Mothra wrote:I'd be interested to what what you like about comic book Darkseid, since his Timm animated version isn't anything hugely out of the ordinary.
I suppose the reason he's not hugely out of the ordinary is that he's a Kirby character and "the ordinary" pretty much means "the way Kirby did it." Kirby may not have invented bombastic, monologuing, arrogant villains who talked about themselves in the third person, but in many ways he perfected them -- start naming the greatest supervillains of all time and Magneto, Dr. Doom, and Galactus are bound to be on the list.
And while some people prefer Lee's dialogue to Kirby's, I'm not one of them. I've got a certain fondness for Lee's chatty characters who invariably talk like an unhip old guy's idea of how hip young guys talk, but Kirby's dialogue -- while perhaps less skillful, and certainly not any more realistic -- feels more raw
. Darkseid looks like he's hewn from stone, and his dialogue matches.
Fourth World was probably the biggest, most operatic thing Kirby ever did. But it's also defined by looking backward (the Newsboy Legion, the rise of fascism, and the whole thing being originally intended as a Thor story until he got fed up with Marvel and decided to save his new characters until he got a better deal -- not to mention Funky Flashman and Houseroy) and looking at what was then the present (Billy Graham, Richard Nixon, hippies).
In some ways Darkseid is banal -- ultimate evil, all-powerful, fascist, Satan figure, etc. -- and there's no denying that a big part of why we're still talking about him is his striking design (which also holds true for Thanos and Apocalypse, both of whom are pretty flagrant knockoffs). You could even argue that Darkseid isn't the most interesting villain to come out of New Gods; deSaad, Granny Goodness, and maybe even Glorious Godfrey could all be good contenders for that title (or maybe Funky Flashman, but only because he's a particularly cruel caricature of Stan Lee).
But in there with all that stuff are some pretty sharp ideas from Kirby -- starting with the Anti-Life Equation. Aside from its mellifluous, pure-Kirby name, there's the fascinating idea that the opposite of life isn't death, it's the absence of free will. And that Darkseid's ultimate goal isn't chaos and destruction, it's perfect order.
Then there's the famous amusement park issue, where Darkseid's running a carnival of horrors and none of the adults notice -- people are being tortured right in front of them, evil incarnate is standing right there, and they're just laughing it off. The children see the horror show for what it is and try to explain it, but their parents won't listen. There's some deep stuff about the nature of evil there, and the nature of age and cynicism.
And that's Darkseid in a nutshell, really -- while his evil is conventional in a lot of ways, it's unconventional in a lot of others. Yes, he sits on a throne on a fiery planet called Apokolips, and yes he's a big scary-looking dude with glowing red eyes -- but he's also not a guy who does a lot of punching. Indeed, the classic Darkseid pose has him just standing there with his arms folded behind his back. He's subtle (given that the bar here is "comic book supervillain"); he seldom acts directly. He's got minions, but his influence relies mostly on recognizing and exploiting the worst potentials within all of us -- obvious negative emotions like fear, hate, and greed, sure, but other, banal vices like cynicism, complacency, and lack of curiosity.
For all that, it's still a Jack Kirby superhero comic, and it's still fundamentally optimistic. And nowhere is that more apparent than The Pact (which is widely regarded as the best comic he ever made, including, purportedly, by Kirby himself). The Pact is the origin story of both Orion and Mister Miracle; it's the one that explains that Highfather and Darkseid reached a truce and sealed it by exchanging sons. (As superheroes-as-mythology premises go, that one might be my favorite, though Spider-Man's origin is a strong contender in its straight-up Greek Tragedy irony.) Highfather raises Darkseid's son Orion, while Darkseid takes Highfather's son Mister Miracle and puts him in something called a Terror Orphanage (have I mentioned how much I love Kirby's names for things?).
And the result is...both of them grow up to be heroes. In the nature-nurture debate, Kirby suggests that good will win either way, that a monster's son who has anger issues and deep doubts about his worthiness can be shown the right path and overcome his weaknesses, while a boy raised in a literal Hell can grow up unbroken and come to lead a rebellion against his totalitarian society. Darkseid is a master of manipulating human vices, but human decency is stronger.
So, y'know. Those are a few of the things I love about Darkseid.
And of all the characters Kirby created at DC, he's certainly proven to be the most popular, the most memorable, and the most enduring. (To an unfortunate extent, in some ways, as I said; I really wish DC would give him a rest for awhile, like it looked like they were going to do at the end of Final Crisis when all the New Gods got sent off to their own universe. Oh well.) But if you want to look at it in simpler terms, well, he's DC's greatest cosmic villain. There are others -- Krona, Mongul, Parallax, the Anti-Monitor, Despero, Kanjar Ro, Starro, arguably any of the various evil Kryptonians who show up all the time -- but nobody's really got that je ne sais quois that Darkseid does. And I really do think that has everything to do with Jack Kirby being Jack Kirby.
Thad wrote:There are plenty of valid reasons to consider Red Skull to be an all-time classic villain. Detroit, name me a better Marvel villain created prior to 1960.