Well, ‘Tis Not The First Time I’ve Dealt With The Devil…

…Life must sometimes be played on that base level, Bloggers!

While waiting for the gruesomely long post-to-come, I thought we’d check in on our Darkseid essayists.

Plus our old private local genius Jonathan Burns, who if you missed it in the comments the first time, said this:


IT IS in the nature of things that the Great Leader, once he has taken power and set his secret police as a bridle and spurs upon the populace, will commission an humungous pile of masonry, consecrated to his nobility, his vision and his preeminence in history.

The shallow of mind may think it nothing more than egotism, but it is far more, as the Great Leader will gladly explain:

“The people were lost and confused. The corrosive forces of contingency and chaos had them beaten down. They pled for leadership, the assurance of permanent principles, and an unquestionable authority to pronounce them. Without belief, they were at the whim of every temptation and every deceiver; with it, they are united and deliberate. And how can they believe, if their leader is not uncompromising in belief? Hence this monument, this factual and definitive pronouncement, which will outlast me even as it stands as a bedrock of belief beneath the feet of the generations.”

However, it may happen that in the small hours of the night as the Leader stirs in his imperial bed, enclosed by his great stone walls, his logic will turn against him. If the people go on believing, what was the need of the humungous pile? And if they don’t, what good is it?

Contingency and chaos are what the Great Leader hates most. He thought he had them beaten, but here they are back again, taunting him. “Where is my own belief?”, he rages. “If I am Betelgeuse the Bequeather, what is my bequest???

It is then that the Spirit of the Wall will speak to him from out of the wall, saying:

“But one thing no-one will ever doubt: it broke a hundred thousand mens’ backs to build this. No other man in your time could have caused it to be built, because no other man was so filled with the Will to Tyranny, and the certainty it brings. These walls will stand, staring future generations down, and with a shiver of wonder and fear they will ask, what kind of man could have done this? And they may remember your own vision, or not, and with gratitude or loathing; it matters not to me. Because I am the Will to Tyranny, and this wall is my monument, whether it be yours, or no.”

The Spirit of the Wall is cynical and sardonic! He is basic and cruel! He indulges the grotesques and dandies who play around his feet … they rise and fall — but Tyranny endures!

That’s the obvious part.

Whew. I can sort of fake up Jolly Jack’s diction, but you notice I don’t even try to reproduce Darkseid’s accent. It’s too remote, and doesn’t compromise in the least with smooth oratory. To be candid, Darkseid’s speech doesn’t allow for fine distinctions. It is all but impossible to use it to make a rational argument, or a credible self-accounting.

Darkseid? A personality???

Mais oui.

We remember that Kirby was both in service in WW2, and a big part of the great funny pages patriotic cheerleading effort. Fuhrers to the left of him, fuhrers to the right. And what pompous pipsqueaks they all were! All but impossible to imagine these ninkapoops waving their hands and squadrons of Messerschmidts springing into being, with parades and rallies and secret police, and being the real threat to freedom that they were. If you’re going to cut it down to comic story size, you almost have to say that the human race has a fatal susceptibility to tyranny as such, which would be a real worry.

But when Jolly Jack breaks out to do his own thing in his own series, he makes the Spirit of the Wall his familiar — and his own personal fright-mask. Yeah, that’s Kirby behind the great stone face, who else?

And now we can all have some fun.

Suppose I am the devilish doctor Moreau Manglewang. Of course I’m going to sign on with Darkseid! Consider the advantages.

I’m just there. I don’t need a second-hand gothic backstory (the good ones are all taken), I don’t need an explanation for my frightful powers — I’m from Apokolips! I can have the best House of Pain ever, with Jack Kirby to draw my surgical racks and instruments, I can have Rhino-Rauders and Leopard Women by the host. If I need a frakin’ army, no problem. On Apokolips, the Will to Tyranny prevails — and provides.

What’s more, Darkseid is the most liberal uberboss you could ask for. He doesn’t make you wear his uniform, doesn’t cramp your own aesthetic in the least. You aren’t obliged to deal with his concerns, origin or superpower technicalities. All he asks is his own small piece of turf, marked “Absolute Supremacy — Darkseidz — Keep Off”, and that you let him ramble on about his Anti-Life Equation. “Do your own thing” is his word, as long as you have a bit of murder, mass insanity etc in mind, and don’t we all.

Best of all, he doesn’t nag. When things are going smooth he always has a positive and insightful word; when it’s your wang in the mangle, he lets you go to hell in your own way with no reproaches or I-told-you-so’s. He truly is the Anti-Dad. Far better than Willy Wonka and his anvilweight comeuppances. Darkseid is almost, dare I say it, the Cat in the Hat.

He is also very decent with the heroes. We have to face it, we are a little bit over the top on the Apokobus. And when a noob skool like the Forever People show up, they’re naturally a bit over the top too. It could all melt down into embarrassment — except that Darkseid will be there, looking like a thousand pounds on two boots, with a portentous pronouncement or two, lending the situation his considerable gravitas. When it’s Scott Free, you notice he stays out of the way; Scott brings his own measure of seriousness.

It must get to be lonely, being him. We all have our own special manias and he supports us, but by that token, none of us have a sincere handle on the Big Picture, or want one. Highfather is such a Dad, the way he takes every casualty like a knife in the heart, you can see why he and Darkseid wouldn’t have more than an uncomfortable silence between them.

The only one who really speaks his language is Orion. You should hear him — “It’s sad, Slig! War is terrible and sad! While grinding Slig’s Mother Box into powder, I might add. The old man is so proud of him: he addresses him pretty much like an enemy of equal rank, and when Desaad or anyone tries to belittle him, they get a handsome correction. It’s one of Darkseid’s few prerogatives: Do not diss Orion.

