WARNING: This post may contain spoilers for Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League.
Now that Batman V Superman has been released, the introduction of the DC Universe to film audiences has begun. A bevy of characters are about to create a larger universe on screen, for better or for worse. We got a good look at some of these characters in Dawn of Justice, but the most mysterious character is likely the major evil that threatens in Batman’s awkward “knightmare” and the newly released deleted scene. The identity isn’t confirmed yet — could be Steppenwolf, could be Darkseid, could be a brain fart in Zack Snyder’s mind, but all signs point towards Darkseid, the big bad Jack Kirby creation who represents pure evil, lives on a planet that shoots towers of fire, and is out to enslave the universe.
If the sign posts weren’t clear in Batman V Superman, you might be new to Darkseid’s existence in DC Comics. There are moments in the film where Zack Snyder essentially hits you over the head with hints, from the nightmare, to the small scene with Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and the cube that gives him his powers, to Lex Luthor’s painting at the end of the movie. Clues are out in the open.
The painting is a nice clue that aids in understanding who Darkseid is as a character. Unlike Marvel’s Thanos — who has a fascination with death and takes a lot of influence from Kirby’s character — Darkseid and the Fourth World have their origins planted firmly in religious myth. Darkseid’s realm of Apokolips is countered by the bright, good New Genesis. They are locked in a constant war against each other that features notable characters from both sides battling, including Darkseid’s own son Orion — a major hero who might make an appearance, too.
Darkseid himself begins his existence as the corrupted prince of Apokolips, feeling he is the next in line and deciding to murder his brother as he claims the Omega Force as his own. This corrupts Darkseid into the stone form he’s become known for in the comics as he begins his rule. From there, it’s a mixture of Greek mythology, Paradise Lost, and bits of the Old Testament tossed together with world history and the Nazi regime.
There’s also a bit of Marvel influence, too, with Kirby’s ideas from the other company helping to influence his entrance into DC Comics. The cosmic deities from Thor, the warring factions and families of Inhumans, the dimension-hopping adventure of Fantastic Four. It’s all there and Darkseid is the evil at the center of it.
But it’s when Darkseid interacts with the heroes of the DC Comics main universe that we truly see where the character will come into play. Darkseid, much like Lucifer in Biblical lore, is out to corrupt humanity and rule through submission. The Anti-Life Equation is his goal and Earth seems to be the attraction point, feeling around in people’s mind to find the right sequence. If the character we see in the deleted scene from Batman V Superman turns out to be Darkseid, it would make perfect sense. He certainly has a demonic quality.
The quest for the Anti-Life Equation has put Darkseid at odds with many heroes over the years, including Wonder Woman and Superman, usually introducing the characters of Kirby’s Fourth World to the mix. The two most recent and noteworthy stories to feature Darkseid would be Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis and the New 52 Justice League run that brings the team together and eventually leads to the more recent Darkseid War.
The latter story is the obvious route for the films to take, although many are citing the events of Injustice: Gods Among Us as another possible influence. The assault by Darkseid on Earth and the need to “unite the seven” to defeat him is the perfect story to create a Justice League film. Not to mention it already ended up being adapted into the animated Justice League: War — featuring all the eye-gouging action you could possibly want from a cartoon about superheroes.
There are also shades of Final Crisis in the visuals we get in the nightmare portion of BvS. There’s a lot at play, but the underground struggle for heroes against Darkseid’s ultimate victory happens in Final Crisis, with Batman playing a central role against the evil forces. There’s a bunch of comic level junk that sees Darkseid toss Batman back through time while everybody believes him to actually be dead. Don’t expect that much on screen, unless things get very strange.
The problem with Darkseid has always been a real lack of depth. Wanting to conquer, enslave, be pure evil, and other bad guy trademarks are present. But if you watch Justice League: War, read any number of Darkseid stories from over the years, or even catch the character’s appearances on DC’s animated Justice League and Superman series, you notice that he’s more of a force and less of a character. He leaves the minions to carry the weight and sing his praises. He’s sort of like a galactic Doctor Doom, but without all the class and genius.
That said, he fits in against the Justice League. Being a pure representation of evil is what you need against what is meant to be a pure force of good. Superman is the definition of a comic hero, even the highly criticized version of Batman V Superman. Pitting who is supposed to be the ultimate bad guy against the ultimate good guy is the logical point of any Justice League film. This might be a horrible idea for Warner Bros. considering where Marvel is going with The Avengers, but it is what is expected. The stakes need to be high.
It just leaves the question of how Darkseid will play out on screen. The scene with Luthor in the pool, seemingly praying to the evil entity we see floating before him, gives some hints that we could see Luthor become some sort of vessel for Darkseid in the Justice League films. It’s happened in the comics and Luthor is an established villain now, whether fans like it or not. Having that aspect at hand with the invasion of evil could be an interesting story. Also Luthor has shown he can control the dimwitted Superman by threatening the people he loves, maybe he could do the same with Darkseid’s power by his side. Turn Superman into that evil version from Batman’s dream, turning it from “knightmare” to reality.
There are many ways Warner Bros. could succeed or possibly screw it up. It does seem that we’re heading in this direction, though, so hopefully they let their freak flag fly a bit with some of the crazier aspects of the DC Universe. It’s doubtful, but hope is still there.