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The Untold Truth Of Darkseid

There are few names in the DC Universe who are capable of striking absolute fear into the hearts of even the most powerful heroes. One of the foremost among those fearmongers is the God of Tyranny himself, the ruler of Apokolips: Darkseid. In his long stint as a multiverse-spanning tyrant, he has conquered and destroyed countless worlds, civilizations, and peoples under his stony grasp. His goal? To conquer and enslave all life. Yep! All of it.

Despite being widely known as an enemy of the Justice League, a God of Evil, and a Universal Tyrant, there's a lot about Darkseid that people don't know. Yes, he conquers worlds, and yes, he's hell-bent on universal domination, but that definitely isn't all there is to Darkseid. Here's the untold story of the tyrant, the side of DC Comics' Darkseid you haven't seen. 

Darkseid's real-world inspiration

When Jack "King" Kirby was concocting the idea of Darkseid for his short-lived but influential Fourth World, he envisioned the ultimate evil in Darkseid (originally known as Uxas). He modeled the Tyrant after Adolf Hitler, the real-life embodiment of evil and tyranny, whose universal lust for power and control is reflected in Darkseid's actually universal lust for power and control, with Apokalips exemplifying a tyrant's ultimate dream: a world of total control with no resistance.

The one aspect of Darkseid that wasn't modeled after Hitler? His face. That, dear reader, was somewhat modeled after the actor Jack Palance (if he was an inhuman, rock-faced tyrant, of course). It's certain to be a distinction he would love: the face of the universal tyrant that plagues the DC Universe and is modeled after Hitler.

Darkseid is the inspiration for Thanos

History contains countless famous ripoffs of earlier properties or products. You have your Atlantic Rim, your Facebook (just watch The Social Network), the Energizer Bunny (all apologies to Duracell) — the examples are many. Comics lore also has a number of "derivatively inspired" characters between Marvel and DC, like Deadpool/Deathstroke or Hawkeye/Green Arrow. Perhaps one of the most interesting and egregious cases of this phenomenon involves the "inspiration" that one of Marvel's most powerful villains, Thanos, pulled from one of DC's most powerful, Darkseid.

Between 1960 and 1969, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee co-created a number of the most influential characters in Marvel history — the X-Men, Thor, Iron Man, the Silver Surfer, the Fantastic Four, and more. Kirby left for DC Comics in 1970, where he was given a blank check to develop his own mythology for the brand. He came up with a series of comics on The Fourth World, centering around a series of New Gods, and of these Gods the most frightening was the menacing villain Darkseid, a vastly powerful, purple-hued villain to serve as a foil for DC's most powerful superhero team. Incidentally, his first cameo was in Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #134 (November 1970), followed by a full appearance in Forever People #1 (February 1971).

With Kirby at DC, Jim Starlin was put in charge of growing Marvel's array of cosmic titles in titles like Captain Marvel. He created a new cosmic villain in the character of Thanos (debuting in Iron Man #55) and overtly acknowledged his inspiration from Kirby's work on the New Gods... but not Darkseid. Starlin had copied Metron, the New God knowledge-seeker in his Mobius chair, until Starlin's editor Roy Thomas suggested he should rather copy Darkseid, the intimidating New God tyrant. Thanos transformed from a thin new god to a massive, purple-faced tyrant that worships Death, and the rest is history.

Darkseid and the New Gods were born from a catastrophic war

Once upon a time (around 18 billion years ago), there was a First World named GodWorld (also called Asgard or Urgrund). It evolved for 3 billion years into the Second World, and the humanoid lifeforms who lived there began to attain godhood through a gradual increase in power. This era saw vast advances in cultural and scientific advancement, and the Old Gods (as they came to be called) became some of the most powerful beings in existence. Ten billion years later, GodWorld fell into internal conflict between powerful factions of gods, culminating in Ragnarok, the destruction of GodWorld, and the release of a massive wave of energy (the Godwave) throughout the universe, seeding worlds with the potential to evolve gods of their own (such as Earth) in what became known as the "Third World."

GodWorld itself split into two divergent planets: the good New Genesis ruled by the wise and powerful Highfather (a title), and the warlike, dark, and evil Apokolips. The "Fourth World" emerged when these beings began themselves to attain Godhood (around 30,000 years ago). These New Gods (among which is Darkseid) and their two planets began to wage war.

Darkseid wasn't the first ruler of Apokolips

Of the two planets which the New Gods inhabit, Apokolips and New Genesis, the latter is an effective utopia while the former is a massive, dark, industrial city dedicated to intergalactic war and dominance (and, in effect, a "survival of the fittest" ethos). In his original origin story, Darkseid was born Uxas, son of Yuga Kahn and Heggra (the rulers of Apokolips). His older brother Drax had attempted to claim the Omega Force, itself a source of legendary power, when Uxas killed Drax and took it for himself. Darkseid was transformed into the craggy-faced monstrosity we now see and took the throne of Apokolips for himself.

