Darkseid turned 42 years old this month but his unique Omega brand still gains attention to comic book aficionados and critics alike. The nature of the New God’s mythology was and still remains a novel and intriguing universe thanks to the brilliance of Jack Kirby, and has expanded the DC universe in remarkable ways. Its unfolding drama between New Genesis and Apokolips, the trading of two sons, Mister Miracle and Orion between Lord Darkseid and Highfather, distilled an older, classical approach to story-telling into the DCU. Emulating the stories of the Greek and Norse Gods, Kirby’s universe is ancient at its genesis and is introduced en medias res, winding down to the coming Ragnarok that foretells father and son, Darkseid and Orion respectively, doing battle, thus ending the conflict between the two planets once and for all. At the outset, the cognitive environment presented in the Fourth World mythology appears polarized, merely a moral dualism between the heaven-like Valhalla of New Genesis and the hell of Apokolips, but there is more to be gleaned from these cosmic realms. Is there more to the dictator of Apokolips than merely an antithetical construction of the benevolent Izaya? To get some answers, I sat down with Darkseid at his palatial fortress in Bakersfield, California, to discuss his life, mission, and purpose in the DCU.
STUART WARREN: Lord Darkseid, I am glad that we could meet today. I never took you for being a fan of Bakersfield, California. However, I heard that you were inspired by Jack Palance, one of Kirby’s favorite American Western film stars, so I guess you being here wouldn’t be too unbelievable.
DARKSEID: Truth be told, I have been many places. Across the far reaches of the galaxy I have traveled in search of Anti-Life, and only here, in Bakersfield, have I found true despair and suffering.
WARREN: Fascinating. What is Anti-Life? Explain it to those who may be unfamiliar with the concept.
DARKSEID: It is the boon of my reign, my vindication. This world, and all other worlds sprawl in a sea of chaos and disorder. I seek to “shut down the universe to all life, except the will of Darkseid,” as my creator penned in Mister Miracle #9, July of ’72.
WARREN: And Kirby also allegedly drew inspiration from Hitler and Nazi Germany to create you and your world, Apokolips, as well. Anti-Life sounds reminiscent of the submission to a fascist authority in which individual identity is subsumed into the greater image of the political state, which I suppose, would be you. Is this an accurate summary of what you represent?
DARKSEID: Hitler was a fool and a tyrant. I am more than a mere villain extending my hand across a doomed world. I am salvation! The solution to pain and disorder. The members of the Justice League accuse me of enslaving Apokolips, but I have settled the petty squabbles of my planet better than any would-be hero.
WARREN: I remember seeing you and Superman…
DARKSEID: The Kryptonian.
WARREN: Yes. I remember watching you and him square off in your fortress on Apokolips in Superman: the Animated Series, and when he defeated you, you said something. What was that?
DARKSEID: Indeed. A minor, calculated setback. I misjudged him, but I certainly did not fail. Yes, I remember what I said. “I am many things, Kal-El, but here I am God.” Though I suffered defeat, his reputation, tarnished and maligned, will never recover. The immigrant from the stars returned a pariah, scorned by the people he desired to save, and even in our next encounter, he leaned on the shoulders of a mere man, aided by Metron.
WARREN: But what you said, about being a god, what you meant by that surely means that you see yourself not as a villain but rather a sustainer of your world. So then you are not merely a villain, or even evil, but simply amoral. As a god you are a being representative of absolute moral objectivity. Without you, there is no Apokolips, and even, arguably, New Genesis. The conflict that you initiate is what defines the existence of the Fourth World Omnibus of Jack Kirby. Without you it would just be a planet of nebulous peace.
DARKSEID: An accurate summation.
WARREN: So then, being a god, what is your role as a ruler? What role does morality play on your planet? Are you a theocratic ruler, or a dictatorship?
DARKSEID: The underlings and minions that I have sired live to serve one thing, and that is myself. “To live for Darksied, is to die for Darkseid,” they call out among the throngs of lowlies. I am their justification, and those that go out from my hand are Justifiers of Anti-Life. Morality, amongst other petty things, is simply an illusion. When I crush their individualism, and as I watch them naked shivering in my hand, they will look to me for the warmth that comes from it. Morality is Darkseid.
