Category Archives: Villains

Day 91: Overlord!

Like a high-tech ticker-tape we see Overlord’s communication with its mistress when the “X-Pit” adventure begins. “–I–AM– OVERLORD — I–CREATE–I DESTROY — NOW — I — DESTROY–! — SCOTT–FREE–DIES! OVERLORD–IN–READINESS–TO KILL! CLOSING-ON-VICTIM — ADJUSTING–SIGHTS RANGE–OF–FIRE–UNLIMITED — OVERLORD AWAITS COMMAND!!! –” Overlord looks mighty big on page four of Mister Miracle #2 after tracking Scott Free as the super escape artist assembles a follower with assistant Oberon. Thank Highfather the bizarre robot-looking device mistakenly targets the Follower in place of the real Mister Miracle (after receiving orders to “Strike, Overlord! Obey!”) and that “stand-in” takes the brunt of a destructive ray shooting from Overlord’s forehead. Scott and Oberon survive the “Explosion! Shock! Flame!” and his Mother Box takes a beating in the attack, prompting Scott to pour out his love and belief to revive the beloved protective device.

We see that at the control of Overlord is a new Fourth World villain, Granny “to know her is to hate her” Goodness, who purrs sweet compliments to her underlings while meting out discipline on their pointed helmets with her truncheon. “Granny communicates with Overlord, boys! Granny must read his words.” Overlord appears on a vidi-screen before her and the read-out reports: “RESULT: NEGATIVE! — VICTIM – LIVES —” One of her boys eagerly asks, “Overlord couldn’t kill Scott Free, Granny! Will you punish Overlord?” Standing up, she begins to unbutton her housecoat. “No! Because Overlord has made up for his failure! He has special gifts.” One of her henchmen notes, “Overlord is Granny’s pet! She keeps him in a warm, safe vault!” Granny throws off her robe to reveal her steel and mail uniform, complete with baton weapon, barking, “Yes, and we talk by vidi-screen! He’s too precious to be exposed to the world!” Whacking the Darkseid out of her boys, she continues to praise Overlord, “He needs no discipline, like my pouting, jealous soldier boys! Overlord is also creative! He makes things for Granny Goodness!”

Granny then tells us about Overlord’s creation of the X-Pit trap and her hatred of Scott Free, ordering her soldiers to kidnap the Happiness Home escapee. Her boys snatch Oberon and the Mister Miracle-adorned Follower, and arriving to rescue his assistant, Scott and Oberon plunge into the X-Pit, where Granny believes the two are destroyed. Granny orders a small box delivered from the vault and it appears to be connected to Overlord, who can grant her wishes. “Granny has earned her rewards too! She’s worked hard! Done all the right things! That’s why great Darkseid gave her this wonderful gift! It reacts to Granny’s every wish!” Suddenly a gemstone suddenly appears from the ether. “I ask it to create a valuable jewel — and behold!” Suddenly the box explodes and before her appear Mister Miracle and his erstwhile companion. Scott reminds her of a gift she once received, “a gift for your old age — A gift named Overlord! — The gift that creates and destroys!

In alternating moods of despair and rage, Granny is beside herself. “You vicious, young savage!” she screams at Scott. “Look! See what you’ve done! Oh — my heart — I’ll kill you with my bare hands! How did you do this? How?” As is his habit, Scott then explains, “Once I knew that Overlord created the X-Pit, I knew the make-up of its structure! Every atom of the X-Pit was linked to Overlord himself!” and, after torturing the pair with one trap, the device would transform “its atoms into another form of torment!” In the flashback episode we see an exhausted Oberon imploring, “W-what next, Scott? What next?” Revealing his shoulder-holstered Mother Box, Scott exclaims, “Mother Box signals — radiation! And that makes her strong! Strong!” Then, jamming his shoulder into the X-Pit control studs, our hero orders, “Strike at the enemy, Mother Box!” Continuing his explanation before Granny, Scott relates, “I jammed Mother Box into the torment-circuits — felt he power race with vengeance toward their insidious source!” The visual becomes a screaming, agonized Overlord. “Somewhere, I could feel the power strike Overlord! Somewhere, I could hear his silent scream — somewhere, I felt him — die!

Distraught, Granny tells Scott, “You killed Overlord! You had him killed by a damnable Mother Box!” As Scott opens a smoking box on Granny’s table, she continues, “Granny is hurt! Granny is ruined! Overlord is gone –” Mister Miracle scoffs, “He was an evil fraud! — like you, Granny Goodness!” And, in a startling moment, we see the contents of the smoldering box: a teeny, tiny ashen shell of Overlord. “Little worms can look like sea serpents when cast on a vidi-screen!” Scott says, “This is Overlord! — shorn of power and life!”

It’s interesting to view the life and death of Overlord as a deadly competition with Mother Box — “her power race with vengeance” — revenge for being almost fried at the beginning of this story. Curious, too, how Overlord resembles an infant robot — giant head and all… this is Granny’s baby? Or is Overlord to grow…? A particularly creepy and effective villain, I say!

Day 88: The Four-Armed Terror!

Mokkari and Simyan, the odd couple of Apokolips, have been sent to Earth to replicate the success of The Project (by rifling DNA samples from the government facility) and, as the yellow-faced taller one relates, “It is what we came here to do! To replace the Earthmen’s Project with ours!” And, apparently, the best way to accomplish that Darkseid directive is to destroy the “vast American underground preserve!” But the “Giant Green Jimmy” failed to muss The Project’s hair and, after facing a dressing down by the Master of the Holocaust himself, the duo muse over what to do.

“The Earthmen experiment for progress,” Mokkari says. “But we work for Darkseid, ruler of Apokolips!” Simyan adds, “Our offspring shall bring Apokolips to Earth! Chaos in place of order! And from that chaos will arise the new masters of Earth — with the great Darkseid as their exalted leader!” Okay, well put, shorter hairier one, but what’s the plan?

Hand holding jaw in contemplation, Mokkari determines, “We shall do it with the proper creations of life we have bred here!” Simyan is puzzled, “But what have we produced that could do so thorough a job?” Looking over their human slaves carrying gargantuan machinery, Mokkari says, “True! Except for the giant Jimmy Olsen, we have grown nothing but mere beasts of burden!” Simyan has a flash: “Wait! You forget!” Entering an enclosure titled “Lower Level Control Bubble,” Simyan tells his partner, “There are cell tissues which we developed in an atmosphere of Beta Gas!” Mokkari retorts, “But they are ‘unknowns!’ Even as they grew — they hid from us! Human cells — which have grown their own Impenetrable cover!” Simyan says, as he takes charge of a control panel, “And beneath their cover — could be our answer!” The Control Bubble has windows looking over a field of what appear to be a chamber filled with super-sized eggs, a noxious mist wafting above them. “What kind of humans will emerge from these egg-sacs, Mokkari,” asks Simyan. His partner replies, “We must be prepared for any contingency, Simyan! Keep vlose watch!”

Later, the vapor stimulation “doing its work,” one of the egg-sacs hatch, with four-arms thrusting out! In the beginning of Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #137, we see The Four-Armed Terror is in full, pale-yellow, red-eyed glory, and man! What a horrifying sight we see rampaging through the Wild Area! “This is a being with no name! It is in the shape of a man — but it is not man! Yet, it lives and breathes and hungers! It wants food! — The kind of food the forest doesn’t grow! But the food is there! It’s there!” Poor Yango and Gandy, motorcyclist Outsiders, see their hogs smashed by the monsters and barely escape with their skins. The creature makes it to The Project and shocks reverberate about the complex. “He has found the buried steel cables that are the stalks which lead to his food! Nuclear radiation! He doesn’t know it by word, but he feels it as an emptiness inside himself — that must be filled!”

(Here, the Four-Armed Terror makes his trademark sound — “ARRUK-ARRUK-AAAK!” — kinda cute, innit it?)

“Then he finds it! — In a booster unit, which carries power to The ‘Project’ from a central atomic pile!” Suddenly shock waves are sent out and blasts occur throughout the region — collapsing Habitat, cracking the Zoomway, and threatening the entire Project. Superman flies into action and, getting a good look at the yellow monster, the Man of Steel ponders, “Our rivals at the Evil Factory have produced another ‘first!’ That thing is absorbing and feeding on radioactive energy!” And that thing proceeds to pound the Krypton out of our hero! “And above Superman is a face produced by the most extreme experimentation with the human cell! At The ‘Project,’ its counterpart would be known as a D.N.Alien!” (ARRUK!)

(Am I wrong to understand that distinctions of what is and what isn’t a D.N.Alien of those produced by either The Project or the Evil Factory got a little fuzzy and more generalized as the saga continued?)

Finally able to throw off the beastie, Superman gives us a bit more information. “The Evil Factory has bred a terrifying product!! Among the living human cells they stole from The ‘Project’ was a special batch which had been treated in a manner to simulate Atomic War conditions! He could be bred for surviving Atomic War!” Jimmy and the Legionnaires try to help but suddenly all of ’em, Supes included, are encased in a “crackling web of energy” emanating from the freak’s four hands which create an impenetrable shell encasing our comrades! The creature moves on, “Hunger has replaced fury! There is abundant food nearby!” Then, courtesy of Mokkari and Simyan’s delightful exposition, we learn the threat is not only confined to The Project and environs, but to the home city of Superman himself!

“Yes,” says one of the two, “directly in his path is the giant atomic pile that supplies power to the entire underground world of The ‘Project!'” The other adding, “He must feed on radiation! He’ll rip that pile apart and trigger a chain reaction!” Mokkari glories in the holocaust to come. “Then a great white flash! A fire storm of indescribable heat! Shock upon shock as a mushroom cloud rises where once The Project stood! A job well done, eh, Simyan?” Answers his longtime companion, “It will be beautiful, Mokkari! And with it will go all the rest! Yea — and even the city of Metropolis — which lies above, within range!”

Our story here comes full circle. Simyan boasts, as they return to the Control Bubble, “We’ll have carried out, to the letter, the order of our great leader, Darkseid! Surely this is a triumph for the forces of our world — Apokolips! The pattern is set! We have bred the perfect instrument to challenge humanity!” Again looking out at the multitude of egg-sacs, Mokkari gloats, “Sprung from their own seed — and nurtured by radioactive vapors!” Simyan notices movement. “The others are stirring! They’re breaking free of their protective shells, Mokkari!”

And, indeed, it appears dozens and dozens of Four-Armed Terrors are coming new into our world. “It is their time, Simyan!” rants Mokkari. “Their birth heralds the age of holocaust! Hail, Homo Usurpus! Earth lies before you for the taking!”

