Comics on Film: Meet Black Adam, The Rock's Role in DC's Upcoming Films

Comics on Film: Meet Black Adam, The Rock's Role in DC's Upcoming Films

Jan 13, 2017

This week, movie superstar and WWE Legend Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson posted to his social media profiles that he had just come away from a meeting with representatives of DC Entertainment, and shared his enthusiasm for what's to come in future DC movies at Warner Bros.

We've known for at least the past couple of years that Johnson is slated to play the arch nemesis of Shazam (or Captain Marvel, depending on how well you know him): Black Adam. While most comic book fans rejoiced at the news of Johnson's casting in this part specifically, a fair amount of people are still in the dark in regards to who Black Adam is, and what he represents.

So, before The Rock likely ends up elevating him to a top-tier DC character, here's the lowdown on, arguably, the single greatest underused antihero in all of superhero comics.
Teth-Adam: Champion of Shazam
Like Captain Marvel, Black Adam was a character that first appeared in the pages of Fawcett Comics' The Marvel Family #1 in 1945, a creation of writer Otto Binder and artist C.C. Beck. An ancient Egyptian who was deemed worthy of the powers bestowed by the wizard Shazam, Teth-Adam revels in his role as a hero and champion until he becomes corrupted by his power's influence. This is when he overthrows the pharaoh and assumes total control for himself, and as a result loses favor with Shazam and is cast out.
Since Shazam can't remove the power he bestowed on Adam, he instead banishes him to a distant planet, and Adam returns to Earth only after a 5,000-year journey. This is when he first encounters Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family, who have become Shazam's new champions. After a stalemate of a battle, it ends only after Adam is tricked into saying the transformative phrase: "Shazam." When that happens, he becomes the human Teth-Adam once more, and he rapidly ages until he falls to the ground an ancient and dusty skeleton.
Though reintroduced after the Fawcett characters' acquisition by DC Comics, Adam's origin isn't revised until 1994 at the hands of writer/artist Jerry Ordway in a series called The Power of Shazam! In it, Ordway retains the same basic framework as the original Binder/Beck origin story, but adds more mythological elements and, of course, allows him to become a recurring adversary for the Marvels for years to come.
Anti-Hero Reborn
By the late 90's and early 2000's, Black Adam was seen most prominently in the pages of JSA, the then-ongoing title featuring the original superhero team: the Justice Society of America. Under the guiding hands of co-writers Geoff Johns and David Goyer, Adam is redefined as a hard-line seeker of justice: though his methods and ideals are brutal and antiquated, Johns and Goyer successfully helped redefine Adam and make his reformation into a more heroic force in the DC Universe both tempered and believable. Though this era also sees a greater understanding between Captain Marvel and Adam -- granted by Marvel's traveling back in time and meeting a young, uncorrupted Teth-Adam -- in the present Adam makes clear that there is respect. Be that as it may, Adam also makes clear that while he no longer considers them enemies, he will never consider them friends.
By the time of the Infinite Crisis crossover in the mid-2000's, Adam initially stays aligned with the Secret Society of Super-Villains until the series' primary villain, Alexander Luthor of Earth-3, uses the emotionally manipulative powers of the villain known as Psycho Pirate to force Adam into helping power his machine with the magic lightning of Shazam. Near the end of the story, Adam manages to move beyond Psycho Pirates control with the help of Nightwing and Superboy, famously exploding the villain's head before he rallies to the side of the heroes to play a decisive role in their ultimate victory.
In the aftermath series known as 52, Adam takes it upon himself to protect and rule over the Middle Eastern nation of Kahndaq. Killing several criminals violently and publicly results in Adam remaining wholly distrusted by the heroic community, and when a female slave is offered to Adam by an organized criminal gang to curry his favor, which causes Adam to kill all of the gang members violently and bloodily, and the slave -- Adrianna -- becomes an adviser of his. This eventually leads to a romance, and after Adrianna is imbued with the power of Shazam, she becomes a superheroine in her own right: Isis.
Adam eventually gains his own brand of "Marvel Family" for a short while, happier than he's ever been, until cosmic villainous forces end up both killing Isis and leaving Adam powerless. Next on a quest to regain his power and Isis, a mini-series called Black Adam: The Dark Age tells the story of Adam's quest for both. It ends with him having returned to power, he remains his more villainous self through the remainder of the pre-New 52 DC Universe.
The New 52
In a backup feature in the pages of the New 52's Justice League title by Geoff Johns, Captain Marvel's -- now known only as "Shazam" -- has had his origin story retold in the newly established DC Universe continuity. This ultimately also includes some revisions to Adam's origin story, but the basic outline is the same: Adam was a champion of the wizard Shazam before Billy Batson, and when he attempts to use his power in a way that wasn't intended by the wizard, Adam falls out of the wizard's favor.
Unlike the original versions of the origin, though, Johns incorporates Adam's anti-heroic tendencies that he helped to refine with David Goyer years before on JSA? into the new foundation of the character. After a fight and an attempt to find reason, Shazam -- the hero, not the wizard -- listens to Adam recount his story of struggle and strife on the streets of Kahndaq. Eventually, Adam tells the young hero that he will do anything in order to keep the world free from those who would try to enslave it.
Though defeated and apparently killed in that final battle, Adam is revived during the Forever Evil crossover event, and proves to be a pivotal factor in defeating members of the Crime Syndicate -- most directly fighting Superman's alternate universe counterpart Ultraman. Adam has yet to be seen in the pages of the current reshaping of DC's comics in DC Universe: Rebirth.
Side note: The majority of what I've shared with you here doesn't go into any significant detail at all. The stories themselves are really worth reading, and Comics on Film absolutely encourages you to do so.
The DC Extended Universe
All we really know at this point about Black Adam's appearances in the upcoming DCEU films is that he will be played by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, and that the former WWE Champion is immensely excited about what the future holds for him, for the character, and for DC's future film slate. Seemingly being aware of the less-than-stellar reception to the films thus far, the Rock posted on Facebook,
Had a very cool and strategic meeting with the heads of DC Comics about their entire universe. As a hard core DC fan, to get a real sense of the tonal shifts and developments coming in these future movies has me fired up. Something we, as DC fans have all been waiting for. Hope, optimism & FUN. I'm excited about our future together and you should be to. 
Even when talking about the the most ruthless villain/anti-hero of all time finally coming to life. Prepare yourselves DC Universe. 
#KneelAtHisFeet #OrGetCrushedByHisBoot #BlackAdam ??
The Rock has gained a notable reputation in recent years as being an efficient deliverer of some much-needed adrenaline in certain film series. If any series could use his talents right now, it's probably the DC Extended Universe. Having the Rock as a key player would be a boon to any film series, and it doesn't take a lot of imagination to see him faithfully embody one of the best, most under-utilized characters in all of comics.
Will Black Adam become a new Iron Man? I don't know if I'd bet any money on that, but with the Rock involved, the possibility is much higher than it would be otherwise. Let's hope that he will indeed play Black Adam soon. What do you say, Mr. Johnson? Don't make us say the magic word!

Chris Clow is a gamer, a comic book expert and former retailer, as well as a freelance contributor to The Huffington Post and, as well as host of the Comics on Consoles podcast. You can find his weekly piece Comics on Film right here at Check out his blog, and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.




Categories: Comics, Features, Geek
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