The bearded old gentleman with the “Wonder Staff” is none other than the solemn leader of New Genesis, Highfather, the true father of Scott (Mister Miracle) Free and stepparent of Orion the Wolf. He is the wise and benevolent ruler, seated in the satellite city of Supertown, who carries a great foreboding weight on his strong shoulders.
Highfather’s sister-planet counterpart would like to believe they are commensurate, as Darkseid tells The Forever People, “On Apokolips, my rank is equal to Highfather!! Minions of great might quake at incurring my disfavor!!” But the eminence of New Genesis is far from the flipside of any good/evil coin. To say the least, his backstory is complex:
As we learn in the seminal New Gods story, “The Pact,” there was once a great warrior who is a leader of New Genesis. His name is Izaya the Inheritor and he is blessed with a lovely, delicate wife, Avia. One day, when the loving couple have a romantic respite on the green planet’s bucolic surface, they share a tender exchange:
“Are we made for war, Izaya?” asks Avia. “You know, I’ve never heard you sing!! Sing, Izaya! Let me hear your voice when it’s not a battle-cry!”
“I can’t sing as yet, Avia!!” Izaya answers. “It’s your devotion that feeds my aching spirits!!”
Suddenly the pair are interrupted by an illegal hunting party encroaching from Apokolips, among them Queen Heggra’s brother, arrogant Steppenwolf, and her beloved and conniving son, Darkseid. In the ensuing tussle, Avia is killed by Steppenwof’s radion bolt and Izaya’s unmoving body lays in the grass, apparently a victim of Darkseid. But the Inheritor is not dead.
And so “The Great Clash” began and terrible and woeful violence was perpetrated against both sides, New Genesis and Apokolips, and war expanded exponentially — first air war, then ground war, then techno-cosmic war, the conflict growing until suns are destroyed and planets are hurled in the name of victory. Even the death of Avia’s killer fails to stop the conflagration. Each of the twin worlds pays a terrible price for Izaya’s vengeance and Darkseid’s ambition.
Izaya, in a moment of grim reflection, realizes war is not the answer and, walking through the desolation that was once beautiful New Genesis, he seeks a new place in his world. the Inheritor cries, “Where is Izaya??” — not the warrior! — The general!! — but, the true servant of those he leads!! Not here, in these tortured ruins of war! But Izaya is there! — Somewhere — out there!!”
In his lamentful sojourn, Izaya ponders the enemy. “Darkseid’s plan!! Like foolish Steppenwolf, I’ve allowed myself to follow the mad dreams of Darkseid!! — from which no one can survive!!!” Then, raging into the rising tempest winds, the Inheritor screams, “I tear off my armor! I reject this war-staff as a weapon!!! I reject the way of war!!” And still he staggers through roaring gusts and demanding his inheritance from whatever gods there be of gods, suddenly, there is revealed, The Source.
From The Source, in messages spelled out by a mystical floating hand called the “Uni-Friend,” comes the essence of Greater Good, a new life for Izaya, now the Highfather, and his people.
To end the Great Clash, Highfather and Darkseid (now ruler of Apokolips) agree to a pact, trading their respective sons with the promise there shall be an age of peace between the worlds. When savage, feral Orion first meets the man he believes his progenitor, the boy asks, “You! — You are — my father??”
Highfather replies softly, “Only if you wish me to be! I am Highfather!! And you — are Orion!! We have need of each other, Orion!! This is a place of friends!! Here is my hand –!!”
An uneasy peace reigns between the worlds for years, until young Scott Free escapes Apokolips (also prearranged by Darkseid, though the boy is not killed as intended), breaking the pact and a prelude to renewed conflict. And now, today, Darkseid is initiating a “Super-War,” one waged with the planet Earth as battleground. Highfather knows the stakes, as he explains, “The universe — slave or free — On Apokolips their ruler, Darkseid, has already made that choice!”
Yes, Highfather is wartime leader of the emerald world, but he still devotes time listening to the lyrical songs of Fastbak and other youthful choral members of Supertown. Highfather and his New Genesis honor the young as a matter of faith. “First, we bow to the young,” Highfather tells his son, “they are the carriers of life! They must remain free, Orion! Life flowers in freedom!”
As leader, he is also obligated to answer the queries of The Council of the Young and he is especially attentive to the plight of The Forever People, even as the group disobeyed him by traveling to Earth. When the team is sent via Darkseid’s “Omega Effect” into past eras on our planet, Highfather intervenes by reuniting them courtesy of “Alpha-Bullets” shooting out of his fingertips.
In a poignant exchange, Highfather engages one of the smallest of the new gods, who is asking for his help to rescue the Super-Kids. “Well, Esak!! Is one of the youngest of New Genesis to add his voice against my edicts!?” asks Highfather.
Esak replies, “Not against your edicts, Highfather!! But for our friends!! Is this not a world of friends?”
“Look at me, Esak!” cries Highfather. “Am I not as cold and stern as Darkseid?”
The boy answers, “Darkseid is the fire-pit of destruction!! Highfather is the tranquil green of morning!! The time when the song of life begins!!”
“And what of power, Esak!!? Is this not the naked fist of power??”
“True! — But power to which the lightning dances!! — On the infinite roads of time!!”
Forsooth, it is the music and song of life for all that Highfather seeks, not only to assuage his own loss. Having never sang for sweet Avia, the former Izaya finds solace in melody. “The song ends — but the beauty of it must never fade! Or die, Orion!”
“In this cause,” his faithful and tormented son replies, “I live as well!”