There's a sense in which the legendary X-Men villain Apocalypse is actually Marvel's oldest, and greatest, superhero. Created by Louise Simonson and Jackson Guice in 1985, Apocalypse is one of the X-Men's most terrifying foes. He stands for the doctrine of "survival of the fittest," and he's most famous for bringing the world under his control in the "Age of Apocalypse."
Apocalypse is one of the first mutants, an immortal being who was born 5,000 years ago in the days of Ancient Egypt. He was brought up by desert tribes, and ultimately enslaved by the time traveling Pharaoh Rama-Tut. Never one to back down from a fight, En Sabah Nur led an uprising against Rama-Tut, not intimidated in the least by Rama-Tut's advanced technology. The revolt was successful, in large part because the Fantastic Four were brought back into the past and helped overthrow Rama-Tut as well.
Apocalypse's origins are well-known, but over the last decade Marvel has revealed that he wasn't originally a villain at all. In fact, 2620 BC, En Sabah Nur allied with the Egyptian Pharaoh Imhotep and an early Moon Knight. Together, they opposed an infestation from an alien race known as the Brood, which would otherwise have consumed the entire human race. Imhotep went on to found the Brotherhood of the Shield, a secret society that would protect the world for centuries, and ultimately morph into the modern SHIELD. While Apocalypse doesn't seem to have been a member of the Brotherhood of the Shield, he was certainly an ally, and sided with them several times.
Powers of X #4 has revealed that this wasn't the only time Apocalypse saved the world. This issue reveals the secret history of Krakoa, a living island that has become the X-Men's new home. According to Powers of X #4, in ancient times there was a land called Okkara, and it was split apart by the Twilight Sword - which may be a reference to the legendary weapon of Surtur. Okkara was split into two entities, a yin and yang, Krakoa and Arakko. This act seems to have created some sort of portal to a Hellish dimension, and demons poured out into the world.
Fortunately, Apocalypse and his first Horsemen stood against the horde. They were able to force the monsters back, and plugged the gap in some unknown way with Arakko itself. Apocalypse set his Four Horsemen to sentinel the land of Arakko for all time, before sealing it away. These first Horsemen seem to have been Apocalypse's most prized servants, to the extent that Powers of X #4 suggests he would trade any other Horsemen with them in a heartbeat.
In The Dark Knight, Harvey Dent suggested that "you either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain." Apocalypse has resisted death, and he is functionally immortal; as a result, if that maxim is true, it's little surprise that he's become one of the greatest X-Men villains of all.
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