DC Comics’ New Gods are the center of the DCU’s most elaborate mythology — the gloriously imaginative brainchild of comics king Jack Kirby. Following the King’s departure from a legacy at Marvel that includes the creation of the Fantastic Four, Avengers and X-Men, Jack Kirby built out his unused ideas for the Inhumans and Thor into 1971’s New Gods #1 for DC. In it, readers were introduced to new characters like Highfather, Orion and Metron, some of the titular New Gods who would go on to shape the DC cosmos.
Right out of the gates the stakes of the Fourth World mythos are higher than their superhero counterparts. The original four Kirby books build towards a cosmic battle of good and evil, with the forces of New Genesis representing the side of heaven, and Darkseid’s forces of Apokolips representing the evil of hell. To make these ambitious religious and moral allegories work, Kirby stocked the Fourth World full of wonderfully complex characters. Of course, not all New Gods — whether they were fighting for the forces of good or evil — are as compelling as others. Below we highlight the best of the New Gods, as well as the most useless!
15. RULES: MISTER MIRACLE
Mister Miracle should have been doomed from the start. As a baby, Scott Free was handed by his own father and mother into the hands of Darkseid and Granny Goodness as part of “The Pact” to keep peace between New Genesis and Apokolips. Through his own innate escapist abilities and an ever-churning quest for freedom, Mister Miracle found his way off Apokolips, and even found love in the process with Big Barda.
Since then, the son of Highfather, raised by Darkseid, has become one of the most interesting New Gods in the DCU. In DC’s Metal, when Batman needs a hero to unlock an unlockable room he keeps in Superman’s fortress of solitude (and when he shot the key into the sun), he calls on Mister Miracle. The hero is poised for one of the best new comics of 2017, with Tom King and Mitch Gerad’s freshly launched solo series.
14. USELESS: HIGHFATHER
There’s no undue amount of tangential blasphemy that stems from labeling Highfather “useless.” For all intents and purposes, Highfather is the Biblical “God” to New Genesis’ heaven, overseeing the blessed dimension and claiming communication with The Source. Rather than exhibit his power and rid the world of Darkseid’s evil, though, Highfather merely enters into a truce with the dark god, even trading Darkseid his infant son Scott Free in “The Pact.”
This act alone — delivering your own infant son to the firepits of Apokolips and the clutches of the sinister Granny Goodness — makes Highfather one of the worse fathers in superhero comics. We see him take a depressingly more hands off approach throughout New Gods history, assembling DC Justice Leaguers and New Gods to battle Anti-Life in Cosmic Odyssey, but remaining generally inactive himself.
13. RULES: DESAAD
Desaad is Darkseid’s righthand god, the sadistic, merciless New God of Torture. Only Darkseid and Granny Goodness are anywhere near as feared as Desaad, forever scheming deep within the bowels of Apokolips for more power.
In the Grant Morrison and Howard Porter “Rock of Ages,” a future version of Earth is conquered by Apokolips, giving Desaad free reign to torture various members of the JLA. In the story, rumor has it he broke Batman after eight years by forcing him to experience the emotional and physical pain of every human victim in his torture chambers. With Batman being Batman, this proves to be false, but we do learn that Desaad destroyed J’onn J’onnz, the Martian Manhunter, by dismantling his shape-shifting structure atom by atom in a particle accelerator.
12. USELESS: KALIBAK
Nobody gets their butt kicked quite like Kalibak. Darkseid’s son constantly talks of his fighting prowess, and is ready for a bareknuckles brouhaha at a moment’s notice, but despite his legitimate power, the battle rarely ends well for good old Kalibak. A lot of this likely has to do with Kalibak’s egregiously shallow intellect, perpetually taking on the most powerful enemies in fights he can’t win.
As a result, we see Kalibak destroyed by Superman in both Superman: The Animated Series, and actually murdered straight to death in Injustice. Kalibak is also endlessly ready to take on Orion, Darkseid’s other son given to New Genesis as part of “The Pact.” Unfortunately for Kalibak, he is rarely Orion’s equal in battle either. Even in Walter Simonson’s Orion, Kalibak teams with Desaad to augment his power levels and he still loses in fisticuffs to the mighty red Orion.
