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Is Black Adam A Villain Or Hero?

In the DC Extended Universe film "Black Adam," Dwayne Johnson plays a superpowered character unknown to mainstream audiences before the release of the Warner Bros. film earlier this year. Black Adam's powers include enhanced stamina, superhuman speed, flight, and super-strength.

Throughout comic book history, Teth-Adam's alliances have been murky. In the comic books, the character first appeared in "Marvel Family #1" in 1945 as a nemesis to the hero Billy Batson. Batson was chosen by the wizard Shazam to become Captain Marvel — also named Shazam — after his first choice for a champion, Black Adam, became corrupted. Yet later on, Black Adam became part of the Justice League.

This ambiguity extends to the "Black Adam" movie. Black Adam is introduced as the champion of Kahndaq, destined to lead his people to freedom, which sounds pretty noble. In the present day, Kahndaq is occupied by international mercenaries called Intergang, introduced early in the movie as just the latest group of invaders to make life miserable for citizens. However, when Teth-Adam is summoned, his reentry into the modern world after 5,000 years is so destructive that Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) calls the Justice Society team to bring him in. The ensuing battle against the good guys shows that Black Adam is a force to be reckoned with — but his voluntary acquiescence to losing his powers, and then a climactic reappearance at the end to save the day, shows that he's not all bad.

So which is it? Is Black Adam a villain or a hero?

Black Adam has done some heroic things, even if he's complicated

The fact is, arguments can be made on all sides — Black Adam has been a hero and a villain throughout his time in the DC Universe, both in the comics and in film. For example, in "Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths #7," he becomes a hero when he helps stop Deathstroke, sharing his powers with the Justice League and other superhumans in order to do so — and indicates he would die to save the Teen Titans (via CBR).

The character seems to view himself as a hero, albeit one that doesn't hesitate to wreak some havoc to accomplish his goals. Actor Aldis Hodge (who plays Hawkman) noted, "He does the things that we've not typically seen from heroes. He does the things that they won't do to get the job done." Plus, the fact that the character has his own movie — and that the character is played by The Rock — points to the idea that Black Adam, at least in the cinematic DCEU, is meant for hero status.

And some fans think that Black Adam was a hero, at least for his time — back in biblical days. "So what we would describe as religious extremism, to Black Adam, that'd be common sense," u/Hibbobu2 posted. And fans like u/Ellspop think this heroic portrayal might not be a bad thing. "A full on villainous Black Adam would be kinda dumb, it works in cartoons and Injustice but films need to have a bigger meaning imo, Black Adam having a slave background that is the source of his hate and having a possibility of redemption is a great thing, it gives layers to his character like Anakin/Dark Vader," the user said.

Yet it's also very easy to point to some extremely evil acts perpetrated by him

But Black Adam has a clear dark side, especially in his comic book portrayal. He killed his nephew for power, did away with Billy Batson's parents, and started World War 3. As Collider points out, the character even committed genocide by killing an entire country, Bialya, of 2 million people, in a quest for vengeance. DC itself, on its blog, called Black Adam "irredeemable," saying, "Basically, Black Adam is everything Lex Luthor has been warning us Superman could be. For a man like Teth-Adam, there's no returning to the light."

On Reddit, some fans think the portrayal of Black Adam should be as a full-on villain, as he has been portrayed in the past. "In the comics he has only ever been known as a villain ... Straight up," said u/AndThrewAway1. "There was one run where like he isn't totally bad BUT only in the same sense that Dr. doom cares about his country and his people." And u/dude-at-cha agreed, saying, "I like Black Adam as a villain, thats how I prefer to see him as an opposite to Shazam. And (I) think he works better as a villain too."

Others believe that Black Adam's body count disqualifies him to be anything but a villain. "A hero that kills is not an anti-hero," one Reddit user said.

Some think of him as an anti-hero, or rather, an anti-villain

The way that Black Adam has been portrayed has been likened to that of an anti-hero, in that he's morally gray — especially recently and especially in the film version. After all, he kills loads of people without regret, especially bad guys. Yet one could argue that while he's pretty cavalier with people's lives, he's not particularly petty or cruel. Pretty much every media outlet gives him the "anti-hero" label, and Warner Bros.' promotional materials seem to agree and have embraced the term when discussing him. "He is an anti-hero," Dwayne Johnson himself declared in an interview with ET Canada. "I love that. I love that the line is a little blurred."

However, some Reddit users have put forward the idea that, based on the character's history, he's more accurately termed an "anti-villain." u/Poorly-Drawn-Beagle explains the difference: "An antihero is a hero who has a few unheroic tendencies. An antivillain is a villain who has a few non-villainous tendencies." But fans believe giving him this label has more to do with how the DCEU is being presented than anything else. As u/KingofZombies points out, "The problem is that the DCEU trinity is anti-heroic as f**k so in context anti-heroes feel just like regular superheroes. The Rock promoted Black Adam as 'a Superman that kills' which in the DCEU is just regular Superman."

It is currently unclear whether or not "Black Adam" will have a future in the DCU. Given this, plus the additional recent news that the Superman versus Black Adam rivalry, as hinted at in the post-credits scene, may never actually happen, the question of whether the character will trend more toward good or evil may not be answered anytime soon.