Adam was born to the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II in the neighboring (fictional) land of Kahndaq. While there are contradictory accounts of the circumstances of Black Adam’s early history, certain elements are consistent:
While serving as high priest to Ramses II, the wizard Shazam sought a successor to his godly powers. Impressed with his virtue and martial heroism, he chose Adam. Having determined to make Adam his successor, Shazam’s intentions were altered by the intervention of his half-demonic daughter Blaze. Blaze struck a bargain with the god Set so that when Adam speaks the word “Shazam,” instead of becoming the avatar of the wizard’s deific patrons, he becomes the avatar of the Egyptian gods Shu, Heru, Amon, Zehuti, Aton and Mehen.
"Teth-Adam" (Mighty Adam) then served the Egyptian pharaoh as his champion for many years. At one point, a time-traveling adventure of the Justice Society showed him in service to Prince Khufu (an early reincarnation of Hawkman) alongside the wizard Nabu. This service however, drew him away from his family and home country of Kahndaq, which was attacked in his absence, resulting in the murder of his family and the devastation of his people. The attack was carried out by a rogue priest who used the Orb of Ra to give himself Metamorpho-like powers, and plotted conquest in league with the immortal Vandal Savage. With the assistance of the time traveling members of the Justice Society of America, the two villains were eventually defeated. Captain Marvel, interacting with his predecessor prior to his fall from grace, was both impressed by the valor and nobility of Adam, and disturbed by the bloody vengeance he exacted upon the murderer of his family.
Though he went on to serve the pharaoh of Egypt for hundreds of years thereafter, Teth-Adam eventually fell from the good graces of Shazam. This happened either because Adam became dictatorial towards Kahndaq, he became corrupted and homicidal by his powers, or the wizard believed he was plotting conquest with Blaze. Henceforth, the wizard referred to him as "Khem" (or "Black") Adam. In any event, Shazam somehow magically transposed Teth-Adam’s powers (and apparently Teth-Adam’s spirit) into a mystical scarab amulet, where they remained for thousands of years. Having been unnaturally supported past his normal lifespan, Adam’s body disintegrated. Made cautious by this failure, Shazam does not empower another champion until modern times when Billy Batson was made into Captain Marvel.
The scarab amulet found its way into the tomb of Ramses II and remained there until an archeological expedition financed by Dr. Sivana served as the vehicle for fate’s intercession. Billy Batson’s father C.C. Batson led the expedition and discovered the amulet along with his wife Marylyn and assistant Theo Adam. Becoming immediately obsessed with the amulet, the unscrupulous assistant killed the Batsons to claim it for himself. Theo Adam discovered he was a descendent of Black Adam and learned to speak the magic word that bestowed upon him the powers of Black Adam, and eventually released the ancient warrior’s spirit. Recognizing Captain Marvel’s resemblance to C.C. Batson, the empowered Theo Adam revealed himself as the murderer of Billy’s parents, and the two battled. Marvel achieved victory by snatching away the scarab from Theo and took him to the wizard Shazam who removed his memory and voice.
This solution proved short-lived, however, as Shazam’s daughter Blaze again intervened and restored Theo’s faculties and thereby his powers. Holding the soul of his sister hostage in hell, she coerced Theo to serve her in a plot against the wizard. When her brother Satanus interfered and released his sister’s soul, Black Adam turns on Blaze and she was defeated by the wizard. Theo/Teth-Adam was then sent to a far-flung part of the cosmos. He eventually returned and claimed to be free of the influence of Theo.
Hereafter there is confusion as to whether Black Adam’s real persona is Theo or Teth-Adam. His next appearance showed him acting irrationally and violently, and opposed by the Justice Society, who were only able to stop him by bringing lightning from ancient Egypt to the present and transforming Adam back to mortal form. From that point on, the mortal form Black Adam transmogrifies to is that of Teth in his prime, and he appears to be the sole personality involved. He claimed to have been once again temporarily under the influence of Theo when he made a deal with Johnny Sorrow to remove a brain tumor from Theo in return for his joining the Injustice Society. Black Adam then claimed to be free of Theo. He joined the Society against Sorrow and they triumphed. Applying for membership in the Justice Society, Adam was accepted as a probationary member. However, there was a great deal of suspicion of him, particularly from Atom Smasher, who was openly hostile, and Captain Marvel, who also joins to keep an eye on Adam.
