The famous supervillain Black Adam may be best known as the cruel, and corrupted enemy of the hero Shazam. But once fans learn about the punishment given to him before a new magic champion was selected, it’s going to be a lot more difficult not to see things from his point of view.
Before Billy Batson ever became Captain Marvel, the ancient wizard Shazam saw the powers of magic corrupt a man named Teth-Adam, forcing the man to be condemned and banished. Unfortunately, Shazam couldn’t strip the now-called Black Adam of his powers… so the former champion spent the next 5,000 years traveling through space just for some payback.
Appearing in Fawcett Comics Marvel Family #1 (1945), creators Otto Binder and C. C Beck had Shazam recap Black Adam’s origin story alongside his current champion Captain Marvel, his sister Miss Marvel and his best friend/classmate Captain Marvel, Jr. Originally thought to be a meteorite hurtling to Earth, Black Adam appeared to a world that was not the same as he remembered but one that he still sought to rule and conquer. After fighting with Captain Marvel Jr, he sparred with Captain Marvel before both of them realized they were evenly matched, and Black Adam disappeared into the crowd that had gathered during their battle. Seeking answers to their mysterious foe with similar powers, the heroes summoned Shazam’s spirit at the Rock of Eternity who told them about his biggest failure: the villain they would know as Black Adam.
Shazam recalled a moment in Ancient Egypt when he bestowed his powers on an Egyptian named Teth-Adam whom the wizard believed to be a good and pure soul. He would soon learn that he made a mistake as the super-powered Teth-Adam killed and overthrew the current Pharaoh, declared himself the ruler of Egypt and its dominions and announced that he and his armies would soon conquer the rest of the world. Shazam confronted his actions and upon realizing he couldn’t de-power or hurt his former champion, he could banish him to a place where he could do Earth no harm. He sent him to the farthest star in the universe (gasp) with Black Adam swearing revenge as he hurled through space. It was then that Shazam realized that the next time he chose a champion, a young male child might be a better candidate and considered the matter closed.
Apparently Shazam’s sweep it under the rug mentality got the best of him as Black Adam made it back after all. He tricked the boys into transforming back to their normal forms but his revenge was interrupted by the arrival of Mary Marvel and the hilarious not-powered Uncle Marvel. While the Marvels were unsuccessful in beating Black Adam’s strength, ol’ Uncle Marvel managed to trick the villain into say Shazam’s name, thus turning him back into Teth-Adam. Once depowered, he aged about 5,000 years, killing him and neutralizing the threat altogether. Or so they thought….
When Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family were later acquired by DC Comics, they continued these stories of the Marvel Family and Black Adam would eventually return and become a frequent nemesis and occasional ally of Captain Marvel and his Marvel Family. With his backstory and characters being adjusted and rewritten, Black Adam would become very possessive regarding the welfare of his home country Khandaq and even attempted to create a Black Marvel Family of his own. With the success of 2019’s Shazam, a solo film starring Dwayne Johnson as Black Adam is in the works and it’ll be interesting to see what version of Black Adam’s origin story the movie will follow.
In the case of his original backstory, the beginning, middle, and end of this villain is essentially a byproduct of comic book storytelling at that time and reading it now, we’re not sure which is more amusing: Shazam’s punishment or that Black Adam spent those 5,000 years just to get back to Earth. After spending all that time to get back home just to have it get ruined by one of those puny mortals you used to rule, that’s why you never underestimate your elder’s especially ones in red tights.
NEXT: Shazam’s Zachary Levi Hoping For “Epic Fights” With Black Adam