One of the most highlyupcoming anticipated movies of 2022— especially of the superhero variety — is BLACK ADAM, in which DC Comics' titular anti-hero will be brought to life on the big screen by superstar and executive producer Dwayne Johnson. The long-awaited release of the film in theaters:currently scheduled for Friday, October 21— now it's closer than ever, but did you know that the character's live-action feature film debut almost happened in a previous installment of the DC Extended Universe? Before it was decided that he would lead his own movie, Black Adam was going to play a major role in 2019's SHAZAM!
Those less versed in superhero lore may be wondering what Black Adam and Billy Batson have in common, aside from the lightning bolt in each of their costumes and the fact that they are both DC characters. Well, it turns out that they have one of the most notorious rivalries in comic book publishing history, which we'll shed some light on in the following quick and convenient guide. However, let's start with Black Adam's first known connection to the DCEU.
Black Adam was subtly mentioned in Shazam!
We saw the live-action feature film debut of Billy Batson, played by Asher Angel, and his oversized, super-powered alter ego, played by Zachary Levi, in director David F. Sandberg's hilarious and exciting 2019 hit, SHAZAM! ! Just before the orphaned teen is gifted with an impressive arsenal of superhuman abilities, the wizard also called Shazam, played by Djimon Honsou, admits to Billy that the last time someone was given these powers, he "chose unwisely" as the selected champion was corrupted by the Seven Deadly Sins and nearly destroyed the world.
For a committed comic book fan, it doesn't take much time or effort to recognize that this is a reference to the character of Black Adam. It also serves as an unobtrusive little hint about his eventual DC Extended Universe debut, the role he's likely to play in future movies, and his relationship with Shazam. At this point, it probably goes without saying that when Levi and Johnson's characters finally meet on the big screen, it won't be pretty and the evidence lies throughout their history in the comics.
Billy Batson became the champion of The Wizard Shazam after Black Adam
Despite having undergone many, many modified versions of his origin story, such as how he was originally written as Egyptian and later as a native of the fictional nation of Kahndaq, the most essential element of Black Adam's arc that remains constant is that he was once a powerless slave named Teth-Adam. That is, until the wizard Shazam chose him to be champion of the gods and endowed him with the wisdom of Soloman, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury.
However, Teth-Adam did not use his powers for the good of the people as directed, but for his own personal gain, becoming the tyrannical ruler of his country, and to carry out his troublesome and reckless brand of justice. regardless of the consequences. Shazam then chose to strip Black Adam of his powers, leading to him being imprisoned for centuries. By the time he was released, Shazam had already chosen someone else to be his new champion: the young and pure-hearted Billy Batson.
Now, as is often the case with any comic book character whose story arc has been reimagined as many times as Black Adam, the exact explanation for how Batson became acquainted with can vary. However, no matter which interpretation you run into, one thing is for sure: Black Adam isn't happy with how things have turned out and wants to punish the champion they call Shazam for taking his place. To make matters worse, upon his release from prison, he would be endowed with a new set of powers courtesy of a different group of six Egyptian deities who would help level the playing field during his many battles over the years.
Black Adam became the current archenemy of Shazam
Any chance he got, Black Adam would always look for a new way to finally defeat his successor, Shazam, whether it be blunt force or some clever manipulation. For example, there was an occasion, as depicted in the May 1978 "All New Collector's Edition #C-58", when the villain helped Kal-El's sand double Quarmer and the evil Martian sorcerer Karmang to inciting a conflict between Shazam and Superman. On a few occasions, Black Adam has also teamed up with Dr. Thaddeus Sivana, Mark Strong's character in SHAZAM! – Against Billy Batson, like in “Shazam #28” from 1977, in which he sees the enemies transported to the Colonial Era, where they run into Paul Revere.
However, not all of Shazam's conflicts with Black Adam have been particularly personal. The September 1980 issue of World's Finest sees Black Adam being recruited into a new version of the Monster's Society of Evil, made up of the scheming caterpillar, Mister Mind, whose first target turns out to be Billy Batson. There was also a major event in DC's New 52 continuity in which Black Adam starts World War 3, which Shazam ends with Zatanna's help by changing their shared magic word from "Shazam" to "Chocolate Ice Cream", which which makes Black Adam unable to unleash his powers again after reverting to his human form.
Shazam and Black Adam once had to team up
While their relationship has always been, and likely will continue to be, relatively strained, Shazam has been known to get along with his arch nemesis. This more peaceful arrangement became especially prevalent after Black Adam was rebranded in the comics as less of a villain and more of an antihero, and even became a member of the Justice Society of America, a collective of superheroes who actually predates Justice League and is also making his feature film debut in BLACK ADAM.
There was even a moment when Shazam and Black Adam joined forces, an unlikely pairing that happened in 2020 in "Shazam #14." Their common enemy was an evil alternate reality version of Clark Kent known as Superboy-Prime, who managed to defeat the rest of the Shazam family, leaving Billy Batson to accept Black Adam's help in taking down the Kryptonian. At least the villain can be credited with helping these powerful rivals call a truce for once.
Dwayne Johnson has scoffed at the idea of his Black Adam appearing alongside Superman on screen, but he never specified if it would be Henry Cavill in red and blue. Perhaps he could be a rogue, interdimensional version of the Kryptonian who isn't necessarily Clark Kent's alter ego, forcing the anti-hero to team up with Zachary Levi's Shazam. Eventually, all rivalries in superhero fiction (whether in the comics or on the big screen) hit some kind of snag and we wouldn't be surprised if that's what got these characters to that point in the DCEU. For now, we're excited to see how their movie rivalry kicks off, which may be when BLACK ADAM finally hits AMC theaters.