To which I can only heartily add, “AARUK!

Day 86: Super War!

In contrast to the “Great Clash” of an era past, the ongoing conflict between the two worlds of New Genesis and Apokolips is now an inter-dimensional struggle as it involves our very planet. First dubbed a Super War by Earth’s guardian, Superman, when he harbors doubts while traveling through the Boom Tube on his aborted trip to Supertown. Mused the Man of Steel, “Is Earth the battleground for some strange Super-War?” The introductory caption to The Forever People #2 states, “Although their background is shrouded in mystery, they are already embattled on Earth against emerging forces of awesome and terrifying nature! And are we in this, too? We may be friend or foe of the Forever People! — Bystanders or participants in an ominous and perhaps final Super War!

Certainly this setting of a war as backdrop for Jack Kirby’s Fourth World opus is what sets it apart from other interconnected super-hero titles. Marvel’s common connection is the tales are primarily based in New York City — or on Earth — and the characters have some interaction with one another, sometimes joining up as teams, usually to thwart an enemy, who would change from issue to issue. But generally no matter the threat to our planet, conflicts are resolved and everything goes back to normal, all nicely wrapped-up, by the story’s end.

Jack’s vision was decidedly different and innovative. The Fourth World has as backdrop a huge, multifaceted fight of intergalactic proportions, with dozens of characters — those of the “good” worlds of New Genesis and Earth — in battle with a single enemy, Darkseid, and his minions of the “bad” world of Apokolips. And though we’re all aware the overall series was aborted very early in its intended run, readers all knew everything was careening to an ultimate climax — an ending — something quite unheard of in comic book “universes.”

And the enemy and his goal was also startlingly inventive and resonate. Unlike the usual funnybook bad guys who simply want money or power or revenge, Darkseid, the all-powerful and unquestioned ruler of Apokolips, seeks the Anti-Life Equation which would give him the ability to snuff out all life in the entire universe with a single word! This takes villainy to an entirely new level! Why he wants this ultimate lethal force, we’re never made privy, but it’s likely something simple that motivates this malevolent creature… the sin of pride. (And to think Darkseid’s search is no secret to his servitors! They hardily and enthusiastically strive to do his bidding, which is to exterminate all life everywhere! These are some very not-nice people!)

We see in the superb “flashback” story, “The Pact,” how the “Great Conflict” — that previous war between the two planets — completely engulfed New Genesis and Apokolips to horrific degrees, rendering both worlds to ruins in a general, all-out war. But the Super War, using Earth as the battleground, is so far a less conventional process, as Darkseid and his agents have established underground network of tunnels, covertly working in shadows, under our radar so to speak.

Thus, to convince his Earth allies — Victor Lanza, Claudia Shane, Harvey Lockman and Dave Lincoln — of the threat posed by sinister Apokolips, Orion employs the assist of his special device, upon which they all lay a hand. “Mother Box will help you see through my eyes — to see the images my words evoke!” Suddenly horrendous visions are transmitted. First a hunched-over, cloaked figure stands in a city park as a Boom Tube appears. “Now,” Orion says, “see for yourselves the invasion of Earth by the fierce creatures of Apokolips! That circle of flaming energy signals the coming of — The Boom Tube — the dimensional bridge from which Darkseid’s subjects pour!” We hear the hooded welcomer bark to strange creatures emerging from the portal, “Hurry! You have your appointed tasks!” And then the foursome listens to Orion as they view some very scary characters, “Now they roam Earth to fulfill Darkseid’s objective! Some are servitors — others are beings of frightful power!” The scene shifts to underwater monsters, humanoid but scaled and ferocious. “They thrive in every element — witness the new arrivals to Earth’s waters — those known on Apokolips as — The Deep Six!

The visual, in a nod to ongoing events in The Forever People, changes to Mantis, the “awesome digger,” who rants, “I shall take my share of booty here! Let mankind serve the victor!” And, the virtual reality tour winding down, there’s a glimpse of the goings-on over in the Jimmy Olsen book, with a full-page scene of Outsiders dancing in a procession through Habitat: “These monsters prowl and seek in Darkseid’s cause, not only in the known domains — but also in stranger places — like the Wild Area — where a bizarre dropout society may hold the secret which Darkseid yearns to possess!”

(One captivating aspect that endeared many a reader to the Marvel Comics Group was the use of captions to reference past issues and current titles (and it was smart marketing, to boot!), and it’s something I fear Jack didn’t use enough of in his interlocking titles, though he obviously did in this case. Mark Evanier and Steve Sherman, in the “To and From the Source” essay in this same issue of The New Gods strongly urged readers to keep an eye on all of the titles — “Other new characters have yet to be introduced — which is why we stress the importance of following the entire continuity of the series. Important elements appear in all of the books and with The New Gods, The Forever People and Mr. [sic] Miracle scheduled to be released three weeks apart; it’s almost like having one long novel, with one-and-a-half chapters per month on the average.” — and the addition of “The Fourth World of…” onto the fourth issue covers of his titles (and Jimmy O #139) helped clue readers in that a larger tapestry was being woven here…)

Day 83: Brola and His Hand of Stone!

The second issue of The New Gods opens with a spectacular description and image of the opposing worlds of Apokolips and Highfather’s home, then a double-truck view of Supertown taken from the surface of New Genesis, where futuristic children are at play on fantastic devices. Next Highfather is taking heed of The Source’s latest message — “WAR — FOLLOW ORION” and young Lightray pleads with the wise leader to join Orion on Earth in the great fight, but Highfather refuses the new god’s request. Then we travel to the third locale in the epic at hand, humble Earth.

On Earth, the home of mortal man, Orion the Hunter moves among strange allies and fearful enemies! Man is only dimly aware of the forces maneuvering, lunging for alignment on his world — for somewhere in man himself is the key to victory for the warring factions of… The New Gods!

Orion is the first to enter his ally Dave Lincoln’s apartment, the four recently freed Apokolips hostages behind him. Calmly, patiently sitting on a simple padded chair is the most malevolent power in the universe, O’ Deadly Darkseid! “Hold, friends!” orders the New Genesis warrior, “Do not enter this room! It is accursed!” Darkseid conveys his greetings, bidding his nemesis, “Welcome to Earth, Orion! It is known to me that you raided Apokolips before arriving here!”

What Orion does not see is the figure, back rigid against the wall, standing behind the door. Our hero, hands up and ready to throttle the King of the Damned, delays his attack on Darkseid. “You hesitate, Orion! You can sense why — but you don’t know — do you? But Darkseid is free of mysteries! He can act!

Or, more correctly, can get his surrogates to act, as the form behind the door lunges and zaps Orion with a wand-like weapon, telling the ruler of Apokolips, “Your fighting arm strikes, master!” Darkseid gloats, “Loyal Brola has been at the ready! His is the power of the Shock-Prod — and the Hand of Stone!” The next caption states, “The Shock-Prod hisses and stuns and lashes at Orion, who finds no escape from it!” But Orion is without his Astro-Force equipment — where did he leave it… in the street? — and must endure the violent charges without the aid of a weapon. “I’ll have to risk the shocks and turn on my adversary!”

Brola is stunned by Orion’s stupendous stamina. “Incredible! He lives through this! He advances — even as I unleash maximum power!” Orion grabs the attacker’s arm wielding the Shock-Prod. “Aaaaaaa! He’s done the impossible!” Brola cries. “In the cause of New Genesis,” Orion growls, “I can do no less, Brola!” But his enemy grabs an opportunity by slamming Highfather’s stepson with his free appendage. WHOK! “You seized the wrong arm, Orion! You forget my Hand of Stone!

Then we get a closeup of the villain’s mitt, looking like a hand melded to a brick, as Orion strains to keep it from bashing his face. “You’re done, Orion!” predicts Brola. “This lethal blow shall never fall! I-I must summon my last spark of strength!” says Orion, and throwing off his adversary, “–and end your vicious career!” Smashing through Dave Lincoln’s apartment wall, Darkseid’s agent is incredulous. “No living thing could have survived my attack! I have been fighting a mad, cosmic animal!” About to plummet to the street far below, Brola implores, “Darkseid! Master! I call on you to save one of your own!

Then — POOF! — the wielder of the Hand of Stone vanishes in the night sky and, as Harvey Lockman observes, “Old Granite Puss is gone too!”

Darkseid and his chagrined fighter have escaped via Tele-Ray and appear in “one of the secret bases established in the city.” An underling cries in joy at their arrival. “The master has met Orion and brings news of a victory!” The Master of the Holocaust is disgusted with his “fighting arm.” “Look at whipped Brola and think again! No, there was no victory!” Bowed, nearly on his knees, Brola implores, “There is a madness in Orion, master! He fights with the fury of one born of Apokolips!” Now Darkseid is furious, kicking Brola with contempt. “Enough, dog! Find your kennel and nurse your well-deserved wounds!” Brola simpers, crashing to the floor, “I go, master, I go!

And, verily, Orion’s hope to end Brola’s “vicious career” comes true, as this is the last we get of this relatively nondescript bad guy in the Fourth World opus. I mean, we only get to see the villain in an even dozen panels in the story and hardly once to we catch a decent view of the poor bastard. Well, maybe that’s enough and we’ll leave Darkseid’s onetime “fighting arm” in his dog house, licking his aging scars and whimpering into the water bowl.

Day 82: Desaad!

Ahhh, Desaad!

Evil, conniving, sadistic, sinister, elegant, craven, weak and delusional Desaad, master of the Fear Machine and right-hand man to the Ruler of Apokolips!

The spindly creep, who revels in the torment of others and schemes to retain his position as his sire’s top lieutenant, is — during Desaad’s existence in the regime — the second most powerful player in Darkseid’s royal court, one who takes particular delight in torturing the greatest object of his fancy: The Forever People.

Our initial meeting with this mincing rat is in a brief glimpse during The Infinity Man’s battle with Mantis. Darkseid is using the insect god’s rampage to stir up anxiety among the citizens of Metropolis in the hopes of detecting the unwitting human who possesses the Anti-Life Equation in his or her mind. A portion of the city in flames, the Master of the Holocaust looks to the destruction with a growing satisfaction. In his company is a hooded miscreant with wild, sunken eyes and scraggly hair on his forehead. You’d swear this bounder has fangs, his mouth agape in delight! Within his hands is a nefarious-looking device, apparently placed on his jugular veins like some high-tech stethoscope. Both appear to be in a city park and standing behind the maniacal-looking fellow is the great villain of our saga, who asks:

Darkseid: What is the city’s fear quotient, now, Desaad!

