- Books, Literature, and Writing»
- Comics & Graphic Novels»
Darkseid- Psychology of a Supervillain
To wit, my formal psychological qualifications are pretty much...nil. I've had maybe one class at what I suppose compares to first year university level, and I remember very little of it. The following is based on my own reading, with a heavy emphasis on the work of Theodore Millon. I will only say that comic book villains are, by their nature, pretty easy to profile, so a formal qualifications isn't strictly necessary. But I will submit to the wisdom of the learned.
Darkseid is...Well, that pretty much sums him up. Its his oft repeated creed that he simply Is, usually to try to not just defy any categorization but to evoke the idea that he, Darkseid, is the ultimate reality, the "Tiger-Force" of Creation as it were. His ambition is to be the new God and he possesses the might and the power to realize that ambition, or at least he appears to or believes that he does
Darkseid began as Uxas in what was hundreds of thousands, if not millions of years ago, born to Queen Heggra and King Yuga Khan, rulers of the planet Apokolips, twin planet to New Genesis and one of two homes to the race known as the New Gods, who are indeed an actual race of gods in the formal cosmology of the DC universe, and not merely highly advanced extra-terrestrials, though in point of fact the two worlds are the most more technologically advanced than any other.
Every New God possesses immortality, in that they do not die of age and are immune to virtually every disease, and though they can die a violent death they possess such superhuman durability, as well as superhuman strength, stamina etc., that most "mortal" races would have to take extreme measures to kill even an average member of their race. Into this race and this advanced world of Apokolips, Uxas was born.
Uxas was the younger brother to Drax; thus, as elder, Drax was formally the heir to the throne, and Uxas lived in the shadow of his more popular and well-meaning sibling. At a certain point in their lives the New Gods take a God-name, typically chosen from a collection in the Apokoliptian scriptures- after claiming the power of the mystical Omega Force, Drax was to choose a new god-name and be formally made heir. He desired to peace with neighbouring New Genesis whilst Heggra and Uxas both desired war, Heggra being the reigning monarch as Yuga Khan was offworld, trapped in the Source Wall, trying to uncover the secrets of the universe as so many petty tyrants before him had tried and failed before.
Hot tempered and impatient, with a cruel and manipulative streak and a resentment of authority, and specifically of the authority of his domineering and controlling mother, whom he believed favoured Drax despite their opposing philosophies, Uxas press-ganged the young New God called Desaad into helping him assassinate his brother and steal the Omega Force for himself, the process of which turned him into a rock monster- the Omega Force was a corrupting and dangerous power, and as Uxas rightly guessed his brother could not handle it as only a cruel and evil person like himself could survive its power. His sabotage of his brothers efforts and subsequent murder were formalities.
Uxas took the name Darkseid, a name from the Apokoliptian scriptures no other New God had dared to take, as it marked him as the God of Tyranny. While Uxas was known to have a dark streak, few had suspected the true depths of his villainy- save for his mother, Heggra, who revealed that she had favoured him all along and that her controlling behaviour towards him was designed from the outset to breed a wicked and ruthless son, one who would start a war with New Genesis and prove a worthy successor to her dark legacy.
Darkseid, for one, enjoyed this revelation, as he was proud of the wicked person he had become and even conceded to his mothers' arranged marriage between himself and the New God Tigra that neither he nor Tigra had wanted, especially now that he had learnt she was pregnant with his son, who would become the New God Orion and grow up to be one of his deadliest enemies. He even enjoyed how much this seemed to renew Tigra's hatred of him, revelling in his new self and embracing his darkest nature.
But this "happiness" was not to last. Darkseid had another son, Kalibak, by the Apokoliptian scientist and sorceress Suli, whom he loved sincerely, and who was poisoned by Desaad under Heggra's orders. Enraged, Darkseid had Desaad poison Heggra in revenge and seized the throne of Apokolips as its formal leader, and vowed to never love again.
In subsequent years and millennia Darkseid began his war with New Genesis and began attacking the gods of other, lesser worlds, slaughtering entire pantheons and stealing their power for himself. Already the strongest New God on either world, this new power creates a true chasm of difference in strength between him and any rival, and Darkseid began cultivating a cult of personality around himself that became the state religion of Apokolips, worshipping him as a god amongst gods and, in some respects, as God himself.
