The DCEU is trying something different than Marvel—something more epic and Biblical in scope. One of the biggest indicators is its choice of overarching villains, employing the use of the gods of Apokolips from Jack Kirby’s Fourth World masterpiece. Short version: these are evil alien gods from another dimension with a rich mythology that is dying for its own solo movie series (god knows, Kirby never received the credit or money he deserved in life). We’ve known for a while now that Darkseid and his general, Steppenwolf, were going to feature in the DCEU moving forward, with Steppenwolf being the primary villain in the upcoming Justice League movie.
After a brief cameo in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, we got our best look yet at Justice League’s Steppenwolf in today's SDCC trailer. Previously only a bit player in the New Gods series, the character has seen something of a renaissance since 2011. While he’s clearly just a stepping stone to get to Darkseid, he's going to have to be a big enough threat to carry a massive team-up film as a villain. And with Ciaran Hinds bringing the character to life, our hopes are high. Here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Steppenwolf.
15 He killed Wonder Woman
DC’s New 52 reboot quickly established that Darkseid’s forces were present throughout the Multiverse, with Steppenwolf—his primary general—launching an invasion of Earth-2. Steppenwolf himself killed Batman and Superman. However, the most shocking moment came during his battle with Wonder Woman, where Diana, who has fought more than her fair share of gods, was killed by Steppenwolf in the opening pages of Earth-2’s first issue.
The Amazonian princess was fighting back hard against the general, who used a Boom Tube to sneak up behind her and stab her through the back. For a character who has never been more than just a sidenote, having Steppenwolf wipe out the powerful trio of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman—DC's holy trinity—gave him instant credibility as a major threat. Granted, the Earth-2 characters are the New Coke of the DCU headliners, but it’s a start.
14 He's the Leader of Apokolips' Military
In Darkseid’s mad ambition to obtain the Anti-Life Equation, he has conquered or destroyed thousands of worlds. Besides that nifty god-level technology, one of the major things that works to Darkseid’s advantage is that he has Steppenwolf commanding his army. Under Steppenwolf’s leadership, Mars was discovered, and the Martian people revealed to them the concept of a Life Equation, which would be the key to all knowledge. When the idea was funneled back to Darkseid, it began his millennia-long search for its apocalyptic polar opposite.
That not crazy enough for you? This is Jack Kirby after all, so of course, there’s going to be some crazy here. Steppenwolf also commands Darkseid’s Dog Calvary. Their army’s best shock troopers ride giant, vicious dogs into battle to control the lowlies of Apokolips or kill opposing ground forces in the most brutal ways possible. Steppenwolf commands the horde of warriors, and he’s one of the few people that the dogs won’t attack.
13 He Conquered Earth (Almost) Singlehandedly
Thanks to Batman, Steppenwolf was stranded on Earth-2, much to his chagrin. Given the sales for the title, we couldn’t blame him. While rebuilding, the world government was offering $300 million to anyone who could capture or kill Steppenwolf. (When you think about that, it’s actually a paltry sum of money considering that you’re trying to kill a god, but we digress.)
King Marvo of Dherain, who had aided Apokolips in their invasion, gave the fallen general a place to hide but was planning on selling him out. Steppenwolf, who handles bad news well, beheaded Marvo and took control of the country. He then went on a hissy fit that saw him destroy most of the world’s army by himself, aided only by Earth-2’s version of Fury (more on her later). Where this ambition was during the initial invasion we couldn’t tell you, but at least he got it right the second time.
12 He is Darkseid's uncle…
Before Game of Thrones, there was Jack Kirby’s New Gods. After the death of his father, Yuga Khan, Darkseid wanted to take the throne of Apokolips. Unfortunately, his mother Heggra and brother Drax were still alive. He successfully killed Drax, but Heggra was too smart. She struck first, killing Darkseid’s wife, but missing him. When Darkseid found out about his mother’s role, he had her food poisoned during a family dinner. He watched her die as he drank his wine and quietly took the throne. He also had his second wife imprisoned, because he hated her (at this point, why not?). Steppenwolf was Heggra’s brother and Darkseid's last remaining family member. Instead of avenging her, he stood by his nephew, believing him to be the right leader for Apokolips going forward. So the next time you dread seeing your family for the holidays, remind yourself that at least no one’s going to poison you.
11 …but he isn’t always loyal
After taking control of Dherain and destroying the World Army, Steppenwolf got a little too big for his britches. Initially, he wiped the planet clean of problems just so he could enslave it and work on contacting Apokolips again, which he did. The only problem was that even after Darkseid’s forces arrived, the general wasn’t ready to let go of his newfound world. He had a desire to keep the planet that was subtle. It wasn’t until he declared himself the ruler of Earth that he was punished for overstepping. Brutaal, an evil clone of Superman, killed him for fighting for his own glory and not Darkseid’s. You can’t buy that kind of loyalty these days.
