Art by Gary Frank
Bestowed the powers of the Egyptian gods Shu, Heru, Amon, Zehuti, Aton, and Mehen, Prince Teth Adam of Khandaq was a hero of both his homeland and Egypt millennia ago. He was the son of Ramses II, and he protected both nations and even had a wife and children. He was also friends with the Egyptian prince, Khufu, the original incarnation of the hero Hawkman. Teth Adam was a beloved hero with a great life.
Things changed centuries later when the Egyptian wizard, Ahk-Ton, killed his family and destroyed his homeland. Adam tracked down and killed the wizard then returned to Khandaq to become a tyrannical ruler. The wizard Shazam became worried that Adam had become corrupt, and he deprived Teth Adam of his powers. This left him to rot from aging, and Teth Adam died. Shazam placed the powers wielded by Adam in a scarab which he buried along with the body in the tomb of Ramses II. Shazam inscribed the name Khem-Adam upon the tomb, which translates to Black Adam.
Millennia later Theo, a distant descendant of Teth, found the tomb in which Black Adam was buried. He found the scarab and, whenever he spoke the word “Shazam,” he became possessed by the soul of Black Adam. Upon his first transformation, he encountered Captain Marvel, the modern champion of Shazam. The two immediately fought, and Marvel won by rendering Black Adam mute. After this fight, Black Adam travelled into deep space for a time, the adventures of which have never been revealed.
When he returned to Earth, he often treaded the line of hero and villain. He was a part of Johnny Sorrow’s Injustice Society for a time, but he later betrayed them to the Justice Society of America. He was a member of the Justice Society for some time until they refused to execute the terrorist known as Kobra. He would form his own splinter group that kills the villain.
From there, he returned to Khandaq to rule once more. The JSA was suspicious, but allowed him to rule because his intentions seemed pure. However, he soon joined the Secret Society of Super-Villains because he believed they could help him protect his homeland. They would later betray him to use his powers.
After this, he continued to rule Khandaq. Intergang, an international crime syndicate, attempted to parlay with Adam by giving him a woman named Adrianna Tomaz as a slave girl. He killed the men who brought her to him and gave her sanctuary. She quickly became his most trusted advisor, and Adam found a way to grant her the power of the goddess Isis. The two discovered that her younger brother, Amon, was also held by Intergang. Adam and Isis freed him, and he gave Amon a portion of his own power. Amon became the hero Osiris. The three protected Khandaq and brought it peace. Black Adam even started having good relations with the leaders of other countries in the world. Isis and Osiris gave him a new family and new peace.
Osiris found a talking crocodile (no, really) named Sobek, and he became a part of the family as well, becoming their version of Talking Tawny the Tiger of the Captain Marvel family. Sobek, however, was actually the Horsemen of Famine created by Doctor Sivana named Yurrd the Unknown. Yurrd spread a plague across Khandaq and killed both Isis and Osiris. Black Adam killed him in retaliation and began searching for his allies.
The Horseman of Death, Azeuz, created by Sivana was in a nation called Bialya. Black Adam killed thousands in his search for Azeuz, and he went on to kill the Horsemen himself. Black Adam’s path of destruction was not finished, and the world knew he must be stopped. He went to Oolong Island of China, the birthplace of the Four Horsemen, and China sent their heroes, the Great Ten, to stop Adam. He defeated them all, and China asked for help from the West to bring the madman down.
The Justice Society, the Doom Patrol, and the Teen Titans united to stop Black Adam. His rage was so great that he held all of them off and even killed two Teen Titans, Terra and Young Frankenstein.
It took the cooperation of Captain Marvel and Zatanna to finally stop Black Adam. Marvel took hold of Black Adam and spoke the word, “Shazam,” to channel the lightning out of him, and Zatanna changed Adam’s word of power so that he could not access his empowered form again. Teth Adam managed to escape justice and returned to Khandaq in the hopes of learning the new word of power.
Adam recruited the countrymen still loyal to him, had them disfigure him as a disguise, and went to retrieve the remains of Isis. All this was accomplished, but his allies were killed by soldiers from an unknown army. He went to the Himalayas and resurrected Isis using a Lazarus Pit. This only made her a decaying body in intense misery, and Adam had to kill her once more. He took her bones, and his next voyage took him to the Tower of Fate to find the Amulet of Isis. There, he found the rogue sorcerer Felix Faust trapped and only a piece of the Amulet. Needing his help to get free, Faust helped Adam, using the residual magic in the bones of Isis to grant Teth the ability to transform into Black Adam once more.
