Are you ready for the Black Adam Cinematic Universe?
Well, ready or not, it’s coming and the anti-hero of DC Comics is putting his own stamp on the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). Superhero stories are well and good, but sometimes, evil needs its time to shine as well, and in a world where heroics often get celebrated, taking a dive into villainous roots can be a fresh breath of air — if done well, of course.
DC’s Black Adam looks to be a departure from tradition, as it tells the story of the antihero who also happens to be the archnemesis of the superhero Shazam!, which more than makes sense. The character was originally slated to appear in 2019’s Shazam!, but it was ultimately decided that it made more sense for the Dwayne Johnson portrayed character to get his own movie and after numerous delays, the film, by Jaume Collet-Serra, audiences now have the first trailer, along with a teaser image that has the tagline, “The world needed a hero. It got Black Adam”.
The trailer also provided audiences with first looks at some of the other DC Comics heroes who were previously announced to appear alongside Black Adam in the movie, including Doctor Fate and Atom Smasher.
What you might not know is that some of these heroes have a team affiliation of their own – the Justice Society of America (JSA). The JSA first appeared in All-Star Comics #3, and is considered the first team of superheroes in the comic books, and in recent years, has filled its roster with legacy characters – of heroes and their descendents. It’s easy to draw in a summary of the team and its members, but given the fluctuating nature of the DCEU, the nature of these characters can change, so in light of the trailer drop, here’s a quick breakdown on who’s who in this upcoming movie and their comic book origins.
1) Black Adam (Dwayne Johnson)
The main star of the show, Black Adam, otherwise known as Teth-Adam, is seen being freed from his earthly tomb after being imprisoned for nearly 5,000 years, an immediate consequence of receiving, and ultimately abusing, the almighty powers of the Egyptian gods.
In the comics, the character first appeared in 1945’s Marvel Family #1 from Fawcett Comics (the then owners of Black Adam and Shazam!, called Captain Marvel at the time), and was originally intended to be a one-time villain. The original depiction established him as a corrupted, ancient Egyptian predecessor of Captain Marvel, who fought his way to modern times to challenge the hero and his associates. Later on, this characterisation was redefined by DC Comics writers Jerry Ordway, Geoff Johns, and David S. Goyer, establishing the character as a corrupted anti-hero attempting to clear his name and reputation.
With the film, it seems the latter development will be the focus, especially with the appearance of the Justice Society, as Black Adam does eventually become a member in the comics. The trailer also showcased a glimpse of his powers, which in the comic series, originated from Wizard Shazam, the source of power for Shazam!.
Unlike the hero, however, Black Adam doesn’t call upon the Greek gods (except during the different eras of DC continuity) when he shouts, “Shazam!”. Instead, he is empowered by the following Egyptian gods:
- Shu, who grants him incredible stamina and invulnerability
- Heru, who grants him unmatchable super speed
- Amon, who grants him tremendous physical strength
- Zehuti, who grants him great wisdom and knowledge
- Aton, whose grants him lightning powers (even if the gift is called ‘power’)
- Menthu, who grants Black Adam unshakeable courage
When put together, the first letter of each god spells out ‘SHAZAM’. It’s not known if Johnson’s Black Adam will showcase all of these powers, but hey, at least there’s the comic-accurate suit to look forward to.
2) Hawkman / Carter Hall (Aldis Hodge)
Aldis Hodge (The Invisible Man, A Good Day to Die Hard) will play the role of Carter Hall aka Hawkman, whose origins can be traced back to Flash Comics #1 in 1940. Interestingly enough, Hawkman’s origins have also been rewritten and redefined throughout the years, and both Black Adam and him now share a common Egyptian history. Here, Hall is likely a human trapped in an ancient Egyptian curse of endless death and rebirth. But regardless of origin, the character is immediately recognisable with his majestic wings and a striking bird-shaped helmet.
Here’s where things start to get a little confusing. While the hero’s original story portrayed him as Carter Hall, an archaeologist and museum creator who later discovers his identity as the reincarnation of the ancient Egyptian prince Khufu, he’s also known by a host of other aliases, such as Katar Kol, a police officer from the planet of Thanagar; Fel Nadar, a Thangarian spy; and Zauriel, a-guardian-angle-turned-Justice-League member who served Heaven for million of years and later served humanity as their champion.
That’s not counting his lives throughout Earth’s history, which includes the medieval hero Silent Knight, the gunslinging western hero Nighthawk, and as mentioned earlier, Prince Khufu, and Hall.
