Last week, A Wrinkle in Time director Ava DuVernay lined up her next feature film: an adaptation of DC’s New Gods. Comic book fans are well aware of the Fourth World denizens and how they interact with the rest of DC’s universe. But for many casual moviegoers, this will likely be their first exposure to a dazzling array of characters as well as a story that’s even more cosmic than DuVernay’s last movie!
First, a caveat. Who knows if New Gods will ever get made? Even Joss Whedon couldn’t get Batgirl off of the ground, and at least people knew who Batgirl was! Justice League actually offered a taste of the New Gods by introducing Steppenwolf and the parademons from Apokolips. However, there is so much more to the characters than that unsatisfying villain. The New Gods arguably have one of the greatest comic book villains of all time. And the heroes are also larger than life. This is potentially a film that could give moviegoers a world they haven’t seen dozens of times before. For that reason alone, we’d love to see it realized on screen.
The first thing you need to know about the New Gods is that they are the unbridled creations of Jack Kirby, the artist and co-creator of several of Marvel’s iconic heroes, including Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, the X-Men, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, Black Panther, and so many more. In the ‘70s, Kirby jumped from Marvel to DC and created his own mythology, which he called “the Fourth World.” According to Kirby’s vision, the saga of the New Gods began long ago with the death of the old gods during Ragnarok. In the ruins of creation, one planet was split into two new worlds: New Genesis and Apokolips. While New Genesis was a paradise and a beacon of light for the universe, Apokolips was a dead world ruled by the malevolent being known as Darkseid.
DuVernay dropped hints about her involvement with New Gods back in December when she named Big Barda as her favorite superheroine. That pretty much guarantees we’ll see Barda in the film, most likely as the female lead. Barda has never been the main character in this storyline, but we can understand why DuVernay would be drawn to her. Barda was raised in the fires of Apokolips as one of Darkseid’s Female Furies. Barda was also the fiercest warrior among them, and yet she still had the capacity to love and grow beyond her harsh upbringing. Together with her lover, Scott Free, Barda escaped Apokolips and they made a life together on Earth.
Barda’s story would be incomplete without Scott, who is better known as Mister Miracle. Scott was born on New Genesis as the son of its ruler, Highfather. In theory, Scott should have grown up with a life of privilege among his peers. Instead, Highfather and Darkseid reached a tentative peace with each other. To maintain their agreement, Darkseid sent his son, Orion, to be raised on New Genesis, while Highfather gave up Scott to Darkseid and allowed him to grow up under the most hellish conditions imaginable.
For years, Scott was tortured and abused. And yet he was never broken. Along the way, Scott formed his bond with Barda and picked up the skills that would make him the world’s greatest escape artist. As Mister Miracle, Scott is also a pretty good superhero. But Barda is the fighter in that family. Let’s put it this way: When Superman and Batman once needed help getting to Apocalips, it was Barda who provided their backup.
Orion is the other key player in this drama. Unlike Scott, he doesn’t have his innate good nature to fall back upon. Orion actually has to fight his inner darkness, and he’s known as a bit of a hothead among the New Gods. However, Orion is loyal to New Genesis, and he may be their greatest hero. Although Darkseid wants his son back in the fold, he’s well aware of the prophecy that Orion may finally be the one to end his reign. That’s paved the way for several epic confrontations between them over the past few decades.
What is it that makes Darkseid such a compelling villain? He exudes power and confidence. Darkseid fears nothing, because there are very few who could actually stand up to him in battle. Even Superman falls short of Darkseid’s might. Darkseid wants nothing less than complete and utter domination over all life in this universe and beyond. And he is always on the cusp of achieving that goal with his pursuit of the Anti-Life Equation, which can control any living being.
There’s also a lot of drama to be mined from Scott and Orion’s relationship, which is complex. In some ways, Orion is closer to Highfather than Scott, and Orion is also more committed to the war against Darkseid than his foster brother. Orion and Scott may be on the same side, but there is no love between them. And their conflict could easily destroy them long before they ever face Darkseid in the final battle. It’s almost Shakespearean that way.
New Gods has an extremely large supporting cast of heroes and villains, but DuVernay’s film will almost certainly focus on Barda, Scott, Orion, and Darkseid. There’s also a fairly strong chance that either or both Barda and Scott will be played by a performer of color. Considering that the second Mister Miracle, Shilo Norman, was African-American, it’s not a huge stretch. Ultimately, the color of their skin is irrelevant. The important thing is the characters and their story. If DuVernay can retain the most important elements of Kirby’s narrative, then she’ll have more than enough material for this movie. And possibly even more beyond that.