For decades, Shazam (originally known as Captain Marvel) and Black Adam have battled it out in the pages of DC Comics. However, in more recent years, that has been changing quite a bit. The comic publisher has been putting more focus on Black Adam as a standalone character rather than as Shazam’s archnemesis. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but what makes it feel so tragic is that DC seems to almost be shoving Shazam to the side to make room for Black Adam and put much more of the spotlight on him.
Black Adam being used as the protagonist for his own comic series isn’t necessarily something new for villains. The same has happened with the Joker, Sinestro, Doctor Doom, and plenty of others. That being said, the Joker always remained associated with Batman, Sinestro is always associated with Green Lantern and the various Lantern Corps, and the same can be said for Doctor Doom and the Fantastic Four. The association between Black Adam and Shazam feels like it’s dwindling over time.
For one of the biggest cases, let’s take a look at their recent big screen adaptations. Instead of Black Adam being used as an antagonist in one of Shazam’s films, he starred in his own movie. There’s no hint of buildup to the two duking it out in a future movie either. For some reason, they’re instead building up to Black Adam taking on Superman despite there being plenty of Superman villains that have yet to be in a movie. They’re being treated as two separate film franchises within the DCEU.
Black Adam appears as a playable character in the Injustice 2 video game whereas Shazam doesn’t. He serves a rather important role in the single-player campaign’s plot as well. Sure, Shazam met his demise during the first game, but so did the Joker and Green Arrow. There were plot reasons why they were included, like Joker being a fear gas hallucination for Harley and Green Arrow being from a different Earth, but the same could have been done for Shazam. There’s something odd about including Black Adam but not Shazam.
Black Adam is also playable in MultiVersus, the online platform fighting game, but Shazam is nowhere in sight. There’s no plot reason for that here, though. Shazam was never killed off; he’s just not present (at least currently). There have been quite a few characters found in the game’s files by dataminers and Shazam isn’t on that list. Heck, Black Adam made it into the game before other main DC characters like the Flash or even the Joker.
Turning the attention back to the primary source material, a.k.a the comic books, Black Adam was made a member of the Justice League in 2021. The Justice League is a team of DC’s greatest and most important characters, and Black Adam was deemed worthy of joining them. It’s been over a decade since Shazam has been on the team.
On the cover of Nightwing #100, there’s a squadron of DC heroes looking hopeful to the sky. This cover features characters ranging from Huntress to the Flash, and even to Booster Gold. Black Adam is featured on it somewhat prominently while Shazam is essentially a spec in the background. It’s like the artist suddenly remembered that this other hero exists and decided to include him last minute.
Obviously, Shazam is still getting a solid amount of spotlight, unlike some other characters. 2019’s Shazam is a fantastic film and the sequel is on its way. There’s a currently-running Shazam comic titled The New Champion of Shazam, but it focuses on Mary instead of Billy. It’s recognition for the character and the Shazam family nonetheless. Shazam is still getting attention, it’s just strange that Black Adam is getting more attention even though he started off as Billy’s nemesis. It’s not complete Shazam-erasure, but it still feels a little like that’s what’s happening to an extent.
As the name shift from Captain Marvel to Shazam shows, it’s okay for media to change or evolve over time. However, with this particular shift, it seems like Shazam is getting left in the dust in favor of another character.
[…] The Shazam kids are dubbed by the media “the Philadelphia Fiascos” because of how they screw things up during their superhero endeavors. The strange part is that we never really see them mess things up or cause chaos like the news says they do. It would make sense for a group of kids to make big mistakes, but we don’t see any of those mistakes. The example given in the movie is that they fail to stop a bridge from collapsing. They manage to save everyone on the bridge and no one gets hurt, and they weren’t the cause of it collapsing, so where did they mess up? They can’t be happy that they saved all those lives? Things would have been much worse if they didn’t show up. […]