11. RULES: BIG BARDA
Big Barda is simultaneously capable of holding down a place as one of the DCU’s fiercest warriors, as well as one of DC’s greatest love stories. Like Mister Miracle, Barda was raised in Granny Goodness’ “Home For Orphaned Youth” (see also: stolen children), but overcomes her upbringing on Apokolips to develop a heroic warrior’s spirit. She helps Scott escape Granny’s clutches along with the “rebel” Himon, and eventually joins Mister Miracle during his time on Earth as a super escape artist.
Much like her husband, Mister Miracle, Big Barda is one of the select New Gods who fit naturally into the DC Universe at large, with Barda even joining the JLA alongside Orion. The would-be permanent leader of Granny’s Female Furies has brought her mega-rod into battle for both the Justice League and Birds of Prey, and is always a worthy addition to any roster.
10. USELESS: LIGHTRAY
Lightray is the New God you get stuck with when Orion’s busy. To his credit, Lightray is one of the few New Gods of New Genesis aside from Orion to develop a clear personality, making appearances in classic Kirby stories like “Glory Boat,” as well as later DC Universe sagas like Jim Starlin and Mike Mignola’s Cosmic Odyssey. Lightray is bright cheerful hope where Orion is grim fatalism, and seemingly could play the part of Apollo to Orion’s Midnighter under the right creative team.
Lightray’s cosmic solar energy gives the character plenty of powerful potential, but it’s rarely exhibited as he becomes a pawn in grander schemes. For example, in Walter Simonson’s Orion, Lightray is mentally manipulated into blaming his friend Orion for plotting an assault on New Genesis.
9. RULES: THE BLACK RACER
You could argue the semantics of the Black Racer’s New Godhood, but his awesomeness is unimpeachable. The Black Racer is a Jack Kirby creation, first appearing in 1971’s New Gods #3. In a testament to the true greatness of any extreme sportswear in space, the Black Racer inhabits the hospitalized body of wounded Sgt. Willie Walker, skiing through space to take fallen New Gods to the afterlife.
The Black Racer has famously appeared beyond the saga of the Fourth World, racing The Flash, Barry Allen, in 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths. Likewise, in the New 52 “Darkseid War”, the Black Racer position is taken over by The Flash, who wields the power in order to limit deaths. Like death itself, no one in the DCU can escape the touch of the Black Racer for too long.
8. USELESS: MANTIS
To Mantis’s undying shame, he is not even the most well known owner of the “Mantis” title, falling a distant second to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’s subject of Drax insults. Allegedly, Mantis is one of the most powerful New Gods of Apokolips, but you wouldn’t know it from his win/loss record. Although he features elements of a god-like vampire, regularly recharging his energies in a power pod, early Mantis appearances comes across like an Electro-rip off ready for beat-downs from the likes of Orion.
Mantis’s powerset has remained amorphous since his inception, expanding to pure energy-absorption and manipulation, as well as absorbing the powers of Martain Manhunter in Super Powers #6. There’s certainly potential with Mantis, but whether he’s suffering yet another defeat at the hands of Orion, or having his heart ripped out in Death of the New Gods, he’s a villain with a reputation for losing.
7. RULES: INFINITY MAN
The Forever People is likely the weakest of Kirby’s Fourth World saga, although early on it’s home to some of Darkseid’s earliest appearances and Desaad’s idea of an amusement park. Individually, Mark Moonrider, Serafin, Big Dreamer, Vykin the Black and Big Bear aren’t imbued with the same levels of personality and cosmic import as the likes of Orion or Mister Miracle.
What sets Forever People apart is that when the New Gods combine their powers they can form the all-powerful Infinity Man, who early in the saga fights Darkseid himself to a stand still. Infinity Man is the substantially less eco-friendly Captain Planet of the DC Universe, and one of the more underrated powerhouses in the universe. More recent interpretations of Infinity Man have varied wildly — with the cosmic being shouldering responsibility for The Death of The New Gods prior to Final Crisis –– but his potential remains strong.
6. USELESS: MOKKARI AND SIMYAN
The Apokoliptan duo of mad scientists are ever-scheming for Darkseid’s next evil breakthrough, but frequently end up as a bumbling match for the Muppets’ loveable duo of Beaker and Bunsen. In truth, Mokkari and Simyan are rare examples of almost comical disappointments in Darkseid’s ranks, with their “Evil Factory” churning out letdown after letdown.