Desaad: Spirally to a lovely high pitch, O Darkseid! I can feel them — like crashing surf — Wonderful waves of raw fear!

Then, after the defeat of Mantis, ever-pragmatic Darkseid mulls over his future designs. “Mantis fights hard — and fails hard — he cannot learn to plan! But Darkseid waits like a silent stone… waits and plans to flush his prize from its cover, Desaad — And, if you would wrest the secret from him — give him — to me!” Desaad passionately beholds his beloved sire with such an intensely insane look, we readers just know we’re going to see a lot more of this particular — and peculiar — bad guy.

And we do, as mostly in the pages of The Forever People, Desaad is the villain seen the most frequently in the Fourth World epic besides the Big Guy himself. But the next time we behold this human vermin, it is in the story of Orion, with Darkseid still on Earth seeking the Anti-Life Equation. After Brola and his Hand of Stone have failed to vanquish the fierce new god during the tussle in Orion ally Dave Lincoln’s apartment, Darkseid and henchman travel by Tele-Ray to “one of the secret bases established beneath the city.” Upon disciplining his “whipped Brola,” the leader turns his attention to a huge device of vile appearance being attended by a hooded man. “The battle is far from over — there is still the Fear Machine! How does it stand, Desaad?” asks Darkseid. “It waits only for your judgment, master!” answers Desaad. “I hasten to begin its initial test!” (Then, with apparent impudence, a minion says out loud, within earshot of the two, “Indeed he does! Cruel Desaad hungers like some parasite!” Some of these underlings have moxie!)

Darkseid approves. “Proceed then, Desaad! The Sonic-Stimuli cannot affect one such as myself!” Yet Desaad protests, “But I must have subjects, master! Allow me to summon those wretches in my keeping!” Then Darkseid specifically points to the opinionated servant, standing with cohorts, and says, “Time is short! There are your subjects!” The wretch begs, “No, master! We are in your service! Do not feed us to Desaad’s vile instruments!” (Except for his personal guards, Desaad does not to seem to inspire much loyalty among the folks of Apokolips, and for good reason!). The caption states, as Desaad is saturating the poor fellows, who suffer agonizing distress, “The pleas go unheeded, as invisible beams lash out and wring terror from their screaming targets!!” The victims implore, “Aaaaaa — Save us! Save us!” In stark contrast to the quivering crew, we see an ecstatic Desaad when he removes his mask.

Desaad: See, Darkseid! See how the emotion of fear is stimulated by the waves!

Darkseid: Very effective, Desaad! You’re a genius at your work! Emotional turmoil breaks the dikes of the mind — and releases the flood in which we must fish, Desaad! Perhaps in this very city is the mind which will yield the Anti-Life Equation! The ability to control all free will!

Desaad: Yes! Yes! This time we must strike among larger numbers — ever larger! I have a field model placed in a strategic point of the city! It waits for your approval, great Darkseid!

Darkseid: Strike then, Desaad! Strike fear among those massed minds!

Here we witness the unmitigated joy Darkseid’s old friend derives from inflicting pain and torment on others and how apt his name given, obviously a derivation of the Marquis de Sade, the French aristocrat who gave the world a new word for pleasure derived from the torturing of others: sadism. We do see shades of Goebbels in his appearance and certainly an aspect of Himmler in his methods, but the character does possess a strange and perverse charm, so eager and craven, so delighting and almost tender when attending his victims. In other words, a villain you just love to hate!

By the end of “O’ Deadly Darkseid” (on the cover of which Desaad rates an appearance behind his boss!), when Desaad’s device has failed to extract any hint of Darkseid’s quarry, he tells the ruler of Apokolips, “Orion thwarts us again! He might have tracked us here were it not for my protective shields!” Darkseid is impatient, telling his constant companion, “Forget Orion! It is your Fear Machine that yields nothing! Not the slightest trace of the thought waves we seek!

It is here we see a fundamental aspect to the conflict between these two characters. Indeed, though Desaad mostly believes in his own hide, his conviction is all for Apokolips. But Darkseid (all too often, in Desaad’s estimations) allows familial concerns to intrude on the goal of final victory. Number two in the nightmare planet’s power elite begs:

Desaad: Orion has made a mockery of this test! When we capture him — give him to me!

Darkseid: You’re a fool, Desaad! Blinded by your own mania! We could never take one such as Orion captive! His kind dies in battle! And in death would look greater than a vermin like you!

Desaad: So! The great Darkseid rise quickly to the defense of an enemy!

Darkseid: Orion is an enemy to be respected!

Desaad: Yes, it is strange how very like us he is — in his fierceness and —

Darkseid: Silence, Desaad! Were Orion my own son — he would mean nothing to the purpose of our mission! And in that mission we must not fail!

In this argument is to be found the roots of Desaad’s fall from grace and ignoble fate, as we do eventually learn what is strongly hinted at here: Orion is the offspring of Darkseid and father and son are fated to fight to the death on the littered avenues of Armagetto on Apokolips… well, one is to die, anyway…

Desaad’s tour de force performance and most prominent role in the Fourth World series is as the great tormentor of The Forever People, and nowhere is he more deliciously vicious as during the “Happyland” story arc, when he gives special, customized treatment to each of the Super-Kids. At the conclusion of the “Life vs. Anti-Life” story, after Darkseid banishes The Infinity Man with beams shooting from his eyes which transforms the hero back into the quintet, the super-villain greets them: “Welcome back! The young of New Genesis will be easier to deal with!”

Mark Moonrider: Darkseid! Do your worst! We’re not afraid!

Darkseid: Of course not! It would pain me deeply to deal harshly with you! That is why I keep such as Desaad at my side!

Firing a device at the new-agers, Desaad cackles, “I don’t mind playing games in the slightest! Here! Try this toy! Fun, isn’t it? Ha! Ha! Ha! They yelped loudly before they collapsed! My Nerve Beams inspire such reactions!” Then Glorious Godfrey’s Justifiers gather up the unconscious team and load the bodies into an Aero-Van, one of them explaining, “We’re taking them where we took the others! To the Camp of the Damned!” The Aero-Van driver offers, “It is not the first of its kind seen on Earth! But Desaad is the master of this one! Even as Justifiers make a mockery of life — Desaad plays with death as if it were a fine art!” Another Justifier ponders aloud, “I wonder what sort of masterpieces he’ll make of these brats!”

(Although allusions certainly abound in copious portion, the Aero-Van driver’s comment (obviously about Nazi concentration camps), in combination with the Adolf Hitler quote at the beginning of this tale, are the only direct references to the Third Reich in the series, I believe. Astonishingly few mentions, methinks, considering the reams of inference we can extrapolate from the series about the Holocaust and Jack’s wartime experiences battling the German menace, never mind the overall eternal threat to mankind — and all life — from fascism! While, I think, Darkseid is no Hitler, ultimately a pathetic, self-hating runt who wielded monstrous power to exact revenge and impose will of the most vicious sort on a scale previously unimagined by mankind, his court is not dissimilar to the German High Command of that nightmare era.)

Watching the team being loaded for transport, the Master of the Holocaust comments, knowing his underling derives great pleasure from the act of torture and might forget the process is a means to an end, “I trust this Camp of yours is serving the purpose that overrides all others, Desaad!” The Ant-Life Equation remains the great quest. “If the mind you seek to contact is among those at my camp,” Desaad assures, “it shall soon give up its secret, great Darkseid!

Upon Glorious Godfrey whining to Darkseid and the ruler — “The Revelation! The tiger-force at the core of all things!” — nods for Desaad to do his bidding. “Each to his own methods, eh, Desaad?” Godfrey complains, “You favor him always, great Darkseid! Think of what my Justifiers do in your cause!” Desaad, ever maneuvering for Darkseid’s constant good favor, interjects with a bow, “I beg to depart from this petty situation, sire,” and turning to Godfrey with a malevolent grin and furrowed brow, tells the minister, “You’re a loud, petulant bumpkin, Godfrey! Like all Revelationists, you’ve got imagination — but not finesse! But I, Good Godfrey, have both! I leave now for my ‘camp,’ which Darkseid knows is terror refined to perfection!

The caption at the end of the tale reads:

Desaad is soon on his way — aboard the same Aero-Van that carries his captives — the young Forever People! But their destination is the most bizarre and terrifying structure ever seen by the eyes of man! It is Desaad’s own little domain on Earth — a pilot project of purgatory — where torment is computed — death is controlled — and escape impossible! Don’t miss — The Kingdom of the Damned!

Call it what you will: The Kingdom of the Damned, the Camp of the Damned, Happyland… This is Desaad’s great playground of evil, hiding in plain sight of or planet’s inhabitants. The opening caption reads, “The Kingdom of the Damned is not a far place! It’s not a hidden place! It’s in full view of us all! But, it has been rigged by a malignant force so that its tormented inmates are seen and heard — and ignored!!” The visual, of the true nature of this place, is of a mass of anguished, desperate prisoners screaming for help and mercy, banging on the curved glass window for release. Then, on the two-page spread that follows, we see the outside: a colorful, joyous looking amusement park emblazoned with the most duplicitous of names. Reads the caption:

And who among us would rush to aid the victims of this cruelty — when the sights we see and sounds we hear are bright and joyous? For are we not in “Happyland” — conceived in a world called Apokolips — and built on Earth by the subtle, the clever — the evil — Desaad?

We also see minions fulfilling their master’s command. Says one, “The Master ‘Scrambler’ is working smoothly! The fools trapped in that image little realize that we are distorting their cries into laughter!” And another, “Like us, these humans are serving the needs of Desaad! But I’m certain that he finds them more entertaining!”

Darkseid arrives and is greeted by one of Desaad’s corps, who says with a bow, “Our master, Desaad, awaits you, great Darkseid! He prepares a most interesting feat in your honor!” But the great leader does not share in Desaad’s predilection for base entertainment. “If this involves mere cruelty, I may not be amused!” Nearby, the revived team contemplate their captor: “Desaad!” exclaims Vykin, “We’re in the hands of Desaad! Darkseid has given us to that demon!” Mark Moonrider knows of the villain, as well, adding, “He worships torment! — Refines it to an art!

The head of Desaad’s impressive security force comments, “I see that my master’s fame has spread to your world, New Genesis! — Or do you whelps call it Supertown, now?” And, when Serifan attempts to stun the guards, the hapless team is again rendered unconscious, this time courtesy of Vertigo Grenades. “They’re easier to handle now!” says a guard, “Desaad likes efficiency!” The security head clicks on an intercom, ordering, “Dispatch Unit! Send us transport! These new play toys are ready to be carted off for our master’s pleasure!” The dispatcher replies, “Fine! Desaad is in a frenzy for sport!” A guard speaks to the incapacitated Super-Kids, “Do you hear that, New Genesis dogs? Desaad will soon attend to you! And you would quail if you knew what keeps him busy right now!”

