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=DARKSEID
I’m ten chapters into my revision of Meddling Heroes, and I’ll be resuming that project soon. This weekend, I’m taking a break after a very tough week, and I thought I’d take a few moments to ramble about comics. Specifically, I’ve been fascinated lately by the best comic that never got a proper ending, New Gods.
New Gods was Jack Kirby’s magnum opus that came about after he left Marvel Comics. Intent of showing what he could do without Stan Lee, he created one of the most epic of epic comics, spinning a tale of two worlds that used to be one but which were separated by an apocalyptic event. One of the worlds, New Genesis, was a utopia, while the other, Apokolips, was a total hellhole. Unfortunately, editors at DC Comics got in the way of the conclusion of the New Gods saga, and it never got the grand conclusion Kirby envisioned – although he did at least sort of get to complete the saga years later. I’ve got a big huge rant about New Gods and the many awesome characters created, but the most interesting of the lot by far has to be Darkseid, the ruler of Apokolips.
A staple of Saturday Morning cartoons shows is the mega villain who thinks bad is good and who acts evil just because. All those guys, even the ones who came before New Gods, are all Darkseid wannabes. Darkseid is possibly one of the best villains ever, not because he commits evil for the sake of evil, but because he has some twisted reasoning behind it all. Darkseid rules a desolate world where he brainwashes people into believe that hatred is love and that free will is an abomination. He has spent his entire life searching for the Anti-Life Equation, a formula that would allow Darkseid to completely control the will of everyone in the universe. He doesn’t do it out of a general sense of megalomania, though. He does it because, in his own twisted logic, he would be doing the universe a favor by eliminating that pesky thing we call choice.
I have a lot on my mind these days. I have a child to care for soon, finances to balance, career frustrations, and more. I have doubts about my future, which leads to fear about my present. Darkseid’s solution would be to eliminate that fear entirely. The fear and uncertainty that people feel is due to the existence of choice – we’re always worried that we made or will make the wrong choice. But that same choice is also what bring happiness, surprise, and love. Darkseid is the embodiment of the notion that the bad things in life outweigh the good. He would rather extinguish the ability to choose one’s destiny than risk failure and uncertainty. Darkseid is every doubt about whether life is worth living taken to its extreme. He is what happens when fear paralyzes a person, when uncertainty about the future takes over the present.
One of the best non-Kirby written examples of Darkseid’s thinking is an issue of The Spectre (back when Hal Jordan wore the cloak) where the Spectre stops Darkseid from executing an innocent woman. Rather than admit defeat, Darkseid chooses a punishment that he honestly believes to be worse than execution – he exiles her from Apokolips. To anybody but Darkseid, that would be a blessing – Apokolips is an absolute shithole. But Darkseid and the minions he’s brainwashed honestly believe it to be a paradise. On Apokolips, there is no need to think and choose. There is no uncertainty – you know what every day will bring. To the girl he exiles, Darkseid gives a long speech about how she must endure the chaos and doubt that the world has to offer – where to get her next meal, risking her hopes and dreams going unfulfilled. The irony, of course, is that Darkseid is doing nothing more than letting the girl live as a normal human – a paradise compared to life on the dystopian Apokolips.
Comics make me feel better because they tell big stories that still have an emotional core. Darkseid is a great extrapolation of the fear and uncertainty that everybody feels from time to time, bringing those fears to a point where they totally rule his life and define his existence. In real life, the bad times are almost always outweighed by good times, so long as you keep trying. Failure is only temporary, while pride can be forever. In my case, my fears about possibly not being a good father aren’t keeping me from trying, and I’m sure the birth of my son in a few months will give me joy that will eclipse any sort of pain I have ever suffered. Darkseid is one of the greatest villains out there not because he destroys planets, but because he comes from our own weakness. He seeks to eliminate all joy in life because he is so deathly afraid of the pain that sometimes accompanies it.
I totally plan on going on a much longer-winded discussion about Darkseid and the rest of the New Gods at some point in the future. Right now, it’s late and I’m tired, so I’ll just end this rambling with a clip from Superman: The Animated Series which pretty much defines the villainous awesomery that is Darkseid. (As a side note, this is the end of that whole series…talk about a downer ending.)