The New Gods are back in the spotlight. Not only did the DCEU begin delving into the complex mythology of the Fourth World in last year’s Justice League movie, but now Warner Bros. has announced that Ava DuVernay has signed on to direct a dedicated New Gods movie.
If you’re not sure what the Fourth World is or how these cosmic heroes and villains fit into the larger tapestry of the DCU, now is the time to get caught up. Fortunately, we’re here to help. Scroll down to find out everything you need to know about the New Gods.
The New Gods are a race of highly powerful beings who live in the Fourth World, a realm far removed from the rest of the DC Universe and accessible only by advanced teleportation technology called a Boom Tube. Once this realm consisted of a single, primeval world called Urgrund. But that world was split in two after a cataclysmic war, and now the Fourth World consists of two planets – peaceful, idyllic New Genesis and hellish Apokolips. The former is ruled by the benevolent Highfather, while the latter is a realm populated by slavers and slaves, all dominated by the tyrant known as Darkseid.
These two worlds have been locked in perpetual war for thousands of years, with that war often spilling out to affect the larger DC Universe. New Genesis has the finest warriors and technology the universe has to offer, while Apokolips has endless hordes of winged Parademons and a small but deadly group of assassins called the Female Furies. A temporary peace was achieved when Highfather and Darkseid traded their sons (Mister Miracle and Orion), but that peace has evaporated now that both men are grown and united in their hatred of Darkseid.
Darkseid’s ultimate goal is to learn the Anti-Life Equation, a sort of living mathematical formula that will enable him to enslave all life in the universe. Only by working together with Earth’s heroes have the New Gods of New Genesis managed to keep Darkseid from conquering all existence.
No two New Gods have the same powers, but most residents of New Genesis and Apokolips have abilities far beyond those of mortal men. That’s because the Fourth World is located close to the Source, a vast energy field that exists beyond the edge of the known universe.
Most New Gods possess enhanced strength and greatly extended lifespans. Some are as strong as or stronger than heroes like Superman. Many possess other unique abilities. Mister Miracle is capable of escaping any trap, no matter how impossible. Glorious Godfrey has a superhuman ability to influence others through the power of his voice. Metron sits on the Mobius chair, which grants him access to all knowledge in the universe. Darkseid wields Omega Beams, energy blasts that can change direction at will and obliterate any enemy they touch.
The New Gods also have access to highly advanced super-computers called Mother Boxes. These devices tap into the Source and can do everything from generating Boom Tubes to healing the user.
The New Gods are the brain child of Jack Kirby, who developed the Fourth World mythology after making his unexpected transition from Marvel to DC in the early 1970s. Kirby’s Fourth World saga officially began in 1970’s Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #133, though the story quickly expanded to encompass other books like The New Gods, The Forever People and Mister Miracle.
Interestingly, the New Gods were derived from stories Kirby had originally planned for Marvel’s Thor comics. In New Gods lore, the Fourth World was born when Ragnarok destroyed the old gods of the Third World and a new generation of gods took their place. According to writer/historian Marc Flores, Kirby quietly envisioned the Fourth World as a continuation of his Thor work, one that takes place eons after Thor and his fellow Asgardians were wiped out in Ragnarok. One issue even features a cameo of Thor’s winged helmet amid the ruins of Third World civilization.
Kirby also envisioned the Fourth World mythology as a finite tale with a definitive end, culminating in the death of Darkseid. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before he began to clash with DC’s editors and plans for this story shifted. DC revived the New Gods line multiple times throughout the ’70s and ’80s, both under Kirby and with other creators taking the reins. However, the closest thing this story saw to a definitive end was the graphic novel The Hunger Dogs, which ended not with Darkseid’s death but with the villain being deposed in a massive slave uprising.
Despite Kirby’s work frequently being praised for its imagination and daring, the New Gods franchise never achieved the same sales success as Kirby’s iconic Marvel creations like the Fantastic Four, Thor and the X-Men. DC responded to this by having the characters appear more frequently in Justice League-centic storylines, resulting in more mainstream-friendly comics like Super Powers and The Great Darkness Saga. Over time, Darkseid evolved into as much a Superman villain as anything else, while characters like Mister Miracle and Big Barda became members of the Justice League.
DC finally did bring closure to the Fourth World saga with 2007’s The Death of the New Gods and 2008’s Final Crisis. The latter story saw the evil New Gods resurrected in mortal form on Earth, with Darkseid finally harnessing the Anti-Life Equation even as he fought against his ultimate destruction. In the end, Darkseid was obliterated and the Fourth World made way for the Fifth World – “the age of men as gods.”
Even that ending didn’t last, however. DC partially rebooted its comic book universe with the New 52 relaunch in 2011. As a result, the Fourth World lives once again, and Darkseid is now depicted as the first enemy the Justice League ever battled.
The New Gods made their first leap outside of DC’s comics thanks to the animated series Super Friends. The final two seasons of that series featured Darkseid and his fellow evil New Gods as recurring villains. The New Gods, both good and evil, appeared regularly in the DC Animated Universe thanks to shows like Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League Unlimited.
More recently, the animated series Young Justice began introducing New Gods characters in its second season before its abrupt cancellation. Luckily, Young Justice is returning as part of DC’s streaming service, allowing that story to continue as intended.
The New Gods made their first live-action appearance in the final season of Smallville, which featured characters like Darkseid, Desaad and Glorious Godfrey and made references to others like Highfather.
These characters are now beginning to play a central role in the DC Extended Universe. 2016’s Batman v Superman alluded to Darkseid and featured a cameo of his general, Steppenwolf. 2017’s Justice League featured Steppenwolf as its main antagonist (voiced by Ciaran Hinds) with the potential for Darkseid to serve as the main villain in the sequel. Whether or not that sequel materializes, Ava DuVernay has now signed on to direct a dedicated New Gods film.