Looking at its lineup of upcoming films, DC Comics is interested in not just spotlighting the more recognizable characters and teams from its comic book universe, but some of the more obscure ones as well. We can now add the New Gods to the latter category, as last week, it was announced last week that A Wrinkle in Time director Ava DuVernay will helm a movie centered around the Fourth World mythology, with Chasing Mavericks' Kario Salem penning the script.
The New Gods have been important players in the DC universe for decades, but if you're not a comic book reader or don't remember these characters from their appearances in the DC animated universe, it's entirely possible that you weren't aware of their existence. That's where we come in. While it may be a while until the New Gods movie gets off the ground, here are the important facts you need to know about these characters in the meantime.
Jack Kirby is primarily known for his work over in the Marvel universe, which includes co-creating Captain America (at Marvel Comics' predecessor, Timely Comics), the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Hulk, Iron Man and plenty more. He's just as responsible for Marvel becoming a successful franchise as Stan Lee, if not more so. But in 1970, following numerous creative conflicts with Lee and other higher-ups at Marvel, Kirby left the comic book company and signed a deal with DC Comics. Kirby would return to Marvel in the latter half of the '70s, but for several years, he poured all his creative juices into spicing up the DC universe, which led to the creation of characters like OMAC, Kamandi, Etrigan the Demon and Kobra. However, the New Gods remain his biggest contributions to this fantastical universe, and depending on who you ask, they also potentially rank as his craziest and most psychedelic creations ever.
It's also worth mentioning that Kirby originally envisioned the Fourth World saga (comprised of the New Gods, Mister Miracle and The Forever People books) to only be a limited run, but when the early issues sold well, closer ties were established between these characters and the wider DC universe. Decades later, the New Gods remain integral players in the DC Comics world, to the point that in the New 52 continuity, Darkseid and his minions where the threat that led to the formation of the Justice League.
In case the name wasn't enough of a giveaway, the New Gods are among the most powerful beings in the DC universe. They came into existence when Urgund, the world where the old gods lived, was destroyed during the Ragnarok event. The destruction of Urgund resulted in the creation of New Genesis and Apokolips, and all the New Gods characters hail from one of those planets. With a few notable exceptions (we'll talk more about that later), usually the good New Gods hail from New Genesis, while the bad ones are denizens of Apokolips. New Genesis is ruled by Highfather, who, in addition to boasting numerous special abilities, is also able to communicate with the Source, the "consciousness" that resides in the Source Wall at the edge the know universe and binds reality together. Other cool inhabitants who reside on New Genesis include Mister Miracle, the greatest escape artist in all of reality; Big Barda, a fierce warrior who originally fought for Apokolips and Miracle's wife; Orion, who can harness the Astro Force; and Lightray, who can travel at the speed of light.
Moving to Apokolips, that hellish world is ruled by Darkseid, who isn't just the lead antagonist in New Gods stories, but also one of the greatest threats in the entire DC universe. Like Highfather, he can many superpowers (including his deadly Omega beams), and for a long time, his ultimate goal was to solve the Anti-Life Equation, which would have allowed him to control all sentient life in the universe. Darkseid's minions on Apokolips include Kalibak, his brutish son; Steppenwolf, his uncle and top general; DeSaad, the best torturer on Apokolips; Granny Goodness, who trains Darkseid's elite soldiers from a young age; and Glorious Godfrey, who is such a talented speaker that he can manipulate others to do his bidding. There are also a few New Gods characters who aren't full allied with either New Genesis or Apokolips, like Metron, a super genius who can travel through time and space when sitting in the Mobius Chair, and the Black Racer, the avatar of death who usually targets speedsters. Suffice it to say that a New Gods movie won't have any trouble finding people to pad out its cast.
As is the case with most of the alien civilizations in the DC universe, the New Gods are much more technologically advanced than we mere humans, but there's one specific piece of technology that separate these characters from other worlds: Mother Boxes. Created by Himon, these portable supercomputers are so powerful that even the New Gods don't fully understand their full capabilities, and they can only be built by denizens from either New Genesis or Apokolips.
