When Jack Kirby created the world of Apokolips nearly 50 years ago, he thought he had a game-changer.
The Darkseid-ruled Apokolips was a nightmare world where freedom was an infection and dreaming beyond Darkseid was death. Kirby planned to chronicle Apokolips' war against its sister planet, New Genesis, with Earth caught in the middle. The war would play out in a cluster of comics including New Gods and Forever People, conclude with a final epic battle, then the "Fourth World" comics would end too.
DC management, however, disagreed with Kirby's vision, plus the books weren’t the Marvel-killers DC hoped for. The company canceled them with the Fourth World saga unfinished. A few years later, one editor dismissed Apokolips and Darkseid as flops best forgotten.
They weren’t forgotten. By the end of the century as one writer put it, DC editors passed Darkseid around like a bong. Guest appearances, multiple new series, a major role in the New 52, lots of TV — and now the forces of Apokolips play a major role in the Justice League movie.
Here are 15 Things You Need to Know About Apokolips.
15 The Thor connection
Kirby saw the gods of Apokolips and New Genesis as heirs to the gods of Asgard he’d written about in Thor. The Thor backup series Tales of Asgard included a couple of stories about Ragnarok, the epic battle that wipes out Asgard, leaving new gods to inherit the world. Kirby never did anything with the idea at Marvel, but it became the inspiration for the Fourth World at DC.
New Gods #1 revealed that long ago, the old gods went to war so savagely they shattered their world. New Genesis and Apokolips formed from the ruins. One world was born in light from the atoms of noble Balduur (the norse God Balder), and dark Apokolips from an evil sorceress.
In one story, the wandering god Lonar finds a relic of the Old Gods on a battlefield. It looks like Thor’s helmet.
14 Apokolips is about blind, absolute obedience
In Kirby’s stories New Genesis vs. Apokolips isn’t just good vs. evil, it’s life vs. anti-life. Free will, the ability to choose, is the essence of life; anti-life is the utter slavery that comes from losing that freedom. It’s anti-life that Darkseid dreams of.
Darkseid’s great desire is to master the Anti-Life Equation, which completely negates free will. His agents came to Earth because he hoped to find the equation in a human mind. Until then, Darkseid settles for creating imitation anti-life on Apokolips by “slogans, threats, despair and acceptance.” His subjects happily prove their loyalty by renouncing their freedom.
On Earth, Darkseid’s anti-life evangelists spread the same doctrine. Darkseid’s success at instilling anti-life by propaganda gives him hope that he can achieve true, pure Anti-Life some day.
13 Apokolips created the Justice League and Cyborg
In the Silver Age, the Justice League got its started fighting an alien invasion from the planet Appellax. In DC’s New 52 continuity, the invaders came from Apokolips.
In the opening arc of Justice League, Darkseid’s parademons appear on Earth as the invasion's point men. Green Lantern and Batman reluctantly ally against the parademons, with Flash, Superman, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman soon joining them. The Justice League is born.
And so is Cyborg. When scientist Silas Stone experimented on a parademon’s mother box, it exploded, blasting Silas’ son Victor. To save Victor, Silas turned him into a cyborg, creating the final founding member of the New 52 League.
An invasion from Apokolips also had an impact on Earth-2, where Superman and Batman fought it off at the cost of their own lives, leading to the divergent reality in DC’s Earth 2 series.
12 The New 52’s Apokolips is much more generic than Kirby’s
Kirby’s original Apokolips, as noted above, is all about order. Darkseid wants control of everything, but he doesn’t want to seize control by brute force. Instead he craves the absolute domination that only Anti-Life can give him.
The New 52’s Darkseid seems perfectly happy to conquer by force - open up a boom tube to a new dimension, invade that parallel Earth with an army of parademons, destroy and annihilate, end of story. He might as well be Mongul or Marvel’s Kree.
Likewise the Anti-Life Equation, while it still has the power to, is more about killing. The equation’s avatar gloats during Justice League’s "Darkseid War" arc about the millions of lives he’s taken to satiate the equation’s lust for death. Kirby’s original freedom/slavery opposition get lost in the shuffle.
11 Darkseid was not the first ruler
Darkseid and Apokolips seem to belong together. Several usurpers have replaced Darkseid from time to time, but to most fans, he’s Apokolips only true monarch. He was not, however, its first.