After multiple adventures with the Justice Society, Adam became discontent with what he felt was the Society’s ineffectual and reactive approach to evil-doers. Black Adam is shown to be a proud and stern champion from another, more brutal age. He is portrayed very much as a sort of Nietzschean anti-hero, who does not hesitate to follow his own concepts of justice, whether or not they are in conflict with those of others. Having gradually won the friendship and respect of Atom Smasher, Black Adam recruited him along with a few other powered individuals to take a proactive, and decidedly bloody, approach to fighting injustice. This group included a Mister Mind-controlled Brainwave Jr., a devolved Northwind and his Feitherean tribe, Eclipso II, and Nemesis. One of their first targets was Kobra, who Adam passed sentence on by ripping his heart out. The group went on to dispatch the repressive regime of Adam’s homeland Kahndaq, and when the JSA arrived to oppose him, they found him universally hailed as a liberator and savior. The JSA then decided to leave Adam unchallenged as Kahndaq’s ruler, as long as he stayed within its borders.
Major Story Arcs
Adam cared little for their ultimatums, however, and in the series “Villains United” was temporarily recruited into a new Secret Society by a pre-crisis Alexander Luthor Jr. masquerading as Lex Luthor. The alliance was purely a result of Adam being coerced by a perceived threat to the people of Kahndaq. Often disgusted by his unwanted cohorts, Teth was manipulated into a conflict with Superman by the mind controlling Dr. Psycho. While Superman stated to himself that he would not hold back with Adam, he appeared to be able to neither restrain or damage Teth during the fight. Regretful at having to combat a being he considered so noble, Adam simply turned his back on an impending moon-destroying blow from the Kryptonian. This gave Superman pause, and faced with the threat of mass suicide of Metropolis citizens by Dr. Psycho, Superman does not attempt to delay Adam’s and Dr. Psycho's departure. Black Adam was eventually betrayed by his villainous allies when it was revealed that Alex Luthor intended to use him as a mystical battery in his plot to manipulate the fabric of reality. Adam turned against the villains and battled Superboy Prime momentarily, though neither damaged the other. Psycho-Pirate was summarily decapitated by Adam. He then joined the other heroes in a battle royale and performed the astounding feat of tearing the head off of Amazo.
In “52”, Black Adam remained Kahndaq’s ruler and protector, and appeared to continue to receive the adoration of the populace. Appearing to harden further, he undertook a vicious program on the super villains he encountered, going so far as to rip a minor villain in half in front of an aghast Lois Lane and other members of the press corps while hovering over Metropolis. He also showed a no-tolerance policy towards all Meta-humans, including the JSA, who violate Kahndaq air space. Moreover, he began to build a coalition of national powers hostile to the perceived threat of the U.S. powered community, called the Freedom of Power Treaty. He is courted by representatives of Intergang, who offer him the gift of a beautiful young woman named Adrianna whom they have abducted and enslaved. Disgusted and outraged, Black Adam slaughtered them where they stood.
Offered sanctuary, Adrianna soon infuriated Adam by fearlessly criticizing the angry and hostile nature of his actions. With remarkable insight, she was able to show him that the source of his rage was the loss of his wife and children in ancient Kahndaq. She revealed to him her own painful past and how she and her brother were abducted by Intergang. A close bond grew between them, and Adrianna swayed Adam to change his hostile ways and begin to use his powers in a gentler and more productive fashion. The two fell in love, and Teth used the wisdom of Zehuti and a powerful magical artifact concealed within the very scarab that Shazam had imprisoned him in to empower Adrianna with the power of Isis at the Rock of Eternity. The two sought out Isis’s brother, Amon, and they found him on death’s door after a failed escape attempt from Intergang. His wounds too grievous for even Isis to heal, Amon was saved by Black Adam, who gifted him with a portion of his power even as Captain Marvel had done for Freddy Freeman. Taking the name of Osiris, he became the third member of a new Black Marvel family.
Isis and Black Adam were married with the Marvels in attendance. Osiris briefly joined the Teen Titans. He miscalculated the durability of the Persuader and gorily dispatched him to save his sister Isis when the three were attacked by the Suicide Squad. The scenario was a setup, and the video footage of the killing was used to discredit the Black Marvels. Osiris befriended Sobek, a large shy talking mutant crocodile the Black Marvel family rescued while visiting Beautia Sivana. This too was a setup, however, and Sobek tricked a despondent Osiris into transforming to his mortal form. Sobek then devoured Osiris/Amon, and thereby revealed himself to be Famine (Yuurd the Unknown), a member of four superpowered creatures created by the Science Squad as part of a treacherous attack by Intergang. Isis was killed in the fight with the remaining Horsemen, and with her dying breath she teleported Death away and bade Adam to avenge her and Osiris. Black Adam was then endowed with the powers of Isis, adding the power of an additional god to his powerset.
