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The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
of Jack Kirby's New Gods comics
and later a principle villain in the DC Universe
When one considers "Darkseid's religion," one must keep in mind that there are two distinct religions to consider.
First, there is the planet-wide religion that Darkseid has cynically built up on Apokolips by forcing people to worship and obey him. Darkseid is the instigator of this "religion," but is in no way a follower of it, as he does not think that he is in any way divine. Darkseid actively cultivates worship of himself. He declares himself a "god" and demands both obedience and worship from his subjects.
Second, Darkseid himself can be said to have his own highly personalized religion based on his unique driving motivations. He has a fervent belief in the existence of the "Anti-Life Equation" and his goal is to use it to eliminate free will from the universe and subject all living beings to his will. These beliefs and goals are not based on purely biological needs, rational thought, or any other belief system. In a very real sense, Darkseid has set himself up as the "god" of world, and seeks to set himself as the god of the universe. These unique beliefs and obsessions constitute his "religion" in the general sense of the word.
If one wanted to put a name to the twisted religion that Darkseid is the central figure of, it could be called "Apokolipsian Darkseid worship." This is what Darkseid seeks to force on the entire universe - not through proselytizing and persuasion, but through force and the eradication of free will. But Darkseid himself has no need for a name or an ideological explanation for what he wants to do. He is not the purveyor of a faith or an ideology, but a seeker of absolute power, all for his own sake.
Darkseid does not believe there is anything that is any way "religious" about himself or his quest. Darkseid is brutally direct and honest about his own evil nature. He seems to revel in it, in fact. When Darkseid temporarily allied himself with Wonder Woman to thwart the destruction of the universe by Imperiex, he was horrified to learn that in the process of doing so, Wonder Woman had infected him with a tinge of goodness from her own soul.
Darkseid was originally the principle villain in Jack Kirby's New Gods and Fourth World comic book stories, published by DC Comics. After the monthly comic book series publishing these stories were cancelled, Kirby moved onto other projects. The characters were later incorporated into the mainstream DC universe. Darkseid became one of the principle villains in the DC Universe, and has played prominent roles in many major crossover events, in additional to serving as a dangerous foe in specific titles, including Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Justice League of America, and more.
John McDonagh wrote to us (12 July 2007), with the following comments about Darkseid and the character's status as a "New God" or "god":
Darkseid is a literal god. Action Comics #600 estabished that the energy force that created the Olympian pantheon was the force the erupted from the event that created Apokolips and New Genesis, and the New Gods were affected by Circe's War of the Gods along with other bona fide pantheons such as the Olympians, Asgardians, etc. Darkseid is no different than Allah/Yahweh, as both are psychotically intolerant.
From: "Darkseid" page on Wikipedia.org website (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darkseid; viewed 25 April 2007):
As with gods in other mythologies, Darkseid is incredibly powerful, but cannot escape his ultimate destiny. It has been foretold that Darkseid will meet his final defeat at the hands of his son, Orion, in a cataclysmic battle in the fiery Armaghetto of Apokolips...
Son of Yuga Khan and Heggra, Darkseid is the ruler of the planet Apokolips, a post he obtained after assassinating his mother. He is obsessed with finding the Anti-Life Equation in order to use it to rule the universe; this goal also includes conquering his rival planet, New Genesis, ruled by the Highfather. A destructive war between the two worlds was stopped only with a diplomatic exchange of the sons of Highfather and Darkseid.
Darkseid's greatest ambition is to eliminate all freewill from the universe and re-shape it into his own image. To this end, he seeks to unravel the mysterious Anti-Life Equation, which will allow him to control completely the thoughts and emotions of all living beings in the universe. The Anti-Life Equation has often been portrayed as a quasi-mystical power that forces a listener to agree with whatever the wielder says, while other times, it is portrayed as a comprehensive scientific theory on how to dominate any living mind, whatever its nature may be.
While he has yet to obtain a complete working copy of the Anti-Life Equation, Darkseid has tried on several other occasions to achieve dominance of the universe through other methods. He has a special interest in Earth, as he believes humans possess collectively within their minds most, if not all, fragments of the Anti-Life Equation. Darkseid intends to probe the minds of every human in order to piece together the Equation.
Darkseid is a member of the race known as "New Gods," and is apparenly a native of the planet Apokolips. This is the planet he rules as a despot and which he uses as a homebase in his many attempts to eliminate free will from the univeres and engage in other acts of villainy that bring him into conflict with DC superheroes and the New Gods of New Genesis.
