Top 10 New Gods

So just chillin', listening to Ryan Daly's Secret Origins podcast last week, specifically Mister Miracle's, and isn't it always the way? It got me daydreaming about who my favorite New Gods are. I mean, the Fourth World is pretty important to me, and I don't talk about it nearly enough. Who's in here? Anyone born on Apokolips or New Genesis could make the cut, though yeah, none of the Forever People made the list (is anyone surprised?), and they don't have to have originated under Jack Kirby's sainted pencil, but it sure seems to help.
1. Darkseid. THE big bad of the DC Universe, I really first encountered him (like a couple of his friends) on later-day Super-Friends cartoons and loved him and his gravelly voice so much, he became my first Super-Powers action figure. I made him slam his desk so often and so hard, one of his arms has come off. Though his design is simple (and I haven't liked ANY attempt at making it more baroque), Darkseid remains a striking and intimidating figure. His quest for the Anti-Life Equation, the monuments in his likeness on Apokolips, his operatic family life, him absurdly showing up in Scott Free's (or Ambush Bug's) living room, and the Omega Beams that really don't need to be aimed, all help him get to #1. Darkseid is.
2. Mister Miracle. Every story needs a hero, and with all due respect to Orion, Scott Free is the shining beacon of the Fourth World. He is the Freedom Christ to Darkseid's God of Nihilism. He has a great origin, the son of Highfather swapped for Darkseid's and dumped in a torture orphanage instead of raised as a son, he seems to have his New God powers beaten out of him - he's the most "human" of them all - and spends his life playing escape artist and freeing others of their "anti-life". One of those liberated is Barda who becomes his wife (see below). He wears a costume that shouldn't work but does, had some fun adventures with Justice League International, and shout-out to Oberon who is a pretty great hetero life-mate (because I won't call him a sidekick).
3. Big Barda. Standing a foot taller than her husband, she's my kind of heroine, the brawny former Female Fury fell under Scott Free's spell, or rather, was freed from Darkseid's/Granny's, and became a great partner for Mr. Miracle. I love this marriage, and I love it when they get really domestic with the character. This warrior-born fuming after burning the roast, or whatever, is where my fondness comes from, but I like to see her kick ass as well. Another baroque costume that probably shouldn't work but does, and her alt-costume is a red battle/Ursula Andress bikini which is pretty cool too.
4. Lashina. Another Female Fury? So soon? Can't help it, in large part because the character was allowed to develop as Duchess, a badass member of the Suicide Squad. In full Apokolipsian gear, she's a terrifying S&M figure wielding killer straps, and belting out punishment. Between her and Barda, it makes me wonder if Jack Kirby had predilections similar to Robert Crumb's...
5. Granny Goodness. No Female Furies without someone to train them, right? Granny beats independence out of her "children" and is the most nightmarish headmistress imaginable, giving even the toughest superheroes on Earth the chance to brawl with a woman of a certain age and risk losing. Bonus points for Ed Asner lending her his voice in the DC Animated Universe. That's both insane and awesome.
6. DeSaad. Another of the Super-Friends foes, DeSaad is Darkseid's closest aide, as cruel as his master, but always risking oblivion-by-Omega Beam. Though he seems like a toady today, his history is intimately wrapped in Darkseid's, for it was he who poisoned Darkseid's first love at the behest of the Big D's mother Heggra, and was then forced by Darkseid to murder Heggra, making him the ultimate ruler of Apokolips. In other words, he pretty much made Darkseid what he is.
7. Orion. Darkseid's son, sent to live on New Genesis as part of a treaty, Orion has an interesting psychology in that his Apokolipsian wrath is always bubbling near the surface. He has both an pretty and an ugly face representative of his dual nature. I may have him at the back of this pack because I never thought much of his costume. So plain. Though I did like how they streamlined it in the New52's Wonder Woman book, I will admit.
8. Kalibak. The son Darkseid DID raise is a bit of a brute, but for some reason, I like bruiser-type New Gods. Not sure why. Sorry Metron. You had a cool chair, but you're just not active enough. Kalibak gets my sympathy for being the disappointment who Darkseid is always quick to dismiss in favor of even an adopted son, like a brainwashed Superman, for example (in Legends, among other places). The only thing that keeps Kalibak alive (or from not being resurrected) is that he is the progeny of the one person Darkseid truly loved. There's something almost sweet about that. You know, if Kalibak wasn't such a hateful monster.
9. Forager. Technically not a God, Forager and his people are essentially New Genesis' answer to insects. And that's why I like him: In the Fourth World, even BUGS are SUPERHEROES. He's the lowest of the low in that universe, and climbs up to heaven to appeal to his gods, and there's something great about that. That tribal-mask look is pretty damn distinctive too.
10. Knockout. Annnnnd if only to show that I'm quite willing to entertain the idea of New Gods not created by the King of Comics, I wanted to use this last spot to feature a NEW New God. Could have been Amazing Grace, the first such I thought was viable, but John Byrne's additions to the mythos (the other is Sleez) are rather rapey and unpalatable. No, much better to go with Barda's replacement in the Furies, pictured above smiling as she fights both Superboy and Valor. I mean! A very fun character, flirting with punches. Like several before her, she escaped Granny's stranglehold, and made a life for herself on Earth, joined the Suicide Squad and Secret Six, has had quite the longevity where other newbies mostly failed (Takion, anyone?).