And next, in a horrendous sequence, we see Desaad in his element, accompanied by his master and a technician in a bizarre mask and even stranger devices on his hands which appear ready to penetrate The Forever People’s sentient computer. “The murder of a Mother Box!” thunders Darkseid. “I didn’t think you were foolish enough to attempt it, Desaad! This should prove amusing indeed!” Vykin’s most beloved possession is pinging in great distress. “Bear with me, great Darksied!” Desaad replies. “My technicians have labored feverishly to fashion the protective hood and killing gloves for my executioner! Now, the Mother Box is completely at my mercy — like its companions — The Forever People!

The technician observes, “The thing reacts, master! — As if it registers fear! It does have a certain claim to — life! Listen to it, master! Even as the Electro-Spikes begin to pierce it — it screams!” But suddenly there’s an explosion and the technician is thrown onto the floor! Darkseid says, “The Mother Box has vanished! They always do that!” Desaad is incredulous, “No! It disintegrated! That’s it! I’ve made it commit suicide! Ha ha ha ha ha!

And then we observe another moment in the complex relationship between the old acquaintances:

Darkseid: You crow too soon and too loudly, Desaad! Does the Mother Box vanish — or disintegrate? You don’t really know! Nor do I! A Mother Box is linked to the infinite! And made to plague us!

Desaad: Forgive me, great Darkseid! In my zeal to please you, I may have chosen the wrong subject! But I do hold The Forever People! Perhaps you might join in watching them thrash about in my net!

Darkseid: No, Desaad! I’m leaving! When one campaigns for control of all living creatures, he doesn’t stop to toy with a few!

The ruler of Apokolips then, for perhaps the only time in the series, walks among the inhabitants of Earth, a precious moment in the saga (which be related when the time comes, good friends!). Before he takes his stroll, his top sycophant gushes, “Like all great leaders, sire, you have the ‘common touch!’ Are they not your future slaves?” (I will reveal a telling thought the intergalactic gangster muses over while on his walk through the amusement park: “Darkseid is patient! He wields the power of Apokolips! Its vast resources have built ‘Happyland’ — to indulge vain Desaad! Perhaps even his cruel practices among the humans — will shake out the mind I seek!”)

Then the evil Desaad turns his attention to his colorful captives, first Mark Moonrider, encased in an “unbreakable, transparent cage.” The tormentor delights, “There! Look at Moonrider’s face! He’s beginning to break! Losing hope — ha ha ha –” and continuing, “He’s not ready yet to provide me with a proper show! He needs time to simmer — to feel his emotions tightening into a hard, squirming ball! It will be the moment before he loses all reason!”

Then it’s on to Big Bear, trapped in a “Shoot the Robot Bear” enclosure, desperately trying to escape. Desaad, unimpressed, raises a wine goblet and comments, “Until he’s reduced to a spirit-less wreck, he’s not worth watching! Forever People are rather difficult to deal with! But I shall wear them down!! Now for the girl!

Here, we come to Desaad’s supreme moment in the series, a juxtaposition of tender loveliness and the most vile corruption. In a full-page panel, with Desaad delineated with exquisite detail, his lizard-like visage expertly drawn, the villain, one hand pressed preciously to his chest, the other wielding a riding crop that he delicately, sensually traces over Beautiful Dreamer’s paralyzed and curvaceous form, has saved his finest eloquence for this very moment. “Ahhhh — My vision of beauty! — And a beauty of visions, too, I might add! A mind so sensitive that it can make illusion seem like reality! What my scrambling machine must huff and puff to produce — Beautiful Dreamer can do by mere thought!”

Then, making sure she will will remain comatose throughout the coming tribulation, Desaad explains, “And now, my dear! As your automated couch moves into the next room, we shall play with illusions, eh? The couch stops! The wall rises! And what have we? Why, it’s a glass window! But what lurks beyond it, eh? Monsters! Yes, Monsters! Grotesque! Terrifying! Real! See them! Hear them! How eager they are for that window to open!

Desaad exudes an incredibly creepy sexual interest in Beautiful Dreamer’s dilemma, seeming to look forward to watch the defenseless damsel’s ravishing by innumerable strangers: “Yes, now the window will open — and the monsters will swarm in — to whisper sweet nothings in her ear!” But the super-pervert’s pleasure is interrupted by one of his security corps. “No, master! The youngest of the captives will not cooperate! He’s the one called Serifan! We put him in the chair prepared for him! — But he struggles against us — and we have your orders not to discipline him!”

Indicating he might receive equal satisfaction by torturing boys as well as girls, instead of expressing disappointment at the abeyance, Desaad embraces his next assignment: “What? Touch that angelic boy? We mustn’t do that! Come! He will obey Desaad!” and he’s off to attend to the copy-cat cowboy’s excruciating situation. Serifan, ordered to push a foot pedal as he sits before a view screen, doesn’t understand why he is to perform for his captors.

Desaad: It will be like watching a Western movie, boy! You love Earth Western movies, don’t you? Well, in this one, you shall play the noble hero!

Serifan: W-what do you mean–?

Desaad: There! On the screen! Your good friend, Vykin, the Black sits trapped in the path of that onrushing roller coaster! It’s really happening! Quick! Now kick the foot pedal — or he dies!

Serifan: Vykin!

Desaad: Good work, boy! That kick sent his trap-chair plunging down! Out of death’s path! You saved his life!

Serifan: But, look! His chair is rising once more! It’s happening again!

Desaad: And again — and again — and again! But never fear! You’ll be here, in this chair, boy — kicking the pedal to save his life! Just don’t get tired! It could be fatal to your friend!

This is Desaad in his element, crushing the spirits of innocent, loving youth, afflicting on them horrific nightmares and hoping to inflict the vilest of damage on their precious souls. This is the time of Desaad’s greatest triumph!

Then we are, in the following issue, exposed to another of Desaad’s beloved machines, introduced by one of his faithful as we see the terrified images of each of The Forever People’s faces, “Our honored guests, great Desaad! Each registered on the Psycho-Fuge!” Confirms Desaad: “And each registering his individual reaction to the little arrangements I’ve made for them here at Happyland! The Kingdom of the Damned is a subtle concept! Happyland, the amusement park, on the outside — and behind the facade –” His voice trails off.

Minion: Your reluctant guests, sire!! Your private amusements! As you ordered — I revolve the Psycho-Fuge!

Desaad: Fine! My sensitive “Fear Siphon” is honed and ready to “receive!” Yes! They’re filtering through! The heightened emotions forced out by jolting stress! To ride those waves is an exhilarating experience! Now, as the images of my prisoners merge, so do the waves of raw emotion!! The intensity mounts!

Suddenly, in the whirling pin-wheel of frenzied fear-waves, the images of Desaad’s other captives blend in to form a horrible, grotesque mass of unrecognizable stress visuals!!

A mind-bending scene is before Desaad, an acid trip gone terribly, terribly wrong, and the great sadist is beside himself with delight: “What can equal this for joy? I find it strange that Darkseid would shun this!” But Desaad’s bliss is shortlived, as Mother Box compels Sonny Sumo to save the fantastic five and, puzzling over the stethoscopic device in his playroom of horror, Desaad is alarmed: “Something’s wrong!! My ‘Fear-Siphon!’ — It isn’t functioning!”

Minion: Impossible, sire! To neglect its care would mean to risk your anger!

Other Minion: Master! Master! The “Psycho-Fuge” has come to a halt! Its screens have gone blank!

Desaad: What kind of madness is this? Check it! Re-check it! You fumbling dolts! What’s that sound? I hear a humming sound!

The next caption reads, “In the realm of Desaad’s kind, where forces of infinite variation are harnessed for many purposes — the meaning of this one is evident!”

Suddenly, with a bone-shattering “FWOMM!” the Psycho-Fuge is rendered to metal shards, with Desaad taking the full brunt of the explosion. (Interestingly, though in previous appearances we see him with a full head of hair, albeit with receding hairline, after this conflagration, his hood blown off, the villain is almost completely bald except for his scraggly forward-comb-over, revealing an even uglier face than before!) The servant of Darkseid looks pathetic, lying on the floor, squealing for assistance, “Guards! Guards! There’s an enemy among us! An enemy with a damnable Mother Box!” As his elite corps rush to obey and help him to his feet, Desaad is furious, muttering, “If I destroy the young Forever People — Mother Box will destruct!

Mark Moonrider and the kids, with the aid of Sonny Sumo and Mother Box, rescue Beautiful Dreamer. Her boyfriend tells her, “Only a psychotic like Desaad would subject you to the stress of facing endless fright and horror!” And the professional wrestler, who combined with Mother Box possesses the much-coveted Anti-Life Equation, defeats Desaad’s massive corps of faithful servants with a mere word. Desaad’s murderous playground of evil is finished. And, suddenly, he is very afraid.

In “The Omega Effect,” after the group have destroyed Happyland, and Beautiful Dreamer worries aloud, “Desaad is almost as dangerous as Darkseid!!” and Sonny and Mother Box has immobilized Desaad’s horde, Darkseid cooly contemplates, “Fascinating!! Those young hotbloods of New Genesis have found a way to outwit us, Desaad!” Then Desaad sputters a reply, “Sumo without mind stimulation from the Mother Box can’t use the Anti-Life Equation!! But if they confront us at this moment — even we can become its victims!!! Stop them, sire!!!”

Darkseid: I shall, Desaad!! I shall! But don’t think I shall overlook your cowardice!! Then, all tormentors are notorious for that trait!!

Desaad: How can you say that, noble Darkseid!! My powers are vast, but — but they’re in the realm of technology! Sumo wields the ultimate weapon!!!

Darkseid: Boldness, Desaad!! Risk!! The raw meat of existence!!! I shall strike with these!! — and the Omega Effect!!!

The Master of the Holocaust proceeds to zap the team, Sumo included, but leaves the youngest member untouched, much to his henchman’s dismay. “And now the youngest, Darkseid! Now him!” The ruler is unmoved. “No need!! The threat to us — has passed!!” Desaad is aghast, screaming in his leader’s face, “What!!?? You would leave such a dramatic experience incomplete? No, sire, no!”

Darkseid: I regret to say this, Desaad!! But I don’t have the stomach for your kind of pursuits!!

Desaad: But Serifan should share the fate of the others!! And they no longer exist!!! — Ugh!!

