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Sunday, 19 November 2017

Comics Explained: Steppenwolf

The new edition to the DCEU, Justice League, has recently been released and with it we have a new villain not yet seen outside of comics or animation: Steppenwolf. He was originally going to be in the theatrical release of Batman v. Superman but his cameo was cut making Justice League his first actual appearance. However, when he was announced to be the primary antagonist of Justice League many people, including comic fans, responded with, Who is Steppenwolf? Steppenwolf has made very few appearances in comics, Rob of the YouTube channel Comics Explained estimates that he was in only 70 comics, so many wondered why he was chosen as the antagonist over Brainiac or Darkseid. Today we're going to look at just exactly who Steppenwolf is.

New Gods #7
New Gods #7
Steppenwolf first appeared in Jack Kirby's New Gods #7 in 1972. Kirby was half of the dreamteam which made Marvel the success that it was, but he felt he wasn't getting the recognition that he rightly deserved (people mostly credited Stan Lee over Kirby) so amicably left to work for DC. There he made the New Gods which are a very inventive series of comics. Originally, the New Gods lived on two worlds existing outside the Multiverse in what has been named Kirby's 'Fourth World': the idyllic New Genesis ruled by Highfather, and the dystopian Apokolips ruled by Darkseid. As they existed out of the Multiverse the only way they could be reached, or come to the DC Universe, by portals named Boom Tubes. When Crisis on Infinite Earths destroyed the Multiverse the Fourth World was moved to existing inside the DC Universe, but they existed in a galaxy cut off from the rest of the universe only accessible via Boom Tube. The one last thing we need to discuss is the Source Wall. This 'Wall' exists at the edge of the Multiverse and separates the Multiverse from the Source: a collection of all knowledge and power in the Multiverse. If someone fails to get across the Source Wall they become part of the Wall itself.

Now we turn to Steppenwolf. Steppenwolf was the commander of Apokolips' military while Apokolips was under the rule of his sister Heggra, someone who had been ruling Apokolips since her husband, Yuga Khan, was claimed by the Source Wall. Later, when Heggra's son Uxas, (Darkseid), killed her he began serving his nephew. Steppenwolf was the enforcer for Apokolips; when Heggra or Darkseid wanted something done he would do it. This brings us to his first appearance in New Gods #7. Darkseid wanted his mother dead, (after all she had his wife, the only person he ever loved, executed), and wanted war with Apokolips' eternal enemy, New Genesis. So he sent Steppenwolf to assassinate Avia, the wife of New Genesis' ruler Izaya. This resulted in a bloody war which devastated both worlds. During the war Darkseid poisoned Heggra and Izaya smashes Steppenwolf killing him yelling: You'll never kill anyone again, Steppenwolf!
Steppenwolf's Death
During the war Izaya learned of the Source and devoted himself to peace renaming himself Highfather. He made a peace agreement with Darkseid where his son would be raised by Darkseid, while he would raise Darkseid's son Orion. While the sons were on their new worlds the peace would stand, so Darkseid had a torturer daily abuse Highfather's son so he would be compelled to escape the planet and end the non-aggression pact. Darkseid then showed his power and resurrected Steppenwolf putting him back in charge of Apokolips' military. Until the DC Universe was rebooted in the New 52 he was a background character with the only noteworthy thing that he did was dying at the hands of the Terror Titans; an inverse group of the Teen Titans.

New 52
Steppenwolf was reintroduced following the New 52 in Justice League Vol.2 #6. Again, he is in charge of Darkseid's army, however, he plays a minor role with Darkseid being the main villain. As the New 52 brought back the Multiverse the Fourth World was moved again to being outside the Multiverse. One of the 52 new universes was Earth-2 and Darkseid declared war on this reality. He sent Steppenwolf with an army of Parademons to wipe out the main threats of this reality before he invaded, clearly learning from his failed attempt at invading the mainstream universe. Steppenwolf destroyed entire countries and even destroyed Amazon Island causing the Olympian Gods to pray for humanity to fight through this. Batman infiltrated towers controlling the Parademons while Superman and Wonder Woman directly fought them. However, Steppenwolf impales Wonder Woman on his sword killing her and Superman is killed when Parademons overrun him. 
Steppenwolf kills Wonder Woman
Finally, Batman sacrifices himself destroying the towers, and with it the Parademons. Steppenwolf then is trapped on Earth where for five years with the remnants of his army he tried to establish his own kingdom in order to later conquer the rest of the planet. Steppenwolf had been using a clone of Superman, called Brutaal, to fight for him and had been indoctrinating him to worship Darkseid. However, this worked too well so when Steppenwolf decided to conquer the Earth for himself, and not Darkseid, Brutaal killed him. Sometime later Steppenwolf was resurrected again by Darkseid appearing in Justice League Vol. 2 #42.

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