In the New 52 title relaunch, Darkseid was retconned from New God royal lineage to a lower-class resident of the world of the Old Gods. He manipulated them into turning on each other, and proceeded to absorb their power as they fell. In this iteration Darkseid and the Highfather are brothers, forming the origins of Apokolips and New Genesis, respectively. In both of these versions of his story, Darkseid was never destined to be a godlike ruler, but rather achieved his status by tactics, treachery, and force.

He was once in love (and tempted towards goodness)

Just as Darkseid wasn't always a ruler, he also wasn't always the pure-evil, hard-hearted God of Evil we know. Following his absorption of the Omega power and renaming himself Darkseid (but before becoming the ruler of Apokolips), the tyrant fell in love with an Apokoliptian scientist and sorceress (how's that for a set of job titles?) named Suli (appearing in New Gods Vol. 3, September 1989). They married in secret, against the wishes of his mother Queen Heggra.

Suli began to gradually tempt Darkseid toward goodness and away from his plans of universal domination, and together the two had a son named Kalibak. Darkseid's mother Heggra, fearing Suli's positive influence over her son, had Suli poisoned. Darkseid became even more hateful in his heart, and as his mother forced him to marry a woman named Tigra (who gave birth to Darkseid's second son, Orion), he sought his revenge, ordering Desaad to poison Heggra in retaliation for her killing his love and to stake his claim as ruler of Apokolips. Suli remained the only person Darkseid ever truly loved, and her death cemented his singleminded determination to conquer all sentient life in existence. 

Darkseid has serious family issues

This won't surprise you given that Darkseid killed his own brother, lost his only love, and had his mother killed in retaliation, but Darkseid has serious family issues. In the longstanding war between Apokolips and New Genesis, the two worlds achieved a temporary piece with a novel deal: the rulers (Darkseid and Highfather Izaya, respectively) would exchange sons, each raising the other's progeny. Darkseid gave up his second son, Orion, to be raised by the New Genesis ruler, while the latter sent his son Scott Free to live in Apokolips where, as is common on the planet, he was "trained" and tortured by Darkseid's minion Granny Goodness.

For his part, Scott Free found he had a godlike ability to escape effectively all traps (among other skills and powers like expertise in gadgetry, New God physiology, and command of the cosmic Alpha energy that can combat Darkseid's Omega energy). He eventually used this ability to escape to Earth with his wife Big Barda (one of Darkseid's greatest warriors), becoming the hero Mister Miracle. Orion, on the other hand, became aligned with the side of good (albeit of a more brutal variety than most heroes) as the greatest protector of New Genesis. (He's also prophesied to defeat Darkseid, so that has to sting).

If being opposed by both your second son and your adopted son isn't enough, his first son Kalibak is evil, often serving as Darkseid's second-in-command, though comics lore has made it clear that Darkseid respects his heroic son Orion more than the son following in his footsteps. In other words, beyond his weird early family history, Darkseid has a whole host of strange relationships with other family members.

He loves killing other gods

Darkseid's lust for power has never been challenged by any other feeling (minus the brief period when he fell in love with the sorceress Suli), and it's certainly not matched by an affinity for fellow deities in the DC Universe. In fact, Darkseid has long had a lust for killing other Gods, either to augment his power or to prevent challenges to his rule. He's killed his father, his New God brother Drax for power, and his mother Heggra for revenge. Darkseid's New 52 origin reboot even saw the tyrant begin in a lowly status as someone who hated the deities of his own world, so he tricked them into watching war on each other. After the war weakened them, Darkseid killed them one by one to steal their power, destroying his world and creating Apokolips.

Outside his familial power grabs and theNew 52 reboot, Darkseid has tons of ventures into the attempted god-killing business. In Action Comics Vol. 1 #600, Darkseid attempts to conquer Olympus, take the energy that gave them their powers as deities, and finally destroys Olympus (the gods weren't there, so they ended up unscathed). Additionally, Darkseid is historically locked in combat with the New Gods of New Genesis, and he's had no issues killing them either.

The Anti-Life Equation is his greatest (and most mathematical) weapon

As a New God, Darkseid has a number of powers that make him among the most formidable of DC villains. His skills and powers include immortality, impossibly strong and durable physiology, unrivaled tactical prowess, and a command over the Omega Effect, a form of energy that allows him to omit Omega Beams, powerful energy beams that can lock onto and never miss a target, disintegrating them. They can shift direction in mid-air, destroy planets, move faster than speedsters, and even harm the likes of Superman. And that doesn't even include his Omega Sanction, the "Life Trap," where an individual gets trapped in a parade of increasingly dreadful and hopeless artificial lives.

Altogether, these powers make Darkseid beyond a formidable foe. His most devastating capability, however, comes from his lifelong pursuit of the Anti-Life Equation, a mathematical equation that grants him total hegemony over all sentient life through "proving" the futility and hopelessness of life and freedom. Anyone who hears it is subject to Darkseid's absolute control, and it can even grant reality-distorting powers. It's a long equation, but its mastery granted Darkseid the ability to attack Earth, enslave billions, and attempt to reconstruct the planet as a New Apokolips (in Final Crisis). Here's the Anti-Life Equation in its full glory:

loneliness + alienation + fear + despair + self-worth ÷ mockery ÷ condemnation ÷ misunderstanding x guilt x shame x failure x judgment n=y where y=hope and n=folly, love=lies, life=death, self=dark side

Even weirder is the fact that the Anti-Life Equation is said to be part of a nearly all-powerful Anti-Life being, one pushed out of this reality by Doctor Fate but which is beyond even Darkseid's control (as told in Jim Starlin's Cosmic Odyssey). In short, it's a long and extremely powerful equation, one that gives Darkseid's formidable powers an almost insurmountable boost.

