I don't link to Brothers nearly enough. He's one of the most eloquent and articulate people writing about comics these days.
Today is Jack Kirby's birthday and in honor of him, Brothers looks at Kirby's most fascinating creation: Darkseid. All too often, Darkseid gets treated like just another big bad conqueror, but when he was first introduced Darkseid was a far more complicated villain. Brothers explains:
Happy 95th Birthday, Jack Kirby. - ComicsAlliance | Comic book culture, news, humor, commentary, and reviews
The Anti-Life Equation is defined by Metron, one of Kirby's characters and a wise man who wavers between good and evil, at least as we understand it, as "the outside control of all living thought." It's not just a mind control tool. It is the ultimate mind control tool. It is the knowledge necessary to destroy free will. It is forbidden knowledge.
If Darkseid gained control of the Anti-Life Equation, the results would be devastating. Free will would evaporate in the blink of an eye, and the beings who were left would have no will of their own. No will but Darkseid's. The Anti-Life Equation is about blind, unquestioning obedience. It's about following orders, and it's about "your wish is my command" being the only truth. No individuality, no arguments, no personality. No sentient thought. Just a series of automatons whose will has been submerged and replaced by Darkseid's.
The one thing that's rarely addressed in the comics since Kirby left, as near as I can tell, is the Life Equation. The Life Equation is simple. Highfather, leader of the New Gods, says that "[t]he right of choice is ours! That is the Life Equation!"
Simple, ain't it? But quite clever. Instead of doing a tired good vs evil story, a story that is as old as time, Kirby zig-zags. He sets up the dichotomy as freedom vs slavery. Freedom is depicted as messy and beautiful, while slavery is flat and empty, void of detail. While good vs evil conflicts tend to suffer the older you get and the more you realize that everyone's the good guy in their own story, slavery vs freedom is a simple debate.
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I think it's pretty amazing, personally. There's something about re-defining evil as blind obedience that's tremendous. The specter of World War II, Adolf Hitler, and the Holocaust loom large over Kirby's work with the New Gods. Richard Nixon, too, influenced Kirby's new take on morality. It's easy to draw a line from the themes in Kirby's comics to the actions of Nazis during World War II. Darkseid's actions would turn everyone into an extension of his will, paving over everything even remotely resembling culture.
But it's the Life Equation that gets me the most. Kirby redefined good not as a moral issue, but one of freedom. The freedom to love, laugh, share, create, and more. There's the potential for harm, and many of the New Gods struggle with that potential, but just having that potential is vital. It needs to be there. Being able to choose to do wrong is greater than being forced to do good. Free will is everything. The Life Equation is everything beautiful, warts and all.
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