The DC universe is full of dark heroes and villains, but you’d be hard pressed to find those more brutal than Black Adam. It was announced quite a while ago that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was cast as Black Adam in the upcoming “Shazam” film and later on in his own spin-off film. He is one of DC’s lesser known properties so it’s understandable if you hadn’t heard of him up until this point. If you haven’t, you probably don’t know what to expect. That’s why we’re here.
Simply put, expect a lot of blood. Black Adam is the ruler (or “protector” as he puts it) of a fictional Middle East country called Kahndaq. With the powers of the Egyptian gods, he rules with an iron fist and does not tolerate crime or threats. It’s doubtful that the word mercy is even in his vocabulary. Just take a look at these brutal kills.
15. THE EGYPTIAN PHARAOH
We were first introduced to Black Adam in “The Marvel Family” #1 (written by Otto Binder with artwork by C.C Beck). Back then, however, he was a villain through and through, nowhere near as complex a character as he is today. He was corrupted by the power of the gods and took the throne simply by storming into the Pharaoh’s throne room and yelling, “Get off the throne Pharaoh, I want it!” You have to at least respect how he gets straight to the point.
Obviously, no Pharaoh would just give up their throne for anyone who storms into their palace. So, of course, Teth-Adam was greeted by guards, who he easily dispatched. Annoyed by the Pharaoh’s resistance, Adam grabbed him and straight broke his neck. For the 1940s, that was quite a brutal death to be shown in the pages of a comic book, and it would only escalate as the years went on.
A few tweaks were made to his origin story in “Justice League Vol 2” #20 (written by Geoff Jones and illustrated by Gary Frank, Brad Anderson and Dezi Sienty). A captive Billy Batson sees Adam’s past, beginning with Aman and his uncle Adam having just escaped enslavement in ancient Egypt thanks to their gods-given powers. It becomes apparent, however, that he and his nephew don’t share the same values. As the boy utters the words, his uncle betrays him and takes the power for himself.
You don’t actually see the boy die, but the last panel shows Adam reaching over his oblivious nephew’s head, cloaked in the shadow. We’re left with the assumption that the poor boy went the same way as that Pharaoh in the original story. This defines Black Adam’s views. He’s willing to do anything for what he perceives to be the greater good. Rather than even attempt to change the current regime in Kahndaq, Adam sacrifices his nephew and frees the city himself, showing no mercy.
Life doesn’t mean all that much to Teth-Adam, but he cares for his friends and will exact vengeance for them. Kobra found that out the hard way when his plot to destroy several major cities resulted in the death of Atom Smasher’s mother in “JSA” #51 (written by Geoff Jones and David S. Goyer, with artwork by Leonard Kirk, Keith Champagne and John Kalisz). While Kobra did manage to escape the wrath of every other hero searching for him, he found himself at the mercy of Atom Smasher and Black Adam who, despite Kobra’s threats, punches straight through the villain’s chest, ripping his heart out.
He tends to do that a lot (as you’ll probably discover when you go through this list), though not always to people like Kobra, who most definitely deserved it. On this occasion, he did it for the right reasons: because his friend and brother-in-arms had been wounded by the loss of his mother. He ripped Kobra’s heart out because that’s what friends do. Right?
12. PSYCHO PIRATE
Working with Lex Luthor, the regally dressed Psycho-Pirate bravely pits himself against the DC Multiverse’s most powerful heroes in “Infinite Crisis” #6 (written by Geoff Jones with artwork by George Perez, Ivan Reis, Phil Jimenez, Joe Bennett, Andy Lanning, Jerry Ordway and many others). However, the one he should have feared most wasn’t one of them. Immediately after Nightwing and Superboy free Adam from his imprisonment by Alexander Luthor Jr, Black Adam comes across Psycho Man, who had manipulated Adam into using his powers. Before Psycho Pirate can finish speaking, however, Adam shoves his fingers through Psycho Pirate’s eyes and pushes his Medusa mask through his head.
This was a brutal, quick, bloody and most of all, completely unnecessary attack, though the ruthless Black Adam would most likely disagree. Again, it’s just another example of why it’s a terrible idea to cross Black Adam. He’s unforgiving at best, and worst of all, he seems to enjoy the violence, especially when it is righteous.
As we’ve already seen, Black Adam is a master of violent acts. Through them, he inspires in his foes a deep fear, a terror in the hearts of those who would stand against him. On rare occasions, his use of violence can also be seen as an act of compassion. In “52” #3 (written by Geoff Jones, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka and Mark Waid, illustrated by Keith Griffin, Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose and Alex Sinclair) for example, Black Adam is approached by Intergang with quite an offer in exchange for safe passage through Kahndaq for their weapon shipments. Among their offerings is a young, blindfolded woman who a thug, Noose, treats harshly when she tries to escape.
