You’re reading The Complete Infinite Crisis, a Comprehensive and Encyclopedic look through the universe-changing superhero event published by DC from 2005 to 2006. Shelfdust are proud to provide a complete overview of the story, and everything that happens in it. Just as we were really getting started, we’ve had to ask some of our favourite experts to step in and make things clearer, however – there’s so much going on!
Last time round, Sean Dillon was retelling the great vanquishing of Darkseid during Final Crisis… and in the process mentioned something called “New Gods”. Who are the New Gods? Who were the Old Gods? There’s only one thing for us to do – ask Rhi Daneel Olivaw to explain the whole thing for us!!
Rhi! Who are the New Gods? Where do they live, what do they do… what’s their whole deal?
Dare I ask…. who were the Old Gods and how did they replace them?
What are the New Gods up to nowadays? Have things ended up alright for them?
Rhi Daneel Olivaw: The New Gods are ‘essence of Jack Kirby’. They are what you get if you take the man who defined the Marvel Universe as many as four (!) times and put him in the DC Universe and tell him he can basically do whatever. They’re arch, archetypal forces of human nature exploding out of the page in brutal, brilliant art, espousing weird, overwrought dialogue as they go about their impossible cosmic dramas.
The New Gods are, at the core, two societies on two ‘planets’. I put planets in ‘scare-quotes’ because a. Books about the New Gods love scare-quotes and b. Planet, as a word, falls short of what Apokolips and New Genesis actually are. The place the New Gods ‘come from’ is not quite a portion of space, not quite another dimension, and not quite metaphysical. It simply is (like Darkseid, most famous of their number by far). New Genesis – lush, paradisaical. Apokolips – burned-out and nightmarish. The realm of Good Things and the realm of Bad Things. These are where the New Gods hang their hats!
You see, there was a time when the Old Gods died!
In Jack Kirby’s telling, these were totally the deities that inhabited the Marvel Universe. You can even see a Marvel-esque Mjolnir on one of the first pages of NEW GODS #1. They died! It really doesn’t matter how or why! They died, and the New Gods – split between Apokolips and New Genesis – came into being, as if to fill the ideological/ecological niche. They had histories, and personalities, and societies all their own. On New Genesis, the ‘good’ gods basically talk a lot about how the ‘bad’ gods are totally up to mischief, while on Apokolips, the ‘bad’ gods talk about how they are, in fact, up to mischief!
The saga of the New Gods is extremely weird. I hope I’m getting across how weird, because it is absolutely an acquired taste, although hopefully an easy one to acquire. One must not go into New Gods expecting, say, epic punch-ups and the like. Instead, one must expect, say, a story where Darkseid, the concrete-skinned god of ‘evil’ (read: fascism) creates a theme park specifically and explicitly to traumatise small children so that adults will, compelled by ‘reason’, insist that nothing terrible is happening and scar their innocent souls.
For Darkseid – the best concept to come out of Kirby’s time at DC, and probably (probably) DC’s greatest villain, is the manifest image of the dark art of fascism. Which is why I am always extremely upset by writers like Geoff Johns using him as a giant punching bag for the mortal heroes of Earth. You can’t punch fascism away! You have to do the work!
One writer of the modern age who does get Darkseid, mind, is Greg Pak, who wrote the absolutely batty Darkseid #1 back during the New 52’s Villains Month (remember that?), which explores what Darkseid’s deal is in the current DC Universe. To wit – not only did the Old Gods (who are now less Marvel’s Thor and more unknowable mega-forces) die, they died because pre-Darkseid, Uxas, tricked them into fighting to the brink of death and then killed them, one-by-one, with his farming tools. Metal as hell.
But alas, Greg Pak is not the string-puller at DC Comics and thus the New Gods have largely been relegated to a role which does not suit them – a kind of cosmic rogues gallery for the Justice League. They show up, increasingly regularly, to do battle with them on largely material terms. Lots of punches, some ominous words, and a reaffirmed belief that men in tights can save us from ghouls and goblins from beyond the stars. It sucks, frankly. Joss Whedon spent god knows how much money reworking Zack Snyder’s vision of Steppenwolf, the Apokoliptian war-god, from a disturbing thing made of metal and skin, a kind of hulking cenobite, into a very unappealing CGI Ciaran Hinds in Justice League (which is a very bad movie I do not recommend you see), and now Zack Snyder, at the behest of what is charitably called an ‘animated fandom’ and more honestly a ‘targeted harassment campaign’ is giving us not only a bare-chested, spear-wielding Darkseid (which I am here for, having had the exact same idea when I was 18) but also Desaad and, yes, a lumpy metallic Steppenwolf, just as promised in Batman V Superman: Ultimate Edition (a frankly breathtaking reconstruction that legit turns a barely-watchable theatrical cut into something very, very good).
It’s also worth mentioning that the unofficial final chapter in the old DCU, Final Crisis, featured a very different take on the New Gods. In that, they themselves had died as the old gods did before them, but Darkseid – far too stubborn to just die (because, again, he’s fascism) – forced himself to manifest on Earth and dragged all the Apokoliptian gods with him in an act of violence so terrible it caused the whole of existence (possibly the whole multiverse) to plunge into near-oblivion and the waiting maw of Mandrakk, the Dark Monitor. Darkseid, in the end, is shot to death by Batman.
This was awesome.
Then he tried to come back one last time and Superman whistled the notes of hope and creation so damn hard that Darkseid un-existed.
This, too, was awesome.
Darkseid, you see, is the best and most vital concept introduced in the New Gods mythos. He is simultaneously an abusive father and a nightmare dictator, everything mortal men fear in one stony, craggy package. He hates you, and he hates you so personally that he will refuse to die and drag everyone to the bottom with him until we confront him. Everything else about the New Gods is ultimately gravy – Darkseid IS.
Remember Villains Month! Of course I do! I had to write about every single issue of it for The Beat, back in the day! Thanks so much for this, Rhi – it’s only appropriate that you decided to answer all three of your questions at once, in true epic fashion! This does raise an important question though… what the heck is a Mandrakk? And what’s the deal with his maw?? We’ll have to get somebody else to help us out on this one!
Rhi Daneel Olivaw, on the other hand, is a 20-something trans woman who writes, draws, acts and makes movies. She is extremely opinionated and much of her work can be found at www.rdolivaw.com, or else on her twitter, @rhiannonolivaw.