Having slain the other three Horsemen, Black Adam tracked Death to Bialya, whose government participated in the attack on the Black Marvels. The maddened Adam tortured Death until he revealed all he knew of the plot, and then in a fit of Luciferian rage, killed every citizen of Bialya.
His lust for vengeance unabated, Black Adam raced to the island where the mad scientist’s coalition that created the Horsemen were headquartered. Accosted by the U.S. military, Adam demonstrated his displeasure by lobbing an aircraft carrier towards a major U.S. city (it is intercepted by Firestorm). Prepared for him however, T.O. Morrow utilized a device that effectively teleported an astronomical event into the skull of the enraged juggernaut, stunning him and allowing him to be captured. He was tortured for weeks by the cabal of brilliant madmen with the intent of eventually selling him as a weapon. The JSA intervened, however, and freed Adam. Learning that it was his former superpowered allies in China who enlisted the scientists because of his abandonment of the Freedom of Power Treaty, Adam bolted away to unleash his veangence upon the Chinese.
Attempting to intercept him, the brave but outclassed Teen Titans were badly beaten by Black Adam, whose all-consuming rage at the loss of yet another family has put him beyond temperance or mercy. Two Titans, Young Frankenstein and Terra, were slain. The Martian Manhunter, one of the few beings to match Adam in power on earth, attempted to subdue him psychically but is himself driven temporarily catatonic. Black Adam singlehandedly killed the most powerful superhumans in China before the Chinese acquiesced to let the American superhumans intervene on their soil. In a stunning display of power and ferocity, Black Adam then went on to stand alone against a conglomeration of some of earth’s most powerful beings, including multiple Green Lanterns, Firestorm, Supergirl, Martian Manhunter, the Marvel family, the remaining Teen Titans, the JSA, and many others. Attempting to win the intercession of the gods who empower Adam, Captain Marvel was instead violently repulsed by them from their plane of existence. Acting in concert with other powerful magic-users, Marvel (now the guardian of the Rock of Eternity) was able to transform Adam to his mortal form and change the Word so that Adam could not regain his link to the Egyptian pantheon that empowers him. Captain Marvel told him it was a word Adam will never guess. Teth escaped the fray and is shown wandering the Middle East muttering various random words in the hope of regaining his powers.
In Black Adam: The Dark Age, a de-powered Adam went to extraordinary lengths to bring his dead love Isis back to life. Assisted by a fanatically devoted cadre of countrymen, Adam first had them beat him until he was unrecognizable, then led the group to recover the bones of Isis in Kahndaq. Hunted by the world’s superheroes and many other enemies, Adam eluded pursuit and brought the bones of Isis to a Lazarus Pit. Adam endured incredible hardship and was forced to disembowel a Yeti in single combat, and to cannibalize his last remaining comrade. Because the corpse was missing a finger however, he was unsuccessful at reviving her. He then made his way to the Tower of Doctor Fate, where he encountered an imprisoned Felix Faust. Striking a deal with Faust, Adam set out to recover the missing pieces of Isis’s amulet. Through the magic of Faust, Adam was granted his powers by leaching the residual magic from Isis’s bones, though Faust warned him that this could eventually prevent her resurrection if overused. Along the way, Adam visited Fawcett City and ordered a Chocolate Egg Creme and discovered that Captain Marvel had in fact changed the magic word to “Chocolate Egg Cream.” Though he was successful at recovering the amulet, Faust tricked Adam into believing the resurrection was unsuccessful. Teth flew off in despair as Felix Faust escaped the tower with an ensorcelled Isis.
Mary Marvel next encountered Black Adam at the Kahdaq embassy in “Countdown #49.” The deserted embassy was littered with the corpses of those who had wandered in on Adam’s grief-induced madness. Having been disempowered, she felt drawn to the place by inner promptings. The embassy was in a bad neighborhood and she was chased into the embassy by hoodlums intent on victimizing her. Adam swiftly killed them. He appeared about to kill her too, even after he recognized who she was. They argued over whether the powers were a curse or a blessing. Adam then transferred all of his powers to her. As he left the scene in his ancient Egyptian mortal form, Teth told the newly black Mary Marvel to tell Billy "Sorry."
