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Everything You Need to Know About JUSTICE LEAGUE’s Villain, Steppenwolf

In a world of incredibly muscular people wearing skin-tight clothing, the horniest person of all is the one trying to destroy the world as we know it. I am, of course, referring to Steppenwolf, the villain of the upcoming Justice League movie, and I am also, of course, referring to the massive horns protruding from his giant, evil head. Why, what did you think I meant?

Regardless, the DC Cinematic Universe’s deadliest villain yet is going to give the Justice League a run for their money this November as he and the forces of Apokolips invade Earth. Yet in spite of how fearsome a foe Steppenwolf is, no one really knows who he is. Is he a member of the hair metal band? Is he a sentient copy of the Herman Hesse novel? No and also no, but on today’s episode of The Dan Cave I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about Steppenwolf before you see Justice League.

Like most great things in comics, Steppenwolf was created by Jack Kirby. First appearing in 1972’s New Gods #7, Steppenwolf would go on to become one of the most vicious villains and skilled tacticians in the DC universe. Created as part of Kirby’s New Gods in the early 1970s, the Steppenwolf of the comics was originally depicted very differently than the CG-animated monsterman you saw in that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice deleted scene. Originally, Steppenwolf resembled a sci-fi version of the Jolly Green Giant, but instead of delicious frozen peas, he trafficked in murder. However, times and outfits have changed, and as part of his New 52 revamp, Steppenwolf evolved into more of an imposing, goateed man-mountain wearing plated armor and a horned helmet that would be right at home in an apocryphal Diablo III DLC.

One of the self-proclaimed New Gods, Steppenwolf lived in a realm outside of space and time as we perceive it known as the Fourth World, on the nightmarish planet of Apokolips, a warlike world where slavery and cruelty are par for the course. It’s only accessible via Boom Tube, which is a teleportation device that serves as the DC Universe’s equivalent of the Floo Network from Harry Potter. The denizens of Apokolips are locked in a constant struggle with the neighboring planet of New Genesis, waging an eternal war between light and dark. Beings there possess incredible heightened abilities like superhuman strength, speed, stamina, and nigh immortality thanks to the power of the Source, the aptly named and seemingly limitless supply of energy that powers all of creation in the DCU. But because that wasn’t enough, Jack Kirby also gave Steppenwolf something called an Electro-Axe, which is a lot like a normal axe but…electric. (I know, I wish it was a guitar too, but we don’t always get what we want.)

Much like the Marvel Universe has Thanos, the DC Universe has a power-hungry cosmic tyrant of its own who remains a constant threat to all of existence: Darkseid. And Steppenwolf just so happens to be one of Darkseid’s most trusted generals, leading the armies of Apokolips in assaults all around the known universe. But Steppenwolf isn’t just a member of Darkseid’s elite; he’s also Darkseid’s uncle. In his very first comic appearance, Steppenwolf tries to prove his worth to his nefarious nephew by murdering the wife of Highfather, one of Darkseid’s most hated rivals. Except unlike other rivals, Highfather didn’t take this lying down. Rather, he murdered Steppenwolf in retaliation, plunging the worlds of Apokolips and New Genesis into war. Little did Steppenwolf know, but he was just a pawn in Darkseid’s Machiavellian manipulations to poison his mother and seize the throne of Apokolips for himself.

Fortunately for Steppenwolf, he later shuffled back on to this mortal coil and was resurrected…because comics. Unfortunately for Steppenwolf, his whole life seems to be one gigantic “always the bridesmaid, never the bride” situation. At one point, he was murdered by the Clock King of all people over being a stick-in-the-mud about metahuman gladiatorial fights. But it’s not all bad–Steppenwolf is a master of military strategy and commands one of the coolest units in all of comics, the Dog Cavalry, which is an elite squadron of massive demon dogs that sniff out the enemies of Darkseid and turn them into the sentient equivalent of Kibbles and Bits.

During an invasion of Earth-2, Steppenwolf pretty much single-handedly defeated the World Army, using his army of Parademons to cut through them like a hot knife through an entire butter factory. During that assault, Steppenwolf and his forces managed to kill that world’s Wonder Woman and Superman when they mounted a last-ditch attack on the Apokoliptan army. Steppenwolf was ultimately routed when Earth-2’s Batman sacrificed himself to send the Parademons back through the Boom Tubes they rode in on. Suddenly finding himself very vulnerable and very alone, Steppenwolf did what any one of us would do in his situation: he used his remaining troops to commit regicide and seize control of the country of Dherain, establishing himself as its despot. But because time is a flat circle, a few years later Steppenwolf was given impromptu Lasik and disintegrated by a dude named Brutaal, who turned out to be Earth-2’s Bizarro. Tough break, man.

At the end of the day, despite the fact that he is often mercilessly dunked on by everyone from fellow New Gods to measly Earthlings, Steppenwolf is a badass military leader with awesome powers who will prove a more than capable match for the Justice League in their first cinematic outing. Played by Ciaran Hinds, Steppenwolf seems as though he is going to be leading the advance guard in an Apokoliptian invasion of Earth, laying the groundwork for Darkseid to lay siege to our pale blue dot in future films. Now let’s just cross our fingers and hope Joss Whedon’s rewrites included some seriously sweet Dog Cavalry scenes or else I’m going to be sorely disappointed.

Justice League opens on November 17, 2017

Images: Warner Bros./DC Comics

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Dan Casey is the senior editor of Nerdist and the author of books about Star Wars and the Avengers. Follow him on Twitter (@DanCasey).

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