods of Ancient Egyptian mythology do not have strictly defined functions.
Black Adam’s “stamina” comes from Shu, who is sometimes identified with Atlas (possibly because he is associated with the area between the ground and the sky). Here’s speed is legendary, yet you may know him better by his other name, the Ancient Egyptian sky god Horus.
Possibly not as commonly linked with quickness as Mercury, but it’s what Adam’s designers went with, so that’s what we get. Anyway, Black Adam’s incredible speed comes courtesy of Heru, so there’s that. However, neither he nor Shazam can match the speed of the Flash and are probably only as quick as Superman. It is commonly believed that his “swiftness” is what allows him to fly.
Amun, the god who bestows strength upon Adam, was a major deity in Ancient Egyptian religion. Can you describe Black Adam’s strength? Well, the books say he can take on Superman, and Dwayne Johnson has been dropping hints about a showdown.
If you remember Zehuti by his more common name, Thoth, the Egyptian god of knowledge, science, literature, and more, you will better understand his profound insights. Like Billy’s “knowledge of Solomon” feature, the significance of this for Black Adam is difficult to pin down, but he has proven to be “smart” enough to control the nation of Kahndaq (he is, as you might think, a bit of a strongman), so perhaps there is some truth to it.
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In essence, Aton is the sun god, analogous to the Greek and Roman deity Apollo in name alone. “The power of Zeus” is the equivalent in the Shazam universe, and is typically portrayed by the character’s lightning powers and immunity to magic. It’s clear from the film that Black Adam doesn’t hesitate to use his lightning powers to completely destroy his foes.
Like Shazam‘s “courage of Achilles,” “courage of Mehen” is an exemplary display of guts and determination. However, the bravery of the demigod Achilles is more commonly linked with mythology than that of the serpent deity Mehen. Though he isn’t the nicest guy, Black Adam does have a personal code of ethics that he tries to live by, even if it isn’t likely to coincide with the standards held by other heroes.
So Black Adam woke up 5000 years later and immediately knew and understood perfect English pic.twitter.com/oxgJELQg5L
— buddy love (@Kollinbenson_) December 17, 2022
Black Adam Strengths and Weaknesses
Black Adam can appear to be an absurdly powerful figure from a distance. This guy is practically Superman in terms of physical prowess and speed. The good news is that you can win against him. One problem is that he can be easily beaten by an opponent of more strength. Not many exist, yet it is possible to find one.
One reason is that he can be easily hurt by magical means. Since his abilities stem from magic, this is logical. As you’ll see in the timeline below, throughout DC history, clever wizards, heroes, and sorcerers have repeatedly stripped him of his abilities. Sometimes it’s enough to only get him to say his magic word, which turns him back into a human and leaves him open to attack.
Even the mystical elements that comprise the Rock of Eternity and provide Shazam with his abilities can weaken him, as seen in the Black Adam film. Even if it doesn’t have the same effect on him as Kryptonite has on Superman, it can nonetheless penetrate his skin.
A recent (and amazing) comic book series by Christopher Priest and Rafa Sandoval follows antihero Black Adam as he faces off against the cosmic power of Darkseid, who has left the antihero with a type of cosmic necrosis that is slowly consuming his physical form. That being said, defeating Black Adam is possible despite the difficulty.
So, what can we learn about this person’s past? Since you questioned it, here is the answer!
When shazam teased black adam🔥🔥😮😮 pic.twitter.com/FhDUMv7vWI
— Zay (@sagezayyy) December 16, 2022
The Black Adam Family
In 52 (2006) by Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid, and Keith Giffen, Black Adam is given a family of his own, although Billy Batson has always had his own Shazam family. But oh, does it end horribly, as do many portions of the Black Adam myth.
In Chapter 52, we were introduced to Adriana Tomaz, a slave who was to be presented to Black Adam, the ruler of Kahndaq, by the criminal organization Intergang. Slavery bothers Black Adam so much that he kills the gang with brutality. Tomaz becomes the hero known as Isis after he falls in love with her and gives her some of his powers (a nod to Saturday mornings of yore as the character Isis used to share a live-action programming block with Shazam back in the 1970s).
Tomaz’s brother Amon has been brutally beaten, and the lovers discover him near death. The little youngster who would one day become known as Kid Osiris receives his abilities from Black Adam. Everything looks promising until a talking, bipedal crocodile devours Kid Osiris (comics are amazing).
When it’s too late, Isis is likewise slain, but not before informing Adam that she was wrong to try to soften him and that he should seek revenge in her honor. And that’s exactly what he does, going on a murdering spree around the globe and claiming the lives of several foreign heroes before the DCU’s mystic heroes finally defeat him and drain his powers by rewriting the magic word that gives Black Adam his mystic might.
Recent comics, such as the great current Black Adam series by Christopher Priest and Rafa Sandoval, show that Adam is once again in authority in Kahndaq. While in human form, he spends most of his time here, and his Teth-Adam is a mysterious, almost Dracula-like figure. He’s also re-gifting his abilities, but that’s a tale for another day.
With Black Adam, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson enters the DCEU for real. Although the character has been around for almost 75 years, he isn’t one of DC’s most well-known, despite the marketing and the film itself promising a horrific action-packed epic.
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