Circa 1200 BC, Shazam became a high priest to the pharaoh Ramses II of Egypt. As the wizard grew older, he sought a champion worthy to inherit his powers. The young prince Teth-Adam of Kahndaq (Ramses' son) impressed the wizard with his fairness and decency. But before Shazam could bestow his powers, his daughter Blaze made a deal with the god Set. When Teth-Adam spoke the name "Shazam," instead of gaining the wizard's powers, he was blessed with the power of seven Egyptian gods: Shu, Heru, Amon, Zehuti, Aton and Mehen. Thus, though Adam speaks the name "Shazam," he does not draw power not fom the wizard. Teth-Adam served Egypt for many years, but this duty drew him away from his wife and children in Kahndaq. While he was away, the mad priest, Ahk-ton ravaged Kahndaq and killed Adam's family. The priest was powered by the "Orb of Ra". Adam could not apprehend Ahk-ton, so he entombed his family and returned to the court of Ramses. There he served as Egypt's champion alongside another great wizard, Nabu. Mighty-Adam was a success as a hero for Egypt, but his service kept him away from his wife, Shiruta, and his sons Gon and Hurut.
Adam's homeland was destroyed and his family killed by the evil priest Ahk-ton using the Orb of Ra. A disparaged Adam continued to serve in Rameses' court, and allied himself with Prince Khufu (later Hawkman). At this time, he met three travelers from the future: Hawkgirl, Mr. Terrific, and Captain Marvel. Adam felt relieved that his legacy would continue through Marvel, and thought highly of his future counterpart. With the help of these visitors and the wizard Nabu, Adam was able to capture Ahk-ton, whom he killed as retribution for murdering Adam's family.
Adam returned to Khandaq and forcefully overthrew the government present there, and appointed himself ruler. The wizard Shazam was made aware of all of these events and, thinking Adam had been corrupted by Blaze, unleashed a powerful spell. He trapped Adam's soul and powers within a powerful scarab rendering Adam's de-powered body, now several hundred years old, into a withered corpse. Shazam then buried both the body and the scarab in the tomb of Rameses II, where he had planned for it to remain for all eternity. In death, the former hero was referred to as "Khem-Adam" ("Black Adam"). Disillusioned by what he perceived as Adam's betrayal, Shazam went several millennia before appointing a second champion to fight evil in his name.
Years later Rameses II's tomb was excavated by the Batsons under the orders of the Sivana Federation. A colleague of the Batsons, Adam's descendant Theo, murdered the Batsons after finding the scarab. Suspecting something was odd, his sister, Sarah, had Mary Batson adopted by the Bromfields to keep her away from Theo.
When Theo saw Billy Batson as Captain Marvel, he realized the power and said "Shazam" and "Black Adam." The two battled, with Shazam temporarily removing Adam's ability to speak. This was undone by the evil Blaze, and Adam later spent time in deep space.
Black Adam joined the JSA after claiming he had rid himself of Theo Adam's evil influence. Captain Marvel joined the JSA as well, wanting to keep an eye on him.
Johnny Sorrow removed a malignant brain tumor in Adam's head, and Black Adam joined the Injustice Society. He soon betrayed them so the JSA could defeat them.
Black Adam left the JSA after Kobra was allowed to live. He formed his own team, executed Kobra, and once again overthrew Khandaq's government. The JSA intervened. After a battle, Black Adam was allowed to retain control of Khandaq as long as he stayed within its borders. He and the Feitherans began to rebuild the war-torn country.
Black Adam joined the Society of Villains to protect Khandaq, or so he claimed. During the Spectre's attack on magical beings, Atom-Smasher was killed, but Adam was able to revive him with magical lightning.
Adam was part of the group that set a trap for Uncle Sam and the rest of the Freedom Fighters. However, Adam himself was betrayed by the other villains as Alex Luthor sought 'a Marvel' to use as part of his plot.
Adam was given Adrianna Tomaz as a gift from Intergang. She was meant to be used as a slave to his pleasure, in return for allowing Intergang to use Khandaq as a base for their criminal activities. However, Black Adam executed her captors. Her wisdom helped him to focus on using his powers for the benefit of the people of Kahndaq. He granted her the power of the Goddess, Isis, and the two were married. When Adrianna's younger brother, Amon, was found a prisoner of Intergang, Adam granted him a portion of his own power and he became the hero, Osiris.
Adam finally felt as if he had a true family. Isis had a tremendous influence on him, and she managed to dampen Adam's otherwise violent temper. As an act of good will, Black Adam and his family went to the United States and participated in several events including a holiday parade and a charity dinner at the Sivana estate.
