Steppenwolf makes his official DCEU appearance late next year, but what can we expect from him as a main villain?
It’s been confirmed for some time that the big bad of Justice League will be none other than Steppenwolf, the right-hand man—er—god of Darkseid. That, of course, means that the movie is wisely saving Darkseid and the full wrath of the New Gods for future movies (maybe that’s what Part 2 was going to be about before it got nixed?)
This won’t be the first time DC has leveraged the New Gods for a Justice League team-up, but this will be one of the rare times Steppenwolf will be pitted against the DC heroes, sans-Darkseid at least. For that reason, not everyone is quite sure what to make of Steppenwolf as a big bad, or which incarnation we can expect to see when he inevitably invades Earth to find the Mother Boxes.
Digging through his history, though, here are some reasonable aspects of the character we should expect and look out for as the DCEU continues.
#8 He’s more than just Darkseid’s uncle.
Honestly, I’d be quite surprised if Justice League gave us a lot of background on Steppenwolf himself, including his familial connection to Darkseid. Though I doubt they’ll avoid outright mentioning it, I think it’s more likely that the movie will focus on Steppenwolf’s true role. He’s Darkseid’s most elite soldier and leader of the Apokolips military. That’s the most relevant thing to get across.
This works well because it means the invasion force can (probably) be defeated by the Justice League and repelled back to Apokolips. A future movie can then lure the league to Darkseid’s own turf, where they’ll face the rest of the New Gods collectively. Just a guess.
Back to Steppenwolf. His original characterization is actually quite bland and expressed only through flashbacks in his first New Gods appearances. He’s loyal to Darkseid (for the most part), despite being older and likely more cunning as an expert military strategist, which we’ll get into later.
That said, we already know that he’s after the Mother Boxes, as seen in the deleted scene shown in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which means his motivations for invading Earth won’t be all that surprising, yet rooted in his more recent New 52 storylines.
#7 It will probably take the entire Justice League to stop him.
Without Superman, the League will barely stand a chance. At least if this version is in line with Prime Earth Steppenwolf, who managed to kill both Earth-2 versions of Superman and Wonder Woman.
The tricky thing is that we’ve already seen someone who should be stronger than him go toe-to-toe with just three JL members (well, Wonder Woman mostly) and that’s Doomsday. In the comics, Steppenwolf saves Darkseid’s life by making sure he doesn’t face Doomsday directly, and it’s implied that he would have surely lost.
Is the DCEU Doomsday underpowered? Well, he sort of has to be if Steppenwolf is expected to be a major threat. Yes, we’ll likely see the League face off against Parademons and other overwhelming odds, but it’s reasonable to assume that the final fight will consist of everyone versus Steppenwolf, with Superman carrying them over the edge to victory. What better way to set up Darkseid than to make his strongest soldier actually stronger than Doomsday?
#6 Steppenwolf’s death will motivate Darkseid.
There’s a lot of precedent for this. In the comics, Steppenwolf dies quite a lot at the hands of different characters (even Bizarro at one point). This plot device is usually employed by the writers to spur drastic action from Darkseid himself.
Granted, it’s not at all surprising to assume that a villain in a DCEU movie will perish for good. So far, they’ve all died except for Luthor and Joker (unless you count the remnant Suicide Squad). But if you were thinking that Steppenwolf could somehow escape or go into hiding, similar to his tactics in New 52, you might be disappointed.
Steppenwolf could perhaps fake his death, which could still work as an interesting point of motivation for Darkseid. The sticking point? Those dreaded Mother Boxes. By giving Steppenwolf such a clear goal, it will be somewhat muddy to write Darkseid as a vengeful character, when really, he just cares about power.
#5 Steppenwolf is a brilliant tactician, first and foremost.
Brute strength is a clear and obvious threat for the Justice League to consider, but if the movie truly understands Steppenwolf, it will also be more akin to a war movie (plus, as mentioned earlier, they already did the whole Doomsday thing).
Not just a war movie in terms of spectacle, but also when it comes to strategy and tactics. Steppenwolf’s flair as a character, little as it seems sometimes, comes from his commanding forces and the various, unique challenges they present for our heroes.
