It's been pretty tough to find super-hero figures lately. Marvel Legends, DC Universe Classics, Justice League Unlimited -- and the store exclusive assortments don't help matters any. There are, however, the occasional bright spots, although one wouldn't necessarily think of a notorious super-villain as being a bright spot. But he was. I've been trying to find the Black Adam figure from the DC Infinite Heroes series of really nicely done 3-3/4", realistically-designed action figures since the line came out. I was increasingly convinced that he'd been dropped from the assortment, especially since the rest of the assortment, including Black Hand, Adam Strange, Shazam (Captain Marvel), Atom, Guy Gardner, and Professor Zoom, were all fairly readily available.
I even found myself wondering if, between Black Hand and Adam Strange, if Mattel was reluctant to release a third figure whose name sounded so much like the other two.
Recently, though, I finally found him. And I think what happened was, for whatever reason, Black Adam was held off until the next group of figures in the series, which featured Hush, a Manhunter (Guardian robot, not Martian), and one other whose name escapes me just now, were added to the mix.
Here was Black Adam, so let's take a look at the his character background:
Black Adam is a fictional comic book character, created in 1945 by Otto Binder & C.C. Beck for Fawcett Comics. Originally created as a one-shot villain for Fawcett Comics' Marvel Family team of superheroes, Black Adam was revived as a recurring supervillain after DC Comics began publishing Captain Marvel/Marvel Family stories under the title Shazam! in the 1970s.
As originally depicted, Black Adam was a corrupted ancient Egyptian predecessor of Captain Marvel, who found his way to modern times to challenge the hero and his Marvel Family associates.
Since the turn of the 21st century, Adam has been redefined by DC writers Jerry Ordway, Geoff Johns, and David S. Goyer as a corrupted anti-hero attempting to clear his name. Featured roles in comic books series such as JSA, Villains United, Infinite Crisis, and 52 have elevated the character to a level of prominence in DC Comics.
I'd just as soon not get into the 1940's incarnation of the character, since for the most part, Black Adam was little more than a bad guy with the same power level of Captain Marvel, and was as such one of few enemies that could really give him a run for his money. Instead, let's jump ahead to 1994, and the character's reintroduction in "The Power of Shazam."
Black Adam is reintroduced to the DC Universe in The Power of Shazam! graphic novel by Jerry Ordway in 1994. In that story and the subsequent Power of Shazam! ongoing series, Adam is a deadly and evil adversary for Captain Marvel.
In this revised origin, Teth-Adam is the son of the ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Ramesses II, and impresses one of the high priests, the wizard Shazam, with his good deeds. The wizard gives Teth-Adam the power to become the superhero Mighty-Adam by speaking the name "Shazam", an acronym for Mighty Adam's powers: the stamina of Shu, the swiftness of Heru (Horus), the strength of Amon, the wisdom of Zehuti, the power of Aton, and the courage of Mehen.
Mighty Adam serves as Egypt's champion for many centuries, but becomes corrupted by the charms of a mysterious woman, revealed to be Shazam's evil daughter Blaze in disguise. The bewitched Adam is convinced that he and his mistress should rule Egypt, so he kills the Pharaoh and appoints himself ruler. Shazam learns of this treachery and strips Adam of his powers, encasing them in a mystical scarab necklace. Adam's depowered body rapidly experiences the aging process that the magic had staved off, and the former hero withers away into a dried cadaver in seconds.
Shazam buries both the body and the scarab in the tomb of Ramesses II, where he plans for it to remain for all eternity. In death, the former hero is referred to as "Khem-Adam" ("Black Adam"). Disillusioned by what he perceived as Adam's betrayal, Shazam waits several millennia before appointing a second champion to fight evil in his name, who was, of course, Billy Batson, who would become Captain Marvel.
