Every great hero needs a great villain. Batman has the Joker, Superman has Lex Luthor, and Wonder Woman has Ares. Diana’s nemesis isn’t just some crazy clown, or a maniacal billionaire. Ares is a legitimate god, starting out as the Greek God of War, and later even adding the God of Death to his credentials. And though, unlike Batman and Superman, Wonder Woman has no code against killing her nemesis, even death is not enough to stop a god.
No one has made Diana’s life as difficult as Ares has, but he has also been an ally to her. In the New 52, Ares was even Diana’s mentor. Admittedly Wonder Woman’s collection of villains isn’t as strong as someone like Batman’s, but Ares helps make up for that on his own. His look is cool and intimidating, his powers are daunting, and he has been Diana’s most enduring foe.
If the Wonder Woman movie has been your first introduction to this god, then we’ll catch you up to speed with these 15 Shocking Things You Didn’t Know About Ares.
15. HE WANTS TO CREATE WAR, BUT WOULD NEVER WANT WORLD DESTRUCTION
It’s kind of the expected stereotype of villains that they all just want to destroy the world. There certainly are antagonists who fit that description, but Ares is not one of them. He grows in power the more chaos there is in the world, so humanity is like fuel for him. He would not want to end human life because he would only be preventing himself from growing stronger by doing so.
Destroying the world would be especially stupid for Ares because it wouldn’t just keep him from growing stronger, but would actually weaken him. He doesn’t just use conflict for a power boost; Ares survives due to conflict. Ares has even stepped in to help heroes avert the world’s destruction so he doesn’t lose his power. He’s totally fine with war, but he wants that war to last forever so he can thrive. Total annihilation would be as bad for Ares as world peace.
14. ARES INADVERTENTLY CREATED WORLD PEACE BY DEFEATING SUPERMAN
Speaking of Ares losing his power, we got a look at how he could defeat himself in the game Injustice: Gods Among Us. The Superman of the game’s story had been driven mad from the death of Lois, and he was determined to stomp out crime once and for all. This Superman ruled by fear and created a totalitarian society, but it did create the peace Clark sought. And that was bad news for Ares.
Ares believed the only way to restore disorder was for Superman to fall from power, so he wound up assisting the heroes in overthrowing Clark. But this came back to bite Ares when Superman’s downfall led to such a utopian world that there was nothing but peace. No matter what Ares did he just could not win. He actually wound up having to create a time loop before Superman’s defeat just to ensure the world would always have conflict.
13. ARES MIGHT BE EVEN STRONGER THAN HERCULES
There are many forms of strength, especially among comic book characters. Even though Ares is known as the God of War, that doesn’t do the true scope of his power justice. He can compel others to commit violence, he can time travel, and he can even command the armies of the dead. Of course, course strength also comes in its most basic form— being able to outmuscle your opponent. When it comes to that, there’s nobody better than Hercules, right? Well, maybe not.
As if Ares did not have enough going for him with all his powers plus his immortality, he also has supernatural physical abilities. That includes both super speed and super strength. Ares has mentally manipulated Hercules into taking part in his plans before, but Ares is also known as one of the physically strongest gods. Ares only gets stronger when there is conflict in the world, which means he might just be stronger than Hercules himself.
12. ARES WAS ONCE DIANA’S GRANDFATHER
In classic Greek mythology Ares is the father of Hippolyta, and in comics the latter is the mother of Wonder Woman. The origin stories in the Wonder Woman comics have fluctuated wildly, at times deviating heavily from mythology and at other times trying to veer close to history. So in some continuities Wonder Woman’s greatest nemesis has actually been her own grandfather. Apparently Ares isn’t one of those granddads who just gives their grandkids candy.
It gets even weirder when we get to the New 52, though, because Wonder Woman’s origin was changed once again. In an attempt to simplify things, Diana was simply made the daughter of Hippolyta and Zeus. Guess who else is one of Zeus’ offspring? The God of War himself. So depending on the continuity Ares could be anything from Wonder Woman’s grandpa to her own sibling. It certainly explains why there is so much confusion about Diana’s origin.
11. ARES TRIED TO MAKE WONDER WOMAN’S HALF-SISTER HIS PROTÉGÉE
With how much her origin story has changed, Wonder Woman’s family tree can be tricky to follow (as evidenced by that whole thing of Ares ranging from her grandfather to her brother). With Wonder Woman being a daughter of Zeus and Hippolyta, that would make the third Wonder Girl her half-sister. Cassandra Sandsmark happens to be the daughter of Helena Sandsmark and Zeus, and also took on the role of Wonder Girl– which was a role Ares wanted power over.