In New Gods #7, “The Pact,” Kirby fills in a little of the New Gods’ backstory. Before Darkseid seized power, he was a nobody - the humble, dutiful son to the tyrannical Queen Heggra. When Darkseid secretly wed the sorceress Suli, Heggra had her poisoned. She ordered her son into an arranged match with a woman named Tigra, and Darkseid complied.
Most of Heggra’s court dismissed Darkseid as the obedient toady he seemed to be. His uncle Steppenwolf saw more, but still underestimated Darkseid’s cunning. Heggra and Steppenwolf learned too late that Darkseid was the ultimate player in Apokolips’ game of thrones.
10 Apokolips vs Jimmy Olsen
Along with three new DC books (New Gods, Mister Miracle, Forever People), Jack Kirby also took over Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen.
Because of Kirby’s interlinked approach to the four books, it was Jimmy Olsen that introduced Inter-Gang, the DNA Project (later named Project Cadmus), and the agents of Apokolips.The agents in question were Simyan and Mokarri, sinister scientists who stole and perverted the Project’s genetic research in their own laboratory, the Evil Factory. They and their lab get blown up near the end of Kirby’s run after unleashing bizarre monstrosities (kryptonite Jimmy Olsen clones!) on Jimmy, Superman, and their friends.
Darkseid himself made his debut in Jimmy Olsen #134, as a face on a video monitor giving orders to Morgan Edge (actually an evil clone from the Evil Factory). It wouldn’t be until New Gods #1 that he appeared in the flesh.
9 Darkseid seized power by triggering an Apokolips/New Genesis war
In “The Pact,” Darkseid suggests his uncle Steppenwolf go hunting on New Genesis — after all, those goodhearted softies will be easy prey for such a powerful warrior, right? When Steppenwolf’s victim turns out to be Avia, wife of the New Genesis warrior Izaya, Darkseid kills Izaya as the only eyewitness. Oops, somehow Izaya survives, and is angry enough to start a war in revenge.
Over the course of the bloody, world-shattering war, Izaya kills Steppenwolf and Darkseid murders Heggra (Kirby hints that her fate was exceptionally nasty), making himself Apokolips’ undisputed master.
Izaya, sick of war and revenge, has matured into New Genesis’ wiser, sadder leader, Highfather. Meeting with Darkseid, he negotiates a pact to end the war temporarily. The price of peace was not pretty.
8 Apokolips gave birth to two DC heroes
To seal the peace pact, Highfather and Darkseid swapped their kids. Orion, Darkseid’s son by Tigra, was raised on New Genesis; Izaya’s son grew up on Apokolips, in the brutal Happiness Home run by Granny Goodness. Granny named the child Scott Free, knowing Darkseid planned for him to escape Apokolips, thus breaking the pact. Scott would die in the escape, eliminating him as a threat.
To Darkseid’s displeasure, Scott escaped alive. Arriving on Earth, he became the heroic Mr. Miracle - super-escape artist - defying Darkseid’s efforts to drag him back. Orion, his fury tempered by the goodness of New Genesis, became his father’s greatest foe, prophesied to someday destroy him. Highfather later explained that was the reason he agreed to the swap — to strengthen both youths into the champions the universe needed.
7 The people of Apokolips are strangely obsessed with Earth
The New Gods are cosmic beings whose battles rage across the known universe and beyond. Which makes it odd the only planet they seem interested in is Earth.
On Apokolips, Darkseid’s assassin Kanto models his lifestyle on an Italian Renaissance assassin. Virman Vundabar, as the name suggests, patterns himself after an efficient Prussian military officer. The torturer Desaad — well his name pretty much screams “Marquis De Sade.”
The same is true of some of the New Genesis characters: Big Bear of the Forever People is fascinated by vaudeville, while Mark Moonrider knows who shot Abraham Lincoln. Some of the fixation can be explained by Darkseid hunting on Earth for the Anti-Life Equation. But the death of Lincoln? You’d think for beings so cosmic, a hundred-year-old Earth assassination would be obscure trivia.
6 Apokolips also gave birth to metahumans and the Speed Force
When John Byrne worked on a New Gods revival series in the 1990s, he decided that by creating the New Gods, Jack Kirby also created all the gods of myth, at least in the DCU. Hence the Godwave.
The Godwave sprang from the same cataclysm that destroyed the Old Gods’ world and eventually spawned Apokolips and New Genesis. As the name implies, the death of the Old Gods sent a wave of cosmic energy out into the universe.