I do give out honorable mentions. For example, I was sorely tempted to put the Black Racer on here, because it's sheer MADNESS to imagine the Angel of Death as a knight on flying skis, but I've always hated his color scheme. In the end, he's a poor man's Silver Surfer, I suppose. The Mantis action figure redesign is also a favorite, but that's not really the Mantis in the comics. I like the Deep Six, but none of the characters stand out. But look, it's your turn. Maybe you have an as-yet-unspoken love of Lightray. Or Beautiful Dreamer. Or Mokkari over at the Cadmus Project. Or Doctor Bedlam. Maybe you're all about one of the more obscure characters like Highfather's wife Avia, or somebody from the later years like Yuga Khan. Let us know in the comments.

At who's altar do YOU worship?


American Hawkman said...

I liked Lonar when I first met him in the pages of Warlord, but he tends to be a second Orion outside of a fantasy setting.

Anonymous said...

I find it impossible to like the New Gods, primarily because of how they are used. There was a time when they didn't much interact with the DC Universe, and that's how it should be: they operate on a different plane altogether, good and evil at stalemate with earth on the periphery of the conflict. Unfortunately, there has been this tendency to make Darkseid THE Big Bad of the DC Universe, just as you say. That poses a big structural problem, really a multitude of them:

- So long as he exists and routinely interacts with the DC Universe, he is unfinished business and we are all f-ing doomed. See Earth-2 in the nu52; that's what happens when Darkseid gets around to giving the world his full attention. After all, if he's probably slightly more powerful than Superman, and with all his minions in tow, the earth has no hope. Unless ...

- ... the heroes DO fight him and win. For example, Batman recently harrowed Apokolips and managed to beat Darkseid; he was equipped with the best technology and materials this universe could offer plus a crystal from Apokolips, but nevertheless he did win. What does it do for Darkseid's reputation as the ultimate Big Bad if a trust-fund furry can beat him? What does that do to his regime of despair? I imagine the Hunger Dogs have started scratching bat symbols on the walls of their hovels as signs of hope.

- Why hasn't Darkseid taken revenge on Batman? That's a big hanging plot thread that nobody wants to address. But that's the sort of consequence that should matter when you take up arms against Darkseid.

- Then there's the New Gods ... they're too often written as complete tools. They were recently in a big crossover with the GLC where they killed billions because, as a benign force, they generate no conflict. And they weren't under the influence of yellow space bugs or any of Darkseid's despair schemes (which would have actually fixed the story), they were just being terrible until Hal said to them: "Hey! Quit being jerks! Nobody wants you to be jerks!"

Win or lose, putting Darkseid in conflict with the heroes just makes everything worse. The proper role of the New Gods is to answer the question of why Darkseid doesn't take more direct action, and the proper use of Darkseid is to CORRUPT mankind so that this world will someday welcome Darkseid. That means subtle mind games that try to bring out the worst in human nature.

I got opinions!

Count Drunkula said...

Great list, Siskoid!

