Darkseid is one of the most formidable creatures in the DC Universe. Ruler of Apokolips, one of the New Gods who is unlikely to be defeated in a toe to toe fight, he has been a constant sources of fear and trepidation throughout his existence.
A villain who had bested Superman, the Justice League and The Legion of Super Heroes as many times as he has been beaten, his powers and status as a veritable God are unrivalled in DC Comics history.
However, what are Darkseid’s origins? What is his true form – is he a creature that goes beyond having one defined physical appearance?
This piece will explain exactly who Darkseid is, how he came to be and what sort of threat he is to the Justice League and to the universe as a whole.
How Darkseid Came To Be Created
First, however, let’s take a look at how Darkseid the character was created rather than his in-universe origin. Darkseid was created by comic book legend Jack Kirby in 1971 as part of Kirby’s Fourth World series.
Kirby had returned to DC comics from Marvel Comics, where he had helped create some of the companies most iconic characters such as Thor, The Fantastic Four, The X Men and Iron Man alongside Stan Lee.
Kirby’s reason for leaving Marvel despite his and Lee’s successful roster of characters was because he felt undervalued.
Stan Lee had not only taken a great deal of credit for the work they had co created but also a lot of the money – Kirby felt he deserved a greater share of the rights to their characters than he had received.
Kirby’s vision for the Fourth World series was to create an entire new realm in the DC Universe not populated by old Gods like Thor or Zeus but “New Gods”. Amongst the figures to populate Kirby’s Fourth World were High Father, Orion, Big Barda, Mister Miracle, Kalibak and of course Darkseid.
Kirby stated that he had taken inspiration for Darkseid’s personality from Adolf Hitler and Richard Nixon. He wanted Darkseid to be the epitome of evil and a force that would make the universe tremble.
Kirby’s idea for Darkseid would eventually be copied by Marvel Comics when they created their own intergalactic monstrosity – Thanos.
Whilst Darkseid was a physically imposing figure, Kirby wanted to ensure that he was also an intellectually minded villain.
The combination of brains and brawn has made Darkseid one of the most iconic creations to ever have been put into comic books and his enduring popularity is a testament to Kirkby’s inspired storytelling.
Darkseid’s backstory has changed somewhat over the fifty years of his existence. The established origin for Darkseid now is that he was born as Uxas on Apokolips.
A prince second in line to the imperial throne in one timeline and a farmer in another, Uxas would murder his way to his birth right and declare that he needed a new name befitting his new mastery of his home world – Darkseid.
Darkseid’s craggy appearance is not a result of a strange birth as was the case with his Marvel contemporary Thanos but rather the result of consuming a great portion of Apokolips’ power which caused his skin and body to become craggy and distorted.
Whilst Darkseid saw ruling Apokolips as important it would ultimately be secondary to his true quest – finding the Anti Life Equation.
The Anti Life Equation was for Darkseid the wholly grail to ensuring mastery over the universe. Darkseid believed that by gaining the equation he could destroy anything in his power.
This, again, is similar to Thanos’ obsession with pleasing Death.
Yet rather than simply wanting to please Death through killing as Thanos does, Darkseid’s quest for the Anti Life equation is rooted both in his belief in science but also in a semi theological drive that runs throughout the character – to truly assert that he is more than a simple man but rather a God.
He wants to use the equation to reshape the universe and bend it to his will.
Darkseid And Superman
Despite having face many enemies (most notably The Legion of Super Heroes in the far future and Batman in a special suit designed for battle with Darkseid) perhaps his most lethal and continual opponent is Superman.
Superman represents everything that Darkseid is not – hope, justice and a desire to help rather than rule over people. Darkseid hates Superman and Superman hates Darkseid.
This is also partly because Darkseid sees the Man of Steel as such a threat that he has often gone out of his way to try and kill him or bend him to his will.
During the 1980s one storyline depicted Darkseid kidnapping Superman and brainwashing him into believing that he was in fact Darkseid’s son and that his mission was to conquer the Earth for his father.
Luckily the Man of Steel broke free from the brainwashing but ever since Kal El or Krypton has felt a sincere and bitter hatred towards the ruler of Apokolips.
In other media Superman has suffered even more at Darkseid’s hand. In Superman: The Animated Series, the final story of the series was an adaptation of the 1980s storyline.
However, things got worse for the Man of Steel in the animated adaptation as Darkseid actually got Superman to invade Earth only for Superman to be saved by his cousin Supergirl and his other friends.
Similarly, the Man of Steel was tortured with Kryptonite by Darkseid during the events of Justice League Dark: Apokolips War and it is suggested in Zack Snyder’s Justice League that Superman could come under the control of Darkseid once again, this time causing the Kryptonian to destroy his adopted home world.
Superman’s hatred of Darkseid is understandable and has often been physical – with both hero and villain exchanging regular punch up throughout their shared time together.
This would of course suggest that Darkseid is a solid piece of work, that he is simply a physical being who can be beaten and defeated.
Or is he? This is a question that arises throughout Darkseid’s history.
Darkseid’s powers are one of the reasons that his physical form has been questioned. Darkseid’s Omega Beams, shot from his eyes can not only destroy a person they can in fact transport them back through time.
