The Tragedy of Black Adam’s Family History

Isis/Adrianna Tomaz

Before Linda Carter’s Wonder Woman ever hit the TV screens, The Secrets of Isis was the first weekly American superhero show starring a female lead. She shared a programming block with Shazam! in the Shazam!/Isis Power Hour back in the 70’s. So of course when the time came to introduce a new figure into Shazam mythology, a DC revamp of Isis was inevitable.

Adrianna Tomaz (played by Sarah Shahi in the film) need only say “I am Isis!” whilst holding her Amulet of Isis to transform into her superhero self. Beginning as a refugee Adam liberates, she questions and challenges many of Adam’s ideas and assumptions, pulling him back from his mythic stature into the mortal realm. She ends up being a Lois Lane-esque figure in his strange life, the ultimate partner who’ll tell him what he needs to hear no matter what or how hard it is. A person committed to making the world better, Isis is the family member who most grounds Black Adam, who makes him better, and helps him be the ideal he hopes to embody.

Isis is every bit Adam’s equal, both in power and a strong, unrelenting view of the world, and it’s why they end up getting married, in a grand ceremony in Kahndaq. But of course, Adam is no Superman. His is not the story of a hero meant to inspire but a tragedy. So when all hell breaks loose and Isis dies in the apocalypse, it underlines a key truth about the Black Adam Family: There is never going to be a happy ending.

Osiris/Amon Tomaz

The younger brother of Adrianna/Isis, Amon Tomaz is a boy who after being kidnapped and tortured is left gravely injured. At which point, Black Adam shares his power. and upon uttering the words “Black Adam,” Amon transforms into the superpowered Osiris. The character is very much a clear contrasting riff on Captain Marvel Jr./Freddie Freeman, who also had to say the name of the family’s leading figure (“Captain Marvel!”) to transform into a teen superhero. 

Amon is Adrianna’s son rather than sibling in the movie (where he’s played by Bodhi Sabongui), which tracks within the above analogies. In the comics, he passes away, much like his sister when the apocalypse comes to Kahndaq in the form of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. His death symbolizes the death of the future, of possibility, of a different, more hopeful path for Black Adam.

Sobek The Super-Crocodile

The Super-Animal Ally of the family! Sobek was introduced as a dark mirror of Tawky Tawny, the strange super best-pal of the squad. But what starts out as a seemingly fun (albeit violent) take on that classic super-animal idea quickly takes a shocking turn, as it’s revealed that Sobek is actually one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. It doesn’t end well for him, or those he encounters. And the takeaway here is clear. If a sweet little animal ally being revealed as a monstrous horrifying death-god avatar doesn’t say it all about Black Adam’s hope for true redemption, I don’t know what does.

Malik White/Bolt

Malik White is a more recent creation. Legendary writer Christopher Priest has leaned into the dual nature of Black Adam, with Adam’s mortal persona of “Theo” being his Bruce Wayne, while “Black Adam” is his Batman mode. It’s in line with Priest’s spectacular Black Panther run, which by Priest’s own admission orbited Batman archetypes and figures. Since he felt he’d never be hired as a regular Batman writer, he put all his ideas into Panther.

Thus we’re introduced to people like Yigal Blaustein, or Shep as he likes to be called, a member of the United States Diplomatic Corps who’s meant to keep watch on Adam. The tension of a man whose job it is to report on Adam being his best friend is the kind of fun riff on a figure like Alfred or Jim Gordon that Priest leans into. Similarly, Chuck, a CIA operative who is also revealed to be Black Adam/Theo’s ex, operates in an almost Talia al Ghul space of a femme fatale figure. But more than a butler or a love interest, what does Batman need more than anything? A Robin.

And that’s where Malik White comes in. He’s a doctor-in-training who it also turns out is a long distant descendant of Black Adam. Malik is chosen by Adam as his heir and successor. He’ll inherit all Adam’s powers and the sacred duty to protect Kahndaq. He’s the young hero by whom Black Adam hopes to cleanse his sins. Malik is Black Adam’s second (and final) chance, after having fallen to tragedy up until this point.

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