Real Name:  Darkseid / Uxas

Voiced by Michael Ironside

To understand Darkseid, lord of Apokolips and dark god of the Fourth World pantheon, one must first understand Uxas, his prior incarnation.  The son of Yuga Khan, original ruler of Apokolips, and his consort Queen Heggra, Prince Uxas plotted from his youth to conquer first his homeworld and then the universe by any means necessary.  He was the opposite of his older brother Drax, who sought peace with New Genesis, and—recognizing that he was an obstacle—he slew his brother when he attempted to tap into the Omega Force from Apokolips’ Infinity Pit.  Taking his brother’s birthright for himself, Uxas was transformed by the energies of the pit and, pleased with his new appearance, changed his name to Darkseid, a name from Apokoliptic lore.

With the elimination of his brother and the disappearance of his father—Yuga Khan became imprisoned within The Source while trying to learn its secrets—only his mother Heggra and his uncle Steppenwolf stood in his way.  To eliminate his uncle, he suggested to him that he go to New Genesis and hunt the gods there for sport.  Intrigued by the prospect of good hunting, he did so—murdering Avia, the wife of Izaya the Inheritor, which reignited the hostilities between Apokolips and New Genesis and led to war.  It was at the beginning of this war that Steppenwolf was killed by Izaya in retribution for his initial attack, which eliminated him as a rival for the throne of Apokolips.

However, before he could eliminate his mother, his lust for power became tempered when he fell in love with Suli, a scientist with pacifistic tendencies.  She believed that power should be used for the common good instead of for personal conquest, and Darkseid, captivated by the young woman, began to see truth in her words.  He renounced his quest for power and married Suli, who bore him a son, Kalibak, but his change in personality did not go unnoticed by Heggra, who recognized the corrupting influence that Suli had on him.  Seeking to turn him back towards warfare and aggression (she did not know of his original plans), she had Desaad poison Suli and, afterwards, arranged a marriage for Darkseid to Tigra, a woman more in line with Heggra’s way of thinking.  Infuriated by this attack, Darkseid took up his quest again, employing Desaad to poison his mother the same way that his wife was murdered and banishing Tigra and their son, Orion, to the ghettos of Apokolips.  Finally, he claimed the throne he long desired, but at a price:  after Suli’s death, Darkseid turned his back on emotion.

Now in command of his planet’s forces, Darkseid opened negotiations with Izaya, who was now known as Highfather after an encounter with The Source.  Seeking to buy some time to build his base of power, a cease-fire was agreed upon, where Darkseid and Highfather would exchange their infant sons.  To stop the bloodshed, Highfather reluctantly agreed, and traded his son Scott Free for Darkseid’s neglected son Orion.  With the throne of Apokolips his and a delicate truce between the two worlds, Darkseid was able to devote his full attention to the next phase of his master plan:  universal conquest.

A force to be reckoned with, Darkseid rules his fascist empire with an iron fist, forcing his impoverished masses to labor ceaselessly in the construction of enormous edifices in his honor.  In addition to breaking the will of his people, this slavery serves an additional purpose, as Darkseid psychically feeds upon the despair and anguish that he perpetuates.  Recently he has turned his attentions to Earthwhich he wishes to add to his empire despite its presence in a designated neutral zoneand to its champion, Superman, who Darkseid sees as a diversion and a means to an end—destroy Superman, destroy the will of the human race.  However, he believes that his ultimate goal can only be achieved through the solving of the Anti-Life Equation, a mathematical equation that, when solved, will grant him absolute control over the free will of every being in the universe.

Preferring to spend his days working this cypher, Darkseid often chooses to operate through his subordinates, such as Desaad or the Female Furies, a team of professional warriors trained by Granny Goodness.  However, this preference should never be mistaken for weakness, as Darkseid is, in fact, a physical threat on par with Superman.  Although gifted with considerable strength, his main weapon is the Omega Effect—beams of destructive energy that, when unleashed from his eyes, can disintegrate, restore, or teleport anything or anyone that he chooses.  In addition, once unleashed, these beams will follow their intended target until they make contact.

Like all gods, Darkseid is a slave to his destiny, and it has been prophesized that he will meet his end in battle with his son Orion amid the fire-pits of Armagetto.  However, until that fated day, all those underneath his heel know that Darkseid is power.  Darkseid is unforgiving.  Darkseid Is.

