A lot of heroes have fought their opposite number. Not just a villain designed to take advantage of their weaknesses, but a literal opposite number. They go to an alternate reality or a divergent timeline, or they fight a robot or a clone or whatever excuse the books come up with, but the end result is the same: good guy fights a bad guy who has the exact same powers and abilities. One of the first villains in this category is also one of the few baddies who exist full-time in the same world as the hero: Black Adam.
Black Adam, an ancient Egyptian given great powers in the name of good by the wizard Shazam, later turned his powers to evil.
Black Adam was introduced in The Marvel Family #1, and then promptly killed off - no one really thought about long-term villains in those days. It was actually quite clever: the wizard Shazam gave powers to an Egyptian prince, who was soon corrupted and overthrew the pharaoh. Angry at the prince, Shazam banished him to a distant galaxy. Of course, with all the powers, that didn't kill him, and he immediately started flying back toward earth. Which turned out to be a 5,000-year journey. Back home, he found that Shazam had a new champion - Captain Marvel - and the two started fighting. Of course, with duplicate powers, they couldn't do much to each other. Eventually, Black Adam was tricked into saying "SHAZAM," reverting him to his human form. His now 5,000-year-old human form. He quickly crumbled to dust, and that was the end of Black Adam. For a while.
Alex Ross is currently working on Justice a 12-issue, bi-monthly comic that sees the Justice League throwing down with its greatest foes. Despite the fact that Captain Marvel wasn't part of the JLA (or the Superfriends, more accurately), he and Black Adam have both made it into Series 4 of DC Direct's Justice figures. Why? Because Alex Ross has a big ol' boner for Shazam.
The figure looks quite nice, though a bit plain.
Of course, it's not like he wears a really ornate costume - it's just a black bodysuit with gold boots, bracers and belt. And a big golden lightning bolt on his chest, of course. He doesn't have the silly little cape that Captain Marvel always sports. There are visible stitches on his boots, and the belt looks like real cloth that's been wrapped around his waist. It would have been nice if they'd actually sculpted the edge of his lightning, to give it that little extra pop.
These days, Black Adam is no longer an Egyptian prince, but hails from the fictional country of Kahndaq. It's landlocked somewhere on the Sinai Peninsula, which means it has to be an enclave of DC's version of Egypt. Owing to that, Black Adam has strong Arabian features, though the face isn't quite as long and angular as Ross' artwork. He does have the receeding hairline and the elf-ears, though.
Black Adam is 7 3/8" tall and moves at the boots, knees, hips, wrists, elbows, shoulders and neck. It's not the greatest articulation, but it's what we've come to expect. The way he's holding his hands is a bit unusual. They're neither open nor curled fully into fists. They're almost like that Bill Clinton, thumb-pressing, "I feel your pain" pose. It's not something often seen on action figures, but it works.
In his modern origin, Black Adam was originally Teth Adam, and he wasn't a prince, though he did serve one: specifically, Prince Khufu, who would one day be reincarnated as Hawkman. He went mad when Khandaq was conquered and his family was murdered. He slew the magician who had done this, which is when Shazam took his powers away.
Ages later, the vessel into which the power had been drawn was discovered during an archaeological dig and fell into the hands of Theo Adam - a reincarnation of Teth Adam. Theo was kind of a murderous jerk, and controlled the power for some time, until Teth could wrest control again.
To call Black Adam a villain is misleading. True, he doesn't share the modern heroic ideal, since he comes from a much harsher time, but he also has more compassion than guys like the Punisher. He's a very "eye for an eye" kind of leader. True, he was part of Lex Luthor's Secret Society of Super Villains, but he was blackmailed and eventually betrayed, and he fought on the heroes' side at the final battle of Metropolis. Black Adam makes for a good hero (and the subject of better stories than Captain Marvel), but it will be hard to keep the change permanent - sooner or later some lazy or timid writer will come along and decide that a willingness to go against the wishes of the American government is enough to qualify Teth Adam as an evil-doer.
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