The thing about Steppenwolf is that he was always aware enough to know that Darkseid didn’t keep him around out of love. The two mutually disliked each other, and Steppenwolf himself was likely always looking for a way to become independent of him or overthrow him. He just didn’t expect Darkseid would have on his side a clone of Superman who uses chains to keep his cape on because it was still the Extreme '90s and it’s definitely still cool.
10 His daughter is an Amazon (Earth-2's Donna Troy)
Steppenwolf and Earth-2’s Wonder Woman had a complicated history. Prior to killing her, they were actually lovers. Diana had no idea who Steppenwolf truly was or what he was planning (if only she had some sort of implement that would compel someone to tell the truth of their intentions). They ended up having a daughter, who Steppenwolf raised after, you know, murdering her mother.
Being the last of the Amazons and being half-god made Fury one of the most powerful beings on Earth. Since Steppenwolf has virtually no luck (or maybe it was bad karma), she eventually betrays him and sides with the World Army against the second invasion of Darkseid’s forces. With her help, they repel the forces, and Fury (now calling herself Wonder Woman) ushers in a new era of peace by helping rebuild the world and leading a newly formed Justice Society of America. Whether the irony of having one of Steppenwolf’s relatives betray him was purposeful was never confirmed, but it was a layer appreciated by eagle-eyed fans.
9 He Began the New Gods War
Before he became known as the Highfather of New Genesis, he was Izaya—a warrior of unmatched skill and power who craved peace more than anything. And Steppenwolf beat the hell out of him. Steppenwolf was so good and the beating was so bad that Izaya’s wife Avia tried to stop it; the general noticed movement behind him, and shot Avia dead. Well, faster than you can say “closed casket,” Izaya turned from Ned Flanders into Walter Sobchak.
This was all part of Darkseid’s plan to start a war between Apokolips and New Genesis and use the war to unseat his mother, which, as we said, he did by poisoning her as she ate. Despite hating and distrusting Darkseid, Steppenwolf took his nephew’s side over his sister because she was ungrateful and rude to him. That’s how spiteful he is. He’d cause an interstellar war among gods so that he can get his sister killed. As we said, The Fourth World is like Game of Thrones meets Shakespeare.
8 He was in Superman: The Animated Series
Superman simply doesn’t have the rogues gallery that Batman does. Producers Bruce Timm and Paul Dini ran into this fact early on in Superman: The Animated Series’ development, so they brought in Jack Kirby’s New Gods. Steppenwolf even appeared briefly in one of the episodes. In the now-classic two-parter “Apokolips Now,” Steppenwolf was among Darkseid’s Elite who attacked Metropolis. The general was on his hover-bike and wearing a stupid hat much like his colleague Kanto, but that’s not the point. Dan Turpin comes in with an attack helicopter and shoots Steppenwolf down. It’s a throwaway scene, but it’s also a bit of a fan service.
In Superman: TAS, Dan Turpin was designed to look like his creator: Jack Kirby. It was a great confluence of circumstance and a surreal moment seeing Jack Kirby shooting at a Jack Kirby creation.
7 He’s Fought Batman and Superman Before
Steppenwolf fought Batsy in two episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, where he was working for Mongul rather than Darkseid. (Flash fact: Thanos was created as a copy of Darkseid; Mongul was created as a copy of Thanos.) This was a less powerful version of Steppenwolf, of course, as he was beaten up by Batman and Jonah Hex. Getting beaten up by two mortals—one with schizophrenia and another who looks like this—is not a great look for a god.
In Justice League Action, Steppenwolf captures Superman and challenges him to a fight to the death on a planet with a red sun, limiting the Man of Steel’s powers. Steppenwolf went about outsmarting and outfighting Supes until he made a mistake and lost the advantage. Superman dumped him in a river and then electrocuted him (which is also how the Man of Steel defeated the general’s grand-nephew Kalibak in an episode of Superman: TAS).
Steppenwolf rocked that stupid green hat in both iterations.
6 He filled a plothole
Batman v. Superman isn’t as bad as people make it out to be, but it is undeniably flawed. One of the glaring flaws comes in after the climax of the film is resolved. Lex goes into full Eisenberg-mode to deliver a high-pitched ramble that alludes to Darkseid and the New Gods. The problem was, you know, how did the police find him and how does he know about alien gods? Well, in a brief deleted scene released online shortly after BvS hit theaters, or questions were answered. Sort of.
Steppenwolf (looking more like a xenomorph than the character he’s supposed to be based on) was seen on the Kryptonian computer Lex was using. Whether this was an old video or communication is unclear. One would assume it’s the former, since revealing to an absolute stranger your intention of invading his planet is a terrible strategy (to say nothing about the etiquette).