Not long after, Adam's brother-in-law, Osiris, befriended a shy talking crocodile which he named Sobek. He brought Sobek back to Kahndaq with him and he became a part of the colloquially named Black Marvel Family. Sobek's presence eventually proved to be the undoing of the Black Marvel Family however.
Black Adam soon discovered that Sobek was in fact the Fourth Horseman known as Famine (Yurrd the Unknown). Sobek caused a massive blight that swept across Kahndaq ultimately killing Isis. He also turned against Osiris, savagely biting him in half and consuming the remains. Black Adam came upon Isis' body as she lay dying. Her final words were a plea of vengeance against those who brought this tragedy upon Kahndaq.
Adam next attacked Sobek, killing him by hyper-extending his jaws. He then tracked the First of the Horsemen, Death (Azeuz) to the nation of Bialya and engaged in a massive battle with him. Black Adam's thirst for vengeance wasn't sated with merely defeating the Horsemen however. He lashed out against the entire country, killing every man, woman and child in Bialya, even sterilizing the earth. This genocide empowered Death, who believed he would now be able to defeat Black Adam in battle. He was soon proven incorrect.
The world at large watched in horror as Black Adam continued blazing a trail of devastation across the globe. His next target was mainland China, whom he suspected was responsible for financially backing the Oolong Island experiments that resulted in the creation of the Four Horsemen. China's super-hero team the Great Ten attempted to stop Black Adam, but they proved ineffective. The Chinese government issued a proclamation that no other country was to interfere in China’s affairs, even on their own behalf. Such an action would be interpreted as an act of war, and China would retaliate with nuclear weapons.
An assemblage of heroes led by the Justice Society of America set up a beachhead on China's borders. Many of them wanted to ignore China's warning and fight Black Adam, but they maintained their vigilance for fear of aggravating a new war.
When Black Adam defeated the Great Ten, the Chinese government asked the Western world for aid. Dozens of super-heroes including the JSA, the Doom Patrol and the Teen Titans mounted an attack against Black Adam, but his fury was so intense that nothing seemed to stop him. One of the casualties was the former Teen Titan, Terra, whom Black Adam slew by punching his fist through her chest. The Teen Titan, Young Frankenstein, also feel to his fury.
Captain Marvel petitioned the gods of ancient Egypt to take away Black Adam's powers, but they refused. In fact, they even advocated Adam's actions. Marvel then sought the aid of the mystical community and worked with Zatanna in a desperate attempt to defeat Black Adam once and for all.
Captain Marvel and Adam fought one another, and Marvel spoke the magic word "Shazam", summoning the mystic lightning that grants them their powers. He channeled the lightning into Black Adam, forcing him to transform back into the mortal Teth-Adam. Through Zatanna's spell, Captain Marvel managed to change the magic word so that Teth-Adam would be unable to turn back into Black Adam.
As the war came to a close, Teth-Adam escaped justice and fled back to Kahndaq. He was last seen wandering the streets of Shiruta incognito, attempting to learn the new magic word that bring his powers back.
Adam appears with his powers restored, having secretly taken up residence in the abandoned Khandaq embassy in Gotham City. Mary Marvel stumbles upon him at the embasy and finds that he has killed several others that have had to the misfortune to find their way in there. It appears that Adam is very angry with Mary as well but with the uttering of Shazam he transfers all of his powers to Mary. Before leaving, he implies that he had discovered what his new word was - 'Sorry' - and somehow changed it back to 'Shazam'. In transferring his powers to her he is now an average mortal and powerless, what he has decided is better then the burden he bore for so long as Black Adam.
The still-powerless Teth-Adam orders his remaining loyal servant to savagely beat his face in order to alter his physical appearance. Effectively disguised, he leads the group to Kahndaq to retrieve the bones of Isis, while the JSA is in Bialya searching for him. Adam and his men are attacked by unidentified soldiers (who are also searching for Teth-Adam) while leaving the tomb of Isis and Osiris. Adam's followers sacrifice their lives so that he can escape with his wife's remains. Adam then travels to the frozen Himalayas, where he eats the corpse of his last remaining henchman after running out of food. Finally reaching a secluded cave, Teth-Adam resurrects Isis using a Lazarus Pit.
Coming to realize she is no more then a decaying reanimated dead body, he is forced by the realization to kill her. He then takes her bones and goes on a pilgrimage to the Tower of Fate. Using a small piece of the Rock of Eternity, he reveals the Tower of Fate's location and enters. Expecting to find Doctor Fate so that he may get back the Amulet of Isis, he is suprised to find the doctor not in and Felix Faust has been trapped there with Neron, due to a spell cast by the deceased Ralph Dibney. Apparently Neron found a way out and left. Faust, in order to gain freedom joins forces with Adam and helps him cast a spell to transfer residual magic from Isis's bones to him to allow him to transform into Black Adam.