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The Sad Origins of Black Adam’s Family

The Sad Origins of Black Adam's Family


Black Adam’s long road to the big screen ended this year. Shazam’s first villain Dwayne Johnson asked WB to split the two characters into different films in earlier scripts. Black Adam is a previous magical champion who was corrupted by his powers and became a DC antihero. Considering Black Adam’s background, it’s a smart creative choice.

"The Sad Origins of Black Adam's Family"
Los Angeles Times The Sad Origins of Black Adam’s Family

Black Adam has become a more complex character in the DC universe over the past 20 years, with a cast of colorful characters and even his own super-family to add to his mythology, just like Batman and Superman. The route there is amazing.

How did the Superhero families begin?

Superhero families began with Fawcett Comics, which published the Shazam characters in the 1940s and ’50s before DC bought them. It’s logical. Shazam is about an orphaned child who has no one. From there, you build a surrogate family around him. Shazam’s ethos is to share power.

Mary Marvel (Billy’s lost sister) or Captain Marvel Jr. is his equal (and friend). It’s about struggling kids who form a family and go on wild, imaginative adventures. Super-animal pals like Tawky Tawny, a well-dressed anthropomorphic tiger, and Shazam-powered Hoppy the Marvel Bunny often accompany them. Uncle Dudley pretends to have Shazam powers to join them on their excursions, mirroring a child’s vision of family.


Otto Binder worked closely with Shazam co-creator C.C. Beck. Binder and Beck created Black Adam in the inaugural issue of a Shazam family comic.

The experience of Black Adam

Black Adam’s experience as a corrupted Shazam champion helped define them and proved their heroism. He was a one-off idea and villain, never used again by Fawcett.


Fawcett was forced to quit publishing Shazam after legal problems with DC Comics, who felt threatened by Fawcett’s marquee heroes since Shazam outsold Superman. Otto Binder, who helped define the Shazam universe, went on to write Superman comics for DC after Fawcett folded. Binder’s work reshaped Superman and his mythology.

Mary Marvel-inspired Supergirl

Binder largely created current Superman lore. The famous writer tweaked what made Fawcett’s comics so exciting for Superman. Mary Marvel-inspired Supergirl. Jimmy Olsen, initially conceived for The Adventures of Superman radio show, was recast as Shazam’s well-dressed Tiger-friend Tawky Tawny, producing “Superman’s pal” Superman even had a super-dog, Krypto. Binder sought to make a superfamily feel more like Clark Kent’s adult neuroses and anxieties than Billy Batson’s.


Batman joined the “superfamily.” His story similarly begins with an orphaned youngster inspired by family pain. Once again, the family concept was altered to match the adult Batman, who is a paternal figure to young Robin. Batman was a single dad with a ward, unlike Superman. In Batman and Detective Comics, father and son are teamed with Batwoman and Batgirl to resemble an all-American nuclear family. Bruce Wayne ultimately formed a surrogate family with Alfred and Gordon as grandfatherly or uncle roles and Ace the Bat-Hound.

Legacy is now continuing in the hands of Christopher Priest

Since then, superfamilies have gone everywhere, from the Flash to Ant-Man. Geoff Johns returned to the 1950s Fawcett comics when he reinvented Black Adam in JSA. Gone was the power-tainted villain, replaced by a more nuanced individual with a tragic family history. It made fitting, given that the character was developed against the first superfamily. Soon after, Johns, along with Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid, Keith Giffen, and other artists, helped firmly establish a whole Black Adam Family in the seminal series 52. This legacy is now continuing in the hands of legendary writer and Black Panther icon Christopher Priest, who has added and expanded the world and family in Black Adam.

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