If there’s one takeaway from the marketing of DC’s Black Adam movie, it’s that Dwayne Johnson’s Teth-Adam is not a hero. But he is the superhuman protector the world needs right now. That’s because the DCEU is about to meet Sabbac, a being so powerful and so evil that even Black Adam looks swell in comparison.
Thanks to the latest Black Adam trailer, we’ve gotten our first look at Sabbac, a character who appears to be the main villain of the film. But who exactly is Sabbac, and what makes him a force powerful enough to take on Black Adam and the Justice Society? Here’s what you need to know about this very old and very dangerous DC villain. These are the topics we cover here:
Who Is Black Adam Villain Sabbac?
There have been several villains to call themselves Sabbac in the DC Universe, but all of them share the same power source. Just as Shazam and Black Adam draw strength from six powerful gods, Sabbac is empowered by six of the worst demons in the DCU. Sabbac’s mortal host need only speak its name to transform into a super-strong, fire-breathing demon capable of going toe-to-toe with the world’s most powerful heroes. Black Adam may think of himself as a god among men, but even his power is dwarfed by Sabbac.
Sabbac’s Demonic Powers
Much like Shazam, Sabbac’s name is an acronym for the six demons who grant him his powers. Sabbac’s patron demons are Satan, Aym, Belial, Beelzebub, Asmodeus and Crateis. By speaking that name, Sabbac’s mortal host is struck by a bolt of black lightning and transforms into a gigantic, muscle-bound demon.
Sabbac possesses many of the same powers as Shazam and Black Adam, including incredible strength and the ability to fly. He also has the power to breathe fire and often grows to the size of a small building. Because of his magical origins, Sabbac is a particular threat to Superman, whose own powers are hindered by magic.
Also like the Shazam family, Sabbac’s Achilles heel is the fact that his transformation can be triggered by speaking his name. More than once, he’s been tricked into saying that name and reverting back to human form. The demons that empower Sabbac are also extremely fickle and self-serving, and they’ve been known to abandon their host if the odds are looking grim.
Black Adam: Who’s Who in the Cast
Sabbac’s Comic Book Origins
Sabbac is technically one of DC’s oldest villains. His first appearance came way back in 1943’s Captain Marvel, Jr. #4, courtesy of creators Otto Binder and Al Carreno. Of course, that was decades before DC acquired the rights to the Captain Marvel/Shazam franchise, but these characters have since been worked into the fabric of the larger DC Universe.
To date, there have been three distinct versions of Sabbac. The original, Timothy Karnes, was initially portrayed as a fairly standard Golden Age comic book villain, even collaborating with the Nazis during WWII. Only after being reintroduced as a DC Comics villain in writer Judd Winick’s The Outsiders did Sabbac gain newfound depth and a greater connection to his nemesis, Freddie Freeman. That series reveals Timothy and Freddie were once foster brothers. Timothy developed an intense jealousy of his brother after their paths diverged. Conveniently, Timothy would later learn he was a member of the Bagdan family, an ancient lineage bonded to Sabbac over the centuries.
The second Sabbac, a Russian gangster named Ishmael Gregor, managed to steal Karnes‘ power for himself after performing a ritualistic massacre. This version of Sabbac would make a number of appearances in books like The Outsiders and 52 in the mid-2000s.
Finally, writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank rebooted Sabbac along with the rest of the Shazam mythos as part of DC’s New 52 relaunch. The New 52 version of Sabbac isn’t powered by six demons, but rather by the Seven Deadly Sins of Man. These sinister entities possess the body of Mr. Bryer, a rich bully best described as the Biff Tannen of the DC Universe. Black Adam attempts to use Sabbac as a means of destroying the world and ushering in a new golden age of his homeland of Kahndaq, but he doesn’t count on Shazam bringing his entire family as back-up.
Sabbac’s Role in the Black Adam Movie
Whether because of the often complex rights issues surrounding the Shazam franchise or the fact that demon-possessed supervillains can be a tough sell in all-ages superhero fare, Sabbac hasn’t appeared much outside of DC’s comic book line. The character receives a mention (along with Ibac) in an episode of the animated series Young Justice. Sabbac’s second host, Ishmael Gregor, appears as a recurring villain in Arrow: Season 5, but strictly in his role as a gangster from Oliver Queen’s checkered past.
Sabbac will finally make his proper, live-action debut in the Black Adam movie, with Aladdin’s Marwan Kenzari rumored to be cast as Ishmael Gregor. Thanks to a leaked McFarlane Toys action figure, we know this version of Gregor is depicted as the leader of Intergang, one of the dominant criminal organizations in the DCU. But whereas Intergang is normally known for harnessing advanced weaponry and tech against heroes like Superman, it seems Gregor is turning to the supernatural realm in his fight against Black Adam and the Justice Society.
It’s pretty clear already that the DCEU version of Sabbac isn’t a particularly close adaptation of any of the comic book incarnations. He may instead draw elements from all three. Like Timothy Karnes, this version of Gregor may turn out to be a member of a family with centuries-old ties to Sabbac. The movie could even take a page from the New 52 version of Ibac by revealing Sabbac to be a villain Black Adam has battled since his earliest days as Khandaq’s champion.
For more on Black Adam, find out about the comic book history of the Justice Society and why this super-team predates the Justice League in the DCEU.
Jesse is a mild-mannered staff writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter.