You’re probably asking yourself, “Why Darkseid?”
Good question as it wasn’t MY idea. Dana suggested it and I snorted that I might be able to come up with four. But the seed had been planted and the gears began to turn. It became an intellectual challenge to see if I could come up with ten good Darkseid stories.
The problem is, Darkseid isn’t a particularly interesting character. He’s one dimensional, always attempting to get his hands on the Anti-Life Equation so he can conquer everything he sets his eyes on. He sends his flunkies to do the heavy lifting while he stands around on the battlements of Apokalips with his hands behind his back, delivering monologues, waiting for someone to emerge from a boom-tube so he can blast them with his Omega Eye beams.
What makes a good Darkseid story then if the villain is dull? It comes down to a single criteria: What Darkseid’s actions bring out of his adversaries. It’s their reactions to his schemes and how they defeat Darkseid and his schemes. That’s what most of these stories have in common:
1. “Legacy” parts 1 & 2 from Superman: The Animated Series
I always knew this was going to be in my top three and the more I thought about it the more I realised this is probably the best Darkseid story ever. Bruce Timm and Paul Dini “get” Darkseid. Also, Michael Ironside’s baritone is the perfect voice.
Darkseid captures Supes and brainwashes him into believing he crash landed on Apokolips where he was raised by Darkseid, his adopted father. He leads Darkseid’s attack troops on a campaign of conquest, eventually leading to Earth. The people of Earth turn on him, latent xenophobia coming to the fore. Supes is captured by Luthor and the U.S. army, who decide he is too dangerous to be allowed to live. Only the timely intervention of Lois Lane spares his life.
The climactic battle on Apokolips is particularly brutal for a Saturday Morning. Superman covering Darkseid’s eyes, causing the Omega Beams to feedback was brilliant. Superman wins the battle but Darkseid has succeeded in trashing the Man of Steel’s reputation on Earth almost irreparably.
The next two stories jockeyed back and forth in my mind for top spot for a long time so it’s a tie…
2A. Darkseid/Galactus: The Hunger
The Hunger is a battle of two forces of nature: the planet devouring Galactus and the personification of evil. Throw in Orion facing off with the Silver Surfer and you have 48 pages of fun. By the end there is no question who the stronger entity is as Galactus pretty much takes Darkseid out in a page and then proceeds to try and eat Apokolips, leading to a great twist ending.
2B. “The Great Darkness Saga”
Considered by many to be the greatest Legion of Super-heroes story ever. I covered this one a few weeks back in my Top 10: Favourite Legion of Superhero Stories article. NOT going to repeat myself.
4. The Uncanny X-Men and The New Teen Titans
I might be ranking this one a little high, but as far as Darkseid schemes go, resurrecting Dark Phoenix with the help of Deathstroke is pretty brilliant. Plus, the added attraction of the two most popular teams of the time period facing off and joining forces is a nigh-irresistible combination. Excellent story all around.
5. “Crisis on New Genesis” from Justice League of America #183-185
Darkseid had been discombobulated in a battle with Orion previously in an issue of Adventure Comics. His flunkies, deciding they need his tender guidance, resurrect him and he comes up with yet another brilliant scheme: move Apokolips into the pre-Crisis Earth-2 Universe where he can conquer to his heart’s content without being interfered with by the Earth-One Super-teams or the New Gods.
In cooking up this omelette, the biggest egg Darkseid wants to break is that he will replace Earth-Two with Apokolips, utterly annihilating it and the JSA in the process. You can’t beat a story with the JLA, JSA, and New Gods all marauding around on Apokolips, raising hell. Great artwork by Dick Dillin (his last story) and George Perez.
6. “Supergirl” from Superman/Batman #8-13
What makes this story great is Darkseid’s battles with the “Trinity”– Supes, Bats, and Wonder Woman. Darkseid kidnaps Supergirl to enlist her in his female furies. The Trinity and Big Barda follow her to Apokolips and great fun ensues.
The highlight of the story is Batman using Orion’s Astro-force doohickey and battling Darkseid to a standstill, defeating him with a cold-blooded threat to destroy Apokolips. Supes and Wonder Woman get their licks in as well. Everyone is well served and gets their moment in the spotlight. Great story by the team of Loeb and Turner.
7. Cosmic Odyssey
Darkseid finally gets his first taste of the Anti-Life Equation and doesn’t like it much as anti-life threatens to destroy the Universe. It is no fun ruling a destroyed realm so he enlists an odd bunch of New Gods and Super-heroes to aid him in beating back “Anti-life”. Nobody does a cosmic story like Jim Starlin and the Mike Mignola artwork is quirky but it works.
The fun of this story is the odd-couple team-ups- Batman/Forager, Superman/Orion, Darkseid/The Demon, and others.
Mignola has said this story is an all-time favourite with his fans. It’s one of mine.
8. “Rock of Ages” from JLA #10-14
In the middle of a typical battle with the Injustice League, Grant Morrison sends part of the team on a weird left turn 15 years into the future where Darkseid has conquered the Earth. It’s either an alternate timeline version of Final Crisis or a pre-cursor to what that story is as the themes are similar. Darkseid finally has the Anti-Life Equation and has conquered the Earth.
Only a rag-tag group of mortal JLAers remain to take him on and the unlikely pair of Green Arrow and Atom not only beat him but kill him. Brilliant bit of writing by Grant Morrison (and on my best days I’m ambivalent about his stuff).
9. Superman vs. Darkseid Apokolips Now
This is an epilogue to the “Our Worlds at War” story (which itself had some great Darkseid action). Steel is trapped on Apokolips in the Aegis armour he was put into in the war with Imperiex. Superman assembles a strike force to get him back. While the strike force rescues Steel, Supes will distract Darkseid and in one of the most brutal comic book fights ever, delivers Darkseid a beat down he’ll never forget.
Notable in seeing what an unleashed Superman is capable of.
10. Jack Kirby’s New Gods #18- 20: “The Origin of Darkseid”
I was ambivalent about this one as well because on the one hand Darkseid is an elemental force of evil and doesn’t really need to be explained. On the other, it’s kind of neat to see where it all began. However, to me explaining the back-story cheapens the mystique a bit. Still a must-read.
New Gods volume 1 #7: “The Pact”
The early battles of Highfather and Darkseid culminating in the trading of their sons as a sign of truce. I find Jack Kirby’s Fourth World books to be almost unreadable. The pictures are fantastic but the dialogue is painful. Probably the best of the original run of New Gods and one of Kirby’s personal faves.
Justice League Animated: “Twilight Parts” 1 and 2
The unholy team-up of Brainiac and Darkseid. The Justice League and New Gods are pushed to their limits trying to defeat these two. Crosses, double-crosses and yet another great Superman/Darkseid battle. Supes gives Darkseid a double laser hotfoot sending both eyes worth of heat vision through his foot.
But the best part is this exchange…
Superman: You don’t know Darkseid like I do.
Batman: We know he used you. Humiliated you. Brainwashed you. Wound you up like a tin soldier and turned you loose against Earth. Cry me a river! On the outside chance that this isn’t another one of his schemes, we have to take action. So I suggest you GET OVER IT! (Ken Boechler)