Why Sabbac Looks Different In Black Adam Than He Does In The Comics

This post contains spoilers for "Black Adam."

DC's "Black Adam" props up Teth-Adam (Dwayne Johnson) as an unconventional super-powered being who reluctantly winds up in a position to protect the modern world from evil. Despite his undefined stance on heroism, Teth-Adam teams up with the Justice Society to stop the Intergang from acquiring a crown of primordial power connected to the demon champion, Sabbac. After Intergang's leader, Ishmael (Marwan Kenzari), manipulates events to trigger the rebirth of Sabbac in his host body, Black Adam and the Justice Society of America attempt to fight this super-powered, awakened demon who seems to be powerful beyond measure. The battle is rife with hurdles, but dogged determination and sacrifice allow Teth-Adam and the others to overpower and kill Sabbac. 

There are several differences between "Black Adam" and its comics storyline, including the details of Teth-Adam's origins and the origins of the JSA members. The Intergang and Sabbac also undergo several canonical changes of their own, including Sabbac's appearance, which is slightly different in the comics, as there are three iterations of the demon champion and the film uses only one of them. This canonical alteration in Sabbac's origins directly affects the villain's appearance, which comes closest to only one version in the character's long comics history. 

Let's dig deeper into how different Sabbac is in the comics, and touch on his comics origin, appearance, powers, and key storylines.

The many faces of Sabbac

The original Sabbac debuted in Otto Binder and Al Carreno's "Captain Marvel Jr. #4" in 1943, functioning as Captain Marvel Jr.'s adversary. This version of Sabbac used the host body of a 5'11” bald man named Timothy Karnes, who wore green overalls. Apart from lacking the imposing presence of an intimidating villain, this version of Sabbac was extremely incompetent and failed in his quest to aid the Nazi agenda, which led to his demon minions abandoning him.

The second iteration of Sabacc, known as Ishmael Gregor, is closest to the version in "Black Adam." That iteration debuted in "Outsiders (Vol. 3) #8," and was created by Judd Winick and Tom Raney. In the comics, Russian mobster Ishmael Gregor kills Timothy Karnes and becomes the new host for the demon, but he does not have any connections to Ahk-Ton, nor is he a Khandaqi citizen. This essential difference in the origins of Sabacc ushers in a slight difference in appearance, as the film's iteration has more embellishments in terms of costume and appearance markers.

However, some aspects of Sabbac's cinematic appearance are close to the comics depiction, including the red-tinted skin, horns protruding amidst slicked-back hair, and a glistening inverted pentacle etched on his chest. "Black Adam" uses the deadliest iteration of Sabbac, as Gregor is the most malicious, powerful, and dastardly among the three incarnations. (We'll get to the third version in a minute.) Another comics distinction is that Ishmael Gregor is not the leader of Intergang, and the film's decision to forge this direct connection between Intergang and Sabbac adds another layer of lore to the DCU's "Black Adam." 

A powerful, dangerous demi-demon

The most crucial distinguisher between comics Sabbac and DCU Sabbac is the crown which, in the film, grants the wearer the powers of the demon. Interestingly, no such crown exists in the comics, as folks like Gregor only had to whisper "Sabbac" to gain his power after killing his predecessor. The inclusion of the crown in "Black Adam" works well with the altered origin story, where the forces of Hell create the crown to counter the Council of Wizards. Another cool detail that the film posits is that Sabbac is an acronym for Satan, Aym, Belial, Beelzebub, Asmodeus, and Crateis, who are deemed high-ranking demons in Hell. That mirrors the way the Shazam character's name is loosely built on an acronym, for he possesses "the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury."

Circling back to Sabbac's comics appearance, the third incarnation of Sabbac is devoid of the pentagram and other embellishments and looks like a 50-foot-tall red demon with blue horns. This minimalistic yet terrifying incarnation was fueled by the Seven Deadly Sins instead of seven demons from Hell and possessed anyone who had the ability to be wicked. Interestingly, this version of Sabbac went on to join forces with Black Adam in the "New 52" events that play out in "Justice League (Vol. 2) #1." At some point in the comics' convoluted timeline, the giant demon version of Sabaac also joins the Secret Society of Super-Villains, alongside members like Lex Luthor and Darkseid. 

In terms of powers, the last two versions of Sabbac possess superhuman strength and speed, along with fire-breathing abilities. Sabbac can also summon demons among the world of the living and emit thermal blasts — both in the film and the comics. Although Sabbac has been defeated in "Black Adam," there might be a fresh incarnation of the demon champion down the line, considering how he is Superman's adversary in the comics and Henry Cavill's Superman is clearly making a full-fledged return to the DCU very soon.