With that audacity, Desaad is literally slapped down to the floor by Darkseid, calmly telling the victim of his open hand, “I do no more than what has to be done!!” And, standing amongst the ruins of an inflamed Happyland, Darkseid seeks to comfort his longtime ally. “Don’t fret, Desaad! We’ll attain our goals without complete victories — or defeats!! See what a fine spectacle misfortune provides for us!! Have we truly lost, Desaad — when the power and resources of Apokolips are barely scratched!!”

Desaad: When great Darkseid finally attains the true Anti-Life Equation — and commands all life with a word — he will not forget the trials of poor Desaad!!!

Darkseid: On that day, old friend — a million slaves shall build a thousand more Happylands for you to play in!!

With that promise of glorious distractions to come, Desaad ends his run as the central villain in the Forever People saga, though he does appear again in “The Power” and in the team’s final story. And in the former tale, Desaad still tempts his master, telling Darkseid after they masqueraded as “The Sect” and, yet again, the heroes’ escape, “But somehow I feel you’ve spared The Forever People again!” Darkseid shrugs, “Greatness does not come from killing the young! I’m willing to wait until they grow!!”

Rest assured, though, Desaad is witness to Darkseid’s final victory over The Forever People, as he observes the team’s permanent exile to the planet Adon. No doubt Desaad would have preferred a more slow and agonizing ending for the new-agers but they are now out of his sparse hair for good. When next we find mention of Desaad, it is in Mister Miracle, where we are introduced to a Female Fury with a striking resemblance to Darkseid’s right-hand man: Desaad’s sister Bernadeth, wielder of the lethal Fahren-Knife, which cooks her prey on the inside! Hot stuff!

In the seminal “origin” story, “The Pact,” Desaad may not rate an appearance, but mention is made as a weapons-maker and personality. After Darkseid appears to inflict a killing touch on Izaya the Inheritor courtesy of the Desaad-designed Killing Glove, uncle Steppenwolf tells the ambitious godling: “It appears strange to me that this friend of yours, who thrives on living victims — would produce a device which kills with such speed!! I don’t trust you, nephew! — or your bizarre companions!”

Call it a showdown, if you’d like, as “Darkseid and Sons,” the final issue of the regular New Gods series culminates not only in the death of one of Darkseid’s offspring but also in an old friend’s demise. It is, in this story, when we learn of the connection between Kalibak, Orion and Darkseid. Fretting over his boys’ rivalry, the Master of the Holocaust bemoans, “But destiny has always kept one from killing the other! However — in the event of destiny’s failure, Darkseid shall intervene!” Again — yet again — Desaad is spontaneously impudent, oblivious to the depths of his boss’s consternation: “But why, sire? If Kalibak proves the stronger, we are rid of that wolf Orion! Yet this logic doesn’t seem to please you! Somehow, the thought of Orion’s death stirs your fear and anger!”

Darkseid: Silence, Desaad! You go too far! Darkseid explains his motives to no one!

Then Darkseid explains the backstory of the half-brothers and, turning controlled wrath on Desaad. he gives the chief torturer a taste of his power, zapping Desaad with eye-beams: “And that little potent Omega Blast is to remind you that I know who poisoned [Darkseid’s beloved first wife] Suli! — At the Queen’s command!!” Whines Desaad as his leader stands on his chest, “I couldn’t disobey, sire! The Queen Mother disapproved of Suli! It was her decision!”

Then we learn son Darkseid had his own mother, Queen Heggra, poisoned in retaliation (and to ascend the throne of Apokolips) by Desaad, who protests, “I — I don’t like to remember it, sire — ! — How I carried your plans — for her–!”

In the titanic battle between half-brothers that transpires, Darkseid is suspicious of the origin of Kalibak’s newly-acquired powers, which appear to get the best of the fierce Orion. Rising from his chair, Darkseid says aloud to himself, “While I’ve watched this battle between combatants of equal strength, another has manipulated it for his own fiendish purposes.” Pulling apart a curtained entryway, Darkseid finds his old friend in ecstatic repose, the Fear-Siphon adhered to his throat. The King of Evil sneers, “I see you’ve enjoyed the battle, Desaad! — At the expense of the warriors!

Desaad: I — I couldn’t help it, sire! The opportunity of absorbing the emotions of Orion and Kalibak through this siphon — was too tempting!

Darkseid: I’ve tolerated you and your twisted mind too long! This time you’ve turned it against my own kin!

Desaad: I strengthened Kalibak, sire! You will glory in his victory for Apokolips! As for Orion –”

Darkseid: Orion may be dying! — Crushed by your meddling, scheming brain! — And his final agonies are coursing through you — feeding your cursed needs — ! Then feed on the greatest fear of all! — The Omega Effect! The Total Wipeout! Feed on this! — Your own last experience!!

Desaad: No, sire! No –!

The next caption reads: “Where the Omega Beams strike, there’s no life — no death — no sign of previous existence! Desaad doesn’t even have time to scream!!”

Darkseid: And this is what you are now! A small, fading patch of light — soon to vanish from sight! Farewell, Desaad!

Thus the angels of New Genesis rejoice! For Desaad is dead, fittingly at the hands of his beloved master. But Darkseid remains fond of his late companion — why? Who the heck knows! — and many years later, in the events of “Even The Gods Must Die,” the ruler of Apokolips laments for a simpler time when flesh ruled machines and not, in the new age of the Micro-Mark, the way it has become, as personality is losing dominance over technology. Illustrating a forlorn-looking Master of the Holocaust, a caption reads: “The eyes of Darkseid betray his strange discontent. He turns to hide his scarred ego! The ultimate flesh challenged by the ultimate metal… and yet, his approval has brought this situation into being.”

Colonel: “Change” is a combustible state, sire! It affects all on Apokolips! It stirs the lower ranks to violence. In your eyes, sire, if I may be forgiven, I see a touch of pain… or is it… loneliness?

Darkseid: I could use a friend. Desaad, perhaps. He was a strange one, but he had the gift of finding humor… where none should thrive!

Colonel: That could be a noble experiment for our machines, sire!

The colonel hands his ruler a high-tech helmet device.

Darkseid: What is that thing?

Colonel: It’s a “Brain Scanner,” great Darkseid. In your brain cells is an accurate image of Desaad! Wear this, sire, and we can track down his atoms… And, though you disintegrated Desaad in a fit of anger, I believe our machines can…

Darkseid: Silence, fool! How easily you forget the power of Darkseid! What I snuffed out… I can rekindle!

The King of Evil transmits his eye-beams to the floor.

Darkseid: See the flames of atomic life gather and expand… and busily boil to achieve “biologic symmetry”! It’s a bit of an ugly process, I admit, Colonel. Well?

Bubbling, oozing like a puddle of putrid muck, a shapeless blob starts to take form until it becomes a resurrected Desaad.

Colonel: I-if that’s your opinion, sire… I would definitely agree! If you would permit an observation, sire…

Darkseid: Yes, yes! Go on!

Colonel: Had you fed our machines the correct data…

Darkseid: I know! He would have “popped out” like fresh candy! It’s humiliating to contemplate it! Rise, Desaad!

Yes, Desaad lives again.

Desaad: I-I-I am y-your servant, great Darkseid!

Darkseid: Welcome back, old friend.

Desaad: Your powers are omnipotent indeed, sire!

Sycophantic as ever, but this is not the same Desaad, for his true essence has apparently gone to The Source and he remains a virtually empty shell of the conniving, devious, perverse master of torture he once was.

Day 79: Mantis!

The cover blurb atop The Forever People #2 hollers, “Stop, Mantis! is the cry of a great city — at the mercy of an evil power vampire!” Combined with the Apokolips villain’s quintessential Kirby pose — hands thrust toward the reader, crouched and ready to spring, Mantis is one impressive character, a worthy bad guy joining Darkseid’s growing roster of super-powered lieutenants!

But, still, when we first meet the brilliantly-colored (a sweet complementary mix of yellow-&-green) costumed enemy of The Forever People, he’s shown in vivid close-up, giving out “a scream of awesome terror!!” Darkseid minions are yanking him out of his coffin-like Power-Pod, treating him impudently and with disdain. “Out of your Power-Pod, Mantis!” says one. “Did you think to hide from Darkseid?” barks another. “Don’t rouse me!” yelps Mantis in protest. “It is not time! My body will lose its precious gain of voltage!” Throwing him at the feet of the ruler of Apokolips, a henchmen orders, “Don’t whine! You are in our master’s presence!”

Cravenly cringing before Darkseid, the weak baddie begs Darkseid to concede that Mantis is loyal. “Am I not one with you — and all who live on Apokolips?” The Master of the Holocaust grants, “You are a creature of great power, Mantis! But your biology ever betrays you!” Seems Mantis has prematurely taken the Boom Tube to Earth in the hopes of securing the planet for his own. Like a petulant child, Mantis yaps, “Earth is mine! Mine! I came here first! You have no right –” Before ordering Mantis back to his pod and to “Unleash the terrors of the night! Make man gringe! Make him tremble — Make him fear!” Darkseid tells his underling he can have our planet, for the King of Evil is only interested in extracting the greatest prize of all, the Anti-Life Equation… and Earth be damned!

A few pages later, we are witness to a familiar scene from many a vampire movie, this one expertly atmospheric courtesy of Jack’s artistry: A bell tower clock rings midnight, eerie sounds whistle through cemetery trees and we see an ominous sarcophagus in an underground crypt. Suddenly the lid is opened from the inside and we hear sinister boasting, “It is time! My powers are at maximum charge! — And the city waits — for the coming of Mantis! Here, I shall carve out the kingdom I am destined for! Against all foes!”

Yep, we see Darkseid’s point: Mantis is wildly ambitious and will, I’ve little doubt, become one day a threat to seize the throne of Apokolips itself, and it’s a relentless drive we are exposed in all of his appearances in the Fourth World saga. This vampire “bug” wants it all and then some!

Immediately Mantis shows his terrific power (derived where from, I’m not exactly sure, but he needs time to recharge his batteries and, in this story at least, works best at night), which is to detonate minute anti-matter particles in things and to infuse material with incredible amounts of destructive energy. “AAAA — the power surges inside me — rushing to get out! — And destroys what my fingers touch!” And who needs to use the stairs when he can tunnel through rock in mere seconds! Zowie!

(In fact, in the full-page Jack devotes to Mantis in The New Gods #2, featured during the “Mother Box” sequence when Orion shows his newly acquired Earth comrades the threat Darkseid and his ilk pose to poor old Mother Earth, the character is referred to as “the awesome digger,” and perhaps is responsible for the network of underground tunnels noted by Metron in NG #1: “[Darkseid] and his power elite are now on Earth — creating a tube network beneath its great cities! Soon they will be able to reach any spot on that globe!”)

