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Fourth World Fashion: The Costume History of Darkseid

This week, we got our first look at the New 52 version of one of the greatest villains in comics history, Darkseid. The unquestioned master of Apokolips only appears in shadows in the new Justice League #3 itself, but he’s going to be rocking an all-new costume that’s far more complex than his old look. I have to say, as a fan of Kirby’s designs in general and Darkseid’s fetching navy blue minidress in particular, the new design has left me a little underwhelmed. That’s why today, ComicsAlliance is taking a close look at the new design for one of the greatest super-villains of all time as we go through the history of Darkseid’s Fourth World Fashions!As originally envisioned by Jack Kirby, Darkseid’s outfit — seen here in the King’s Hunger Dogs graphic novel — was a model of simplicity:

The simple sleeveless tunic is offset by the silver belt, which — oh, who am I kidding? That thing is a miniskirt.

But that’s what so awesome about Darkseid! He’s the all-powerful god of evil who lives in space and once had an entire planet reshaped into the likeness of his own head so that he could cruise around the galaxy in style. Not only does he not need a lot of flash to his outfit to convey that he’s a ruthless monster, he doesn’t even need pants. Just belt that sucker to define his waist and he is ready to grind the universe beneath the heel of his thigh-high patent leather boots.

Of course, Lee’s take on Darkseid isn’t the first time that he’s been redesigned. The most common tweak was one that Kirby himself often used, replacing the skirt with more traditionally super-heroic trunks. In 1998′s Grant Morrison and Howard Porter’s “Rock of Ages” storyline in JLA, the Darkseid of a dystopian future showed up with a few changes:

The most obvious change is the switch from the original blue to the all-black-everything style that reflects his darker future, but there’s one other notable addition. The Omega symbol, long identified with Darkseid due to the “Omega Effect” that he uses against his enemies, has been incorporated into his design in the form of a chin-piece.

Other than that, everything has remained the same, giving us the opportunity to imagine the grim horror of a future filled with Darkseid upskirt shots.

In Final Crisis, Morrison and J.G. Jones had another shot at the redesign:

The design in the Final Crisis sketchbook showed a Darkseid with a glowing Omega symbol on his chest and gloves, but the version seen in the comic is focused on the transition as the human Dan Turpin becomes the host for the god of evil. The main distinction that he has here — aside from shirtlessness — comes from a pair of knee braces that were undoubtedly added to evoke the ruthlessness of the Texas Rattlesnake, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.

Which brings us to today, and the redesign we’ll be seeing in Justice League:

Aside from the helmet — which, in the context of the other New 52 costumes, looks like a high collar that somehow manages to go all the way up to his bottom lip — the new suit is a complete redesign, and rather than the simplicity of the original, this thing is busy.

The tunic has been tossed, and while I can sort of understand why — if you can’t handle having a dude wearing trunks because people won’t stop referring to it as underwear, there’s no way you want your Final Boss Bad Guy to be running around in a miniskirt — I’m not sure that replacing it with what appears to be super-tight black PVC is really going to change things all that much. There have been symbols added too: an upside-down Omega on the chest that’s framing either a jewel of sinister power or some kind of satanic Pop-O-Matic bubble, and a U in place of a belt buckle, presumably for Uxas, Darkseid’s real name.

The most distinctive new element, though, is the fact that Darkseid now has a set of ceramic football shoulder pads, because, you know, why not? After all, that’s a style that has a long and proud history in comics — don’t even act like you don’t have font memories of Iron Man’s football pad armor from when it showed up in Marvel vs. Capcom 2.

But in the end, it’s just too much. It might be the perfect example of the same trend to overdesign things that’s hit the rest of DC’s heroes, gilding the lily of great costumes by adding seams and kneepads and armor to characters, complicating designs that were so good because of their simplicity. I’m a guy who likes Darkseid a lot, so I’ll admit to being attached to the design created by the man that I think of as the single greatest creator in comics history, but this just doesn’t look like Darkseid to me. It looks like a Darkseid action figure that I would’ve gotten as a kid and immediately stripped of his goofy Total Justice accessories to get to the “real” version underneath.

What do you think of Darkseid’s new costume?

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