One of a Mother Box's chief abilities is creating Boom Tubes, extra-dimensional "bridges" between two points that teleport users great distances across the universe. When used, Boom Tubes emit a low hum, followed by a loud booming noise that's sometimes powerful enough to knock people off their feet, hence the name. Mother Boxes have also been used to heal users, but the thing that makes these devices most interesting is that they're sentient (they communicate through 'pings'), to the point that the New Gods from either side show them great respect.
New Genesis and Apokolips are usually at war with one another, but at one point, the worlds were able to establish a temporary piece, but it came at an unusual cost. In order to ensure that the violence would stop, Highfather and Darkseid agreed to exchange their sons with one another; Highfather sent Scott Free to Darkseid, while Darkseid sent Orion to Highfather. Growing up on New Genesis, Orion was taught to control his anger, and while that wasn't easy given the time his heritage, eventually he managed to channel his rage in more useful ways. As for Scott Free, the future Mister Miracle, he was forced to fight for survival in one of Granny Goodness' Terror Orphanages, and upon reaching adulthood, he escaped Apokolips, found his way to Earth and hone his skills as an escape artist under Thaddeus Brown, the original Mister Miracle.
In the end, both Orion and Scott Free not only became two of New Genesis' greatest heroes, they've both also served as Justice Leaguers. It's also important to mention that had Scott Free not been sent to Apokolips, he wouldn't have met Big Barda, who was the strongest of Darkseid's Female Furies at the time. After falling in love with Scott, Barda joined him as a member of a resistance cell on Apokolips and eventually join him on Earth. That makes three individuals with close ties to Apokolips who managed to become forces for good. Side note: the Orion/Scott Free trade wasn't the only twisted deal Highfather and Darkseid made with each other. In the New 52 continuity, Highfather allowed Darkseid to unleash all kinds of hell on Earth 2 provided he left all the other Earths alone.
Longtime DC readers know that this is a comic book company that loves the multiverse, i.e. alternate worlds that feature different versions of the main DC heroes and villains we know best. Sometimes the differences are small, other times they're huge, but this trope allows numerous ways to adapt characters that wouldn't be possible in just one continuity. However, in recent DC history, the New Gods are among the few exceptions to the rule, New Genesis and Apokolips are located outside of the DC multiverse.
To account for any discrepancies between how a New God is seen in one book versus another book, the Grant Morrison-penned series Multiversity revealed that manifestations/avatars of the original versions of these characters appear on the other Earths in the DC multiverse. So for instance, in the New 52 continuity, Steppenwolf was killed by Brutaal (a rogue Superman clone) in the Earth 2 series, but thanks to the way the New Gods function across the multiverse, Steppenwolf was later seen in Geoff Johns' Justice League: Darkseid War storyline alive and well. Given how often DC likes to overturn continuity elements, it's possible that this avatar explanation will be overturned at some point, but for all intents and purposes, there's one set of New Gods who are showing up in all the DC universes.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice primarily laid the groundwork for the Fourth World mythology in Batman's Knightmare. During his vision of an apocalyptic future (or should I say, an Apokoliptic future), Bruce Wayne saw a giant omega symbol burned to the ground, and if that wasn't enough of an indicator that Darkseid's forces had paid a visit to our world, the Dark Knight and his men were also attacked by Parademons. Batman v Superman's Ultimate Edition included an additional connection to the New Gods by showing Lex Luthor communicating with Steppenwolf before being apprehended by the authorities.
A year and a half later, Justice League marked Steppenwolf's official introduction to the DCEU. Having failed to conquer Earth thousands of years ago, the Apokoliptan general returned in the present day with his Parademon army to obtain the three Mother Boxes and initiate "The Unity," which would terraform Earth into a duplicate of Apokolips. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash and Cyborg stopped Steppenwolf from carrying out this plan, and upon feeling the villain's fear after being defeated, his Parademons attacked their former master for teleporting to another location. Justice League was also supposed to originally include a cameo from Darkseid, and with this New Gods movie in development, now the chances are stronger than ever that we'll finally see the famed villain realized in a cinematic setting. However, there are conflicting reports about whether or not New Gods will take place in the DCEU, so one should prepare for the possibility that the Ava DuVernay-helmed tale will be a standalone tale (like Todd Phillips' Joker movie) rather than exist within the same continuity established in 2013.