Thousands of years later, during the late 20th century, an unscrupulous archaeological aide named Theo Adam finds himself assigned to the Malcom Expedition, financed by the Sivana Foundation to excavate the tomb of Ramesses II. Adam uncovers Khem-Adam's tomb in a secret passageway, and leads his superiors to the discovery. Upon first sight of Khem-Adam's scarab, Theo Adam becomes obsessed with the artifact and steals it. Escaping Egypt, Theo Adam soon made his way back to America.
The Batsons' son, Billy, has been left behind in the United States, and is drafted by Shazam to become the wizard's second champion, Captain Marvel. When Theo Adam first encounters Captain Marvel, he notes both Marvel's identical appearance to his former employer, C. C. Batson, whom he had killed in Egypt, and the lightning-bolt insignia on Marvel's chest that had also decorated Khem-Adam's tomb. Adam therefore has a revelation, and realizes that he is a reincarnation of Khem-Adam. Grasping his stolen scarab, Adam speaks Shazam's name and is transformed into the super-powered Black Adam.
Black Adam reveals himself to Captain Marvel as the Batsons' killer, and the two battle. Captain Marvel emerges victorious by snatching Adam's scarab, and therefore his power, away from him. Marvel brings Theo Adam to Shazam, who wipes Adam's memory and takes away his voice, so that he can not access his powers. This solution proves temporary, however, as he enetually regains his memory and powers.
Although Adam appears during the Power of Shazam! ongoing series' first year of publication as a villain, towards the end of the series' run, Adam returns and announces that Black Adam and Theo Adam are separate personalities. Black Adam stands trial again for the murders of the Batsons, and is acquitted when it is revealed that his fingerprints do not match those of Theo Adam's.
The reformed Black Adam is still vulnerable to his murderous host's influence, and he attacks the Justice Society of America under Theo Adam's control in JSA #6 (1999). In subsequent issues, Adam joins supervillain Johnny Sorrow's Injustice Society after Sorrow removes a malignant brain tumor from Adam's brain.
However, Adam soon betrays Sorrow, and he and the JSA defeat the Injustice Society. Claiming to be free of Theo's evil influence again, a repentant Black Adam requests membership in the Justice Society, and is granted a probationary membership in JSA #21 (2002).
During his tenure in JSA, writers Geoff Johns and David S. Goyer redefined Adam's personality and background, focusing on the character's old-fashioned and militant ideals of justice, and his officious and strongly opinionated attitude. Despite this, he has stated on many occasions that he respects the Justice Society, particularly longtime members such as Jay Garrick. Johns and Goyer used this story arc to slightly alter Adam's origin. The hero now hails from the fictional North African nation of Kahndaq, not Egypt, although he serves for the Egyptian prince Khufu (who is later reincarnated as JSA member Hawkman). The character of Blaze is completely removed from the origin story, and Adam's rage is described as having resulted from the conquering of Kahndaq
Black Adam is featured heavily in DC's 2005 Infinite Crisis crossover, primarily in the Villains United miniseries as a member of the Secret Society of Super Villains (which he only joins to protect Kahndaq from the Society).
Black Adam appears as a featured character in DC's weekly 52 comic book. Depicted as the violent protector of the nation of Khandaq, Adam kills several super-villains in public and on television to demonstrate his views. As a result, he is distrusted by the superhuman community.
During this time, he meets Adrianna Tomaz, a slave offered to Adam by Intergang as a token to curry his favor. After Adam deals harshly with the slavers, Adrianna becomes Adam's love interest, and her counsel proves wise to him. In week 12 of the series, Adam uses a magical amulet, hidden on the scarab in which Shazam imprisoned him, to transform Adrianna into the superheroine Isis. She is later killed in battle, and tells Adam with her dying breaths that she was wrong to try to change his views on justice, and that he should avenge both her and her brother Osiris, whom Black Adam had empowered, and who had also been killed.
This ultimately led into the mini-series "World War III", which, to make a long story short, was effectively Black Adam against his enemies and anyone who got in the way of his revenge. Imagine someone with the power of Superman on a global rampage of destruction and you've pretty well got it.
