Just when you thought you finally committed most of the names of the ever-growing Suicide Squad to memory, DC goes and casts a new crew of antiheroes in “Black Adam,” its latest bid for box office domination.
Meet the Justice Society of America (JSA), a crew of superheroes who want to tamp down, or at least better control, the titular antihero Black Adam. You won’t remember these folks from films past (save for one cameo by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), but they’ve been comic book stalwarts for decades.
Before you see “Black Adam,” familiarize yourself with the new cast of morally ambiguous super-humans. From Doctor Fate to Adam himself, here are the fresh faces you’ll meet in “Black Adam.” (“Black Adam” is distributed by Warner Bros., which shares parent company Warner Bros. Discovery with CNN.)
Played by: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
Powers: Super speed and strength, magic, flight, lightning bolts, prolonged life, among many others
Black Adam is the morally ambiguous predecessor of Shazam, the gangly teen-turned-adult superhero. Adam was born centuries ago as “Teth-Adam,” a regular guy who becomes the “champion” of a wizard named Shazam, who instills in him the power of several gods, according to DC. Unlike Shazam the superhero (a different guy from the wizard – yes, it’s confusing), Teth-Adam did not use his newfound powers for good. He’s exiled by the wizard who gave him his powers and given a new name that matches his corrupted heart – Black Adam.
We meet Adam when he returns from a 5,000-year-long imprisonment. He’s set on liberating his homeland, a fictional North African country called Kahndaq, Johnson told the New York Times. But Wonder Woman, he is not – Adam “straight-up murders people” to forward his cause, said Empire Magazine in its three-star review of the film. He believes he’s the “right person to lead humanity,” says DC, and sometimes that means making choices that prioritize the good of the many over the lives of the few.
Played by: Pierce Brosnan
Powers: Sorcery, uber-intelligence, flight – the works!
Nerd by day and sorcerer by night, Kent Nelson is a “kindly academic” who evolves into a formidable hero when he wears the golden “Helmet of Fate,” which is also imbued with godlike powers, says DC. In an interview with the AV Club, Brosnan explained that the helmet is both a “curse and a blessing” that the character lives with because his father, an archaeologist, discovered the artifact.
Doctor Fate helped found the Justice Society, a superhero supergroup that, in the film, is tasked with tamping down Black Adam’s antiheroic antics. Onscreen, Brosnan-as-Fate is the seasoned veteran of the JSA, keeping the newbs in line while taking on Adam – but he’s got secrets of his own, too, Brosnan teased.
Played by: Aldis Hodge
Powers: Flight, super strength, overall master of combat
Add another bird-themed superhero to your mental rolodex and meet Hodge’s Hawkman, a hero who flies with massive golden wings and dons a golden helmet complete with a golden bird beak – DC describes him as “a fierce warrior without equal.” Good luck, Adam! In the film, Hawkman leads the JSA to stop Adam but still leans on Doctor Fate for fatherly advice.
The character has “been through so much,” Hodge teased in an interview with Vanity Fair, and those experiences have influenced the colorful style in which he fights. Hawkman, a.k.a. Carter Hall, is also a foil to Adam, Hodge said, who both crave justice but have different, uncompromising ideas about how to achieve it. Ultimately, he said, they find a “mutual respect” within each other – two supers of impressive strength.
He’s also motivated by love – throughout his life in DC Comics, he’s been in a devoted relationship with, natch, Hawkgirl.
Played by: Quintessa Swindell
Powers: Controlling wind
It’s one thing to be gifted powers by an amulet or cursed artifact; it’s another to simply harness the elements. Meet Cyclone, a teenage hero whose mind can manipulate the air and weaponize extreme weather to fend off foes (she received her powers after being a test subject for nefarious scientists). Per DC, she brings a “social justice attitude” to the Justice Society.
Swindell, a nonbinary actor, has said that their character is influenced by ballet, and while Cyclone, a.k.a. Maxine Hunkel, is the newest addition to the JSA, she’s unafraid to embrace her truest self: “Very rarely have I seen a role that paints a young girl in a way that gives her the ability to live authentically and truthfully in her weirdness,” Swindell said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.
Played by: Noah Centineo
Powers: Growing into a giant at will and then shrinking back
Don’t call him Ant-Man: This is Atom Smasher, a young JSA recruit whose powers you’ll certainly recognize – he’s a “mass manipulator,” meaning he can turn into a Godzilla-sized version of himself – but without the size-changing tech. Atom Smasher is a “metahuman,” like Cyclone, and the process of growing huge is a painful one, Centineo told Syfy: His muscles “break and then form,” and then break and re-form again when he returns to his standard size.
He’s also a bit of a “nepotism baby”: His grandfather, “forced into villainy,” Centineo said, was the first to receive the powers Atom Smasher inherited, so even though he lacks the experience of his fellow JSA members, he “comes from this pedigree” that makes him a confident, if arrogant, addition to the group.