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DC's Mother Boxes Fully Explained

DC Comics has a number of technological artifacts that are fundamentally important to understanding many of its greatest stories. There's the Mobius Chair, the Lantern Rings, and the Miracle Machine, just to name a few. And each is a technological marvel. Their natures, capabilities, and historical uses are fundamental to many of our favorite superhero tales, and some of the most powerful artifacts have world- or reality-altering potential in the DC Universe.

But when it comes to powerful technology, things don't get much more mysterious than the sentient Mother Boxes, used by the New Gods in the DC Universe. It's certainly curious how they work (even to most of the New Gods), how they're sentient, and what role that sentience plays in their activities. Moreover, while Mother Boxes have a long history in the DC canon, they also have counterparts on Apokolips that add an entirely new dynamic to understanding the tech. With Darkseid being one of the most important villains in the DC Universe and the Mother Boxes being so important to his own plans time and again, it's a great time to understand these mysterious technologies. Here's everything you need to know about DC's Mother Boxes.

How the Mother Boxes connect to the New Gods

Before you can understand Mother Boxes, it's useful to take a detour to understand DC's New Gods. About 18 billion years ago, there was a world named GodWorld. As the planet evolved, humanoid beings sprang forth and developed vastly powerful abilities over billions of years. Eventually, they became gods, aka the Old Gods. The era saw these Old Gods achieve immense technological and cultural progress until a civil war broke out. GodWorld fell into internal conflict between factions of gods, culminating in Ragnarok (GodWorld's destruction) and a massive wave of energy (the Godwave) spreading throughout the universe, sparking the development of gods around the multiverse.

The remnants of GodWorld itself eventually turned into two distinct planets. On the one hand, there's the utopian New Genesis, ruled by the virtuous Highfather. On the other, there's the evil and dark Apokolips, where tyranny and war reign. These planets become home to a new set of deities, the New Gods, powerful and immortal beings that rival or surpass earthly gods in their might and capabilities. The New Gods of New Genesis are, of course, generally wise and just. Those on Apokolips, who eventually come to be ruled by the tyrant Darkseid, are devoted to universal conquest and tyranny under his malevolent hand. 

Each planet has developed considerably advanced science and technologies in order to achieve their goals, including tech like the Mobius Chair, Highfather's staff, or Orion's Astro-Harness. Of all these incredible technologies, perhaps the most unique and complex inventions of the New Gods are the mysterious Mother Boxes, the sentient supercomputers that can do nearly anything.

The invention of Mother Boxes

Mother Boxes owe their existence to the New Gods that inhabit New Genesis. Specifically, New Genesis scientist Himon developed the Mother Boxes (their first appearance is in 1971's Forever People #1) as small, portable, sentient supercomputers. Well, technically, they can take multiple shapes and be varying sizes ... they're sentient, after all. And as for Himon, he became the headmaster of the Academy of Higher Conscience before eventually living undercover on Apokolips and fomenting rebellion against Darkseid. 

As sentient technology, each Mother Box is its own unique entity and has an independent will of its own. And they get their name for the unconditional "motherly love" they have for their users. Plus, Mother Boxes were made as a result of experiments with the mysterious Element X, DC's Tenth Metal, which can be manipulated by thought alone and which powers most New God technology. In DC lore, Element X is still little understood (even by the New Gods), yet it pervades the entire multiverse in small amounts as a pure element of creation itself. 

Mother Boxes, Element X, and the Source

While a lot of its lore was developed in DC's recent Dark Knights: Metal and subsequent DC stories, Element X first appeared in 1972's New Gods #7. In effect, the whole multiverse is a very diluted form of this Tenth Metal, and access to the metal grants powers beyond comprehension. Suffice to say, as an element of creation itself, Element X is connected to abilities such as reality alteration, power magnification, and clairvoyance, among other things. It's raw creation, after all. And since the Mother Boxes come from experiments involving Element X, these devices are incredibly dangerous.

While it's admittedly mysterious how exactly they work, Mother Boxes are also known to have connection to the Source (the literal source of all that exists and the infinite energy that produced all life in the universe). This likely springs from their connection to Element X, and thus, they can be said to link the material world — and their users — to "God." Their complexity means that they can't truly be "made" by beings outside New Genesis or Apokolips, and very few New Gods have ever been able to successfully create them. It's even said that the creator's personality becomes a part of the resulting Mother Box, making them one of the DC Universe's most mysterious artifacts. 

What are their capabilities?

Being connected the Source, its energy, and the vast potential of creation itself — as well as having their own sentience — Mother Boxes are enormously powerful artifacts. As such, their potential is maybe limitless and certainly wide-ranging, and they've been utilized by the New Gods for nearly any purpose you can imagine. Mother Boxes have been used to amplify their user's own powers to considerable degrees, and it doesn't seem to matter much what those powers are.

Among the myriad powers Mother Boxes have displayed, they've manipulated a host's mental state, allowed telepathic communication, sustained life in hostile environments, returned hosts to life, healed fatal injuries, transferred energy, and changed an area's gravity on various occasions. Mother Boxes can interact with technology, allowing them to control or "evolve" said technology with little effort. At the more powerful end of their powers, they've transmuted matter and energy or even manipulated dimensions and merged independent beings into a composite being. They are, indeed, effectively limitless. 