Bruce Timm on Darkseid (circa 1998):  “Again, when we were doing Superman, we were trying to find interesting villains for him to come up against.  The regular Superman villains are pretty uninteresting and most of them are fifty year-old fat guys in suits, [so] we figured, ‘Well, there’s Darkseid; let’s definitely use Darkseid in the show.’  So, Paul Dini and I were sitting around one day trying to figure out what we were going to do with Darkseid and the New Gods—we just started throwing out ideas.

“For one thing, what does Darkseid want?  It's not just enough for him to conquer the Earth; why does he want to conquer the Earth?  We went back to the comics to figure out:  what is Darkseid's motivation and what is the Anti-Life Equation?  We decided we couldn't figure it out ourselves.  We got the idea that maybe even Jack didn't know what he was doing!  He had this really cool idea and even if he had something that he meant to do with it in the comics, the series was cancelled before he had a chance to.  The Anti-Life Equation makes sense in the comics, but it's kind of a big nebulous thing and we only have 20 minutes—at most 40 minutes—to tell a story, so we had to make it easy for eight-year-olds to understand.  Our version of the Anti-Life Equation is basically that he feeds on the despair of people, so that's why he wants Earth and that's why he wants to destroy Superman.  He's going to come to Earth and take their greatest hero and reduce him to nothing.  He's going to feed off the despair of the entire planet.

“Then I came up with the idea that he's going to set off a bomb in a nuclear power plant and basically set up a burn hole through the Earth, to turn Earth into Apokolips II.  The story idea just kind of blew back and forth (courtesy of The Jack Kirby Collector).”

Bruce Timm on Darkseid's adaptation (circa 1999):  “We were able to use elements [of the Kirby Mythos] that worked on a more commercial aspect, reducing Darkseid's whole central being and mythos into something that's kind of easily palatable to our key audience, but the whole thing is such a big, mind-expanding concept, it's so huge!  To this day, I think that it kind of got beyond Kirby; I mean, Kirby couldn't even control it all, coming up with concepts so fast, he'd lose sight of what the story was.

“If you go back and re-read the entire run of the New Gods, the first three issues are, ‘Wow, he's really onto something!’  But by the fourth issue, he's introducing new characters, and something is getting lost in the mix.  All of his comics are created that way:  the first two or three issues of the Eternals are like, ‘Wow, he's really on to something,’ and then, ‘My God, now where are we going?’  So, a lot of people say, ‘Well, it's not fair because Kirby never really got a chance to finish the Fourth World,’ and I'm not sure he really had anything in mind as a complete story, even though he said he did (courtesy of Comic Book Artist Magazine).”

Bruce Timm on a Darkseid appearance (circa 2001):  “We don’t plan on doing too much with Darkseid at the moment, only just because it’s a really tempting thing to do.  We love the whole Kirby Universe and all the Fourth World stuff, but we’ve done a lot with it on Superman already.  Right now, we’re trying to do stuff that doesn’t just totally rely on easy things we’ve done in the past.  So, we’re trying to avoid the whole Apokolips thing at the moment.  If we get picked up for a second 26 [episodes], I can almost guarantee we’ll do something more with Darkseid, but for the time being we’re giving him a rest (courtesy of [website name removed]).”

Bruce Timm on Darkseid (circa 2003):  “[Darkseid has] class, baby!  Of course, that’s just part of his appeal, but it is an important part.  He’s a massive, ugly brute, but his harsh physical look is contrasted by a stillness, a soft-spoken speech pattern, and a supreme self-confidence.  He’s a monster, yes, but he’s an elegant one.  [Also], aside from the occasional Omega Blast, [Jack] Kirby almost never had Darkseid engage in physical action and, usually, he doesn’t have to.  With that powerful presence—and that voice—he automatically commands attention, respect, [and] awe.

“He’s very much like the classic James Bond villain.  As Kingsley Amis [a James Bond historian] pointed out, the best Bond villains—Goldfinger, Dr. No, Blofeld—are all evil authority figures, or ‘dark father’ figures, with Bond playing the role of disrespectful, willfully disobedient schoolboy.  It’s implicit in 'Apokolips…Now!,' in the ‘Lucifer tempting Jesus’ scene on the cliff, and it’s explicit in 'Legacy,' with Darkseid’s ‘adoption’ of Superman.  The climax of 'Legacy' especially resonates with that father / son dynamic:  ‘You’ve been a bad boy.  Now take your punishment.’

“('Little Girl Lost' was the only time Superman could claim an unqualified victory against him.  In both 'Apokolips…Now!' and 'Legacy,' Darkseid managed to have the last diabolical laugh.)

