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Black Adam's History With Superman Explained

This article contains spoilers for "Black Adam."

With Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in the role of the titular antihero, DC's "Black Adam" movie expands on the mythology alluded to in 2019's "Shazam!" With Black Adam's introduction into the live-action world of DC characters, there's no telling where exactly the greater DC Extended Universe will go next. After months of speculation that Black Adam would face off against Henry Cavill's Superman in his debut flick, the film has finally answered that question.

Sadly, we didn't get to see the Man of Steel and Black Adam duke it out, but "Black Adam" seems to promise an eventual confrontation between these two DC titans. Many feared that the failure of 2017's "Justice League" would keep the World's Greatest Heroes from ever uniting again, but news of a third "Wonder Woman" film, as well as Ben Affleck's return as Batman for "Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom" and "The Flash," and now Henry Cavill's return as Superman has sparked new hope for the DC Extended Universe's future. We now know that Black Adam will be part of that future, and he's going to cross paths with Superman more than once.

With the news that the rivalry between Superman and Black Adam will be explored over time and not just as a "one-off" fight (per "Black Adam" producer Hiram Garcia's interview with CinemaBlend), it's a good time to dig into the colorful history of these two characters' professional rivalry.

A brief history of Black Adam

In the comics, Black Adam is not a sworn enemy of Superman. Regardless of The Rock's desire to see these powerhouses trade blows on the big screen, they don't actually have an official rivalry with one another in DC lore. Black Adam, originally known as Teth-Adam, was called the Mighty Adam after the Wizard Shazam bestowed on him the ability to say "Shazam!" and gain all his power. Unfortunately, Black Adam abused this power, using it for selfish gain and then for evil. Because of this, the Wizard imprisoned Black Adam, vowing to wait for the right person to come along and be his next champion.

Centuries later, Billy Batson is chosen to wield the power of Shazam. Because of this, Black Adam returns, hoping to kill the boy and claim his powers. In some versions, Black Adam also kills both of Billy's parents, though, in the most recent origin, he simply wants the full Shazam powerset to himself. Thus, Black Adam is traditionally the archnemesis of DC's Captain Marvel, the hero more commonly known today as Shazam and not to be confused with Marvel's Carol Danvers.

Because of his ties to the magic side of the DCU, Black Adam rarely engages with Superman (who is actually vulnerable to magic). Generally, Black Adam and Shazam are more closely involved with the Justice Society of America, and — as comic book readers and moviegoers alike will know — Superman is a part of the Justice League, a totally different superhero team. As a result, they mostly stick to their own corners of the DC Universe. However, these two big hitters have still crossed paths on occasion...

Their first comic book battle

Black Adam first battled Superman in issue C-58 of "All-New Collectors' Edition," a comic series that often pitted DC characters who might not normally fight against each other. During this period in comic book history, Superman and the Justice League's stories took place in a world called "Earth-One," while the Marvel Family and Black Adam existed in a world called "Earth-S" (yes, the "S" is for "Shazam!"). In this issue — released in 1978, the same year that Christopher Reeve took flight in "Superman: The Movie" — the first ever crossover between the Man of Steel and Shazam's fallen champion took place.

It all unfolds after Black Adam uses a spell to disguise himself as Captain Marvel and begins destroying Metropolis while posing as Earth's Mightiest Mortal. Superman tries to stop the faux-Captain Marvel, who then uses Red Sun Radiation — a weakness of Superman's — to disarm and defeat the Man of Steel. Eventually, the real Captain Marvel returns to Earth-One, but Superman, believing that his former ally has gone rogue, attacks and nearly kills Captain Marvel.

Seeing this take place, the Wizard Shazam explains the situation to Superman, who apologizes to Captain Marvel for the beatdown. Black Adam, at the behest of Martian sorcerer and scientist Karmang the Evil, plans to merge the two worlds together in what could have proven to be a cataclysmic event. Thankfully, the duo of Superman and Captain Marvel thwart Karmang's plan and send Black Adam back to Earth-S together. All in a day's work!

A rematch on Earth-One

A few years later, Black Adam returned to the main DC Universe of Earth-One in "DC Comics Presents" #49, which hit shelves in September 1982. In this issue of the famed DC team-up series, Black Adam comes to Earth-One and attempts to conquer this world, liking his chances because it's a world without Captain Marvel. He also hopes to defeat Superman again in the process, but he knows it won't be a simple task. As such, Black Adam decides to hold a kidnapped Billy Batson — the Earth-One variant — hostage and use him to keep Superman from thwarting another one of his plots.