He works to outsmart his enemies more often than not with surprising foes, including the Dog Cavalry (warriors atop massive hounds as seen above) that will hopefully make an appearance. As well as the Lowlies (or The Hunger Dogs), who consist of the lowest dregs of New Gods society.
Put simply, Justice League would do well to vary the forces and parademons of Apokolips, if only to better differentiate the DCEU from the somewhat flavorless drones we’ve seen throughout most superhero movies, notably the Avengers films. They have plenty of good material to draw from. Let’s hope they do just that.
#4 Steppenwolf’s weapon-set will probably be simplified.
Yes, Steppenwolf typically uses his electro-axe in battle, and we should definitely expect to see it. But I have a feeling that’s all we’ll see him use aside from his fists. Judging from his bulky exterior, it’s hard to imagine a direction for the character that involves him using swords or his cable snare.
We might see Steppenwolf fight hand-to-hand at first, only later to reveal a huge electro-axe that matches his size and weight in order to up the stakes. Better yet, we could possibly see him wield some sort of broadsword in the other hand (like in the picture above), satisfying his comic status as a master swordsman.
As for his hovercraft, that could go either way. The “Knightmare” sequence in Batman v Superman gives us a good idea of the technological advancements of New Genesis and Apokolips. So a hovercraft could be designed in a way to make sense within the context already put forth by the Warner Bros. film and maybe even what we’ve seen of Krypton in Man of Steel (similarly, at least).
Otherwise, we might expect to see him get around with boom tubes or something similar.
#3 Steppenwolf can be a deadly manipulator (and father).
This is unlikely to happen, but Steppenwolf does have a history of deceiving Earth–2 Wonder Woman and having a half-Amazonian child with her (named Fury). The real kicker is that he eventually kills Diana, despite showing affection for her as a means to an end.
This could make for some interesting drama, but the DCEU will probably shy away from much of this in order to keep the plot lean. That said, we could see a version of this pre-established relationship in order for Wonder Woman to be the character who informs the Justice League of who Steppenwolf is, along with the New Gods.
It could make sense, via ceremonious flashback, if Steppenwolf is revealed to have visited Themyscira a long time ago, perhaps being the reason “men” are barred from ever visiting. We’ll know by the time Wonder Woman comes out if this guess holds any weight.
#2 Steppenwolf can be used to set up Mister Miracle.
The political intrigue between the New Gods is what makes them so compelling in their own comic run and when crossed over with more familiar characters. Steppenwolf, in particular, has a very important role when it comes to Darkseid’s rise to power in Apokolips and New Genesis.
Hopefully, the filmmakers will use Justice League to explain how Darkseid came to take over both planets and overrun Highfather, or pave the way if this hasn’t happened yet. This could involve Steppenwolf murdering Highfather’s wife (Avia) or perhaps someone with as much emotional weight during the invasion of Earth.
This would then set up a way to introduce Mister Miracle (Highfather and Avia’s son), who could assist the Justice League if they ever find themselves in New Genesis in the wake of Darkseid’s wrath. This is all loose speculation, but it’s a tidy way to retain some of Steppenwolf’s key moments from the comics while still setting up future films that can take can advantage of interesting characters who would otherwise get sidelined for being so obscure.
#1 Steppenwolf might go rogue.
I eluded to this earlier, but Steppenwolf hasn’t always been perfectly loyal to Darkseid. In New 52, he’s actually taken action independent of Darkseid and attempted conquering parts of Earth for himself—with Fury at his side, of course.
It’s unclear what the effect of that sort of move would have on Darkseid himself, mostly because Steppenwolf doesn’t last long when this happens and is presumed dead anyway. Call it hokey drama if you want, but I won’t be surprised in the slightest if we witness DCEU Steppenwolf growing a thirst for power while seeking the Mother Boxes, only to get stopped before he can go through with a full betrayal.
Going back through this list, it’s easy for me to throw my hands up and concede that the filmmakers will probably depart drastically from what the comics inform. They’ve done it before, and if it serves the greater purpose of producing a coherent, well-made movie, I won’t complain.
Still, the main point is that this somewhat undervalued character has quite a lot to offer in terms of how he informs Darkseid, can competently introduce the fascinating workings of the New Gods, and provide a worthwhile threat for the newly-formed Justice League.