Whereas Glorious Godfrey spreads hauntingly effective propaganda for Anti-Life, and Desaad retains a reputation as the last face you’d ever want to see, Mokkari and Simyan are mere stooges. That said, Mokkari and Simyan do deserve some credit for aiding and abetting the return of Darkseid in Final Crisis. The duo even manage to capture and physiologically experiment on Batman prior to seeing the Dark Knight overturn all their best laid plans.
5. RULES: GRANNY GOODNESS
Despite the comically simple comic book name, Granny Goodness is absolutely terrifying, truly the stuff nightmares are made of. Her name is an enormous misnomer, as Granny Goodness is one of the most downright despicable and feared lieutenants in Darkseid’s ranks. Granny raises the children of Apokolips in fire and torment so they invariably will nothing more than to serve Darkseid. Most notably, Granny leads the Female Furies and was responsible for the imprisonment of Scott Free, aka Mister Miracle, during his childhood on Apokolips.
The DC Animated Universe added some particularly gruesome touches to Granny Goodness during Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League Unlimited. Granny was voiced by Ed Asner, giving her a rasping, menacing intonation that can still keep us up at night!
4. USELESS: STEPPENWOLF
The choice to include Steppenwolf as the apparent antagonist for 2017’s Justice League is confusing to say the least. Steppenwolf is Darkseid’s uncle and general, and in the Fourth World mythos helped Darkseid ascend to ruler of Apokolips by plotting the assassination of Darkseid’s own mother, Queen Heggra. Essentially, Steppenwolf is the New God you throw against the forces of good before they’re ready to take on Darkseid. He’s the miniboss in a boss run that makes you feel like this fight is going to be surprisingly easy.
Sure, Steppenwolf does have some power in his own right. In the New 52’s Earth-2, Steppenwolf even gets credit for the deaths of Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman. His appearances in Superman: The Animated Series are a more representative set of his abilities with Superman and the Metropolis police turning away Steppenwolf and an army of parademons before Darkseid rolls into town.
3. RULES: DARKSEID
Darkseid is easily the most famous creation of the Fourth World as Jack Kirby’s true embodiment of evil. The lord and tyrant of Apokolips quickly became one of the most powerful threats in the entire DC Universe, with his endless quest for the Anti-Life equation threatening all life across the cosmos.
Darkseid is capable of immediately raising the stakes of any conflict for the likes of Superman or the Justice League. In addition to elevating Superman: The Animated Series, Darkseid’s invasion of Earth kicks of DC’s New 52 and provides the impetus for the formation of the Justice League. There are no “small stakes” stories with Darkseid, with recent examples including the apparent death of Batman in Final Crisis and a fist fight with the Anti-Monitor in the New 52’s “Darkseid War.” Darkseid is.
2. USELESS: METRON
There’s a lot to like about Metron. His sleek all-black look and tremendously powerful Moebius chair form one of the New God’s most memorable designs. Never forget that Metron was rocking a mobile space throne years before Jim Starlin’s Thanos would do the same in Marvel Comics.
Metron is also the rare New God who defies “sides,” professing his allegiance to knowledge, and communing with Highfather and Darkseid in equal measure. Unfortunately, this often means Metron doesn’t do much of anything. Frequently his presence is a mere catalyst for more interesting action, with Darkseid finding a catatonic Metron in Cosmic Odyssey, or a possessed Metron convincing Aquaman, Green Lantern and the Flash to venture forth into the future in JLA’s “Rock of Ages.” Even the New 52 Metron is all talk and no action until Batman steals his Moebius Chair and declares himself the God of Knowledge in “Darkseid War.”
1. RULES: ORION
Although occasionally represented as an arrogant, short-fused brawler, Orion is capable of great growth as the rare sire of Apokolips raised under the bright skies of New Genesis. The son of Darkseid is also one of the few New Gods capable of throwing down with the big evil miniskirt.
In Orion #5, Orion brashly declares “Wielder of Holocaust! Disciple of Power and Death! You shall never seize the anti-life equation while I am in the fight against you!” Amazingly, Orion then backs up his bombast, beating Darkseid in hand to hand combat — with no mother box — while the New Gods of New Genesis and Apokolips watch from the sidelines. Sure, Orion’s short-lived rule of Apokolips ends with him tricked by Mister Miracle, residing in a sort of purgatory, and losing his eyes to Arnicus Wolfram, but that all just provides more great storytelling starring red Orion.
Agree or disagree with our choices? Let us know in the comments section!
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