Perhaps their most famous (and casual) use, however, is as space-bending transportation devices. Mother Boxes create extra-dimensional transit tunnels, "Boom Tubes," that allow transit in and out of the worlds of the New Gods (as well as between points in space within a dimension). This technology has often been shown to be used by Darkseid of Apokolips and by Orion on New Genesis.

The untold truth of Boom Tubes

Mother Boxes have been used for nearly anything that can be thought of, given their ties to creation and the Source, but their most common association is with the tyrannical New God Darkseid, who uses them regularly to create Boom Tubes for transportation and invasion. A clear example of this is found in both versions of the DCEU film Justice League, wherein Steppenwolf uses objects called Mother Boxes to transport himself to Earth and zip around to various locations. Additionally, in the film (which contains three Mother Boxes), a unity of three will allow Darkseid to both transform the Earth into a more suitable planet for takeover and allow him to transport his massive army to our world.

It's notable to mention that later writers introduced the idea that the New Gods are, indeed, giants, and that Boom Tube transportation compensates for the disparity between a traveler's size and their new location, effectively re-sizing them. By contrast, travel by other means (if that's even possible — DC sources are actually unclear on that point) will have New Gods arrive at their true size. This concept is introduced in Rachel Pollack's New Gods #10 "Sacrifice of the Gods" storyline. But honestly, if we were evil beings zipping around the universe, it kinda sounds like Boom Tubes are the way to go.

The invention of Father Boxes

While Mother Boxes originate from the New Gods of New Genesis — and a central part of their operation hinges on a sort of feeling of love that bonds them to their user — Father Boxes emerge as a similar technology from Apokolips, albeit with an opposite moral alignment. Father Boxes first appeared much later in the DC canon, debuting in 2001's Orion Vol. 1 # 8. They were originally introduced by Darkseid's wife, Mortalla, as a "gift" to the heroic Orion, evidently presented to replace his defunct Mother Box. That, of course, was a ruse — it was actually intended to bring Orion back under Darkseid's control. 

Whereas a Mother Box is said to be "good," loving, caring, and are attributed a "maternal" energy in comic lore, a Father Box is said to have a "pure evil" persona and is crafted to have "male programming." Father Boxes exhibit most of the varied uses that Mother Boxes have showcased in the comics, including connection to the Source and its myriad of energies. At the same time, the form this takes is (understandably) different due to their origination in the evils of Apokolips and their connection to the personality of their maker. Whereas Mother Boxes are latched to the creative, living, positive, good aspects of the Source, Father Boxes access the more negative portion of the Source energies related to its Anti-Life aspect. 

The Father Boxes have some important uses

Beyond their introduction in the Orion series, there are a number of important uses for Father Boxes in DC history. Notably, in Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle series, a Father Box is mentioned as one of seven treasures given to the first superhuman on Earth back in 40,000 B.C. — the New Gods' Neanderthal experimental subject who became known as Aurakles. The New Gods came to visit Earth and experimented on this being, giving him abilities beyond normal humans, including immortality and superhuman strength. Their stated reason for augmenting Aurakles was to bring order to a chaotic world, and in addition to granting him superhuman abilities, the New Gods gave him seven artifacts (the "Seven Imperishable Treasures") to serve that goal. Among these treasures was a Father Box, which gave Aurakles the knowledge of the New Gods.

In addition to this early use of a Father Box, in Justice League of America Vol. 2 #1, a villain named Doctor Impossible (a mysterious bad guy who seems to be a dark version of Mister Miracle) uses a Father Box to summon Hush Tubes as transportation. Additionally, Power Boy of Apokolips uses his own Father Box in Supergirl Vol. 5 #15. In the story, it was damaged in a fight with Supergirl, and it "went critical" due to a disruption in its connection to Source energy. Supergirl resolved the issue by throwing the box into the sun.

Believe it or not, there are even stranger boxes

Although Mother Boxes and Father Boxes are the most prominent examples of the New Gods' sentient technology, there are also rare examples of stranger boxes that serve similar functions. However, their natures and backstories are different from your standard Mother and Father Boxes.

The first of these is the so-called "Orphan Box," created by Father Time, the mysterious immortal leader of S.H.A.D.E., a governmental organization that uses superpowered individuals to fight terrorism after the passing of the Patriot Act. Father Time himself has powers, as he's immortal, possesses super strength, and his body regenerates, although it's unclear if he is in fact a New God. His first appearance is in Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein #3. In that series, he creates the Orphan Box — in the shape of a pair of glasses — from the remnants of Gonzo the Mechanical Bastard, a being created by Apokolips' Mathemagicians of the Anti-Life Equation to spread chaos on Earth.

Additionally, one future timeline hypothesized in Morrison's JLA: Rock of Ages sees one of Darkseid's torturous minions, Granny Goodness, turned into an insane computer called, alternately, either a "Grandmother Box" or, more succinctly, a "Granny Box." However, Wonder Woman sets out to destroy it in her dying act as part of a plan to shut down Darkseid's zombie factory on the moon.