“When we first started talking about using him on Superman, Paul [Dini] and I had a brainstorming session, where we tried to figure out 1) what makes him such a fascinating villain in the comics and 2) how best to transpose those qualities into the animated format.  We both had read Kirby’s Fourth World opus many times and, after much head-scratching, came to the conclusion that we’d have to drastically simplify the entire mythos down to an easy-to-understand set of situations and concepts.

“Kirby never really [got] around to defining exactly what this ‘Anti-Life Equation’ (what Darkseid is searching for) is—Kirby scholars debate it even to this day.  Within the scope of the story we wanted to tell, we couldn’t do much more than pay lip-service to it, so we extrapolated a bit and made him a kind of psychic vampire, feeding on the despair and misery of others.  From there I leapt ahead to the end of the story and realized that, after his defeat, Darkseid would have to kill someone very close to Superman in cold blood—out of pure spite—thus snatching some small measure of victory / satisfaction.  It became the defining characteristic of the animated Darkseid.

“Darkseid doesn’t just want to physically crush his enemies; he wants to shatter their spirit, to humiliate, debase, and demean them.  It’s that little extra measure of cruelty that sets him apart from the other villains…[He is] the most powerful, the most sadistic, the most willfully evil villain [ever] (courtesy of Toon Zone).”

Bruce Timm on Darkseid's interest in Superman:  “Darkseid is the one villain who has caused Superman to lose control.  He knows how to push Superman’s buttons, and he revels in doing so at every opportunity.  [This is] both a means to an end and a fringe benefit, a diversion to him.  His offer to spare the Earth if Superman joins him seems rather boiler-plate to me.  He doesn’t really think Superman’s going to take him up on it; it’s more of a token, ‘Don’t say I never gave you a choice,’ kind of thing.  And, as for his brainwashing / adoption of Superman:  straining Superman’s reputation is ultimately more important to him than his by-the-numbers plot to conquer Earth (courtesy of Toon Zone).”

Andrea Romano on Darkseid (circa 2005):  “Michael Ironside came to me because one of his friends mentioned him to me one day.  At that point, I was casting for Darkseid [for Superman], ran Michael’s name by the producers, and they said, ‘Absolutely.’  The character is just huge, and Michael’s voice just fit perfectly (courtesy of ToyFare Magazine).”

 

Images

Darkseid Model Design Sheet | Darkseid Image #1 (STAS Design) | Darkseid Image #2 (JL Design)

Darkseid Image #3 | Darkseid Image #4 | Darkseid Image #5

Darkseid Image #6 | Darkseid Image #7 | Darkseid Image #8 (Legacy Storyboards)

 

Commentary

"And you, little Mother Box...you fear me, do you?  Haven't you heard that Darkseid is a doddering old fool who spends his days working his cypher?  That's right...adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing...but it doesn't add up.  I fear this:  as long as the Anti-Life Equation is unsolved—as long as a scrap of free will exists anywhere in the universe—then Darkseid remains unfulfilled."

Darkseid (to Mother Box) from "Wavelength," Swamp Thing #62

"My will is absolute!  See what I have made!  Imagine what is yet to come!  I take away their confusion and give them obedience.  I take away their fear of themselves and give them fear of Darkseid.  I have liberated them from the chaos of indecision!  I have given them one straight path!  One clear purpose!  One goal:  to die for Darkseid!"

Darkseid (to Metron) from "Twilight of the Gods," JLA #14

Created by legendary artist Jack Kirby, Darkseid made his debut in the innocuously-titled Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #134, and has since gone on to become one of DC Comics’ premiere adversaries.  Originally limited to Kirby’s Fourth World titles, Darkseid went on to become the secret benefactor for the original Secret Society of Supervillains and served as a primary character in the Legends, Cosmic Odyssey, and Our Worlds at War story arcs.  However, it should be noted that in the absence of Kirby, who died in 1994 with his master storyline unfinished, Darkseid’s character has suffered in recent years due to a lack of direction.  As a character within a story arc with a (reported) beginning, middle, and end in mind; Kirby’s death has brought his character’s progression to a halt, and DC Comics, either out of loyalty to Kirby or a desire to hold onto one of their most powerful and iconic villains, has kept the character virtually unchanged since.  As a result, Darkseid is stuck in a continually static position—never solving his cypher, never meeting his destiny—and his character will continue to stagnate for the foreseeable future.