For the longest time, I kept the Fourth World/New Gods characters at an arm's distance. The idea seemed too big and too deep, and I just didn't have the time to fully immerse myself in this corner of the DC Universe. Well, I finally started... just started... and I love it so much. I've only read a handful of Kirby's original MR. MIRACLE book, but they're incredible. Most of my knowledge of Forage comes from COSMIC ODYSSEY, which I mostly enjoyed. I recently acquired the entire '90s NEW GODS series for free. Haven't read them yet, but I'm looking forward to diving into that when I have the time after Secret Origins Podcast wraps up.

Siskoid said...

Anon: You certain do. Just because the characters haven't been used well in some years is no mark against them as concepts. After all, some would argue that very few DC characters have been used well in the past few years ;).

Ryan: I'm only partway through the Omnibi myself, and really need to get back to them. Recommended reading for a richer appreciation of the Fourth World on this very blog:

and in some respect the follow-up:

I'm tooting my own horn here, but I really do think they are among the best things I've written for the blog.

Tony Laplume said...

Thanks for including Knockout!

Anonymous said...

True, I'm speaking to how the characters have been used lately, not how they were intended. Fair enough, I sure wouldn't like Superman if all I had to go on was how he's been typically handled in the nu52 either.

I do like the idea of Darkseid as a guy who tries to bring out the worst in people, though, and that is straight out of Kirby. It's his successors who have basically used Darkseid as somebody Superman has to punch multiple times.

Hypothetically speaking, can one completely separate a character concept from the character handling? I say this as a Hal Jordan fan, and there aren't many characters who have been more routinely abused than Hal -- yet I still like him for the times he's done well.

Anonymous said...

Jack Kirby's Vision of Darkseid was very different from the Darkseid Geoff John's presented in the pages of the New 52 JLA some five years back.
Kirby's Darkseid would never have entered the battle himself. Kirby's Darkseid ran the show from behind the scenes and made very liberal use of minions and various front organizations like Earthly amusement parks, television news channels and crime organizations, much like how the internet conspiracy promoted 'illuminati" run the world from behind the scenes.

Siskoid said...

Exactly. The common man doesn't see Darkseid causing Man of Steel-level mayhem in the distance. His life is instead impacted by Intergang's operations.

Darkseid is the Devil of this mythos, and his influence is corruptive, not apocalyptic, no matter where he hails from.

The beginning of the end for me was The Death of the New Gods/Countdown (both of which were uncoordinated hit squads against the Fourth World), and while Morrison tried to walk us back from those events by creating the concept of avatars for the New Gods on Earth in 7 Soldiers, no one picked up the baton. Didn't dislike the New Gods seen in N52 Wonder Woman, but that didn't amount to much before the reigns were given over to the Finches.

Jeff Nettleton said...

Good list, though I'd rank Forager a bit higher, myself. I first encountered the characters in the mid-70s revival, rather than the Kirby originals. Forager was one of the characters that was well handled by Gerry Conway and I loved Don Newton's artwork in the scene where Forager infiltrates "The Project," as The Cadmus Project was then known. Unfortunately, the noble Forager was sacrificed by Jim Starlin so we didn't get to see more of the character.

I have to confess I have a greater fondness for the Mister Miracle characters than the New Gods characters. On the villain front, I would add Vermin Vunderbar, Kirby's satire of German militarism. I especially enjoyed seeing him in JLU, voiced by Arte Johnson, in a nod to his Laugh-In German soldier character (right up to "Very interesting...."). Those guys did a fantastic job with the 4th World, in that cartoon series.

The other character I would add to the list is Steppenwolf. That was a truly great character!

Andrew said...

I doubt she deserves a spot in the top ten, but I do have a soft spot for Gilotina's story arc in the 90's Super-books. Fired by the Furies for incompetence, she starts hanging out with the Newsboy Legion at Project Cadmus--and Tommy in particular. Then, despite enjoying all that life on Earth has to offer, she realizes she'll never fit in and returns to duty when the opportunity presents itself. Either a tragic contrast to the many who reject Darkseid's world given the chance, or Karl Kesel (co-creater of Knockout, btw) putting the toys back in the box when he was done with them.

Either way, it was nicely done.


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