Though Superman at first tries to talk Black Adam down and handle things diplomatically, the supervillain refuses to yield. Instead of listening to reason, he engages in an exceedingly dangerous battle with the Man of Steel. Like before, Black Adam begins to overpower Superman due to the magical nature of his abilities, but the Kryptonian has a trick up his blue sleeve. Superman manages to rescue Billy from Adam's grasp and uses him to bring the Billy Batson of Earth-S — Adam's nemesis Captain Marvel — to Earth-One so he can join the fight.

After a big battle involving Superman, Captain Marvel, and Black Adam, the supervillain is finally defeated. How? It's pretty simple, really: Earth-One Billy Batson tricks him into saying "Shazam!," stripping him of his powers and returning him to human form. Captain Marvel then uses the few brief seconds afterward to knock out Teth-Adam and keep him from transforming into Black Adam again. And with that, he says goodbye to Superman and they return to their own world.

The New Earth stalemate

In the years that followed the Man of Steel and Black Adam's second bout, Earth-One and Earth-S — along with numerous other worlds — were merged into a single New Earth that featured Superman, Captain Marvel, and all of their respective foes. Black Adam was reformed into something of an antihero and even joined Captain Marvel in the ranks of the Justice Society of America at one stage. This wouldn't last though, and Black Adam eventually associated himself with the Secret Society of Supervillains, seeing it as his best shot at protecting his people in Kahndaq.

In 2005's "Action Comics" #831, Superman once again finds himself at odds with Black Adam, who himself is trying to prevent Doctor Psycho from killing people in Metropolis. Black Adam, annoyed that he's been associated with Psycho's crimes, engages in a pretty lengthy battle with Superman. The two appear evenly matched here as they duke it out across Metropolis, but when Black Adam shows little regard for the innocent civilians around him, Superman gets even angrier.

After nearly pummeling Black Adam into orbit, Superman is forced to stop when Black Adam turns his back on him, banking on the fact that he's not only the Man of Steel, but a man of honor. It's a gamble that pays off. The fight comes to an end and the pair strike a deal with Doctor Psycho: He will release the citizens of Metropolis from his mind control if Superman allows him to walk free. Reluctantly, Superman agrees, though only after Black Adam assures him that Doctor Psycho will be punished for his actions. This would be the last battle between Superman and Black Adam in the mainstream continuity.

An uneasy alliance forms

After Superman and Black Adam's New Earth tussle, various "Crisis" events took place across the DC continuity, changing the powers, origins, and even the personalities of numerous characters. In the New 52 continuity, Black Adam briefly fought an evil version of Superman from another Earth named Ultraman during an event called "Forever Evil." This scrap doesn't end well for Black Adam, with Ultraman crushing his jaw and leaving him unable to speak the magic word "Shazam!" Though he eventually heals, he is left humiliated by the resounding defeat.

After the DC Rebirth rebrand, Black Adam encountered the Man of Steel on a number of occasions, including briefly in the "Doomsday Clock" limited series and in the "Endless Winter" crossover event, where he swore revenge on Superman after the hero stopped him from killing the Frost King. However, his frustration with Superman would be short-lived, as the Man of Steel would invite Black Adam to "turn over a new leaf" and join the Justice League. Hoping for some fresh perspectives, Superman thinks that Black Adam joining the League would be good for everyone involved. It's a bold move that pays dividends, as Black Adam learns to once again be the Mighty Adam.

As recently as the 2022 "Dark Crisis" event, Black Adam has remained a member of the new version of the Justice League, hoping to convince his colleagues that lethal force is sometimes the only way to get things done. The character is slowly being redeemed, going from being a straight-up supervillain to a tough-as-nails antihero who rarely shows mercy to his enemies.

Elseworlds stories bring them back together

Though Black Adam doesn't battle Superman too often in the mainstream DC Universe, there are a few different alternate realities in which these two powerhouses face off against one another. In 2020's "DCeased: Hope At World's End," a zombie-like Anti-Life Virus begins infecting people across the world. Hoping to contain the virus and its spread, Black Adam begins using lethal force against his own citizens in Kahndaq. Unfortunately for Adam, he gets infected by the disease at the moment he goes to invoke the name of "Shazam!," making Black Adam one of the undead. Naturally, Black Adam infects his entire nation and leads them toward global domination.

