Steppenwolf: How the Immortal Villain Will Try to Take Down the Justice League

The Justice League superheroes gather together in a posed promo shot

Justice League | Warner Bros.

With the trailer finally out for Justice League, most of the chatter among fans is about when we’ll finally get a good look at Superman in the new Warner Bros. movie, based on the DC comics. But the fact that the superhero team, headlined by Batman and Wonder Woman, are actually appearing in a major motion picture is overshadowing someone else in a big way — and that’s the leading bad guy, Steppenwolf.

The trailer gave fans their first glimpse of the character, played by Northern Irish actor Ciaran Hinds (Frozen, John Carter, and There Will Be Blood). What do we know about Steppenwolf? We took a look at some questions about the villain who will take on the Justice League in theaters this November.

1. Who is Steppenwolf?

A close-up of a bent leg in armor

Steppenwolf in the Justice League trailer | Warner Bros. Studios

For fans that are really into the DC comic books and backstory for the superheros of the Justice League, Steppenwolf is well-known. But not every moviegoer or comic fan is completely familiar with this character. Essentially, Steppenwolf is a New God created by comic book legend Jack Kirby. He’s an enormously powerful dude, which is what makes him worthy of a film that requires not just one, but an assortment of heroes to stop him.

The New Gods exist in the Fourth World, which is beyond the realm of space and time. Steppenwolf resides on the planet Apokolips, ruled by the evil Darkseid — more on him in a bit. He rules the military, leading the dog cavalry (a group of warriors that actually rides gigantic dogs) and brandishing the electro-axe as his weapon of choice.

2. How is he tied to Darkseid?

A figure in all-black stands in a deserted landscape and looks at a city ahead

Darkseid | Warner Bros.

Darkseid is the ruler of Apokolips, which is one of the two planets to hold the New Gods. The other is New Genesis, and is essentially the light side version of Apokolips. Steppenwolf and Darkseid are tied together because, as previously mentioned,  Steppenwolf runs the military on the planet that Darkseid oversees as ruler. It’s also worth pointing out that Steppenwolf is Darkseid’s uncle.

In the storylines from the comics, Steppenwolf helped Darkseid escape from Doomsday, invaded Earth-2 with the help of Darkseid’s parademons (the weird-looking guys that Batman and Superman had to defeat in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), and even killed Superman and Wonder Woman.

Let’s hope our favorite Kryptonian doesn’t return from the dead only to be put back in a grave by Steppenwolf.

3. What are his intentions on Earth?

Steppenwolf holds three black boxes in his hands in Justice League

Steppenwolf with the Mother Boxes | Warner Bros. Studios

Given the tone of the trailer, the glowing axe that Steppenwolf wields, and the fact that he’s from a planet called Apokolips, we can guess that Steppenwolf’s intentions are nefarious in Justice League. We’ve learned that Darkseid charges Steppenwolf with tracking down three artifacts on Earth. We can go ahead and assume that those three artifacts are the Mother Boxes.

The three Mother Boxes are hidden — one with the Amazonians, one with the Kingdom of Atlantis, and one somewhere else on the planet. The three boxes are extremely powerful, with the ability to transport anything through space and time.

With this kind of power in the hands of Steppenwolf and Darkseid, it would be difficult for anyone to defeat them. Although, this is the history of the Mother Boxes as written in the comics. We don’t know what the movies will change, if anything.

4. How is Steppenwolf created?

Ciaran Hinds wears glasses and looks up while sitting in a car

Ciaran Hinds in Game of Thrones | HBO

For the answer to this question, we turn to Hinds himself. In an interview with the BBC, Hinds talked about how the look of Steppenwolf was created for Justice League. He said:

I didn’t even have a costume while I was doing it. It’s all done, what’s it called, motion capture. So basically they put a helmet on your head, put two cameras around, and they capture all your expressions and facial expressions. They’ll use my facial expressions, eyes, mouth…and will turn into this murderous, avenging, Steppenwolf from the planet Apokolips, apparently, who is bent on hell on earth.

It’s interesting to find out that most of what we’ll see on screen is done with CGI. This is quite common these days with big-budget superhero films. But considering how little Hinds appears to know about the comics, he may end up surprised by the end results.

5. What is his history with Wonder Woman?

Steppenwolf fighting Wonder Woman in Justice League

Steppenwolf fighting Wonder Woman in the Justice League trailer | Warner Bros. Studios

In the comics, there is actually a storyline where Steppenwolf manipulates Wonder Woman into developing feelings for him, and they eventually father a child together named Fury. In the end, Steppenwolf uses this situation to lower her guard and eventually kills Diana, stabbing her in the back.

It’s really unlikely that any of this will play out in Justice League, but it’s interesting nonetheless. We can probably assume that DC wouldn’t want to go down the road of having to develop a whole romantic storyline just to kill off one of the more popular characters — not to mention, from one of their best movies to date. Maybe they’ll simply have a line that makes some sort of wink or nod to this alternate history?

6. Will they need Superman to take him down?

Henry Cavill as Superman stands in the rain and looks ahead

Henry Cavill as Superman | Warner Bros. Studios

The final scene of the trailer teases the return of Superman, who died sacrificing himself in Dawn of Justice. We hear a pounding sound, at which point Alfred turns around and tells an unseen person: “He said you’d come. Now let’s hope you’re not too late.”

We’re supposed to assume that he’s talking to Superman, although it’s left open for speculation on numerous other possible characters. The desperation in Alfred’s statement suggests that the situation is dire and that Superman is needed to bring down Steppenwolf.

Considering the superhuman power and speed that the villain is known for, it makes sense that the Man of Steel would be necessary to help the Justice League match up.

7. Will he die in the movie?

Steppenwolf in the Justice League trailer

Steppenwolf in the Justice League trailer | Warner Bros. Studios

The final question is whether or not Steppenwolf will die in the movie. It’s completely fair to wonder about it. The character dies multiple times in the comics, as is common with the genre. But we know about Superman’s feelings on killing, even when it’s completely necessary. He didn’t even want to kill Zod in Man of Steel, and that guy basically wanted nothing but the destruction of the entire planet. So if Steppenwolf is to be put down, who would be the one to do it?

Based on the comics’ history that we’ve explored, it would be kind of fun if Wonder Woman did the job. But in general, it’s hard to speculate too much further. Could Steppenwolf make it out of the movie alive, only to return in a later film with Darkseid along for the fun? We’ll have to wait until November to find out.

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