He turned Apokolips into a true dystopia and actively stamped out concepts like love, happiness and free will, encouraged his subjects and minions to be cruel, ruthlessly competitive for his favour yet never wanting to be loved, only feared and awed- Apokoliptians would hate him, but they would be dependant on him. He was to be the only constant in their lives, without which life itself held no meaning and fell into chaos. Society was built around endless toiling and physical labour; Apokolips became a slave world of the meanest sort where for most life involved nothing but manually building a neverending series monuments to Darkseid.
Eventually, he learnt from a Martian worshiper of the concept of a Life Equation, a mathematical-philosophical ideal that supposedly explained love, happiness and free will and proved why life was worth living and was good. From this, Darkseid conceived of an Anti-Life Equation that would prove life was meaningless and love, happiness and free will were lies, and with an amendment could show that the only possibly purpose in life would be to worship Darkseid himself. The Equation, if real, could crush the will of any life form in the universe and Darkseid could use it to remake reality itself in his image, putting all of Creation under his heel as the new God.
In this capacity, he has clashed with nearly every DC superhero, especially Superman who embodies concepts like Truth, Hope and Justice that Darkseid actively and maliciously opposes.
Darkseid has shown an eagerness to avenge past defeats and brutally punishes failure with torture or death, though he possesses the power to resurrect the dead when he feels need of the services of the deceased again, making him truly the master of life and death on Apokolips. No-one, not even his children, is exempt from his cruel and merciless behaviour and he has been known to have minions tortured or killed even when they fulfilled their tasks, though he regards the lives of his sons as his and his alone to end, and has executed minions for killing even Orion despite him being an enemy. On the occasions he has spared enemies and underlings for their transgressions, he has considered his mercy to be a punishment, believing that letting them live in a chaotic universe with free will is a bad enough fate.
In addition, and importantly, Darkseid possesses a raging and unnatural temper that is only kept in checked by a phenomenal amount of self-control; in comparison, his son Orion, who has inherited this, actually requires artificial means (the Mother-Box, a personal supercomputer) to control his. It could be considered a dark reflection of Darkseids’ ambition that he has brought order to his own inner chaos through sheer force of will and personal discipline, which is what he wishes to do to the universe on a much grander scale.
He adheres to a strange personal code of honour and generally keeps his word (his exact word), but does not allow this to get in the way of his ambition or, occasionally, his vengeance. He desires an ordered universe with himself as absolute ruler, and wishes to make this universe as dark and miserable as possible and to break the will of every living thing to make them both dependant on him and cruel, spiteful people who have a truly nihilistic outlook on life, believing nothing but Darkseid holds any meaning and that the rest of reality is a cruel, random place devoid of meaning, that Darkseid alone brings order to. He does not hide the fact that he is a ruthless, sadistic, uncaring deity who holds no love for any of his people and wants to be worshipped not so much in spite as because of this, making his evil vices- and he freely refers to himself as evil- out to be the only true virtues, turning good and evil upside down.
Darkseid is an extremely intelligent being, with vast knowledge and expert understanding of advanced science, military strategy, psychology and several other fields, and once blackmailed the neutral New God Metron into giving Apokolips Boom Tube technology (which opens inter-dimensional doorways to any point in the universe) because he saw their practical worth, and can respect the intelligence of his adversaries and underlings. He does not tolerate laziness or competence and expects his servants to be clever and imaginative as well as generally competent in their missions and undertakings, despite otherwise suppressing freedom of thought and fostering an oppressive and controlling atmosphere.
However, does not tolerate any criticism from his minions, and will execute them on the spot if they offer it, no matter how insightful or justified. However, he is less bothered by criticism from his enemies and even relishes their hatred and disgust of him. He may even show more respect for his enemies than his minions so long as those enemies are willing to go to any lengths to thwart him, and has less if they show some kind of moral restraint in pursuit of his defeat. Though he has a very high opinion of himself, it is less that he is blind to his own failures and weaknesses than he does not abide his subordinates trying to address them. He perceives love, happiness and hope as weaknesses and has an arbitrary sense of justice, mostly predicated on might makes right and a desire to instill some sort of order.