Black Adam appeared in Final Crisis. Black Adam was part of the remaining group of super heroes who fought against the occupation of Darkseid on Earth (Black Adam was convinced by Captain Marvel to join the Resistance). Black Adam confronted Mary Marvel. She headed off to battle Supergirl but was interrupted by Black Adam. During the battle, he intended to kill Mary, but was stopped by Captain Marvel (she was now under Darkseid's control and not truly Mary anymore) Mary defeated Black Adam and then began to beat Captain Marvel.
Justice Society of America
Black Adam was not left powerless. With his powers returned, he followed a trail of flowers to where Felix Faust has been keeping a resurrected Isis. Black Adam freed her. However, Isis was vengeful and wanted to wipe humanity off the face of the Earth. Mary Marvel, still corrupted by power, worked with them. She forced Billy to take some of Black Adam's power, corrupting him as well. The Justice Society and the wizard Shazam tried to stop them. He convinced Black Adam to return to Teth-Adam, which also de-powered Mary, Billy, and Isis. Shazam then turned Black Adam and Isis into statues and refused to return Captain Marvel and Mary's powers.
A resurrected Osiris brought the statues to Kandaq.
Black Adam was seen in battle against The Justice League in The New 52 FCBD. This event was set sometime during the Trinity War. In the backup story for Justice League starting in issue #7, Dr. Sivana sought Black Adam's tomb and eventually managed to awaken the villain by speaking the word "Shazam." Black Adam arose and immediately looked for the Wizard. Doctor Sivana takes Black Adam to a city and shows him how civilization has advanced. Black Adam sees no difference as he pulls a man from his penthouse office and drops him 40 stories or more for taking the worker's pensions.They later go to The Rock of Eternity where Sivana's body can not channel it.Black Adam realizes The Wizard has bestowed his power to a new champion when he sees the prone Wizard laying in front of his throne. Black Adam locate and release Sloth of the Deadly Sins. Black Adam recruits Sloth and tells him he wants to tear down the cities and rebuild them. Black Adam then proceeds to tear apart Philadelphia in search of the Wizard's new champion.
Powers and Abilities
Black Adam is gifted with a panoply of powers that appear to correspond to and match, if not exceed, those of Captain Marvel. Essentially, he is gifted with six attributes of particular gods who are exemplars of them. He is as strong, fast, durable, powerful, knowing, and as possessed of inner strength as six gods who are pinnacles of those qualities. These powers are both magical and divine in nature. They are magical insofar as it was the wizard Shazam who originally provided the link to the gods who empower Black Adam, but the powers themselves come directly from the six gods who lend their puissance to him. This is a significant distinction insofar as the gods seem to have shown reluctance to abandon their avatar, even when his magical patron would clearly rather have removed his gift. While the wizard was able to initially displace the powers into an amulet, this was clearly not sufficient to keep Adam from eventually reclaiming them. Nor was Shazam apparently able to repeat the feat in the modern age. Captain Marvel, having apparently inherited the wizard Shazam’s power after the Spectre slew him, was roughly rebuked when he sought the gods’ intercession with Black Adam during the events of 52. It took an impressive coalition of magic-users acting in concert with Marvel, and the simultaneous distraction of fighting a large contingent of the world’s heroes, to change the Word and temporarily de-power the violent powerhouse.
The chief distinction between the power of Captain Marvel and that of Black Adam is that Adam’s powers are provided by the Egyptian, rather than the Greek, pantheon. Presumably, the two are nearly equal in power, though it is conceivable that one god might be more potent than another (an interesting note is that Solomon, Achilles, and Hercules - three of Marvel’s patrons, were originally at least half mortal). Aside from the short-lived Black Marvel family, Black Adam does not share his power the way Billy does with Freddy, rendering him much more powerful in most situations. Therefore, any feat demonstrated by Captain Marvel should be at the very least duplicable by Adam. Teth even in mortal form shows remarkable ability to inspire his followers, even to their deaths, and was an able warrior before being given his abilities. Moreover, Adam has had centuries more experience with his powers than most super-beings, and is an accomplished and iron-willed combatant even without his powers. The powers granted to Black Adam are as follows:
(stamina): Nigh-invulnerable, and does not need to eat, sleep, or breathe (can survive unaided in space). Extremely resistant to magical attack, and effectively tireless. Even when a specially prepared bullet made from the Rock of Eternity could puncture him, Adam dug it out with his fingers and healed almost immediately. Has survived the equivalent of a major astronomical event being teleported inside his skull, and Captain Marvel has withstood being literally turned inside out by a spatial tesseract bomb with zero ill effects! Shu is the Egyptian god of the air, whose name means “he who rises up”.