Batman briefly suffered this fate during the end of Final Crisis as part of Darkseid’s plot to use an infected Batman to corrupt history.
Similarly, Darkseid’s ability to move planets suggests that he is more than a simple alien who believes himself to be a god.
That, as he does in the Great Darkness Saga, Darkseid can move planets at will and control the minds of an entire planet’s population demonstrates that his vast array of powers is not those held by mere mortals.
They are powers one would associate with a being who is not necessarily bound by the laws of physical being.
Yet surely Darkseid is just an alien who believes himself to be a god and not one who has the ability to act like one… right?
It would seem obvious so far that Darkseid is a physical being that he is not some formless creature that can be whatever it wants to be. And yet in several comics Darkseid has endured long after his physical form has been destroyed or transformed.
In The Great Darkness Saga, set over a thousand years in the future and during the time of the Legion of Super Heroes, Darkseid returns from the dead demonstrating that rather than simply being a being that can be easily destroyed or killed he can outlast it.
This helps suggest that Darkseid is something more than a mere alien with a grandiose belief in himself but that he does have powers that are equal to a God.
This is further confirmed during the events of the DC comics event crossover story Final Crisis. In this story, Darkseid is killed by his son Orion, fulfilling an ancient prophecy that Orion would one day kill his father.
However, Darkseid’s essence lives on eventually infecting the body of Superman’s long time friend Dan Turpin.
Darkseid, now referring to himself as “Boss Dark Side” attempts to utilise local super villains in order to infect the Earth and the universe with the Anti Life Equation, thus giving himself his ultimate desire – to rewrite reality.
Darkseid is eventually stopped by Batman, Superman and the rest of the Justice League.
However, it begs the question – what exactly is Darkseid? How is it that he can withstand death in both these stories despite his physical body being deeply damaged, destroyed and in Final Crisis, destroyed so badly he needs to inhabit the body of another?
The answer is simple – Darkseid’s continual survival is the perfect metaphor for the continuing and never dying existence of evil. Kirby said when he created Darkseid that he wanted to create a creature that was the epitome of evil, a character that was not only bad but diabolically bad.
This means that even with his various deaths and the many times he had been thwarted, Darkseid does not go away. Rather he is continual, everlasting and a source of constant frustration to the heroes of the DC Universe.
Unlike the Joker or Lex Luthor, Darkseid is the absolute embodiment of all that is wrong with the universe- that is why he endures.
This was emphasised during DC’s company wide reboot of its properties. The New 52 as it was called established that there were only 52 universes in DC’s multiverse and that all previous character history had been wiped clean.
However, one distinction was made – there were not multiple versions of Darkseid but only one.
This was done because the creative team at DC believed that there could only be on Darkseid because Darkseid was the essence of evil – there isn’t more than one devil so why should there be more than one Darkseid?
The emphasis on Darkseid’s evil was reinforced during the initial run of the Justice League comic.
In The New 52 it was established that Darkseid’s invasion of Earth was the reason for the Justice League forming. Darkseid not only invaded the main Earth of the DC Universe but also the parallel Earth 2.
Darkseid’s invasion of Earth 2, resulting in the deaths of the Justice League of that world, showed the scale of Darkseid’s villainy. He was not content with attempting to conquer one world but as many worlds as were possible.
Like evil itself Darkseid is constant, never ending and willing to do whatever it takes to win.
Darkseid’s inability to be contained in one body was recently reiterated during the end of the New 52 and the beginning of DC Rebirth in which Darkseid was once again killed and his spirit trapped into a baby which rapidly grew back into the full-grown ruler of Apokolips.
Both the message sent by Kirkby during the 1970s and DC now is clear – that evil is everlasting, and it can take any form it likes.
Darkseid And The Question Of Enduring Evil
It is clear from the comic books that Darkseid is not an ordinary alien tyrant but rather a creature who can outline his own body. A being that can resurrect himself and continue to menace the universe no matter what comes up against him or who battles him to the death.
Darkseid’s continued presence in the DC universe might seem somewhat depressing. What does it say, after all, about the DC universe that such a creature can continue to exist?
What does it say about both the world of fiction and of our own world that we must continually have a figure who exists that is seen as the source of all evil?
It shouldn’t be seen like that of course. Whilst Darkseid is seen to be the epitome of evil, a malignant force that cannot be killed it is good that such a character is portrayed in fiction.
There will always be evil people who do heinous acts no matter how hard we try to stamp out villainy throughout the world.
We shouldn’t attempt to simply ignore that evil people exist and wish that our fiction was free from them – rather we should embrace that evil exists in fiction because, invariably, it is countermanded by the very best of humanity.
Superman is often seen as the very best of what human beings can and should be. People who hold up Superman as an ideal of hope, truth and justice are right to do so because despite his great power he always does the right thing.
Superman is the epitome of goodness. And despite the fact that Darkseid continues to return, Superman is always there to thwart him and to ensure that goodness continues in the DC universe.
This is the message that we should take from Darkseid’s continued existence – not that evil is continual but rather that there will always be continual good to fight it, as is the case with our own world.
Good should and can always triumph against evil and that is a message that deserves to be repeated.