D is for Darkseid
And there came a day, when the old gods died.
Ten words and a mythology was born. Dozens of charaters exploded out of the Fourth World, an interlocking group of comics titles from 1971-1972, by one of the greatest comics artists and sci-fi ideas men of the 20th century, Jack (the King) Kirby. The one who sticks out for me is the man formerly known as Uxas, he’s the king of Apokolips and the New God of evil… Darkseid
Darkseid first full appearance was in New Gods #1 in 1971, but there was a brief cameo during Jack Kirby’s run on Superman’s pal Jimmy Olsen. He immediately made his presence felt. Visually striking, with his cracked stone face, thigh high boots and mini-skirt, but every inch, the figure of menace. He was like no other villain before him and unlike any villains created since (for the purposes of this article, we’re going to ignore Marvel’s Thanos) He’s no Doctor Doom, with pretensions of nobility or laudable ideas, nor is he Lex Luthor, who when you get past his jealousy is asking proper questions about man’s faith in the super-people, he’s not even the violent, but morally ambiguous Magneto… No, Darkseid is unrepentantly and gleefully evil. He murders without thought, tortures without compunction and punishes without mercy. This is a man who gave up his son to uphold a peace treaty, not for peace, but to stall for time.
Many big bads are powerhouses, or are strategists, Darkseid can easily be both. He is able to plan and scheme well above his enemies and allies, He also possesses the Omega Force and it’s application, the Omega Effect, which can kill it’s target or force it to live their life over and over again, through each broken timeline their hope is eroded. He’s also stupid levels of strong, able to go toe to toe with almost anyone for his own purposes, but nothing so petty as revenge.
That’s my favourite thing about him, his calm. Doom is a King, Thanos is a Titan, but Darkseid simply IS. Most villains feel the need to make an ‘entrance’, but not this guy, He’s so at calm, that on at least two occasions I can think of, he was introduced comfortably waiting in the hero’s living room. Picture that.
There are better Batman villains, there are better Superman villains etc. but I can’t think of a better DC Universe villain.
D is for Dreadstar
Dreadstar was the comic which followed on from Jim Starlin’s Metamorphosis trilogy, which was laid out in Metamorphosis Odyssey, continued with The Price and was topped off with the Dreadstar OGN. The series span out of that, using the cast from that trilogy to continue the adventure.
The brainchild of cosmic comics legend Jim Starlin (who did amazing work on stories featuring Captain Marvel, Adam Warlock and Thanos) and featured many themes that Starlin returned to time and again, abuse of power, both political and religious, the dangers of organised religion, but not the faithful themselves and the toll war takes on the people who wage it. Ultimately it’s about overcoming those dark sides of us, refusing to give in. All themes that Starlin plays with, with varying degrees of subtlety.
The hero of the tale is Vanth Dreadstar, a humanoid born and raised on the frigid world of Byfrexia. A warrior and leader, he battled the race called the Zygoteans, before the last of a race called the Osirons (a manipulative fellow called Aknaton) involves him in a plan to destroy the entire milky way galaxy in a mercy killing, which will also end the Zygotean threat.
He survives this and ends up in an adjacent galaxy called the Empirical galaxy, currently locked in a massive war between crown and church (or in this case the Monarchy and the Instrumentality) but Vanth finds himself on a world on the edge of that war, a planet populated by genetically engineered cat people, who have an affinity for agriculture and a single human, a woman called Delilah. She helps him through the PTSD of the Zygotean wars and the deaths of ‘zillions’ which he facilitated and the two slowly fall in love. Then a man called Szyzgy Darklock arrives and befriends Vanth, to lead him to the idea of taking an active hand in the war, which will lead to his destiny. Vanth couldn’t care less, he’s happy, settled and not really interested in going back to a life of killing. The Monarchy take this decision away by carpet bombing the world Vanth lives on, killing all by Vanth and Darklock. Vanth summons his sword and sheds his life of farmer and returns to being the ‘cold man’ and takes it upon himself to kill all those involved in this slaughter, which took his only friends and his wife from him. He joins the Monarchy’s army and does that, killing the pilots, the men who ordered and in by winning battle after battle, he gets the chance to kill the king himself, so he can end the war and bring the Monarchy and Instrumentality to account.
That’s the set up to this series.
The ongoing series by Epic and then First follow that journey. Vanth, Oedi (last survivor of the cat people) blind telepath Willow and Szyzgy wage war against both sides, but then focusing on the more powerful and far more corrupt Instrumentality, leading to epic confrontations between Dreadstar (magic sword in hand) and the Grand Papal (the pope of the Instrumentality). The series had excellent writing and art, a great mix of super hero stylings and grand space opera. Very Captain America crossed with Blake’s 7 and the Grand Papal makes a great main series villain. Characters come in and out, but the story of Vanth and his crusade is very worth reading. In a comics industry full of tie-ins, cross-over events and constant status quo resets, Dreadstar had complete stories and when it did a status quo change it did so in a way that made sense within that story.
I would highly recommend this series.
D is for Doctor, Doctor
Stephen Strange, Otto Octavius, Barbara Ann Minerva, Hank Pym, Hank McCoy, Hugo Strange, Harleen Quinzel, Edgar Cizko, Robert Bruce Banner, Michael Morbius, the list goes on. What to all these fictional characters have in common? They are all prefixed by Dr.
In comics, lawyers act like lawyers, bankers act like bankers, cops act like cops and journalists act like journalists in the 1950s, but that analogous relationship falls apart once someone works in medicine or SCIENCE! Seriously, think of a comic book doctor. Got one? Ok, now go back through their history and find out if they’ve done something reckless or ethically dodgy.
…. Didn’t take you long did it? Not that I am only thinking villains. It’s easy to find reprehensible things done by Doctor Light, or Doctor Octopus, and I think we can agree that if you call yourself Doctor Doom, you’re a less than a solid citizen. If you just look at the ‘heroes’ side of the aisle, they are just as ethically dodgy or reckless.
Reed Richards takes his family into space without proper shielding.
Hank Pym experiments on himself and his TEENAGE GIRLFRIEND!!!!!
Or what about Henry McCoy who…. you know what, that’s a long enough list for a post itself.. you get the idea though.
Shorter list, doctors in comics who are not like that. But honestly, some of this is a lack of understanding of the complexities of science and medicine by essentially pulp writers, or narrative expediency, but after the comic is done, all is forgotten.
Who would go to these doctors?
Who do we ask, the one who created the oedipal murder robot? (Step forward Ant Man)
The one who made his patients disassociating identity disorder (multiple personality disorder) worse. (Step forward Doc Samson)
The one who kidnapped his teenage self and graduating class and took them into the future to MAKE A POINT!!!!! (Step forward Beast)
The one who transfused RADIOACTIVE BLOOD TO HIS COUSIN (Step forward Bruce Banner)
The one who genetically modified a baby? (Step forward Moira McTaggart)
These ARE THE GOOD ONES!!!
How are ethics boards and governing bodies letting them carry on as doctors?
Living in the Marvel (or DC) universe sounds more exciting on a number of levels, but when it comes to healthcare, I’m glad I live in this world (although others may disagree there) the worst thing I have suffered through real doctors has been less than helpful advice and sh***y prescriptions.
Although having that title seems more fun.
“I am not Mr Octopus, I worked hard for my Doctorate.!
and finally ….D is for Devil Dinosaur
Next time…. Was thinking maybe E?