The "religion" that Darkseid himself subscribes to is atheistic, as Darkseid recognizes no God, Supreme Being, deities, etc. (This contrasts somewhat with Darkseid's Marvel Universe counterpart Thanos, who clearly and openly worships Death.) Darkseid does not really worship any being. However, he is driven by a few peculiar obsessions which are unique to him and appear to have no rational basis. A simple term such as "atheist", which really only identifies a single theological position, is wholly inadequate for describing Darkseid's personal religion.
Given Darkseid's total narcism and devotion to himself and his own desires, along with his seeming disregard for any value system or body of ethics, it may be debatable whether anything that Darkseid believes in or is motivated by should be called a "religion," at least in the general positive sense of the word.
All residents of Apokolips are raised as part of a personality cult that venerates Darkseid as a god. Apokolips in many ways represents a prototypical tranformation of despotic national leadership into a national political party and national religion that all residents are forced to take part in. Despotic systems such as these are not uncommon in human history. Darkseid's rule of Apokolips has many parallels to Hitler's domination of Germany through the Nazi party, although many other national personality cults in Asia, Africa and European history are closer parallels. There are also parallels to the Soviet Union under Stalin and Lenin, where the Communist Party was in control, but the result was a darkly twisted version of Communism which departed from pure Marxism. Although officially atheistic and anti-religious, Soviet Communism adopted the major characteristics of traditional organized religions as it became a personality cult centered on national leaders. During the mid-20th Century, Maoism in China was likewise transformed into a personality cult centered on Chairman Mao. The contemporary Chinese government and Chinese Communist Party has repudiated many of the violent, irrational and repressive excesses of Maoism during that period. A contemporary country which closely parallels Darkseid's rule over Apokolips is North Korea, where Kim Jong Il is venerated through the nation's national religion of "Juche." Although officially an atheistic belief system and a native form of Communism, Juche is, in practice, a religion that actively worships the leader of North Korea as a god-like figure. (Kim Jong Il is the successor to his equally despotic and nationally venerated father, Kim Il-sung.) One thing that all of these despotic political systems have in common is that they were harshly antagonistic to both traditional organized religion as well as to the ideals of most contemporary non-Communist atheists and agnostics. On Apokolips (as in these examples from Earth history), deviation from the religion of Darkseid veneration was met with harsh punishments, including imprisonment, torture and death.
One can certainly recognize Nietzschean tendencies within Darkseid, although Darkseid certainly does not call himself a Nietzschean. Within the context of the DC Universe, Darkseid is a long-lived alien whose villainous personality predates and is unconnected to the Earth philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. There is no particular reason to even think that Darkseid's creator Jack Kirby based Darkseid on Nietzschean writings or based the character on any particular despot. Earth's history has plenty to choose from. Kirby created his "New Gods" and "Fourth World" comics as a stage for writing about Good Versus Evil, writ large. Darkseid was never intended to closely mirror any particular historical figure or to reflect any specific philosophical or religious belief (or lackof religious belief). Darkseid is a rich and interesting character, but in essence he was created to represent evil. For Kirby, whose Jewish background and beliefs informed his worldview, Darkseid was the antithesis of religion.
Darkseid actively pronounces that there were no other gods aside from himself, or that all other gods are dead. Darkseid sets himself up as a god to the people of Apokolips and he punishes or destroys any of his subjects who are caught worshipping or believing differently. Darkseid in no way thinks of himself as being somehow an avatar of a Supreme Being or creator of the universe, or even a prophet who represents a divine being. Darkseid simply desires to rule everyone and rob everybody of free will, and setting himself up as a "god" over them is an expedient part of his program to accomplish his goals. Darkseid is well aware that his rule is not benevolent or beneficial, but he does not care.
From: Doug Tonks, "A Higher Power", posted 22 October 2006 on "All New! All Different! Howling Curmudgeons: Two-Fisted Comics Commentary and Criticism!" blog website (http://www.whiterose.org/howlingcurmudgeons/archives/009995.html; viewed 25 April 2007):
The never-identified but usually heeded "they" claim that there are two topics you should never talk about: religion and politics. But since Mike already brought up religion... I'll follow it up with a link to this page [link to: http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html], which lists the religious affiliations of various comic book characters. Many of the religious identifications are backed up with lengthy supporting arguments, but some of the more minor characters get little or nothing in the way of explanation.