5 Steppenwolf dies pretty often…
You would think that being an immortal god would keep you from getting killed once, let alone constantly. Steppenwolf was killed in a flashback in New Gods #7, off-screen in an episode of Justice League, in the New 52 by Brutaal, and, most embarrassingly, by the Terror Titans. Don’t remember the Terror Titans? Well, they’re a bad guy faction comprised of Clock King, Copperhead, Disruptor, Dreadbolt, and Persuader. You could not possibly scrape any lower than these guys. We can give Steppenwolf some consideration here—he was stuck in a human body at the time—but, look, it’s still a smear on his permanent record.
Altogether, Steppenwolf has died at least once for every decade since his introduction. That may not sound so bad, but you also have to remember that he hasn’t made all that many appearances. And we all know in Snyder’s DCEU, there’s no way the general is surviving, and there’s something about him that’s just begging for a good ol’ fashioned Superman neck-breaking.
Regardless of Steppenwolf’s record, he does have the ingredients to be an A-list, dangerous threat.
4 …but he has potential
The fact that he’s an immortal god makes it so that Steppenwolf is kinda already cheating. Making things more impossible is the New Gods tech that he possesses. Mother Box is a sentient computer that works off of imagination. He has Boom Tubes that allow him to transport anywhere almost instantaneously. He has his famous electro-axe and energy-spewing swords, and the cable-snare. The snare can, well, snare people in nets or fire radion beams, which Steppenwolf used to kill Avia. Radion is lethal to gods (in case you’re ever in a situation that calls for this knowledge).
The general doesn’t come with any known weaknesses besides his aforementioned lousy luck, but he does have terrible taste in headwear. Pre-Flashpoint, he wore that terrible sleeping cap thing, and in the New 52, he was totally redesigned, now wearing armor that is some kind of Dragon-fetishist-meets-Magog crime against humanity. The '90s were a terrible time in comic design. Stop going back to it.
3 Steppenwolf > DC's Trinity
Despite the fact that he seems destined to fail, Steppenwolf has more potential than most comic book villains. If you look at his traits, though, there are seeds of greatness. Superman is a powerhouse. You know the drill—more powerful than a locomotive and all that. Steppenwolf is a god who has defeated other gods. Supes has shown that he can hang with the best of them, but sometimes his wins have more to do with luck than skill. And skill is something Steppenwolf has in abundance.
He’s hundreds of thousands of years old (at the very least), so his training, experience, and strength give him the edge over Supes and Wonder Woman. As for Batman, the same thing goes. Batman is a well-trained fighter and brilliant tactician. Steppenwolf has just been in the game longer. He represented the best qualities of the Trinity, but distilled into a superior form.
2 He's one of Jack Kirby’s First DC Comics Creations
Jack Kirby defected to DC from Marvel for several reasons, mostly having to do with his hatred for Stan Lee (take a look at Funky Flashman and see if it reminds you of anyone). Lee took credit and royalties for Kirby’s work, which included creating most of the big names in the Marvel Universe. When Lee wouldn’t pay up, DC offered Kirby more money and creative freedom.
Kirby’s first creation was the New Gods. Shakespearean in its tragedy and Biblical in its scope, there will never again be anything like it. The story goes that as the old gods of myth fell, their destruction created a godwave which formed the twin worlds of New Genesis and Apokolips--a race of gods separated by an ocean of stars and bound together by their hatred of the other. Their wars bled out into the cosmos, as Highfather and Orion attempted to stop Darkseid from enslaving the entire universe. Steppenwolf was one of the first characters developed. While not often seen, he was the character that sparked the war between New Genesis and Apokolips, all at the behest of Darkseid.
1 Steppenwolf stopped Darkseid vs. Doomsday from happening
Like the domineering government that kept MMA out of New York for decades, Steppenwolf kept Darkseid vs. Doomsday from happening, which makes him a truly despicable villain. Look, Doomsday isn’t a good character. He’s not even a character. He’s a plot device with green pants. But during the '90s Superman era, the writers and the artists could do no wrong when delivering badass fight scenes. Here, in Doomsday Annual #1, we’re given the thinnest of reasons for Darkseid and Doomsday to encounter each other hundreds of thousands of years before the Death of Superman arc.
So, the table’s set. We can have this fight we never knew we wanted. When Darkseid finally encounters Doomsday, he wants to fight the creature out of curiosity. The creature was wordlessly destroying the planet, as he’s wont to do, and was seemingly without sentience. Rather than let his boss test his grit or passive-aggressively use this as an opportunity to kill Darkseid, Steppenwolf stops him, reminding him that the planet was about to explode. So they leave. And that’s how the story ends!
Now that’s villainy.
Did we miss out on any need to know facts about Justice League's big bad? Let us know in the comments.