Ares tried to court Cassandra’s favor by giving her superpowers and offering her guidance. It would have been a classic comic book move to make Diana’s sibling an evil version of Wonder Woman. But Cassandra defied cliché by using the powers she had been given for good, disappointing Ares so much that he removed his gifts from her. There might be a lot of family drama among the Greek gods, but at least Diana is able to remain relatively free of any sibling rivalries.
10. HE WAS KNOWN AS MARS A LOT LONGER THAN ARES
Though we obviously all think of him now as Ares, that was not the character’s only name. In fact, it is not even the name he has had the longest over the years. At the start of his history Ares was known for the longest time by his Roman name, Mars. He kept that name from 1942 until 1987. We have famous Wonder Woman writer George Perez to thank for the name change since he was looking to shake things up with his reboot of the series.
That means we have only known the iconic antagonist as Ares for thirty years at this point (though it’s honestly a bit less than that since his name was changed again in the New 52 to War). For forty-five years everyone had grown used to Wonder Woman’s most iconic villain being Mars and then he just got totally rebranded. Though given DC’s whole situation with Captain Marvel/Shazam comic book fans are probably used to that kind of thing.
9. ARES BRIEFLY CHANGED HIS MANTLE TO THE GOD OF CONFLICT
Ares seems to have a tough time settling on his identity. We’ve talked about how he went by the name Mars for a long time, but he also called himself War during the New 52 era. Even his title has changed around a lot. We all know that Ares is known as the God of War, but apparently he wanted to experiment with that identity as well, because for a while he changed his title to the God of Conflict.
Saying Ares thrives on conflict might be a bit more apt, since he doesn’t technically thrive on war exclusively. But saying you’re the God of War obviously just sounds a lot cooler, so the new title was probably never destined to stick. Fortunately, Ares soon had another epiphany after he overthrew Hades, and decided he wanted to take his adversary’s title. Ares then became the God of Death.
8. HIS NEW 52 FORM WAS BASED ON BRIAN AZZARELLO
It is not often that the writers behind the comic books gain as much attention as their characters, but in the case of Brian Azzarello, he could not avoid it that well since he basically became one of his characters. As part of the New 52‘s redesign for many characters, Wonder Woman’s longtime adversary ditched his trademark armor in favor of a new look. He was now an older, balding man, with a thin body and a long beard; almost exactly like Brian Azzarello himself.
Artist Cliff Chiang did this on purpose, initially intending it as a bit of a joke. But Azzarello was cool with it, so the design stuck and became a part of the story. It was a very different version of Ares than what we were used to, but it fit his new personality as someone looking to guide Wonder Woman rather than be her enemy.
7. THE AMAZONS WERE CREATED TO COMBAT ARES
The ancient gods are historically shown as being a lot more duplicitous and out for their own amusement than the gods of modern civilization are written of. Ancient gods are frequently shown to use mortals as tools to get back against their fellow deities, and this actually leads us to the whole reason Wonder Woman exists. Ares initially saw the world as his plaything, using his followers to create havoc, and growing in power off the conflict they made. But Aphrodite is the Goddess of Love, and she wanted the world to be peaceful, so she interfered with Ares’ dominion.
In response to the chaos and destruction being spread by the followers of Ares, Aphrodite created the Amazon race to combat them. From there, the rest is history, with Wonder Woman becoming the champion of the Amazons and her engaging in a seemingly unending battle with Ares ever since. We’ve talked about how Ares has his minions, but the Amazons are really just Aphrodite’s minions. Looking at it big picture, so much of what happens in Wonder Woman’s stories is just about mortals becoming pieces in the power struggle between Ares and Aphrodite.
6. HE HAS HAD A BASE ON PLANET MARS
So many villains seem to want their own planet, but Ares actually got his wish. We talked about how he was known as Mars for the longest time, but he actually gained his own planet by going and taking over the planet Mars. Ares appeared to have everything a villain could want since he finally ruled a world. But of course supervillains always fixate on Earth being the important world– even the gods, apparently.
DC’s planet Mars even had a martian population on it that Ares conquered, so it’s not like he was boasting about taking over an empty planet. He fulfilled every villain’s dream and conquered a planet and its people. Ares was able to use Mars to produce slaves for himself, but obviously he’s not willing to just concede Earth to the Amazons and Aphrodite. At least he can always brag about being successful on the planet named after him, though.
