There are times I’m convinced some contributors make up odd notions to troll people or out of some strange “I’m making you think” reasoning. Yes, sometimes this is MatPat but not today. For one thing this makes less sense that some of his odder story theories.
When you title your article “Black Adam’s Cannibalism Proves He Can Be DC’s Ultimate Hero” you’re telling me “please tell me what a moron I am”. I can’t promise that will be my harshest comment but I’ll try. Thanks to this Bounding Into Comics post I learned of an commentary on ScreenRant that came from someone who is just shilling for The Rock’s questionable take on Black Adam. Dwayne Johnson has been tied to play Black Adam almost from the first time any kind of Captain Marvel/Shazam movie was considered. Now they don’t want him to be a villain, as the character was created to be, they want him to be an “antihero” or even a full-fledged superhero. Sorry, ScreenRant contributor Todd Petrella, but you do not make a good case when you invoke cannibalism.
Black Adam first appeared in The Marvel Family #1, which would also be his last appearance under original publisher Fawcett Comics. Basically he died at the end. DC would have Doctor Silvana resurrect him after “Earth-S” moved to the DC multiverse…where he again dies, but got to live longer than half a comic. He also appeared in the original Shazam cartoon as part of the Kids Super Power Hour on NBC Saturday Mornings and most recently appeared in Justice League Action. In all of these incarnations he was a supervillain, the opposite number to Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family. (Kiss off, Marvel Comics and give Billy back his name. Even Carol Danvers isn’t making it work for you.) For whatever reason DiDio’s brigade had they decided to turn Teth-Adam into Doctor Doom, making him ruler of an Egyptian nation, and ruining one of Filmation’s other superheroes in a way that would only be surpassed by a real world terror group. ScreenRant wants to make him a hero because we can’t hate The Rock or something. (It’s not like he didn’t play a villain before, you know. The Rock used to go by Rocky Maivia before joining and taking over extremist wrestling faction the Nation Of Domination, which is when he became “The Rock”. Then again they’d probably consider the Nation Of Domination heroes too.) This is not how you do it.
The subtitle of his article is the basis of his thesis: “Black Adam fulfills one of DC’s most villainous roles, but he displays tenacity and willpower that if used correctly, makes him the ultimate hero.” Yeah, that’s true of a lot of supervillains. We just talked about this. The hero is either born with or taught certain moral values so that when he or she is tempted they choose the path of light, while the villain, being denied those values for whatever reason, chooses evil. Teth-Adam sought power and the wizard Shazam didn’t do his homework and thought he was a pure soul. So he granted him the godlike power he commands and dubbed him Mighty Atom…at least until he broke the pharaoh’s neck and took over Egypt (or the fictional country of Kahndaq, depending on the continuity), so the wizard redubbed him Black Adam and sent him to another planet. And yet somehow Black Adam survived the 5000 year light-speed journey to Earth to cause trouble for his replacement, Billy Batson and the Marvel Family. Of course tenacity is a good quality in a hero, but it’s also a quality in a villain, which is one of the reasons some less moral people are drawn to him, or at least what makes him an interesting foil for the Marvels. But let’s get into the actual article.
In the pages of DC Comics, Black Adam is usually portrayed as a dictatorial villain, but in more recent times the character has taken on a role akin to that of an antihero. This is supported by a cannibalistic test of resolve and willpower, one that proves that Teth Adam is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve his goals. With a resolve like his, Black Adam can be the ultimate DC hero, outweighing the likes of even Batman or Superman.
You think he’s talking metaphorically?
Black Adam: The Dark Age by Peter Tomasi, Doug Mahnke, and Christian Alamy is a miniseries that takes place after World War III. The story follows a de-powered Black Adam attempting to bring back his dead wife, Isis, while the heroes and governments of the world hunt him down for the crimes he committed. It’s an incredibly dark tale, but it is the darkness that shows how Black Adam can be the topmost hero.
Supposedly this is the same Isis from The Secrets Of Isis, a show that aired alongside the live-action Shazam series and would later appear as part of the Freedom Force. So they took one of my favorite lady heroes and made her evil. Kiss my backside sideways! But (no pun intended), let’s get back to that cannibal part.
In the second issue of The Dark Age, Adam kills and eats one of his willing followers who is accompanying him on a treacherous and freezing trek through the mountains. He does this to sustain himself so he can survive the journey, but that does nothing to take away from how dark Adam’s act is. At the same time, it shows how grateful and unrelenting he is; letting nothing stand in the way of him doing what he feels is right. If that means resorting to cannibalism to survive, Black Adam will do it without hesitation, although he makes it a point to graciously thank the follower for his sacrifice every day.