As one would expect from a cruel, merciless tyrannical despot who possesses unfathomable power and absolute authority, and who uses both primarily as instruments of extreme oppression, Darkseid meets the profile for several personality disorders. His contempt for the rights of others and his willingness to violate them on a cosmic scale in the name of his personal ambition or even whims, along with his manipulative and abusive personal relationships, are obvious markers of a sociopath, a textbook case Anti-Social Personality Disorder, made more evident by the fact that he exhibited such behaviour even at a comparatively young age, while his self-centredness, blatant egomania, disregard for the opinions of others and his self-assertion as a god amongst gods imply a serious Narcissistic Personality Disorder. He is also clearly a sadist who enjoys seeing others suffer and being the cause of that suffering, getting feelings of pleasure and power out of his cruel actions, and his desire for order suggests compulsive traits.
But above all, in regards to the precise details of his personal ambitions and the particulars of his behaviour, Darkseid exhibits several traits of a Paranoid personality. This is true of most leaders who place themselves at the centre of a personality cult, as they fear the illusion of their power will be shattered and their followers and underlings will turn on them as a result, thus they cultivate ever wilder claims to omnipotence and demand ever more extreme shows of subservience to demonstrate and exercise their power, and in some cases enjoy keeping their community in a state of permanent crisis both to prevent anyone from having the time or security to conspire against them, and to justify their most heinous demands.
In many cases, this type of community may be the desired outcome as an end in itself, as the type often believe it breeds a superior kind of man; such tyrant types are often spineless sadists and compensatory narcissists who exclaim ruthlessness, ambition and obedience as the highest virtues, and want to create a world that to the average person is outright dystopic, often with elements of institutionalized bigotry and ruthless competition, that will breed such people.
Darkseid is somewhat different. He does hold such sentiments as virtues, but he is an immortal god-tyrant who possesses genuinely incredible superhuman powers. Moreover, he is an elitist rather than a compensatory narcissist- the distinction is that the latter creates for themselves a self-image of a superperson to compensate for a fear that they are inferior- that is, they have an inferiority complex; the former already have a high opinion of themselves and hold a fear that they are normal- they have a superiority complex, their superhuman self-image merely enhances an already unhealthily large ego. In this case, Darkseid is not merely a god, or a superior of god; he considers himself to be a god amongst gods. The fact that he can back up this claim with raw power and intelligence only serves to worsen the disorder.
His sociopathy was born of a combination of his treatment by his mother and his extraordinary temper, which may be a distinct psychological condition likely worsened by the Omega Force. He was encouraged to feel an ordinarily criminal sense of entitlement- which naturally led into his narcissism- and to disregard the rights of others, to homicidal lengths if need be. He enjoys manipulating people, a clear sign of a narcissistic sociopath, and this enjoyment may be linked to his evident sadism, as was the way he treated Tigra. Of the various blends of narcissistic and anti-social types he most resembles an Unprincipled Narcissist (as opposed to a Covetous Antisocial), essentially a type of sadist who enjoys outwitting victims and believes that the normal rules of society do not apply to them for whatever reason, and feel they gain power and importance from that. Whereas Covetous types feel they have been cheated out of their due in life and are consequentially marked by pathological envy and greed, Unprincipled types are confident in their self worth and are more inclined to imagine that everything already belongs to them, and simply enjoy the challenge of actually getting it.
His sadism is an extension of his narcissism and marks him, appropriately enough for the God of Tyranny, as a Tyrannical Sadist- the kind who is sadistic for its own sake and relishes in their power over others, and in letting others see it. However, he also had traits of the Spineless sadist-type in that he sometimes acts ruthless merely for the sake of appearing ruthless, to encourage others to view him as tough and strong and willing to go to any lengths in pursuit of a goal.
However, the fact that his mother was responsible for shaping his personality through subtle manipulations and her domineering behaviour, along with her continued attempts to control him via murdering the love of his life, is critical in understanding his paranoia and how critical it is to is personality. Without it, he would still be a very cruel, egotistical, murderous god and despot, but with it, he goes further, and mixed in with his other traits as well as his incredible power and sense of ambition it is responsible for the way he runs Apokolips and his pursuit of the Anti-Life Equation.
