HOLLYWOOD JUSTICE #5: Who Is Darkseid?


Yesterday, we reported on the rumor that the makers of the "Justice League" film have already settled on a villain for their piece: the malevolent Darkseid.

But just who is this stone-faced horror? Read on to learn more about Darkseid's history in comics, his designs on our world, and how the heroes of the DC Universe have united to oppose him.

Created by comics legend Jack Kirby, Darkseid made his debut in 1970's "Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen" #134. While a Jimmy Olsen comic may seem like an odd place for such a fearsome villain to make his debut, it must be placed in historical context. When Jack Kirby left Marvel in 1970, DC editorial director Carmine Infantino was quick to make him an offer to lure him to the competition, promising him creative control over his own line of books, which would go on to become known as the "Fourth World". Part of the deal was for Kirby to take the reins on an existing DC title, but rather than take a successful book away from another writer and artist, Kirby reportedly chose "Jimmy Olsen" because it was a lower-selling book marked for cancellation.

Kirby used the Jimmy Olsen series to introduce the concepts of his Fourth World, a realm where gods waged a seemingly endless war against each other, using both their godly powers and all manner of bizarre technology, with names like "Mother Boxes" and "Boom Tubes". The forces of hope and freedom were represented by the enlightened world of New Genesis, while the forces of tyranny and oppression were hosted on the nightmarish world of Apokolips.

The absolute ruler of Apokolips is Darkseid, embodying the subjugation of free will and independent thought. Darkseid prefers to let his minions do his bidding for him, though he possesses the raw physical power to destroy virtually anyone who displeases him, particularly with his Omega Beams. With these twin rays emanating from his eyes, the saying becomes reality; Darkseid can indeed kill you as soon as look at you. He seeks to achieve his dark ends by discovering the Anti-Life Equation, which will bring his dreams of dominance over every living thing to reality. He is opposed in these efforts by the New Gods of New Genesis, as well as the heroes of Earth, chief among them, Superman.

Kirby's "Fourth World" titles were brought to an end in 1973, due to declining sales, with Kirby not having much time to wrap up the ongoing storylines. However, in 1985, Kirby was given the chance to bring some closure to his saga with the release of the graphic novel "Hunger Dogs", which told the tale of Darkseid's son, Orion, leading a rebellion against him on Apokolips, and bringing the tyrannical reign of his father crashing down. Other writers made various attempts to integrate Darkseid and the other Fourth Worlders further into the DC Universe over the years. Notably, writer Paul Levitz and artist Keith Giffen brought Darkseid into their "Legion of Superheroes" run with 1982's "Great Darkness Saga", in which Darkseid concocts a scheme to use a planet full of Supermen to do his bidding and conquer the universe, with the teenage superheroes of the 31st century opposing his plans. Darkseid also served as the prime mover behind 1986's "Legends" crossover event, and there were several subsequent attempts at relaunching the various "Fourth World" titles, usually with Darkseid as the number one baddie.

Darkseid remained a recurring threat for the heroes of the DC Universe in the decades to follow, until 2008's "Final Crisis", in which writer Grant Morrison seemingly depicted the final showdown between Darkseid and the forces of good in the DC Universe. Darkseid's spirit, now disembodied after having being killed by his son Orion, travels to Earth and possesses a mortal form in a bid to spread the Anti-Life Equation across Earth and achieve his nihilistic dreams. He is thwarted by the combined efforts of the heroes of Earth including Batman, The Flash, and Superman, who literally sings Darkseid into submission.

Most recently, in the wake of DC's 2011 reboot of their universe, Darkseid returned in the pages of "Justice League", with a full-fledged invasion army from Apokolips by his side. The Justice League barely managed to repel the attack and send Darkseid back to his home dimension for the time being, but if the rumors of Darkseid looming large over the "Justice League" film are true, then his return to DC's comic book universe is likely only a trip down a Boom Tube away.

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