In the DC Universe, there aren’t many threats that are bigger than the New God of Evil, Darkseid. A nigh-unstoppable force of darkness and subjugation, and a perennial foe of Superman and the Justice League, the DC Universe’s greatest villain will is dedicated to crushing all of existence beneath his booted heel.
Since the villain was created by Jack Kirby, Darkseid has been after the one thing only that will make his dark dream a reality: the Anti-Life Equation. While it might not be as tangible as something like Marvel’s Infinity Gauntlet, it’s still an incredibly powerful concept, both to Darkseid and the DCU as a whole. Now, we’re going to take a closer look at the Anti-Life Equation, what it can do and why it’s one of the most powerful ideas in teh DC Universe.
The Anti-Life Equation is a mathematical proof that life is meaningless, the Anti-Life Equation overwhelms its victims with the knowledge that subjugation is life’s only purpose. It allows its user to dominate the spirits of any living creature in existence, which makes it the ultimate tool for cosmic domination. While studying the ancient Martian concept called the Life Equation — the mathematical proof that life is worth living — Darkseid postulated that an opposite equation must also exist in 2001’s Martian Manhunter #33, by John Ostrander, Eduardo Barreto and Ray Kryssing. Darkseid theorized that this Anti-Life Equation would prove that all of reality belonged to him, and he dedicated his life to finding this proof and using it to bring the universe to its knees and acknowledging him as its one true master.
It is within the pages of Grant Morrison, Pascal Ferry and Freddie Williams II’s Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle series that the formula for the Equation itself is finally given. After taking a mortal form on Earth known as Boss Dark Side, Darkseid attempts to corrupt Shilo Norman, Mister Miracle, with the formula: “loneliness + alienation + fear + despair + self-worth ÷ mockery ÷ condemnation ÷ misunderstanding × guilt × shame × failure × judgment n=y where y=hope and n=folly, love=lies, life=death, self=dark side.”
While Norman manages to break free from its control, many others weren’t so lucky.
Shortly after, Darkseid finally uses the Equation to force his will upon the Earth with multiversal ramifications as a part of the Final Crisistag crossover. After murdering his son, Orion, and taking over the mortal body of Metropolis detective Dan Turpin, Darkseid infects the planet by transmitting his Equation through the Internet, spreading his proof like a virus and corrupting the souls of nearly every living person on the planet, including its heroes and villains. Its influence was even powerful enough to turn Wonder Woman into one of Darkseid’s Female Furies.
Until his defeat at the hands of Superman and his allies, Darkseid nearly even uses the corrupting power of Equation to drag all of reality down with him as he falls into oblivion. This storyline by Grant Morrison, J.G. Jones, and Doug Mahnke served as a capstone to a storyline Morrison started over a decade before with Howard Porter in the JLA story arc, “Rock of Ages,” which first depicted a future where Darkseid had used the Equation to take over the Earth.
Along with Final Crisis and “Rock of Ages,” stories like Tom Taylor and Trevor Hairsine’sDCeased miniseries show that the Equation can ravage any reality, not just the prime DC Universe. Despite his long-sought mastery of the Equation, even the dread Darkseid is still susceptible to its effects. At the start of the story, Darkseid accidentally unleashes an even more corrupted version of the equation that turns its victims into mindless, rabid zombies after experimentations with the Equation and the Black Racer — the Fourth World’s embodiment of death — go awry. After seeing this new Equation with his own eyes, the evil god goes mad, tearing apart his own face before destroying Apokolips and himself along with it. This infection spreads to Earth where it wipes through billions of people, including many of Earth’s greatest heroes and villains.
Darkseid is not the only member of his family to use the Equation. It belonged to his father Yuga Khan before him, and Darkseid’s own son, Orion, once used it with good intentions to force every living being into happiness and contentment. This was short-lived however, as the Dog of War soon realized that a life without free will is no life at all. Another hero of the New Gods, Scott Free, Darkseid’s adopted son and the first Mister Miracle, is one of the few people who has learned the formula and resisted the temptation to use it for his own ends.
In any reality, the Anti-Life Equation represents a grave threat to the concept of free will and the DC Universe at large. Even when used by those with the best of intentions, it is far too dangerous to be used thoughtlessly. In the hands of a tyrant like Darkseid, there is nothing more terrifying.
In the hands of the iconic Justice League villain, the Anti-Life Equation might just be the most dangerous weapon in the entire DC Universe.