Dwayne Johnson will portray one of the most badass villains in the DC Universe when the DCEU Black Adam movie arrives. While Black Adam has historically been known as a Shazam villain, he’ll get his own solo movie this time around (where he’ll square off with Hawkman and the Justice Society no less!).
But what makes Black Adam so tough, and why is one of the biggest action stars of a generation so eager to play him? That’s because he shares that magic word of Shazam and it makes him a formidable character with a cool set of powers and abilities.
The traditional Shazam acronym stands for a group of gods and heroes (mostly) stemming from the Greco-Roman tradition. Billy Batson is imbued with the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury when he speaks the famed magic word. Those are pretty self-explanatory, but Black Adam gets his powers from a different pantheon.
For Black Adam, the magic word of Shazam stands for the Stamina of Shu, the swiftness of Heru, the strength of Amon, the wisdom of Zehuti, the power of Aton, and the courage of Mehen. For the purposes of superhero storytelling, we’ll just consider “stamina” to be manifested as nigh-invulnerability, meaning that Adam (or other Shazam family members) can take about as much punishment as Superman.
Now, to be clear, the gods of Ancient Egyptian mythology aren’t as tied to specific roles as their Greek or Roman counterparts. But Shu has been known to be equated with Atlas (perhaps because he’s associated with the space between the ground and the sky), hence the “stamina” he grants Black Adam.
The swiftness of Heru, well…you might know Heru better as Horus, the Ancient Egyptian sky god. Maybe not as traditionally associated with speed as Mercury is, but that’s what Adam’s creators put here, so that’s what we’ve got. In any case, it’s Heru’s name which grants Black Adam traditional superhero super speed. Neither he nor Shazam are as fast as the Flash, though, and perhaps roughly as fast as Superman. This “swiftness” is often what is said to allow him to fly as well.
Amun, who grants Adam his great strength, was one of the most important gods of the Ancient Egyptian pantheon. How strong is Black Adam? Well, according to the comics, he can go toe to toe with Superman, and that’s certainly something that Dwayne Johnson wants to see in the movie (and keeps hinting at).
The wisdom of Zehuti makes more sense if you think of Zehuti by his more well known name, Thoth, who was the god of wisdom, science, writing, and more. Anyway like Billy’s “wisdom of Solomon” trait, it’s a little hard to quantify what this all means in terms of Black Adam, but he’s certainly been “wise” enough to rule the nation of Khandaq (he is, as you might expect, a bit of a strongman), so there’s something to this.
Aton is essentially the sun god, something akin to the Greco-Roman Apollo, albeit more conceptual. The equivalent of this with Shazam is “the power of Zeus” which is usually represented as the lightning powers that have been added to the character in recent years, as well as resistance to magical attacks.
The “courage of Mehen” is the equivalent of Shazam’s “courage of Achilles.” Of course, the demigod Achilles is more readily associated with courage (particularly on the battlefield) then Mehen, a snake god. Still, don’t expect Black Adam to back down from a fight, and while not exactly a good guy, he does have a code of ethics that he adheres to…even if it’s unlikely to align perfectly with what other heroes expect.
We’ll learn much more about the history and powers of Black Adam when his movie opens…eventually. It’s currently scheduled for Dec. 22, 2021, but since it hasn’t started filming yet, we can safely expect that to move into 2022.