5. ARES’ DAUGHTER LYTA IS FRIENDS WITH WONDER WOMAN
It’s pretty common in stories for children to follow in the footsteps of their parents. If the parent is a hero, the child will inevitably want to try and stake out their own legacy someday. But if the parent is a villain, it’s not uncommon for the kid to seek out vengeance for all the times their parent has been thwarted. Of course things can also go the opposite way, and sometimes kids totally rebel against what their parents want. In the case of Ares’ and Circe’s daughter Lyta, it was definitely the latter.
There was such a rift between Circe and Ares that initially Ares didn’t even get to be a part of his daughter’s life. Lyta started to live among the Amazons and was growing up with their values. But allowing one of his own family to be an ally to Diana would be pretty embarrassing, so eventually Ares came calling and said he was taking Lyta with him. Circe put aside her differences with the God of War to raise their daughter, but the seeds of positivity had already been planted by Lyta’s time with the Amazons.
4. HE HAS KIDS WITH AT LEAST EIGHT DIFFERENT WOMEN
We have already talked about how Ares has his daughter Lyta with Circe, but he actually has a lot more kids than just the one daughter. Even with Aphrodite opposing Ares, the two of them have kids together—five in fact. The bizarre union spawned Deimos, Phobos, Eris, Harmonia and Eros. The latter two became allies of the Amazons, but Deimos, Phobos, and Eris have all been tools in their father’s plans.
It doesn’t end there, though, because Ares also impregnated five Amazons to produce five more children. These five were all brothers, and had the unfortunate names of Adder, Goat, Rat, Scorpion, and Spider. They matured unnaturally fast, but retained their child-like appearance. If their malevolent sounding names didn’t give it away, these five were all allies to their father. Plus he even once forced Hippolyta to have a son with him named Thrax. Ares might be known as the God of War, but with all the kids he has, he really sounds more like a lover.
3. WONDER WOMAN HAS TECHNICALLY BEEN ARES’ BRIDE
Wonder Woman has obviously had a pretty complex and bizarre relationship with Ares. They have been enemies, allies, he has been her mentor, her grandfather, and even her brother. Well, you can also add Ares being Diana’s husband to that list. It wasn’t the Diana we all know that he married, but that actually makes it worse since what Ares did was even weirder. Ares has the power of time travel, so he was able to appear in the future when Wonder Woman had already died and take her body back with him. Apparently Ares was a bit of a fan of Frankenstein.
Ares used the future Diana’s body to construct a villainous bride for himself by exposing it to earth from land where acts of genocide had been committed. All that evil history formed the pieced-together monster known as Genocide. This bride of Ares bore no resemblance to Wonder Woman, but was still incredibly powerful and was able to defeat her in battle initially.
2. HE HAS SIDEKICKS
Not too many villains keep sidekicks nowadays. As evidenced from the skyrocketing popularity of Harley Quinn, popular sidekicks usually escape their role as an assistant and become major villains in their own right. While lackluster sidekicks tend to have fallen by the wayside to give the big antagonist more screen time. That’s probably why so many people know of Ares, but people never really talk about the minor villains he used to utilize.
Unless you’re a longtime fan of the Wonder Woman comics you probably aren’t familiar with the Duke of Deception, Lord Conquest, and the Earl of Greed. Their names might sound a bit dorky, but these guys used to be Ares’ regular servants to call upon, similar to how Aphrodite utilizes Wonder Woman. Though obviously Ares’ royal trio had far less staying power and have pretty much fallen by the wayside both cinematically and even in the story of the comics.
1. ARES GAVE US SOME OF WONDER WOMAN’S MOST WELL-KNOWN FOES
Some of the most popular villains in comics have been responsible for creating additional villains over the years. Venom is responsible for Carnage and the many other symbiotes, and the Joker of course gave us Harley Quinn. Ares is no different in that regard because he is likewise responsible for introducing readers to characters who would become regular Wonder Woman villains. The Silver Swan was one such villain, who started out as a ballet dancer who allowed herself to become a pawn of Ares in exchange for beauty and success.
Ares is also responsible for Wonder Woman’s other most well-known villain, Doctor Psycho. It started because Ares feared women’s rights was going to bring Earth closer to world peace, so Ares wanted someone to ruin the reputation of women. This was like the moment a misogynist like Doctor Psycho had been born for, so he stepped up and showed the world what he could do.
Is there anything else you think readers should know about the God of War? Share your thoughts about Ares in the comment section!
Wonder Woman is in theaters now, and Justice League arrives November 17, 2017.