A subsequent eight-issue Black Adam mini-series saw Adam try unsuccessfully to resurrect Isis, but in the process he did regain his powers, which had been stripped at the end of the World War III storyline. Despite some involvement in the "Countdown" storyline, he remains largely in seclusion, mourning Isis even as he looks for other ways to restore her.
For myself, I've enjoyed the recent incarnation of Black Adam, a previously rather dull and one-note character, there just to be an "evil counterpart to the World's Mightiest Mortal", subsequently portrayed as someone with his own views of justice and heroism, but with a level of power and admittedly a past that makes it very dangerous to trust him too far. Here's hoping we haven't seen the last of this fascinating character in the comics.
And certainly I'm pleased to have an action figure of him. There haven't been a lot of Black Adam action figures before. I think DC Direct has had one or two, but those are generally outside of my budget. The DC Infinite Heroes figures from Mattel are much more reasonable.
The figure is very nicely made. Black Adam has a stern expression on his face, bordering on evil, but not quite. His hair is short and combed backswept, as is usual for the character. His ears look slightly pointed. This has been artistic interpretation over the years as much as anything. Sometimes he has moderately pointed ears, sometimes he doesn't. I seem to remember the DC Direct version having distinctly pointed ears. This figure manages a sort of "happy medium".
As one would expect, the entire DC Infinite Heroes line uses a lot of common body parts, and also as one would expect Black Adam shares more than a few with the Captain Marvel (Shazam) figure. But what's interesting is the number of differences. Whereas Captain Marvels lightning bolt, belt, and wrist cuffs are painted metallic gold. Black Adam's are yellow. Guess somebody figured the bad guy didn't have the right to wear gold. Also, the belt is shorter. Captain Marvel's belt has extra length to it. Black Adam does not have a cape, but then he seldom wore one. He appeared in more recent times with a cape, but mostly for ceremonial purposes.
Even the flapped boots are different, which really surprised me, and I almost find myself wondering how appropriate that is. Black Adam's boots are flapped, but they're also noticeably shorter. Was this Mattel trying to create more differences than necessary between these two similar-looking characters? There's a time to leave well enough alone, guys. The boots might have been it, but I'll need to check some references.
Of course, the most obvious difference is that while Captain Marvel's costume is mostly red, Black Adam's is mostly black.
Black Adam is very nicely articulated, and is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows, waist, legs, and knees. I've heard a number of people criticize this line as not being articulated enough, and I think that's an unjustified cheap shot. Not everything has to be at the level of Marvel Legends or the modern G.I. Joe figures.
Translate that into action figure, and frankly, in my opinion, the more complex an action figure is, the more LIKE a figure and LESS like a CHARACTER it looks, and there's a greater likelihood of assembly glitches, paint problems, etc. Mattel has said they plan to expand the articulation of this Infinite Heroes line. If they can do it WELL, more power to them. But in the meantime, I'm not complaining. These figures are very nicely articulated.
They're also well-painted, although I might have wished that Black Adam's head was molded in flesh tone and not painted that color. However, it's painted reasonably neatly (I've seen this sort of thing screwed up before, and badly -- this isn't too bad but it could've been better), and the minute facial details like the eyes and eyebrows are also very well done. It can't be easy to get in there and paint eyes as thoroughly as this, and do it well.
So what's my final word here? Mattel has a really great line in DC INFINITE HEROES. They've got the whole DC Universe to work with, which is considerable, in a size (and price point) that's pretty well within almost anybody's budget, and unlike the Justice League line (of which I have no complaints and am enjoying its continuation), these figures are more realistically styled like the best of their comics appearances.
And after wondering for quite some time where the heck he was, if he'd
been pulled, if he was ever going to come out, I'm certainly glad to
finally have this guy. The DC UNIVERSE INFINITE HEROES BLACK ADAM figure
most definitely has my highest recommendation!