Black Adam is opposed to slavery, having lived through it himself. Seeing how the Intergang thugs treated this woman and sought to use his nation, his decision to allow them to travel through his kingdom had been made early on. He reaches out and crushes Noose’s face without hesitation. The woman turns out to be Adrianna Tomaz, who you’ll read more about in just a bit.
In that same issue, Black Adam commits another act of horrendous violence, this time in a display of power and intolerance for crime and criminal activity. In “52” #3, Adam gathers the press in front of the Kahndaq embassy and, flying above them all, reveals his dissatisfaction with the way heroes like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman have fought against crime. It’s not enough for him. To really make that point clear, he grabs a very confused Terra-Man in mid-air and rips the poor villain in half. His reasoning? People like him don’t deserve to live.
It may not have been eloquent, but it was definitely indicative of how committed he is to his extreme views. He doesn’t care that people are afraid, he wants them to be. What’s even more frightening is how coldly he does it. His face bears no change in the unfeeling expression as he tears Terra-Man in half, as though his body (nor his life) was worth nothing at all. We know that Terra-Man acts out of care for the environment and has tried to kill Superman out of fear for Earth, so despite his claims, he is definitely a villain. Still, we have to wonder, does the punishment really fit the crime?
It’s heartening to see that someone so corrupted by anger and pain can change for the better. This was true for Adam after meeting Adrianna Tomaz, the woman who would become his beloved Isis. Along with Adrianna’s brother, Osiris, Adam had a family who watched over Kahndaq. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t last. In “52” #44 (written by Geoff Jones, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka and Mark Waid, illustrated by Eddy Barrows, Dan Green, Rodney Ramos and David Baron), after a period of odd turmoil for Kahndaq, Adam discovers he has been betrayed by Sobek, who had once posed as a simple friendly creature. How does he discover this? He sees Osiris’ half-devoured corpse with Sobek nearby, revealing himself to be Yurrd the Unknown, a horseman of the apocalypse. Immediately after, they start attacking and foolish Sobek is the first to die. Tears in his eyes well up and Adam splits his crocodile jaws apart.
It’s an intense fight, both physically and emotionally, so we can understand why he’d choose to deal with these creatures so brutally. He even says that they should be treated as monsters before he goes on to slaughter the Horsemen. Unfortunately, this also leads to Adrianna’s demise, which pushes Adam over the edge… as if he wasn’t already cascading down its side already.
8. THE ENTIRE NATION OF BIALYA
The issue that follows our previous entry, “52” #45 (written by Geoff Jones, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka and Mark Wald, illustrated by Keith Giffen, Chris Batista, Jamal Igle, Rodney Ramos and Alex Sinclair) has Adam searching for the horseman, Death. It takes him to the nation of Bialya. Racked with grief and frustrated with his search, Adam unleashes his rage on the entire nation, blaming them for the deaths of his family. We’re left with one panel showing his power blazing hot white, but given that the previous panels showed him brutalizing civilians, we can guess how his rampage ended.
This occasion didn’t see justice served. For the most part, the people of Bialya obviously had nothing to do with the horsemen of the apocalypse, but Adam, ruled by his anger in that moment, didn’t care. Could you really blame him? This moment in the story arc is made all the more tragic when you remember that prior to this, Isis had been showing him the value of life and he had become a better man for it. That was all gone now in a tragic fall, indeed.
He finally finds Death in the same issue, after the massacre at Bialya. Death, or Azraeuz, has evidently been strengthened by the deaths of every man, woman and child. Death quickly finds out that even then, his power can’t help him against Black Adam, who savagely beats and interrogates him. We last see Death bleeding from his skull as Black Adam presses his fingers into it, telling Death that he will spend the rest of the night slowly ending his life.
This is one of those moments when Black Adam really proves that he’s a force to be reckoned with. Taking on Death itself, as though it was nothing more than just another enemy, really shows us how immense the power of Shazam really is. Even when the death of an entire nation empowered the horseman of the apocalypse, Black Adam was able to overcome it. How much of that was god-power and how much was Adam’s pure strength of will was left unclear.
So far, for the most part, we’ve shown you the villains he’s killed, but in the eyes of many, Black Adam is a villain himself. In the “World War III” story arc, following the destruction of Bialya, pretty much every super hero there was acted to stop Black Adam’s rampage across the world. That included Terra, a Teen Titan who stood in Adam’s way in “World War III” #3 (written by John Ostrander, illustrated by Tom Derenick, Norm Rapmund), threatening to bring the war Adam wanted to him. In the end, they were just words. Adam responded in kind but backed it up by punching a hole through Terra’s chest, ending her life in front of the other Titans.
