Discover a part of the history of Black Adam, a villain who has been presented with several opportunities for redemption within the DC Universe
Will a villain like Black Adam have the chance to? In 2016, writer Christopher Priest took us on a journey through the life and times of one of the DC Universe’s most dangerous villains: Deathstroke the Terminator.
It may interest you: Why did Shazam and Black Adam have separate movies?
Unlike previous Deathstroke comics, Priest’s goal was to present the mercenary Slade Wilson as the vile, reprehensible soul that he was without a sugar coating. Deathstroke wasn’t an antihero under Priest’s pen, he was a monster. Even when Slade didn’t want to believe that himself.
Six years later, Priest makes his return to DC this week with a new protagonist: Black Adam, the original fallen champion of Shazam. With a Black Adam movie in the offing, it’s time for Billy Batson’s most notorious foe to step onto the scene.
But if his image of Black Adam is just a darker, more serious Billy, then he’s underestimating how low he’s sunk. After all Black Adam has done, Kahndaq’s so-called protector may be beyond redemption.
Is Black Adam capable of becoming the champion of humanity that the Wizard once saw within him? Or is he, like Deathstroke, forever destined to succumb to his worst nature? Perhaps we will find an answer within the fall, rise, fall, rise, and fall again of Earth’s mightiest threat.
The times before the Crisis on Infinite Earths
The public perception of the Shazam mythology is that Black Adam has always been the opposite of Billy Batson. But from Billy’s first appearance until DC acquired the rights to Shazam from Fawcett Comics in the 1970s, Black Adam only made one appearance: as a foe worthy of defeating the entire invincible Marvel Family.
In 1945’s Marvel Family #1, the Wizard Shazam tells Shazam (formerly Captain Marvel), Mary Marvel, and Captain Marvel Jr. the story of his first champion. The mage had first chosen an Egyptian man named Teth-Adam to wield the power of the gods against man’s enemies, but he quickly succumbed to his power in the name of global conquest.
The wizard Shazam sealed Black Adam for 5,000 years, naming him Black Adam for his gross error in judgment. When Black Adam returns, it is Billy’s Uncle Dudley who kills the invincible foe by tricking him into saying “Shazam”, instantly aging him five millennia by reverting to his mortal form.
That was the last time anyone saw Black Adam in over thirty years. In DC’s Shazam #28, mad scientist Dr. Sivana uses his resurrection machine to bring Black Adam back to life and exact revenge on Shazam and the Marvel Family.
As in his first appearance, this incarnation of Black Adam showed no signs of heroism and was fully committed to defeating those who had surpassed him in the past. This original Black Adam was completely evil to the end, fighting Earth’s heroes until Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Clearly, for Black Adam, as creators Otto Binder and CC Beck envisioned it, there was never a thought of redemption at all.
The Shazam mythology experienced a couple of false starts after the cosmic shakeup of the Crisis, but finally found support in 1994’s Power of Shazam! Jerry Ordway series. This comic introduces us to two Black Adams.
Here we learn that the original Teth-Adam actually served his duties well for centuries until he was seduced into his plans for global conquest by the demon Lady Blaze. The wizard strips Teth-Adam of his power, killing him with the onset of the age, and contains that power in a mystical scarab.
The second Black Adam, a rogue archaeologist named Theo Adam, was completely evil from the start. Theo, as Billy eventually learns, was responsible for the murder of his own parents, who were killed while he was fighting to gain the power of Black Adam’s scarab.
Billy and his allies battle this reincarnated Black Adam throughout the series, but when Theo’s memory is wiped by Shazam to prevent him from accessing power again, the personality of the original Teth-Adam emerges in the place of the subsumed Theo. Perhaps this new Black Adam, whose downfall was brought about by demonic influence, may one day return to his heroic roots.
Ruler of Khandaq
However, Black Adam as we know him today bears little resemblance to Binder and Beck’s Black Adam, or even Ordway’s demon-smitten pharaoh. In Geoff Johns’ new revision of the Black Adam story with David S. Goyer, as seen in his JSA series, Adam was driven to villainy after a career of heroism by an injustice, as the corruption of his morals brought about for a great tragedy.
This time, it was Metamorpho’s predecessor, Akh-ton, who caused Teth-Adam’s change of heart by using his power to conquer Kahndaq and murder Adam’s wife and children. Teth-Adam’s downfall occurs when he murders Akh-ton in the same way and resolves never to show weakness again, forcing peace on Earth on his own brutal and uncompromising terms.
In the mind of this Black Adam, the one we know best now, he never fell at all. The harsh and merciless justice he imposes on his people is what he believes is necessary for them to prosper in peace.
Now reincarnated, and after a brief stint with the Justice Society of America, this Black Adam forgot for a moment that he was a villain and returned to his people to rule over them as he did once in millennia past (changed ever so slightly to the name of the good taste from Egypt to the Middle East, in the fictional nation of Kahndaq). Among his people, Black Adam was so powerful that no one could do much to stop him, nor was it clear if stopping him was the right thing to do.
A direct weakness
In a reversal of Ordway’s story, this Black Adam was influenced by a woman to lean towards mercy and charity for her people: Adrianna Tomaz, an Egyptian freedom fighter, with whom Black Adam shares his power, being villainous.
But when Adrianna is betrayed and murdered, Black Adam wages war against the world, pitting the entire population of Earth’s heroes against his wrath.
Black Adam spends the next few years after World War 3 trying only to restore his lost love, his resurrection is all that really matters to him. It seems, then, that the key to manipulating Black Adam for good or evil lies within his heart.
After the start of the New 52 in 2011, Black Adam returns to antagonize Billy Batson. This version of Black Adam is much more sinister. Though he rose to conquer the Enemies of Man before his own fall, Johns shares that the way Adam acquired his powers had doomed him from the start.
As slaves, Adam’s nephew Aman was chosen by the Wizard as his original champion. But determining that Aman lacked the conviction to do what was necessary to save humanity, Adam sacrificed his nephew to gain the power of Shazam for himself. Could Black Adam do any good with the power he stole to justify this blood on his hands?
That’s a question Superman doesn’t even know how to ask, as evidenced when he invited the villainous Black Adam to join the Justice League in Infinite Frontier #0. Surrounded by good influences through Brian Michael Bendis’s run for the group title, he even seemed to be doing just fine as a hero.
But as the sole survivor of the Dark Army’s destruction of the League in Justice League #75, all role models oblivious to his dark origins are no longer around to guide his moral compass. And while the world has forgotten Black Adam’s original sin, Priest hasn’t. In Black Adam, the reckoning for Shazam’s first champion is underway.
“The world needed a hero,” declare the posters for the upcoming Black Adam movie. “He has Black Adam.” These things are not the same.
Do not miss: New photos of Black Adam accompany the trailer
Source: DC Comics
SHAZAM! continues in the orbit of SMASH and DC Comics Mexico
Science has ruled the world for centuries, while the old magic has withered and died. But now he’s back with Billy Batson, a fifteen-year-old boy whose name means trouble…and yet he was chosen to receive an ancient power.
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