In terms of his adaptation for Superman, Darkseid's presence was, in retrospect, the defining element that shaped the animated series, as well as arguably the best and worst thing the creative team could have done.  Allow me to explain:  recognizing that most of Superman’s Rogues Gallery were a bunch of “fifty year-old fat guys in suits,” Timm and the creative team simply wanted to beef up his enemies list; to give Superman somebody visually appealing to fight, somebody who wasn’t the Prankster or Toyman.  Following this logic, Darkseid is a perfect choice:  immensely powerful, possessing legions of underlings for Superman to face off against, and represented the ultimate evil to his ultimate good.  In their eyes it was a magical combination, but there was a drawback:  while Superman’s Rogues Gallery from the comic books was—and still is—unimpressive, the revamps and redesigns of old villains and the introduction of new ones to his animated Rogues Gallery made for a stronger, more interesting, collection of villains…one that, unfortunately, got overshadowed and generally overlooked by Darkseid's presence.  Consider:  Darkseid received eight 20 minute episodes (or five full episodes, as three of these were two-parters); compare that to the number of appearances made by Bizarro (3), Parasite (3), Jax-Ur and Mala (3), or Livewire (2).  In the end, Darkseid’s looming visage became a double-edged sword for the Superman series, as he dominated the proceedings with his three “event” story arcs ("Apokolips…Now!," "Little Girl Lost," and "Legacy") airing virtually back-to-back, crowding out even arch-villain Lex Luthor in the series finale (in terms of focus).

In addition, much like his non-Kirby comic books appearances, Darkseid’s appearances on Superman were, at best, murky and out-of-character.  For example, in the comics, Darkseid’s interest in Earth stems from the belief that certain humans possess fragments of the Anti-Life Equation in their subconscious but, on Superman, there was no reason given for his interest, save for the fact that it was something he could not possess (and while it is true that this reason is often a valid one for conquerors, the conquest of Earth would be made infinitely simpler after the solving of the Anti-Life Equation).  True, Superman was there, but there was a lack of compelling need on the part of Darkseid to eliminate him as a threat—messing with the Man of Steel was more a pleasant diversion than urgent business.  Much like his comic book counterpart, this Darkseid was in danger of stagnating.

Fortunately, in "Twilight" the creative team wisely brought Darkseid back to the dark roots of his character.  No longer trying to destroy Metropolis with a comet or creating fire pits on the Earth’s surface, Darkseid was portrayed on Justice League as the scheming master manipulator he is best known as, taking advantage of Superman, the League, and an unexpected invasion by Brainiac; using them as a means towards taking a shortcut to solving his greatest frustration, the Anti-Life Equation.  In addition, taking advantage of the show’s presence on a cable network, the creative team was allowed to make the lord of Apokolips more brutal than he was on Superman—nearly beating his son Orion to death and even incinerating Desaad with the Omega Effect.  By making these changes, this version of Darkseid comes across as a truer Darkseid—a purer Darkseid—paying homage to Kirby and backing away from his problematic comic book incarnation.

(While on the subject of his appearance on Justice League, some space should be used to discuss the visual changes made to the character.  On Superman, Bruce Timm made many changes to Darkseid, such as making his costume predominantly black with blue highlights [as opposed to the other way around] and altering the design to include a tunic and leggings, which gave the character a more regal appearance [as opposed to the comics, where his outfit resembles a one-piece swimsuit; as Bruce Timm said with Mongul:  “You can take him a little bit more seriously if the villain’s not walking around in Bermuda shorts”].  For Justice League, the character keeps the same costume, but his body was redesigned to be more Kirbyesque in appearance:  he’s slimmer, less blocky, and his face is less stylized and more craggily and rock-like in appearance [this could possibly be due to the events of "Legacy," where Superman caused the Omega Effect to backfire, blowing up Darkseid’s head].)

Despite what appeared to be his death aboard Brainiac’s asteroid base in "Twilight," it is unlikely that Darkseid is truly dead, as he has died frequently in the comics only to return each time (as previously stated, it is his destiny to meet his end at the hands of Orion in the Armagetto, or the ghettos of Apokolips).  As a result, expect to see Darkseid at some point in the future, either in person or as a shadowy presence, on Justice League Unlimited (a statement reinforced by appearances of Apokolips and Fourth World characters such as Granny Goodness, Kalibak, and Virman Vundabar in "The Ties That Bind").  An overpowering presence on Superman, it is not surprising that Darkseid is a perfect fit for Justice League.  As Darkseid is less Superman’s villain and more the DC Universe’s villain, he is better suited to appear in an animated series with a scope big enough to handle him.

 

Images courtesy of Toon Zone, the New Batman / Superman Adventures Homepage, Cartoon Network, The Bruce Timm Gallery, Albert Moy's Original Online Art Gallery, John Delaney, Mike Manley, DC Cartoon Archives, and Comic Book Artist Magazine.  Additional information courtesy of The New Gods Library.

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