Watching teevee, Serifan catches a news report of Mantis’s rampage through the city, and the team, knowing full well of the villain and his destructive abilities, beckons forth The Infinity Man to do battle. (The amalgamated hero seems to possess a Sixth Sense, unnoticed until now by yours truly, as he says while flying into action, “This city is besieged! My mind reaches out for the thought waves of the aggressor! … I can sense his fiery hunger for conquest and power!“)

Mantis wrecks havoc in Metropolis and he and The Infinity Man duke it out. We discover Mantis has the ability to also produce fire and ice from his finger tips, as he freezes the sixth member of The Forever People in a block of frozen water and subsequently sends “rivers of flowing heat” cascading down the side of a building, engulfing a city block in flames. Our hero finally figures how to escape the giant ice cube, and then, after touching IM, detonating “Anti-matter blasts through your very being,” Mantis crouches over his prey and brings his hands together in the villain’s classic posture, harking to his insect namesake’s pose just before striking the lethal blow (and there’s a Dracula vibe present in the theatrics, as well!)… Awesome!

But — a-HA! — The Infinity Man, takes advantage of the Apokolips denizen’s vanity and socks him but good. “You hesitated to gloat, Mantis! It was your undoing! Try this Infini-Beam! It will release your stored energy in one vast rush!” Mantis (who has the ability to fly, by the way) careens wildly out of control and, drained of his power (which, he boasted, had the capacity to “shatter star systems!”), he scampers back to his Power-Pod to lick his wounds and hatch another plan to conquer his coveted dominion, Earth!

Before they combine as The Infinity Man to engage the villain in battle, the other Forever People are sitting around Uncle Willie’s dining table when Serifan rushes in to tell them the news report of the riotous Mantis, and Mark Moonrider makes a curious remark, one we won’t fully understand until the villain’s reappearance, late in The New Gods run. “He is feared as much as Darkseid himself,” yelps Beautiful Dreamer’s boyfriend. Sure, we see Mantis as a formidable opponent, with terrific power… but one with equal power to strike the same terror as Darkseid in the hearts of the nightmare planet’s inhabitants? Alas, we finally comprehend Moonrider’s exclamation during the horrific events of the “Bug” two-part epic over in Orion’s comic book quite a few months later…

For, in the closing blurb, trumpeting the next issue’s contents, of The New Gods #9, we read:

If dreams can come true — so can nightmares!!! In fact, they’re coming!!! By the thousands! By millions! — Armies without number! — Led by Mantis!! — with a lust for power! — and a claim to — Earth — the Doomed Dominion

In NG #9, it is revealed that there is a somewhat sinister subculture ruling the underground of New Genesis, one born during the Great Clash, when Darkseid’s forces infested Izaya the Inheritor’s planet with “bacterial monsters” which “fester and play” under the surface. As the issue begins:

War is a process of violent, never-ending beginnings! What once began as the first ‘Great Clash’ between the new gods — also began bacteriological attack!! — The spreading of toxic ‘micro-life’ as a ‘destructant’! This life did not end with the ‘Clash’! It festered! It grew! It evolved! And it was different!!!

We learn these humanoid insects litter the world with innumerable colonies (called Mounds) that are constantly warring with one another over food. When these “Bugs” come to the surface they are at risk of murderous insecticides which are spread by Highfather’s flying Monitors. Each hive is ruled, it appears, by an “All-Widow” and her second-in-command, a dominant male called “Prime One.”

During a particularly intense battle between Forager’s colony and another, Mantis appears to turn the tide in favor of the brood of the unsuspecting new god. “The battle is over! — The enemy beaten!” exclaims Forager, with other voices adding, “But not without the aid of Mantis!” And another, “His arrival decided our victory!!!” Striking his trademark “preying mantis” pose, Mantis bellows, “For the power was in these limbs, my kin –! Power granted to me by a mighty ally! And now, this ally grants to me a new and large dominion! A place of abundance and food! A place where our kind can rule!! Harken to Mantis! — For he can show you that place!!

For, in service to Darkseid and his own lust to rule planet Earth, Mantis has arrived on New Genesis to unite the colonies and invade our world with thousands — millions — of Bugs! “Other colonies have joined me,” he persuasively tells Forager’s colony, “to create a create army!! Join this swelling host! — And see wonder upon wonders!” Mantis leads his hordes into the Boom Tube and they blanket Metropolis, a huge infestation of “bugs” threatening human existence.

Before the great invasion, in the splash page blurb, we get a hint of Mantis’s origin:

Beneath the world of New Genesis are the burrows that support the strange species the gods refer to as ‘Bugs’! Countless numbers of them, savage and restless, are stirring within their great colony, known as the mound! A powerful force has returned among them! He lies now in his Power-Pod — generating and building the immense cosmic charges — with which he will lead his legions against Earththe doomed dominion

Combined with his use of the word “kin” when first arriving on New Genesis, I reckon it’s fair to surmise Mantis is actually born of New Genesis, only now returning to the bosom of his species to seize control and use the Bugs of Orion’s world for his and Darkseid’s evil purposes. “We go to Earth!” Mantis vows, “And there Mantis will make you the masters!! There you shall rule instead of run!” To the cheers, he adds, “Hear further! Hear how this war between Apokolips and New Genesis will end with victory — for us!!” A voice in the multitude cries out, “Great Darkseid of Apokolips is our ally! And when he wins this war — we win!!” Responds the energy vampire, “Yes, you win powers such as he’s given Mantis! Each of you will rule a part of Earth with these powers! Now, follow me! Follow Mantis! To war! To Earth! — To victory!

Good lord, what a sight it is to see Mantis’s swarm enveloping Metropolis! But rather than to describe what transpires, suffice to say Orion and Mantis wage a terrific slugfest — “The entire city is then witness to a battle of titans! Fierce gods, lashing out in terrible fury!” — and Lightray thwarts the invasion with Mantis and his minions forced to travel back through the Boom Tube.

There’s a curious incident in “Even Gods Must Die,” after Darkseid resurrects Kalibak and others from his elite back from the dead. “Steppenwolf is back!” Darkseid notes. “Now… resurrect Mantis!” And, a little while later, we see a relatively mindless Mantis, hands in shackles, craving to do battle. That’s the last we see of the villain and it frankly begs the question: Why did Mantis have to be resurrected as when last we saw, he was escaping into a Boom Tube, very much alive, presumably returning to New Genesis. I don’t think it’s ever explained but I’ll betcha that Mantis might well have gotten too big for his britches and made it to the wrong end of Darkseid’s lethal Omega Effect. I mean, think of it: Mantis has a foothold on both Apokolips and New Genesis, and commands quite possibly the largest army on any of the three worlds. Like the full-pager in NG #2 describes, “Mantis, whose mammoth power rivals that of Darkseid himself…”; ya can’t imagine the ruler of Apokolips would’ve tolerated him for too much longer…

All that said, Mantis is a superb addition to the mythos and one impressive villain.

Day 78: D.N.Aliens!

During Superman’s guided tour of The Project, the Man of Steel points out the three categories of clones being grown: Normals, Step-Ups and Aliens.

Normals, I guess it’s safe to assume, are the rank and file who work at The Project and have been reproduced from the DNA of living, “normal” people (i.e., regular folks of average intelligence and abilities), including the Jimmy Olsen guards at the Duplication Section and Communications Division Gabbys. It may also be proper to include in this category those in the “Miniature Replica Files,” such as the Scrapper-Troopers and the miniature Supermen, Jimmy Olsens and Newsboy Legion members (both those at The Project and grown at the Evil Factory from stolen cells). The Guardian likely fits with this grouping, as do the “beasts of burden” at the Evil Factory and Floyd “Bullets” Barstow’s clone.

Because the duplicates seem to be of the same age as the “originals,” there has to be some age acceleration taking place and, with the D.N.Aliens (which may pertain to all products of both facilities), such a development is hinted at in the “Strange Stories of the D.N.A. Project” vignette, “The Alien Thing!!!” (The presence of the daycare facility may indicate some Normals are allowed to age at the normal rate.)

Step-Ups include The Hairies, the youthful and industrious technological geniuses of The Project (“They have evolved hair-triggered minds!” Superman tells Jimmy, “And they can come up with mechanical wonders like the Mountain of Judgment!“). The category may also include scientists, possibly Professor Packard, the surrogate father of Arin, the Armored Man. (I don’t recall any others being specifically referred to as a Step-Up…)

Aliens are actually a misnomer, as those in the category being discussed do come from people (or animals). Superman says, “The human cell has been subjected to a wide range of conditions — and has yielded some strange developments!”

There actually appear to be three different varieties of D.N.Aliens:

    • Original creations developed by manipulation of human DNA, such as the original Alien Thing, Dubbilex, the Four-Armed Terror, and Arin, the Armored Man

    • Mutated humans based on a specific individual’s DNA, including the Giant Jimmy Olsen

    • Those people and animals subjected to Regressive Gene Induction, about which Simyan tells us, “Each animal become[s] its remote ANCESTRAL image.” This bunch notably includes the Loch Trevor Beastie, Angry Charlie and Jimmy “Homo Disastrous” Olsen

Let’s have a closer look at those three groupings:

Original D.N.Aliens

In the “Strange Stories of the D.N.A. Project” two-pager called “The Alien Thing!!!” we learn about the very first “Original D.N.Alien,” and it’s worthy of replicating Jack’s story verbatim:

The first genetic structuring to run wild in the laboratory almost proved to be the last!!!

When it quickly evolved to adolescence, The D.N.A. Project found trouble on its hands!! The battle with it lasted a day!! It was the first ‘D.N.Alien’ The Project had produced!! It grew fast! — And hostile! Nothing seemed to stop it!! Tranquilizing gas seemed to slow down its movement — but not the maturing process!! Somehow, its metabolism was wildly accelerating!! — Emitting great bursts of bright, searing, damaging energy!!

The disruptive force affected thousands of circuits — and cut off communication between The Project and the outside world!! Great shocks followed!! And cracks appeared in places where subterranean waters broke through to cause critical emergencies! And on the Zoomway itself, large fissures opened and yawned! The low casualty rate was an incredible part of the strange events!!! Then in a last, terrifying burst of body energy, the alien caused an aurora effect that could be seen for miles!!! It proved to be the last of him! He had literally burned himself out!! — And with such devastating force that his powdery remains shocked witnesses into silence!!!

The D.N.Alien, however, didn’t die in vain!!! His brief life left vital clues on how to keep succeeding D.N.Aliens alive!!!