In response, the Justice League sends Superman, Martian Manhunter, and Cyborg to stop Black Adam. While his horde of zombies manages to escape, Superman and his team nearly defeat Black Adam before he recognizes their tactics and retreats himself. Later on, Superman rescues his son Jon Kent, aka Superboy, from the zombified Black Adam, and they soon work together with Wonder Woman, Wonder Girl, and a power ring-wielding Black Canary to defeat the tyrant. To prevent him from hurting anyone else, Superman uses his heat vision to sever Black Adam's vocal cords so he can no longer use the magic word "Shazam!" It's brutal, but totally necessary under the circumstances.

They have traded blows in animated DC projects

Though Superman and Captain Marvel/Shazam rarely share screen time in animation outside of shows like "Justice League Unlimited" and "Young Justice," they did share top-billing in a DC Animated Original short where they fought against Black Adam together. That short is "Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam," which retells the story of how Billy Batson first gained the powers of Shazam. In it, Black Adam returns to Earth to find the Wizard's new champion and take the power for himself. When Black Adam shows himself, Superman arrives to stop him from killing young Billy and the two battle across the Metropolis skyline until Billy gains his Captain Marvel powers and helps the Man of Steel take down his nemesis for good.

What's interesting about "The Return of Black Adam" is that Superman is the first hero to encounter the supervillain, and although he remains Captain Marvel's worst nightmare, he is essentially portrayed as being Superman's enemy as well. If anything, this short proves that while Superman and Black Adam aren't traditional adversaries, there's certainly an appetite to associate them with one another inside DC. Outside of this short film, Black Adam and his dog Anubis recently appeared at the end of "DC League of Super-Pets," where they encountered Superman and his dog Krypto. Between that and the "Black Adam" movie, it seems like DC is trying hard to ignite a rivalry between these two on the big screen.

They have locked horns (and teamed up) in video games

Superman and Black Adam have fought one another in video games, or at least interacted in meaningful ways. In the epic cinematic trailer for the massively multiplayer online game "DC Universe Online," the Justice League battles members of the Secret Society of Supervillains. In a shocking turn of events, the Society begins to overpower and kill members of the League. After hearing the cries of his teammates, Superman arrives to fight the Society, easily taking down supervillain after supervillain in the process. One of them is Black Adam, who barely manages to hold his own against the Man of Steel here.

The 2013 fighting game "Injustice: Gods Among Us" features Black Adam as a member of the evil Superman's global group Regime, which has taken over the planet to "keep it safe." This makes complete sense seeing as Black Adam himself is usually portrayed as the tyrant ruler of the fictional nation of Kahndaq. As a member of the Regime, Black Adam runs various errands for Superman, at least until a good Superman from another world arrives and quickly defeats him. In the sequel, "Injustice 2," Black Adam is a major player, working alongside members of Superman's Regime and Batman's Insurgency to stop Brainiac from destroying the planet.

Elsewhere, the evil Superman tussled with Black Adam in the pages of the prequel series to the "Injustice: Gods Among Us" video game before recruiting him to his global Regime.

The stage is set for a big screen showdown

The DC Extended Universe started in 2013 with Zack Snyder's "Man of Steel" and went on to have varying levels of success, depending on the project. Henry Cavill made his debut as Superman in that film and would reprise the role in 2016's "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," 2017's "Justice League," and, of course, 2021's "Zack Snyder's Justice League," the director's cut of the critically bashed team-up movie. By far Earth's strongest protector, Superman has battled alien invaders, monsters, and even gods from other realms, making him a formidable opponent.

As a founding member of the Justice League, Superman works alongside the DC Extended Universe's most impressive heroes, but none of them can match him in terms of power. However, now that Black Adam is on the scene, there's a being who can potentially do just that. Superman — played once again by Henry Cavill — appears at the end of "Black Adam" with hopes of talking to the titular antihero about his presence in the DC Universe, and there's no doubt that this thread will lead to some interesting places.

What is a little strange is that it seems as though there are no plans for Black Adam to face his comic book nemesis, Billy Batson, any time soon. With Superman making cameo appearances in both "Shazam!" and "Black Adam," maybe the Man of Steel will be the bridge that brings these classic enemies together on the big screen. Whatever the future holds for the rivalry between Black Adam and Superman, we're excited to see what comes next and how these two powerhouses will interact with each other.