Similar to the dark matter wave that creates metahumans in the CW Arrowverse, the Godwave elevated ordinary mortals on Earth and other worlds to become the gods of Olympus, Asgard, etc. The Godwave also created the Speed Force, and gave homo sapiens the potential for meta-abilities.
Kirby, in a sense, created DC’s entire superhuman universe.
5 Galactus tried to eat Apokolips, but found it was empty calories
In the DC/Marvel crossover Darkseid vs. Galactus: The Hunger, the purple-clad planet-eater locks horns with the stone-faced master of Apokolips.
When Highfather spots the Silver Surfer in nearby space, he conceals New Genesis so that the Surfer’s gaze falls on Apokolips. Highfather figures that with any luck Galactus will destroy Apokolips and end Darkseid's threat forever.
Orion, however, thinks this is dirty pool, so he defends Apokolips. Despite the joint efforts of Orion and Darkseid, Galactus and the Surfer kick their asses. Galactus activates his technology to devour the life-energy of Apokolips … and discovers it doesn’t have any. New Genesis got custody of all the life-force in the breakup, leaving Apokolips a lifeless, hollow mockery of a planet.
Galactus asks Darkseid why he bothered fighting when he knew the planet was inedible. Darkseid replies that it’s as much his nature to fight as it's Galactus’ nature to eat.
4 Jack Kirby finished the Fourth World saga thirteen years after DC canceled New Gods
When DC hiked prices on its books in the early Bronze Age, sales on Kirby's books, like most DC series, dropped. It’s unclear whether they sold poorly or just poorer than DC expected, but the axe fell soon after.
When DC reprinted the series in 1984, however, it followed up with a couple of new stories allowing Kirby to finally wrap things up. Apokolips is now a mechanical hellhole where Darkseid’s elite do little more than run drone warfare campaigns. Over the course of the two stories, the elite rebel, then die. The common rabble turn on Darkseid, shattering his regime of absolute order.
By this point Orion has fallen in love. Rather than die fighting Darkseid, he leaves his father alone to rot on ravaged Apokolips in the prison of his own frustrated ambition.
3 Kirby’s not the only one to end Apokolips
Of course Kirby finishing up his saga didn’t stop DC from churning out new stories of the New Gods - including more stories in which Apokolips came to an end.
Even before Kirby wrote his finale, Paul Levitz presented Darkseid as Apokolips’ sole survivor in Legion of Super-Heroes. Darkseid returns in the 30th century, but it’s clear that Apokolips and its people are long gone — though Darkseid is no less formidable.
Jim Starlin wrote his 2007-8 series Death of the New Gods to put an end to Apokolips and New Genesis for good. He wanted to give the Fourth World characters a “mercy killing,” believing DC had mangled Kirby’s characters too much. Starlin proceeded to mangle them even more. And of course, Death no more stopped DC writing more New Gods stories than Kirby had.
2 Apokolips came to television in 1984
Television producers have passed the Darkseid bong around almost as much as comics editors. TV first traveled to Apokolips in 1984, in SuperFriends: The Legendary Super Powers Show, in which Darkseid battled the Superfriends both to conquer Earth and to claim Wonder Woman as his queen. The battle continued into the follow-up series, Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians.
A less sexually predatory Darkseid appeared in the DCAU in the 1990s Superman series, the 21st century Justice League cartoons and the more humorous Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Smallville used Darkseid and his agents as the villains for the final season, in which Clark finally adopts his Superman identity.
Apokolips has yet to manifest in the CW’s Arrowverse, but many fans assume it’s not a question of if, but when.
1 The Justice League’s battle against Apokolips is shaping the New 52
The "Darkseid War" arc destroyed Darkseid (temporarily, of course) but Apokolips still exerts a powerful influence on the New 52.
Most significantly the arc introduced Grail, Darkseid’s daughter by the Amazon Myrina. She’s currently playing a major role in Wonder Woman, working to steal power from other gods to restore her father."Darkseid War" also introduced Jason, the twin brother Wonder Woman didn't know she had, who's now allied with Grail.
Lex Luthor, meanwhile, has become a New God of sorts, the ruler of Apokolips, which gives him the power to compete with Superman as a hero.
Perhaps the weirdest "Darkseid War" reveal was Batman’s discovery that the Joker is actually three different people. How is that possible? How does it even make sense? We’ve yet to find out.
Do you have any trivia or speculation to add about how Apokolips could play into the next Justice League movie? Let us know in the comments!