Darkseid has been transformed into a human

In Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers series, a sort-of reimagining of DC's earlier team the Seven Soldiers of Victory, we discover that Darkseid has indeed discovered the Anti-Life Equation that allows him control over the free will of all sentient life. Darkseid's actions destroy the entire Fourth World of New Gods, both Apokolips and New Genesis, and the New Gods retreat to Earth via possessing human bodies... as does Darkseid (following his long-prophesied death at the hands of his son Orion in 2008's Countdown to Final Crisis #2). 

In Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle #2 by Freddie Williams III, we meet Boss Dark Side, a version of Darkseid in human form who runs the Dark Side Club. We discover that after his death at Orion's hand, the immortal New God falls backwards through time and becomes mortal, attached to a human form. His plan here is to use the Anti-Life Equation to command fanatical followers, alongside creating a super-team of young villains called the Terror Titans. One complication: his human host is rapidly decaying due to the human form being unable to contain his powerful New God essence. We see him take over another human host, Metropolis detective Dan Turpin, before attempting to conquer Earth once and for all during Final Crisis (an effort ultimately thwarted by the Justice League). 

Darkseid has waged war against gods as an infant

Darkseid's love of waging war against gods has taken him across the universe, but one thing many folks don't know is that he once waged war on demi-gods as... an infant. Of Darkseid's many children, he has four sons (Kalibak, Orion, Grayven, and the monstrous Deathspawn) and one daughter, Grail. Grail was born from the union of Darkseid and an Amazonian assassin, Myrina, upon one of his visits to Earth. She fled with the young Grail to raise her in secret (she was prophesied to cause destruction), hoping one day the girl could grow powerful enough to kill Darkseid. 

During the Darkseid War, the arc that transitioned the DC Universe from the New 52 to Rebirth, Darkseid dies. Grail resurrects the New God using an ancient Amazonian ritual, depositing his soul in the body of an infant. The new infant Darkseid wants only one thing for sustenance — souls. Grail proceeds to hunt down the children of the Olympian ruler Zeus so their demigod essences can feed and empower the young tyrant. Even as an infant, Darkseid is a willful, murderous, controlling megalomaniac, and one hellbent on absorbing the power of other gods.

He has reluctantly partnered with Superman

While many of his worst plots are against fellow gods — the New Gods of New Genesis, the Olympians, whoever gets in his way — he's a major antagonist to the Justice League, especially one notable non-god: the Man of Steel himself. Superman is one of the few mortal entities who has withstood his Omega Beams (along with Doomsday), and his exemplary ability to inspire hope flies in the face of the hopelessness that Darkseid literally tries to create in his foes — it makes sense why the two would be so intimately tied together in their mutual antagonism. 

At the same time, Darkseid has reluctantly partnered with Superman on multiple occasions. Each time the two were faced with an enemy that endangered both; as Sun Tzu put it in The Art of War, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." In 1998's Cosmic Odyssey, Darkseid has to join a slew of heroes including Superman in order to stop escaped aspects of the Anti-Life Entity at the heart of the Anti-Life Equation... of course, Darkseid has plans of his own, but they do have to work as part of the same team at least nominally.

In Our Worlds At War, the DC Universe and its heroes are threatened by Imperiex, the embodiment of entropy who has continually destroyed the universe to remake it in a perpetual cycle. Darkseid ends up partnering with a host of heroes including Superman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter — and villains like Lex Luthor — to stave off the assault of the cosmic menace.

Darkseid has even interfered with Earth's politics

Darkseid's machinations for defeating Earth and its heroes have always involved a variety of elements including treachery, the collective might of his minions, his own formidable powers, or the Anti-Life Equation. Ever the tactician, Darkseid has sometimes resorted to more unique efforts to undermine his enemies, including interfering in Earth's politics to sow chaos for a potential takeover. 

In the six-issue series Legends (1986-'87), Darkseid uses Glorious Godfrey's powers of mind control and persuasion to turn humanity against the heroes of the Justice League. His motivation is his own dissatisfaction with the legendary status of Earth's heroes, who continue to inspire humanity and impede his ability to conquer. His plan ultimately doesn't succeed, but it shows an early amenability to more subtle campaigns to undermine the will of Earth as a pretext for invasion.

More recently, Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child details a different plan with similar techniques and goals. Here, Darkseid has teamed with Joker effectively to re-elect Donald Trump. The latter is not directly named, but his image is used in parts of the comic while Trump-like phrases are scattered throughout. (It's really not subtle). The reason? Darkseid enlists the Joker as an "agent of chaos" to get Trump elected, antagonizing the populace and sowing so much division among the people that they become pliant for his domination goals. It just goes to show: Darkseid will do literally anything to conquer Earth.