Dubbilex, as we found in the previous entry, serves as a researcher at The Project and is developing his latent telekinetic powers, aiding Superman in the Cosmic Carousel affair.

The Four-Armed Terror, and his multitudinous brethren called Homo Usurpus, was bred by the Evil Factory from samples stolen from The Project. Superman says, “Among the living human cells [the Evil Factory] stole from The ‘Project’ was a special batch which had been treated in a manner to simulate Atomic War conditions! He could be bred for surviving Atomic War!” Whether these were mutated by Mokkari and Simyan with their Beta Gas is open to question, but the Terrors are apparently different than The Project’s prototypes as they actually consume radioactivity.

Arin, the Armored Man, was developed for interplanetary travel without the need for life support or artificial environment as he can travel in deep space as if swimming. His singular mission is to go live on a distant asteroid and protect the contents of his back-pack: Superman’s cell tissue and genetic code.

Mutated D.N.Aliens

Unless those miniature clones I’ve listed as Normals should be classified as such, I can only find the Giant Jimmy Olsen to belong under this heading. It appears that Mokkari and Simyan pilfered Jimmy’s miniature DNA (so to speak):

Simyan: With our superior equipment, we have rapidly established a project to rival their own! Now, from living cells we can produce what they do — human beings!

Mokkari: Of course, we stole the first samples from the Earthmen — but now we can make our own! We shall breed them in all sizes — as small as we want them — and as large as their destinies demand!

It is interesting that the closing “next issue” blurb in JO #135 is phrased as follows, illustrating the Guardian clone emerging from his Life Chamber: “Don’t miss his clash with the renegade replica! These are not ordinary humans in combat! This is a new breed spawned by a new concept! The DNAliens!” Is Jack telling us the Jim Harper relica is actually a D.N.Alien…?

Regressed D.N.Aliens

Technically, I wonder if these even belong under a D.N.Alien heading, but chromosome manipulation is in play here, so I’m going to take the chance. First, I’d like to point out the raison d’etre of The Evil Factory was initially to steal research from The Project and replicate their successes in cloning life and manipulating DNA. As we know, Mokkari and Simyan run the facility for Darkseid:

Mokkari: It is what we came here to do! To replace the Earthmen’s project — with ours! The Earthmen experiment for progress. But we work for Darkseid, ruler of Apokolips!

Simyan: Our off-spring shall bring Apokolips to Earth! Chaos in place of order! And from that chaos will arise the new masters of Earth — with the great Darkseid as their exalted leader!

Again, the primary purpose of the Evil Factory is to eliminate and replace The Project, as Simyan says while he and his partner overlook a scale model of The Project, “Yet, all this we must destroy! It shall become again as it once was — Empty! Silent!” Adds Mokkari, “We shall do it with the proper creations of the life we have bred here!” While they fail in “The Big Boom” to wipe out the government complex, they do The Project one better by introducing a new process to the game: Regressive Gene Induction.

(You know, despite the fact their plans typically fall through and thus repeatedly face the wrath of angry Darkseid, for only two guys, Mokkari and Simyan have made remarkable improvements on the discoveries of The Project, a “Manhattan Project” type endeavor that must employ hundreds, if not thousands, of specialists. The duo manipulates miniature DNA to make any size humanoid they desire; they improve on the Atomic War “survivor,” as Superman says, “Our rivals at the Evil Factory have produced another ‘first!’ That thing is absorbing and feeding on radioactive energy!” Plus there’s this new development…)

Mokkari: Regressive genes have proven a delight, haven’t they, Simyan!!

Simyan: Yes, it’s been exciting to see each animal become its remote ancestral image!!

It appears the Evil Factory, which we find is located in the highlands of Scotland, is letting loose the results of their Regressive Gene Induction research. Mokkari and Simyan, y’see, are able to turn any animal into its evolutionary predecessor, and many into hitherto before considered to be mythological creatures! The Apokolips scientists turn out a “‘way out ‘Animal Farm!!” including the Loch Trevor Monster, Griffin, Chimera, Unicorn, some Basilisks, and (who is to become Gabby’s personal pet) Angry Charlie (the antecedent of, what, a flea?), plus other beasties that emerge at the conclusion of this storyline. Natch, Jimmy O. gets the treatment and becomes a caveman Olsen! Zapping sinister rays on our hero, the two cackle:

Mokkari: Millions of gene nuclei shot through his open pores!!

Simyan: They develop like wildfire! Olsen will change rapidly!! Becoming what the gene dictates!! Sad to say — these are regressive and powerful!!

But, as always seems to happen, the hapless Evil Factory proprietors lose control of their creation but this time there’s no handy matter transmitter to get rid of the culprit, Jimmy “Homo Disastrous” Olsen! This Neanderthal Jimmy is fantastically powered and in perpetual rage, beating the crap out of an enormous saber-tooth tiger and short-circuiting the electric fencing that sets free an entire menagerie of monsters, including dinosaurs, huge sloths, wholly mammoths, gigantic rhinos, and innumerable other prehistoric creatures, all creations of Regressive Gene Induction…

Back when he was a mere homo sapien, Jimmy wondered about the implications of all this genetic engineering, “Superman! Do you realize what weird, and perhaps dangerous, channels are being probed here?” You said it, chum.

Day 71: Steel Hand!

The villain Jack Kirby created for the first adversary to tangle with Mister Miracle? It’s Inter-Gang mob boss Steel-Hand, who lost his right hand to a machine gun fuselage and now sports a radiation-powered appendage that can destroy some of the strongest metal on the planet!

We first learn of Steel Hand when, after Thaddeus Brown has escaped the burning shed, a bunch of thugs come by for a visit. “The new arrivals emerge from a car — moving with silent, evil assurance — symbols of organized crime in the Atomic Age…” The Great Thaddeus recognizes the crew: “These men are a division of Inter-Gang!” (We know — right? — that this criminal association does Darkseid’s nefarious bidding on our planet, so their appearance is certainly a stupendous coincidence!)

The mobsters pull out their weapons and a free-for-all ensues with Scott Free and his carpetbag initiating the fray, joining Thaddeus and Oberon in fending off the villains. The good-guy trio take down the baddies and Scott, helping an exhausted Thaddeus to his feet, says, “Are you all right, sir? Perhaps it was unwise of me to start this fracas –” Thaddeus retorts, “There — was no choice! They came here for this –”

Scott: I realize that I have no right to ask — but are you involved in some way with — Inter-Gang?

Thaddeus: Not with Inter-Gang, boy! — With their division chief in this area — Steel Hand!

The scene shifts to the villain’s Metropolis headquarters, where his left hand holds a cigar and right is snugged inside of a typical Kirby contraption, and his underling is reporting the fight. “Trouble? Trouble? With an old ‘has been’ and a dwarf? All they had to do was push them around a little!” But Steel Hand hears of Scott Free — “Fast — good with his fists –” The bespectacled criminal takes his hand out of the container to reveal an apparently solid-metal hand!

Steel-Hand’s origin begins when he was a two-bit nobody. The gangster squawks (with no one in the room), “Ha ha ha — To think I was once at the end of my rope — a sniveling little loser — with his hand blasted by a Tommy-gun — then came a turn of luck — in the hospital — that surgeon — experimenting with transplants –” He approaches a huge riveted metal block, raising his metallic fist above his head, continuing, “He gave me this new hand! I didn’t know its history — but with radiation treatments, it gained power — power! My life changed after that! I smashed my way into a top job at Inter-Gang! — Just as easily as I smash this great bar of solid titanium!” With that, Steel Hand slams his… ummm… steel hand to decimate the enormous object!

Jack’s next caption reads, “But despite his arrogance, Steel Hand fears the loss of his status!! Somehow, Mister Miracle is linked with that deep-rooted fear! — And, thus, a brutal decision is made!” So the kingpin calls his henchmen into the room and plots the end of the Super Escape Artist!

Steel Hand tells his goons (who have delightful names in this tale: Stuka is his first lieutenant, plus there’s Herky and Nails), “I’m taking personal charge of the Mister Miracle job!” and Herky and Nails (who knows which is which!) reply, “We know what that means!” and “Right! We’ll get you our best sniper!

The next day, Steel Hand is near the spot of “The Big Trap” with a hired assassin. “Soon, it will be over — and I can forget Mister Miracle. Before I lose face — he’ll lose his life!” Then, as the sniper’s telescopic sight zeroes in on Thaddeus, the crime boss gloats, “Goodbye, Mister Miracle. All bets are off!

As we are tragically aware, Thaddeus Brown is killed, leaving Oberon and Scott to grieve. Sobbing, the tiny assistant finally explains the Brown-Steel Hand connection: “Poor Thaddeus! If only he hadn’t been so desperate to make a come-back — He needed money to do that — money he didn’t have — That’s why he went to Steel Hand — to remind him of a longstanding wager –”

“Go on, Oberon –” Scott gently prods, “Tell me the rest –”

The little man relents: “Thaddeus met Steel Hand in a hospital, years ago. Both men had serious injuries… to pass the time they made the wager… Steel Hand boasted he could stop Thaddeus with an escape-proof trap!” Scott surmises aloud the bet was probably $10,000 and the two bettors shook hands. Oberon continues, “Yes — it was only recently that we saw Steel Hand’s picture in the newspaper! He’d come a long way — too notorious — too powerful — to ignore or lose a wager! But Thaddeus saw him again — and now — this!

Cut to a few days later, when Steel Hand arm wrestles and beats a robot opponent, only to have the new Mister Miracle jump in a window behind the bad guy. “You! I-I don’t believe it! Y-you’re dead — dead!” They tussle while Steel Hand’s goons are notified and the Super Escape Artist is knocked unconscious, only to be placed in jeopardy by his new nemesis. “This time he gets what he asked for — an escape-proof trap!” vows Steel Hand.

Scott is tied to a rocket (as it seems Steel Hand does have some pull as criminal mastermind, as he can reserve use of the “secret Inter-Gang missile site” simply by calling ahead!) and, of course, our hero appears to die as the missile explodes in mid-air. A henchman says, “Chief — if Mister Miracle come back from that — he won’t even be in shape to haunt a house!” Steel Hand offers, “He was a weird one, all right! But he was human! And humans don’t have nine lives! Steel Hand is still top man! Remember that, you birds!”

Steel Hand returns to his “lavish office” only to find Scott Free sitting at his desk. Steel Hand goes berserk and trashes the room. “The Steel Hand is no myth!” thinks Mister Miracle. “It’s the deadliest of weapons!” Then our hero turns the tables on the Inter-Gang division chief and captures him to be delivered at the feet of arriving policemen. “Thanks, Mister Miracle,” says one officer. “His conviction will wreck Inter-Gang’s Eastern operation!”