Hawkman found Black Adam here, and the two had a bloody duel that ended in Adam brutally injuring the hero. Adam went to rest in his mortal form after the fight, and the mysterious soldiers returned and wounded him. He was still able to use the word “Isis” to transform into Black Adam, and he killed the men. He then had his wounds treated by a veterinarian, but the assassins returned to kill the doctor. Black Adam saved those who helped him, and he interrogated the assassins on their employer before killing them.
On a subsequent trip to Fawcett City, Teth accidentally learned his new word of power, “Chocolate Egg Cream.” He immediately returned to the Tower of Fate to get Faust to resurrect Isis, but Faust claims to be unable. Black Adam leaves enraged. However, Faust secretly succeeded and showed Adam the remains of Elongated Man instead of Isis.
Black Adam takes to living in the Khandaq embassy in Gotham City after this, and he is eventually found by Mary Marvel. Black Adam grants his powers Mary in the hopes that she will give them back with the ability to resurrect Isis. However, his powers actually corrupted Mary and she tries to start a new “Black Marvel Family” with Adam, who declines.
Isis manages to lead Black Adam back to the Tower of Fate, where she was still being held by Felix Faust. Adam freed her, and the two went to the Rock of Eternity where they found its new guardian, Billy Batson, the former Captain Marvel. They stripped him of his powers, and Isis proclaimed her intention of wiping humanity from the Earth. They corrupted Billy and recruited the already-corrupted Mary to their cause. They were attacked by Freddy Freeman, who was the new Captain Marvel, as well as the Justice Society. The battle led to Khandaq, where Isis began to kill its people indiscriminately. Teth wanted to protect his people, so Billy and Mary attacked him. The wizard, Shazam, returned at this point and stripped Billy, Mary, and Isis of their powers. He turned Isis and Teth to statues, and Adam remained there until the universe was reborn in the Flashpoint and the New 52.
In the reborn Earth, the origins of Teth Adam are far less glorious. A slave whose family was massacred by warlords, he and his nephew, Aman, were offered a chance at freedom when, while on the run, they found the Rock of Eternity in the caverns beneath Khandaq. The two of them were given powers, but Teth killed his nephew to achieve greater power because he feared that Aman’s innocent heart would not allow him to do what needed to be done to the warlords who slaughtered their family. After overcoming the villains and, apparently, the Seven Deadly Sins themselves, Adam went to the Council of Eternity and killed all members except the Wizard himself. The Wizard overcame him, and Black Adam was sealed away.
In the present, after Billy Batson became Shazam, Doctor Sivana reawakened the Seven Deadly Sins. They were united, and this allowed for the rebirth of Black Adam. After a lengthy battle, which Adam was winning, Shazam tricked the rogue into turning mortal. This caused him to instantly decay and expire due to the centuries that had passed.
However, Black Adam was soon resurrected by a cult that worshiped him, and he returned to Khandaq, liberated it from the new warlords, and became its new and benign ruler.
When the Crime Syndicate came to Earth-1, Ultraman proclaimed himself the ruler of all the Earth. Taking offense to this proclamation, Black Adam attacked Ultraman (ironically saving Lois Lane’s life in the process). The two fought furiously, but Ultraman broke Adam’s jaw and dropped him in the Atlantic. He was saved by Black Manta and Lex Luthor, and the three united with Captain Cold, Deathstroke, Bizarro, and Sinestro to overthrow the Crime Syndicate and free the Justice League.
During this time, Black Adam came to respect Sinestro. When Sinestro later came to Earth in search of the Guardian of Anti-Emotion, Black Adam helped, and they found him in Khandaq. Sinestro and Black Adam fought the Guardian, and Sinestro temporarily inducted Adam into the Sinestro Corps. He continued to help Sinestro when the Church of Anti-Emotion came to Earth. Black Adam’s next move is yet to be seen, but one can bet that it will leave an impact.
Black Adam has always had a rough life. He has most often had good intentions, but the world has treated him roughly, killing not one but two families. He has always had the need to strike back when the world mistreats him, and this is what has led him to run afoul of heroes. He only wants a family and to protect his country, but the world has always had other plans.
Black Adam is a man of great passion, love, and strength. He is fiercely loyal, and he also happens to be one of the strongest beings on earth. He has an immense will, and he will not be stopped once he sets his mind to a goal. He is oftentimes considered and anti-hero, and I would agree with this evaluation. For these reasons and more, Black Adam is my 2nd Favorite DC Villain of all time.