(Horus - speed): Black Adam can fly, move, and fight at, at least Mach 500 in an atmosphere; and in space, at faster than light speeds. In one account, Adam traveled from the farthest reaches of the cosmos to earth in 5000 years (the universe is 156 billion light years wide). Heru is the Egyptian god of the sky and victory personified.
(strength): Provides Adam with truly incredible strength. In a strength class with Superman and Captain Marvel, and able to toss one-handed an aircraft carrier (hundreds of thousands of tons) for possibly hundreds of miles. On one occasion, He was successfully able to hold his own against an assemblage of The Justice League, Justice Society, and The Teen Titans, Something neither Superman or Captain Marvel have been able to do. Amon is considered the king of the Egyptian gods, a god of virility and the ‘breath of life’.
(Thoth-wisdom): Access to godly level of knowledge, magical and mundane. Can simply ‘know’ appropriate knowledge for a situation, and be counseled as to the best course of action. Adam has voiced distrust for the voices of the gods to Captain Marvel. Adam’s gods have also expressed approval for his more brutal actions in “52”, which appears to be very different than the stance of Captain Marvel’s patrons. Black Adam’s senses are phenomenally sharp as well, though nowhere near the level of Superman’s. Zehuti, or Thoth, is the Egyptian god of magic and writing, whose magical powers were so great, that those who read the 'Book of Thoth', became the most powerful magician in the world.
(power): Aton provides the magic lightning that transforms Adam, and Adam can use the lightning bolt as a weapon by dodging it and allowing it to strike an opponent. The power of Aton enables Adam’s flight, enhances his physical abilities and invulnerability, and gives him godly resistance against magical attacks. This power also allows him the power of interdimensional travel. It is feasible that the power of Aton and the wisdom of Zehuti could be used more extensively, if required, but that Adam’s general invincibility makes him favor the direct approach. Aton is the Egyptian god of the solar disk and of creation itself.
(courage): Provides a godly degree of inner strength, including superhuman resistance to psychic manipulation, or any form of mind control. It is worth noting that even in mortal form Teth demonstrates phenomenal determination, mental toughness, and nerves of steel. Mehen, or “one who is coiled” is the serpent god who fought the demon Apep to protect the sun.
Black Adam appeared in the limited Justice series. Lex Luthor and Brainiac pooled their intelligence and resources to bring together the world's greatest villains.
Black Adam secretly followed Mary and Freddy Freeman until he caught Mary and threatened to kill her if Freddy became Captain Marvel Jr. Black Adam later attacks Captain Marvel alongside the brainwashed duo of Captain Marvel Jr. and Mary Marvel. During the battle, Adam was unable to get the edge, so he threatened Mary and forced her to become mortal and plummet to the earth.
Captain Marvel managed to save Mary, but the moment he picked her up, she changed back into Marvel and attacked Billy. Her attack gave Brainiac the opportunity to take control of Captain Marvel.
Animation, Movies, and gaming (video games):
Batman: The Brave and the Bold: Black Adam appears in the episode The Power of Shazam! (Black Adam is voiced by John Di Maggio)
Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam (2010):
Black Adam appears in the movie (voice by Arnold Vosloo). He fights against Superman and Captain Marvel. The two will be voiced by the actors from Justice League Unlimited.
Black Adam appears in the game DC Universe Online (Playstation 3 and PC, 2011).
While Black Adam (Teth Adam) didn't have a speaking or visual appearance in the CW hit show, Teth Adam's name was shown in season 10's episode called, Isis. Lois Lane (controlled by the goddess Isis) grabbed a dagger that had Teth Adam's name written in a display case. Showing that other "comic book" characters are in Smallville's universe.
Black Adam appears as a playable character in the fighting game Injustice gods Among Us. In story mode he appears in the first battle fighting the Justice League with various other villains. In the other universe Black Adam is apart of Superman's Regime. In his single player ending Black Adam defeats Superman and learns that humans are unworthy in sharing his country's form of government. Black Adam ends up destroys all humanity except his country of Khandaq. He and his wife, Isis, make a magic around Khandaq, truly making it paradise. Black Adam is voiced by Joey Naber.