The Black Adam movie is likely set to follow the character’s latest origin, charting his reincarnation as Hall after he was killed along with his consort Chay-Ara by Egyptian priest Hath-Set. Upon finding the ancient knife used to slay him, he regains his memories of his past life as Khufu and hunts down a scientist named Anstor Hastor, the reincarnation of Hath-Set. He encounters Shiera Sanders, Chay Ara’s reincarnated form, along the way, and the two start a romance following Hastor’s defeat.
Later on, he takes the position of permanent chairman of the JSA as Hawkman, with Shiera adopting the identity of Hawkgirl. More notably, Black Adam isn’t the hero’s first live-action outing, as he has appeared in various Arrowverse titles, including The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow, as well as in TV’s Smallville.
3) Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo)
Likewise, the Atom Smasher character isn’t new to the live-action scene. Otherwise known as Albert Rothstein, he was played by wrestler-slash-actor Adam Copeland on the second season of The Flash, but Noah Centineo (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before) will be taking on the mantle in the DC movie.
Created by Roy Thomas and Jerry Ordway, the character made his debut in 1983’s All-Star Squadron, and was introduced as the godson of AI Pratt, the Atom from the Golden Age of comics, and a long-serving member of the JSA. If anything, the JSA is filled with legacy characters. He acquired his metahuman powers of super strength and molecular control as part of his genetic lineage, allowing him to fight crime first as Nuklon, and later, as Atom Smasher.
A member of both the Justice League and JSA, he was initially hostile towards Black Adam when the anti-hero joined the JSA but both men grew to reach a common understanding — to the point of quitting the JSA together after shared frustrations about the its moral boundaries.
4) Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell)
Played by Quintessa Swindell (Euphoria), Cyclone (aka Maxine Hunkel) is the granddaughter of the original Red Tornado, Abigail “Ma” Hunkel, an honourary member of the JSA and current caretaker of their headquarters. She is a relatively new character, having been introduced to the DC Universe in 2006 as part of Justice Society of America (vol. 3) #1. While she doesn’t make a proper entrance in the trailer (she appears as a green blur around the 56- to 57-second mark instead), previously released images have shown how she’ll look on the silver screen.
The source of her abilities, which include flight, wind manipulation, and sound wave control, is attributed to the “nanobytes” injected into her when she was kidnapped by T.O. Morrow, a mad scientist, at the age of six. After debuting as Cyclone in the third issue of the same comic book series, she also gains a pet monkey named Frankie, whom she dresses up to look like one of the winged monkeys from The Wizard of Oz.
5) Doctor Fate / Kent Nelson (Pierce Brosnan)
Similar to Hawkman, Doctor Fate has appeared across various incarnations, with the mantle adopted and represented by several different individuals in the DC Comics universes, all of whom are the successors of sorcerers.
The original version from the comics is that of Kent Nelson, a Swedish-American who accidentally killed his dad after releasing a deadly gas from the tomb of Nabu — one of the fictional Lords of Order and a Mesopotamian deity — after stumbling upon it as a kid. Feeling pity for him, Nabu later takes him in as his apprentice and grooms him in the ways of sorcery to become Doctor Fate.
Johnson’s Black Adam will be exploring this iteration, in which the character served as a founding member of the JSA alongside Hawkman. In the trailer, a hint of his blue costume can be glimpsed, but not of his entire outfit. Outside of the Golden Age, Nelson is also known to be the host for other incarnations of Nabu, Eric Strauss, Linda Strauss, Jared Stevens, and Hector Hall. Despite the differences in identity and forms, he retains his status as the bearer of Nabu’s artifacts, granting him access to the following abilities:
- Helm of Fate for flight, healing, spellcasting, and the ability to channel and redirect the natural elements (wind, earth, water, fire, and lightning)
- Amulet of Anubis for mind control and resistance against psychic / astral probing
- Cloak of Destiny, used to search for unknown threats
Other tools, such as the Globes of Power, Staff of Power, and Throwing Ankhs, are used by a selective list of incarnations, or in some cases, only by one of them.
There you have it — a primer to all the major superheroes who have appeared in the first trailer of Black Adam. While it’s unclear just how much the movie will take after its comic book roots, the reel does seem to promise plenty of action and special effects goodness.
The movie is set to smash into theatres and IMAX internationally beginning 19 October 2022, and on 21 October in the US.