Some of them are not too surprising... Others are obvious...
But this being comic books, it's not too long until things start getting a bit less clear... Darkseid is unfortunately not listed [webmaster's note: a listing and linked page for Darkseid have subsequently been added.], but both Mister Miracle and Big Barda are listed as "Apokolipsian Darkseid worship (lapsed)."...
Posted by Doug at October 22, 2006 7:12 PM
David Thompson, "Secret Knowledge, Revealed", posted 1 March 2007 on "David Thompson: Culture, Ideas and Comic Books" blog website (http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/comic_books/index.html; viewed 15 May 2007):
...Naturally, the database also includes extraterrestrial belief systems (e.g. Kryptonian metaphysics and Apokolipsian Darkseid Worship)...
[User comments posted on this page]
Posted by: Matt M | March 01, 2007 at 11:49
I rather like the fact that 'real' religions sit alongside some equally detailed fictional ones. And I had to read the comparison of Communism with Apokolipsian Darkseid Worship...
From: "Religion in Comics" forum discussion, started 17 May 2007 on official DC Comics message board website (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?messageID=2003785241; viewed 7 June 2007):
Posted: May 17, 2007 8:37 AM
Yesterday, I read Action Comics #849, and the issue had several religious references and implications. Because of this, I decided to discuss it with everyone else here. Does religion have a place in comic books?
Posted: May 17, 2007 9:43 AM
Actually religion can do a lot to inform you of a character's backstory.
What if you found out your fave was into Scientology? Zen? or maybe as a Moslem? Christian Scientist.
...Obviously Wonder Woman believe in the ancient gods or the Greek pagans...
And I can hardly imagine that Hal Jordan or Cris Allen could be agnostic after having been the Spectre - and as for Zauriel...
Plus we have a universe with an entire planet that worships Darksied.
From: "Stuart Moore's A Thousand Flowers: O Deadly Night" forum discussion, started 2 December 2003 on Newsarama website (http://forum.newsarama.com/archive/index.php/t-6949.html; viewed 28 June 2007):
12-02-2003, 09:57 AM
Some additions to your reprint list: the Golden Age Superman story, the Golden Age Wonder Woman story... "Wanted: Santa Claus - Dead Or Alive" and "The Teen Titans Swinging Christmas Carol" are all included in the trade paperback A DC Universe Christmas . Incidentally, it also includes a Darkseid Christmas story ("Present Tense" by Ty Templeton) that's one of my absolute favorites.
From: "Question for other atheists" forum discussion, started 6 March 2006 on "Comic Boards" website (http://www.comicboards.com/dcb/view.php?trd=060306051129; viewed 23 July 2007):
Posted by Corn Stone on Monday, March 06 2006 at 05:11:29 GMT
Question for other atheists. Are there any? :-)
How do you relate to the characters in comics, DC especially, who are characterised as atheistic/agnostic?
And a sort of put-yourself-in-the-shoes - Would you still be an atheist if you'd had the experiences Mr Terrific and co have had? (Not counting Green Arrow, Barry Allen and folk who have been to Heaven, if their experiences are to be believed. And they are - this is the DCU cosmology.)
I doubt very much I would call myself an atheist, if, say, I was a member of the JLA or JSA and had some of these experiences.
Posted by Einheri on Tuesday, March 07 2006 at 03:53:00 GMT
I hold out hope.
As for Mr Terrific, if he is an atheist - from what I've seen - he's very polite about it. Atheists who try to "evangelize" me to their beliefs (or lack of beliefs) tend to iritate me more than religious people trying to evangelize me to their faith. But not much more.
Let me work it out for myself. And I'll try not to bother you. But I make no promises. ;-)
There, that's about as preachy as I get, Corn. But, to better answer some of what you're driving at, I think it could be very easy to be an atheist in the presence of Superman. I daresay that the presence of entities like Darkseid, Spectre, Dr. Fate, Deadman, Wonder Woman, Clark Kent, and even "things" like Bat-Mite sort of make the supernatural common-place. If we have comic book logical explanations of these folk, it wouldn't be too hard to reason that there could be other, more powerful creatures, even a "supreme being." But I don't think someone like Mr. Terrific would call this entity "GOD." Well, maybe he might if he thought it could get IT to stop making him eat playground dirt.
Webpage created 25 April 2007. Last modified 23 July 2007.
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