We never again see this peculiar villain in the series and he’s not much missed, hardly one of the top echelon in Jack’s Rogues Gallery, but Steel Hand getting his comeuppance is a hoot (I’ll describe it in full in the issue round-up and/or story synopsis)…

Day 63: Kalibak the Cruel!

Once upon a time, there were two rival kingdoms that fought one another, one side good and the other bad. In the evil land ruled a monster and throughout his court there were many intrigues, as his underlings coveted the throne and vied for the tyrant’s favor.

In a previous era both domains suffered a terrible conflict between them and the monster sought a truce to bide time and rebuild his vast army. So he offered a bargain to the other king and they exchanged sons, each to be raised in the other’s respective kingdom.

Unbeknownst to the monster’s royal court was that the leader once led a secret life and had had a clandestine marriage to a lover, a passionate union which begat a vile son. But the evil queen, mother of the monster (for, you see, this was before he became king), had designs on her own son’s future and saw to it that the mystery wife was poisoned and the queen’s son publicly married (in a loveless arrangement). With the tempestuous new wife, the monster fathered his second son, a righteous boy, who was traded for the rival king’s offspring.

In revenge, the monster had his own mother murdered and insured that neither of his progeny knew of their lineage. Starting in childhood, both the righteous son and vile son would feud, always drawn together in savage combat, a mutual hate for one another fueling primal rage. And so it came to pass that these two, in adulthood, would fight a battle to the death, not for their father’s crown (as they were still unaware, until the very end of this lethal sibling rivalry, of their supremely prominent father), but rather because of a compulsive, lifelong bloodlust of each to kill the other. Indeed, one would not live happily ever after…

Jack’s pin-up of Kalibak states, “In the realm of Darkseid of Apokolips, where all things serve the cause of destruction, there is none so savage as Kalibak the Cruel! His is a never-ending battle with the New Gods for the fate of mankind!”

If you look in the background of that full-page panel, past vain Kalibak (gazing at his own visage and speaking to himself in the second person, “This is a face to fear! Someday, Kalibak, you may supplant Darkseid himself!”), we see withering, half-naked prisoners grasping for freedom behind a glass enclosure, Kalibak’s self-described “torment chamber.” It’s only mentioned here and there, but Kalibak has an official capacity on Apokolips as, it seems, chief torturer. His nickname, after all, is “Kalibak the Tormentor.” (In their final showdown, Orion tells his adversary, “Let the silent shades of your countless tortured victims stand by to witness the finish of their tormentor!”)

The Scourge of Apokolips, looking very much like a super-size Neanderthal caveman, usually dressed only in briefs and boots, sports a high-tech weapon, the Beta-Club, which can be used as a bludgeon as well as shoots nerve beams capable of stopping a platoon. (More on that accessory tomorrow!) We do see the low-to-the-ground thug (Jack describes him: “His body is squat! His breath rasps like a file! And his feet are hammer blows of sound in steel corridors!!”) but Kalibak does possess a bit more intelligence than your typical knuckle-dragger, given his repartee with Police Commissioner Kiernan, where the ugly son of Darkseid admits, “Kalibak is not without a sense of humor!”

But Kalibak’s gargantuan conceit and cosmic hatred for Orion are his Achilles Heel, but as we will learn, the Terror of Apokolips’s rage will transcend death itself.

In our saga, Orion’s first encounter with Kalibak is at the Mass-Director Unit, where it appears the Tormentor is the single defender of the dark planet, apparently the only one of Darkseid’s inner circle not on Earth. The half-brothers briefly tussle and Orion escapes Apokolips via Boom Tube (with some new friends) as Kalibak vows, “This isn’t our last encounter, Orion! When we meet again, I shall deliver your carcass to Darkseid! Rememer that!”

Kalibak appears on Earth and the events of “The Death Wish of Terrible Turpin” transpire, when Orion and the Scourge of Apokolips engage in a ferocious battle, incredibly brutal even by Jack Kirby’s standards. Acknowledging their constant antagonism as he chokes Orion, Kalibak screams, “All the pain and torment in the universe can’t stop what drives us!! I’m your equal, Orion!!” To which the Tiger of New Genesis righteously replies through the stranglehold, “But — not — my better –”

Though Orion’s true face is revealed to Kalibak, it is the earthlings who momentarily defeat the Tormentor, by massive electrical shock-power. But the villain is not imprisoned for long, as he is released with a promise to deliver a message to the gods to evacuate Earth. But Kalibak is no messenger boy, not with nemesis Orion but mere blocks away…

Meanwhile, the father of the combatants is distressed at the coming fight. The Master of the Holocaust tells Desaad, “Then there will be fierce battle, Desaad! Those two have fought each other since childhood! But destiny has always kept one from killing the other! However — in the event of destiny’s failure, Darkseid shall intervene!

“But why, sire?” Desaad pleads. “If Kalibak proves the stronger, we are rid of that wolf Orion! Yet this logic doesn’t seem to please you! Somehow, the thought of Orion’s death stirs your fear and anger!”

Roars the Apokoliptian monarch: “Silence, Desaad! You go too far! Darkseid explains his motives to no one!

Then we see a side of Darkseid hitherto unknown in the Fourth World epic in this, the last issue of the regular New Gods title. A caption reads: “The moments are few when the shadows of deep concern creep across Darkseid’s granite visage — and the secrets hidden there begin to emerge — as if to retreat before great pain — !”

Bemoans Darkseid, “Orion and Kalibak! How those two names haunt my life and destiny! — Give me no rest! — darken my future as surely as their maternal forebears ruled my past! My mother, Queen Heggra! — Orion’s mother, Tigra! — And the sorceress — Suli!

Dessad is shocked: “Suli was Kalibak’s mother!? Then before Tigra was chosen for you — there was Suli! It was rumored that you defied the queen’s wishes to court Suli!”

And, finally, the secret is revealed: “– To secretly wed her, you sly dog! Orion and Kalibak are half-brothers!both are my sons!”

The half-brothers’ rivalry seems endless. Says Orion during the “Turpin” engagement, “We fought when young, Kalibak! We fight fully grown! And we shall fight till death takes one of us!! There’s something we share that’s always driven us to each other! — What it is, I cannot say!! But we shall seek each other out until it’s done!

And we can feel the end is coming fast, in the form of an armor-clad specter on skis! Lightray beats Orion to the punch and, yelling “Orion has borne the burden of battle too long! Hail, Kalibak! Hail, king of tormentors!” he attacks the giant troll-like warrior, the “veteran of a thousand battles,” who gives the young new god a terrific pounding.

Staying out of the fight because of the “Combat Code,” Orion watches in horror as Lightray is brutalized and their fight is ended. “Then it’s time for me to confront Kalibak… I’ll put an end to that ‘demon’s bond‘ that forever binds Kalibak and myself in a pact of destruction! This blind hatred ends — now!!

But this time Orion’s half-brother is engorged with vastly increased powers, able now to emit “white-hot blast[s] of crackling energy” from his hands and strong enough to tear an entire apartment building onto Orion the Fierce. But Darkseid receives evidence that the fight is rigged, that Desaad has strengthened Kalibak as much as tenfold! Fearing his long-ago abandoned son may be dying at Kalibak’s hand, Darkseid disintegrates the sadist with the dreaded Omega Beams, the Total Wipeout, and the added power of Kalibak vanishes.

Orion recovers to a fair fight and he realizes their shared bloodline. “We must be brothers, you and I! — Different sides of the same coin! True sons of Darkseid — the essence of his creed of total violence!” Rushing his half-brother, Orion screams, “Die, Kalibak! If we fight as sons of Darkseid — only one may live!” The New Genesis god beats the tar out of the Terror from Apokolips and then arrives The Black Racer, the harbinger of death, who takes Kalibak to whatever Valhalla awaits for new gods…

But Kalibak’s demise has an epilogue, as in the penultimate New Gods tale, “When Gods Must Die!” the Tormentor is resurrected in Darkseid’s Re-orientation Chamber, or at least the shell of Darkseid’s elder son. Yet we learn his mind is mush, singularly obsessed with killing and not even aware of his own name, never mind the fact he is heir to the throne of Apokolips. “Were I on New Genesis, sire,” riskfully speculates Darkseid’s technician, “I would believe that the original ‘personalities’ now reside with that ‘mystery,’ the Source.”

Day 61: Darkseid’s Dog Calvary!

Imagine an armed force atop huge, ferocious canines pursuing you through the hellacious avenues of sinister Apokolips, snapping and snarling at your heels, threatening to rip the very flesh from your bones with razor-sharp fangs set in impossibly muscled jaws… If you can picture that, you’ve got a good idea of the Demon Dog Cavalry of mighty Darkseid.

Having battled the Para-Demon sentries in the smoke-filled skies over that dread and dismal world, and shaken off an armed horde on the ground, Orion suddenly faces Darkseid’s mounted troops riding… ummm… dogback against the arrival from New Genesis. Firing their radian blasters, the dragoons charge toward their adversary, who exclaims, “Darkseid’s Dog calvary! It is suicidal to run from them! My one chance to live — is to attack!

Orion dives to the ground, tripping dog and rider (the latter seem knocked senseless), but the mastiffs are tenacious, hungry for the blood of a new god. “These hounds of Hades are swift to regain their feet!” thinks Orion, and “Marshaling his colossal strength loosens a nearby stone pillar!” The column’s collapse spooks the mutts and they flee…

It’s apparent that the elite of Apokolips venerate canines twice the size of earthly Great Danes, as we see Granny Goodness walking her huge “darling demon-dogs” in a “Young Scott Free” vignette and there’s a trio of oversized hounds (doubtless used for hunting) among the poaching interlopers that begin “The Pact.” Mostly though, they seem, like every other life form on Apokolips, bred for war.

Baskerville Hall has nothing on these beasts when next we see them in “The Pact,” as “Raid upon raid is made everywhere on New Genesis!! From one such threshold leaps a snapping unit of dog calvary!! — Led by Steppenwolf!!” The creatures look like giant, ferocious rats in Jack’s depiction, and “When Steppenwolf leads, the carnage mounts until the battleground whines beneath the weight and agony of mass death!!! Nothing lives in his path!” One can only shudder at such butchery…

In “Himon,” the epic’s other “background story,” we see young Scott Free being chased briefly by the dog calvary but, of course, the lad escapes…

As one who was scared of big mongrels as a kid, I can attest Jack’s dog cavalry was an inspired nightmare vision, perfectly apropos to kennel in his nightmare world of Apokolips. Hounds of Hell, indeed…