WARREN: So you correlate morality with personal will?
DARKSEID: Quite the opposite, actually. Individualism assumes choice, and the freedom to think for one’s self. When I sought out the criminal Himon for smuggling and teaching my children to build the heretical machines that draw upon the Source, it was not above my servants to die in the fires that scorched them as my Harassers under command of Wilik purged the crowds that concealed him. “To fail Darkseid, is to fail ourselves,” they would have chanted. To them, I am reality in all its corporeal physicality. My presence is a singularity that absorbs all will into my own.
WARREN: This is apparent in Final Crisis, as your essence, and that of your other subjects, tunneled into human forms. It is also why Superman couldn’t kill you without otherwise jeopardizing the lives of all the humans on earth that had fallen under the spell of the Anti-Life Equation. Himon’s attempts to school the youth of Apokolips on how to build motherboxes was not the direct threat to your rule at all, but it was the amplification of their individuality that compromised your reign.
WARREN: When Kirby began the Forth World mythology, he formulated the story around Earth, depicting the incursion of Apokolips on Earth. Mokkari and Simyan under the direction of Desaad are seen terrifying and exploiting the fragile consciousness of humanity in an effort to isolate the Anti-Life equation. Why Earth?
DARKSEID: I have always believed the human race to possess it, and after futile attempts at wrestling control of their minds through Godfrey, I have vowed to isolate and build my empire there, that I may find Anti-Life. Brunno Manheim has been indispensable in my pursuits, though as of late I tire of his constant failure. No, the people of Earth are special. It is perhaps their innate sense of personal autonomy that makes my breaking of their minds all the more sweet in my quest to bring submission and order to this ever changing universe.
WARREN: Perhaps this is why Superman has become such an adversary for you in the past, since he has the power to inspire hope and bring order through philanthropy. In fact, many of the Silver Age heroes boasted strong capacities for inspiration. Their role was to bring out the best in people. Kirby’s take on The Project was the first attempt at deviating from this formula. He saw the salvation of man in the brave new generations of the hippies and beatniks that lived in The Project, with Superman at odds with their novel expressions. In many ways, Kirby was saying that the Golden Age had concluded, and that Superman needed to shape up if he was going to endure. Would you say that you are Kirby’s response as the archetype for the modern villain?
DARKSEID: My methods to salvage order from this corrupted universe are multifaceted and motivated beyond simple acquisitions of material goods. I am a hard bargainer. I play by the rules that I create. Criminals interested in personal gain or simple recognition are limited by their physicality. My essence transcends the physical universe, which I call to my dominion. Kirby was a visionary that wanted to create a villain that could not be reasoned with, nor rehabilitated. I am sympathetic and even endear the scorn of Kal-El. He is the son I never had, the knight that became my pawn, in my game for domination. I transgress the simple, dualistic categories that existed prior to the Silver Age.
WARREN: Truly, you introduced a new class of villain. Before you Lex Luthor was merely a scientist that held ambiguous hatred for Superman. It was the 80s that gave him a suit and a multinational conglomerate, but it was you that gave him the existential drive to articulate villainy as being justified in the eyes of the villain. We are wrapping up here, but I had one last question for you. What is the difference between you and High-father?
DARKSEID: High-father is my only equal, being the sovereign of New Genesis. Long ago, Izaya was once a warrior, but then cast off his armor to take up peace. His pathetic son escaped me, but not without the imprint of my will and tenacity learned on Apokolips. Though he possesses the power to decimate my planet at any moment, he lives in fear of me, for I have the resolve to tear apart the serene fields of New Genesis. All the universe lives in my shadow, including him. And while he practices his brand of misguided isolationism, I take the role of innovator, actively imprinting my will amongst the stars. Our heritage is shared, and my presence only proves his weakness. All submit to Anti-life, eventually. He himself even saw the extent of his own darkness when my fool of an uncle Steppenwolf murdered his wife Avia, and subsequently succumbed to his wrath. We may be certainly opponents of one another, but he is destined to fall before me, when I realize my purpose.