It was completely unnecessary and driven by rage. Seeing as how Terra was more of a hero (with an admittedly shady past), she didn’t deserve to die, but that didn’t matter to Adam. He was still blinded by his loss and he needed to take out all his rage on the people around him, whether it was right or not.
5. YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN
Why was Terra so fixated on taking down Black Adam? In the same issue, the Teen Titans attacked Adam and faced catastrophic defeat. While many survived, a few, like Young Frankenstein, who bravely took on Adam in defence of his friends, weren’t so lucky. Young Frankenstein grappled with Adam and as a result, lost both his arms, bleeding out. He lasted a while after, but in the end, he didn’t make it.
It’s a tragic blow to the Teen Titans and we know that Adam is only acting out of grief, so you might not be able to help but feel torn in this. Of course, the fact that Young Frankenstein was just trying to save his friends might earn Adam some hate. Not to worry though, despite the massive amounts of blood that spilled from his shoulders, Young Frankie shows up again, having literally pulled himself together after having his corpse blown up, as revealed in “Infinite Halloween Special.”
4. ADRIANNA TOMAZ
We know what you’re thinking: “But that’s his wife! Why would he do that?” What a fantastic question! He didn’t really have a choice. Following the events of the “World War III” story arc, Adam starts to lie low, essentially powerless and desperate to get his wife back. He travelled alone with the bones of his late wife until eventually, in “Black Adam: The Dark Age” #2 (written by Peter Tomasi, illustrated by Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy and Nathan Eyring), he’s able to use a Lazarus pit to restore her body, albeit temporarily.
After a tender reunion, they quickly discover that her form is decaying once more. To spare her from a slow and cruel death, Adam ends her life quickly. This death, though still bloody and brutal, was an act of mercy and one of the few times Black Adam can claim to kill out of love. It’s also one of the rare occasions when we actually want it to happen that way.
3. A YETI
Straight after he’s forced to kill his wife, he exits the caves in the Himalayas where he found the Lazarus pit and is set upon by a monstrous Yeti. Even though Adam was essentially rendered powerless by Zatanna and Captain Marvel, he proves himself to be a formidable foe for the Yeti. With one powerful swing of his knife, he guts the Yeti. It doesn’t end there, though. Being the resourceful mortal man he is, Adam grabs the Yeti’s intestines, which continue to stream out from the creature’s belly, and he uses it to rappel down the mountain. Eat your heart our, Bear Grylls.
It never really seems to matter that his powers have been locked away from him. Throughout “Black Adam: The Dark Age,” we see that his determination and strength of will seem to be more than enough to carry him through whatever the world can throw at him… before then leaving it bloodied and broken.
2. ASIM MUHANNAD
This was one of Black Adam’s first few noble kills, back when he was trying to free Kahndaq. He and the rest of the Justice Society venture through the current regime’s facilities, eradicating their military before making their way to the dictator himself, Asim Muhannad in “JSA” #56 (written by Geoff Johns with artwork by Don Kramer, Keith Champagne and John Kalisz). The dictator is dethroned after Black Adam tosses him under Atom Smasher, who angrily stomps on him like an insect.
This brutal kill is a fantastic example of how charismatic a leader Black Adam can be. He was able to persuade Atom Smasher that the bloodshed was necessary and that they were really doing good in Kahndaq. This isn’t just a great display of Adam’s brutality, it’s a great example of how willing others are to shed blood for him in horrific ways. Asim’s crushed head can attest to that.
1. SIVANA’S ASSISTANT
In the “New 52” universe, Doctor Sivana is a scientist who becomes frustrated with science and instead, turns to magic. He seeks out Teth-Adam, following ancient legends until, with the aid of an excavation team, he finds his tomb in “Justice League” #11 (written by Geoff Jones with artwork by Gary Frank and Brad Anderson). It’s not what he expects, however. Instantly, a burst of magic blasts Sivana’s face and he finds himself in the grasp of the ancient Black Adam, who’s holding his assistant in the other hand. Upon finding out the assistant doesn’t speak his language, Adam scorches him with lightning and lets him fall to the ground.
He’s a cold ruler, impatient and uncaring for anyone he doesn’t deem necessary. Keep in mind, Adam didn’t know anything about the people who woke him up. He just wanted to find the wizard and he didn’t have the time for anyone who couldn’t help him do it. That’s a great re-introduction to the character and pretty much sums him up, despite all of his previous acts of heroism. The life of another doesn’t mean much to him. In fact, if it hinders his own sense of justice, he is quick to extinguish it.
Which of Black Adam’s brutal kills are your favorite? Let us know in the comments!
DC’S “SHAZAM,” starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Black Adam, is scheduled for release in 2019.