So what does this add up to? I guess I’ve given a picture of someone remote and self-absorbed; not the chatty kind, not a person to want or offer personal friendship. But it would be a mistake to take that as the remoteness of repression, the fear of opening up, the wounded ego. No, no. Everything about Darkseid speaks of immense confidence, magnanimity, an eagle’s-eye overview, and an endless resilience to setbacks.

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same.

Indeed, I could just about take Kipling’s poem couplet by couplet, and capture something of Darkseid with each one, right down to, “And which is more, you’ll be a bore, my son.” But Darkseid is far from boring, because the company he keeps is endlessly varied and entertaining, while he himself is a riddle, both in his emotional reserve and in his cryptic epigrams. You have to keep watching him, just because the next thing he says might offer a clue.

Why he is not inundated with female fans, is beyond me.

My final verdict is, Darkseid’s personality is Jack Kirby’s, if Kirby were to roll up all his outrage and frustrations with human viciousness into one Spirit of the Wall figure, and then, cynically, sardonically, make him a FAUST entirely in command of his DEVILS, and the majestic ringmaster of the greatest circus act on EARTH“.

(I hope Jonathan will pardon me my colourful textual additions, that I put in only to distinguish his magnificent text from my unworthy own)

But then as brilliant as Jonathan is…it’s all about inflection, isn’t it?

So here’s another friend, Mr. Andrew Hickey, who is not afraid to bloody well RUN with a train of thought…and try to beat it…!

And today’s latest:  more freakin’ Panel Madness from our own Marc Burkhardt, and it’s good stuff in my opinion.

See, I told you guys this would be good.

Oh!  And I almost forgot:  our patron saint.  The first one to respond to this…I guess I’m calling it…meme.

My that’s a lovely header you’ve got there, friend.  What’s it of?

Still to come, I hope:  the inestimable RAB, who summed up for me what the New Gods were all about most elegantly, lo these lost Internet months ago…

And maybe one of the Mindless?

I can’t wait to see how they bring it back around to Brendan McCarthy, can you?




9 responses to “Well, ‘Tis Not The First Time I’ve Dealt With The Devil…

  1. Another wonderful post… And it’s spooky how both Paul Currion and myself chose the exact same image of Darkseid, even though I never saw his post til now…

  2. I have been working like a madman tonight…ever since that GODDAMN CASHIER WITH THE COLD handed me my change I’ve been feeling like I oughtta do something that contributes to humanity while there’s time…

    And then lo and behold, there Marc was! A dandy Kirby Darkseid post, and then I thought…oh, well we’ve got three really good ones so far! So lump ’em together.

  3. As per your suggestion I’ve managed to acquire all four volumes of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus from the Ottawa library system, and recently finished them. And I do have some thoughts on them, although I don’t know when I’ll get ’em typed up. Shouldn’t take too long. The comments here are fine for that, right?

  4. WHOOPS! Somehow I missed both you guys…

    Andrew: yes, I thought about that a bit…”the banality of Darkseid”?

    And Matthew: Holy Jumpin’ Catfish, you read all the Omnibuses on my say-so? I. Am. Deeply. Gratified. And of course here is a good place for your thoughts, or if you like I could carve you out a post-space of your own…make a whole new blog…gosh, whatever you like!

    I’m that eager to hear your thoughts on it all!

  5. Don’t be so surprised; I’ll read things with far weaker recommendations than I got from you. I don’t need a reason to read anything; only a pretext.

    This was my first exposure to such high concentrations of Kirby, and I can certainly see why people like him. He reminded me quite a bit of Jack Vance. Vance doesn’t have Kirby’s dynamic energy (who does?), but they’re similarly inventive and they seem to use language in much the same way (although Vance is more playful about it than Kirby).

    Probably I came to most of this stuff too late. I was already familiar with the plot behind “The Pact”, for instance, so it didn’t have the same effect on me.

    One of the things that struck me was how casually Kirby brushed aside the trappings of the superhero genre. Why shouldn’t he, after all?

    I never realized before what a good character Orion was. He’s not a good guy; he’s a good bad guy, and he knows it, and he knows how to be that. Similarly Lightray; when else has the lighthearted prankster also been the brains of the outfit?

    Another thing that surprised me was Darkseid’s history. I always thought of him as being always in charge; it was weird seeing all the stuff about how he worked his way up the Apokolips hierarchy.

    I think this is my main insight, though, and it seems to me to be a particularly plokian thing to say: The characters in these Fourth World stories all have different gimmicks, different ways of getting things done. Barda has the Mega-Rod, Serifan has the cosmic cartridges, Mark Moonrider has the Megaton Touch, Orion has the Astro-Force, and so on. But it doesn’t matter what you call them all, because they all have the same effect: the character in question can use them to do pretty much anything they want! Here’s the twist, though: since they all let their users do anything, without regard to what you call it, then what you call it is the only thing that matters! You can’t differentiate the New Gods’ abilities through substance, so style is the only thing that’s left to us! (And there definitely is a lot of style flashing around in these comic books.) Which means that Kirby was doing Grant Morrison’s act long before Grant Morrison happened.

    I don’t think this stuff is for everyone, though. I mean, I see the point of it, but it’s so stylized that it’s bound to turn away some people for every bunch of people that it attracts. It’s not generic. I didn’t like everything about it; if I never have to hear another reference to the Scrapper Trooper it’ll be too soon.

    Here’s how you can tell it was written in the early ’70s: the existence of hippies is treated as cosmically significant.

    Anyway, it was definitely worth reading. Shame DC couldn’t leave it alone after that.

  6. Pingback: Darkseid Isn’t | The Unforgiving Minute·

  7. Pingback: Mindless Ones » Blog Archive » Rogue’s Review: Darkseid·

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