“Sacrifice”, he says. I haven’t read the story, and if that happens I really don’t want to beyond not caring about following a unrepentant villain, so maybe the follower did willingly become dinner but that shows how little care he has for human life above his own. Just because he feels it’s right doesn’t mean he is right. Remember, people who disagree with you also believe they are in the right. I have a feeling the writer wouldn’t defend someone on the other side of the political bird like he is Black Adam. Remember, he’s running from ACTUAL superheroes and military forces who want to lock him up. You know who else was in that situation? Saddam Hussein. Defend him! (Actually, don’t. He was evil and Iraq is better off without him in charge.)
Of course, this relentless drive to achieve his goals can play a part in Black Adam’s villainy, too. His sense of superiority is what has driven him to commit atrocious acts, and leading a large group of devoted followers only fuels that fire. However, if he can be convinced that his view of the world is wrong, and that he should adapt his beliefs and ideologies to include all people, then Black Adam has the makings and tenacity of an extraordinary hero. Even Superman’s suggested that Black Adam would be a better hero than him.
The article linked there is from another ScreenRant commentary by Ben Rolph, in which Superman meets with Black Adam over the Hall Of Justice #2085 (I may have lost count) after whatever events went on with Dwayne McDuffie tribute character Naomi “Powerhouse” McDuffie and a villain named Zumbado in dimension unnumbered. (Oh great, I just lost another superhero name I came up with in my youth.) The scene in question has, along with the usual Bendis attempts at quirky comedy, Superman asking Black Adam, who was part of this adventure to join the Justice League.
Superman has also suggested that Lex Luthor, the corrupt businessman, would be a great hero if he put his resources into something other than power for himself, and the original mad scientist version, that if he puts his genius to making things better he’d be a better hero than Superman. Go watch or read All-Star Superman sometime. That’s who Superman is. He looks for the best in people, even bad guys. He wants everyone to be better. Yes, even better than himself. It’s why he loves normal non-superpowered people so much, seeing what they can do without superhuman abilities and fancy gadgets to help each other and make the world better. This is also a huge change from how Black Adam is usually drawn. He usually looks like this:
That’s how he first appeared and the only other change has been making him bald. (Side note: Johnson is already bald but I really want to see him try to pull off that look.) In the Justice League comic above he looks a lot more like Superman or Captain Marvel, with softer features and a decent haircut. He doesn’t even have the pointy ears. That’s not who Black Adam is supposed to be. His role is the mirror of Captain Marvel, power corrupting rather than being used to help others. Billy Batson seeks better in life for others and wants to protect them, given his own history of being taken advantage of and losing nearly everything. He still works to be a better person and see the positive side of life and yes we ARE ignoring what Geoff Johns did to ruin him. Thus Billy is rewarded by getting reunited with his twin sister Mary and gaining a family of heroes. Including a talking tiger man. Black Adam on the other hand choses control and cares only for himself, and thus is punished by being sent away or killed off. This is the intended nature of the character, the opposite of the hero.
Black Adam’s biggest problem is his superiority complex; his wants and needs outweigh those of all others. Despite that, he still displays unparalleled commitment, willpower, and leadership. He’s recently opened his mind to other ways of thinking, so if he can adopt an all-encompassing worldview, then Black Adam would certainly surpass Superman as DC’s ultimate hero.
So you’re saying Superman doesn’t display unparalleled commitment?
However, Superman has been a leader. From Superfriends and many other incarnations of the Justice League, he’s not only looked to as the leader he has also been at the front of most crises in the DC universe even before Eventitis and DC’s crisis overload took over. He’s the only DC hero besides Wonder Woman to have been worthy enough to lift and use Thor’s hammer. DEATH couldn’t hold Kal-El back and he won the fight that temporarily killed him against a monster that evolves like an organic Borg every time you damage him. Superman knows how to make people feel better about themselves and looks so much on the bright side of life that song from Life Of Brian should be his theme song. Clark “Kal-El” Kent has shown heroic attributes Black Adam isn’t one to grasp: compassion, mercy, self-sacrifice instead of eating your friend when neither of you are dead (finding another way to keep going besides cannibalism I mean), and seeking a better world for all people regardless of social/economic status, race, creed, gender, or religion without forcing your will upon them. The scene ends with Adam promising Hippolyta he’ll be better, but given DC writers seem to fawn more over villains than heroes in recent years, especially in the “Forever Evil” event, I don’t see that happening. Lex was also a member of the Justice League for a while. It was already a mistake taking Black Adam out of the list of Captain Shazam foes and this is also not grasping the point of the character. As much as I love a good redemption story it ruins Adam’s point in Billy’s story. It’s a character that has done much evil in his own name and claiming it’s a good thing.
Could he reform? Maybe. But better than Superman? That’s wishful thinking on Superman’s part and a misunderstanding of why Superman is the greatest hero of the DC Universe (when the writer isn’t fawning over Batman). Part of that actually is Superman’s wishful thinking. Black Adam can never be Superman, and reforming him misses the purpose of his creation in the first place.