Paranoid types tend to have a very bleak and depressing view of the world they live in. They do not, as in the stereotype, necessarily believe that everyone is actively out to "get" them, but they do assume they live in a dangerous world and that trust is not something they can easily afford to give. Darkseid most closely resembles an Obdurate Paranoid-type; a blend of compulsive and paranoid personality disorders, characterised by a desire to bring order to their world but a distrust of others and their motives, leading to them trying to create a system where order is imposed by them and is used to set unreasonable standards designed to break will and resistance- though, seeing this as no excuse for laziness, which is held in contempt. Apokolips and the Anti-Life Equation represent extreme examples of this, one warped further by Darkseid's narcissistic, antisocial and sadistic tendencies. Both systems are designed first and foremost to break the will of the people caught in them.
This combination of paranoia along with narcissistic, sadistic and anti-social trends leads to several other paranoid subtypes- Fanatic Paranoia, where ones narcissistic self-image is obsessively held to and dwelt on daily and ritually; Malignant Paranoia, where with sadism it presupposes all relationships are about power and one can expect to be on the receiving end of other people's enmity; and most importantly, the Malevolent Antisocial, Paranoid type, where the world is held to be a predatory place and one must be ruthless, manipulative, self-centred and amoral and remorseless to survive, let alone prosper.
Like all antisocials, but especially the Malevolent-Paranoid Antisocial, Darkseids regards kindness as weakness and holds it in suspicion and contempt. He is intelligent enough to recognize that not everyone who is kind is masking sinister motivations, but he does feel that kind people can generally fall under 3 categories- the weak, the foolish, and the manipulative, and he has more respect for the latter than the other two. However, all three are regarded as threats to him, since those who are kind to him out of weakness or a genuine "naivety", invite him to be soft, and thus weak himself, if he accepts their kindness or gives in to pity.
Since, as a paranoid, and a sadistic and malevolent paranoid with a grandiose self-image he adheres to fanatically, he assumes that he cannot afford to be soft or weak; even if no-one actually harms him, or could, this would still threaten his self image as he has internalized monstrous and immoral behaviour as virtues and villianized hope, kindness, happiness and love as vices- and as a fanatic paranoid, he can tolerate no attack on his self image, and would regard changing his nature as tantamount to suicide.
This is why he demands absolute loyalty from his minions and brooks no criticism, whilst simultaneously deliberately cultivating hatred for himself from everyone he meets; aside from the sadistic pleasure he derives, it keeps him on his toes, so to speak- it encourages him to be as evil and cruel as he feels he needs to be. His quest for power is not based solely on ego or greed; it is also about making sure no-one can ever get close to him emotionally, or so emotionally that he can be hurt by it, as he was when Suli was murdered, for evil men cannot be hurt in that manner, cannot feel that kind of pain and, thus do not suffer that sort of weakness. Further, as a Malevolent, he assumes he lives in a dangerous world where anyone can be out to kill or betray him; ultimate power allows him to be the ultimate predator and invites anyone to try him at their peril.
Annihilating happiness and free will throughout the universe states his extreme Obdurate, Fanatic, Malignant and Malevolent-Antisocial fantasies; it would be the ultimate power trip, along with making himself the new God and the Creator of "a Hell without beginning or end" as he once put it, but it would also be a security measure and would prevent him from ever going soft, as softness and weakness would not exist in his new universe and thus he could no be infected by it, especially as he reinforces it by forcing everyone in existence to suffer and die for his pleasure.
It should be added that, for Darkseid the truth of his ethos is proven by his ability to get away with it. In a just world, he would reason, nothing like him would even exist, let alone succeed to the level he has, and he would use that to justify his own actions and nature. In essence, since he can randomly torment virtually any individual at will then the fact that there are others who are not suffering as much as the unfortunate is evidence of an unfair and chaotic universe. To this mindset, evil and suffering should either be eliminated altogether, or everyone should be made to suffer as much as possible, in order for the universe to be put in order, and since, despite an unspoken lamentation for his lost love and lost ability to love, he still very much likes the wicked person he is, and still has his paranoid delusions to plague him, he inclines toward the latter.