Who is DeSaad in Zack Snyder's Justice League and what are his powers?

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

One of the most vile, vicious villains of the DC Universe – a monster so despicable, his reputation as a torturer and sadist is essentially unmatched in DC lore – is coming to the DC Extended Universe in Zack Snyder's Justice League when the redux of 2017's oft-maligned film hits HBO Max in 2021.

Who is this horrendous supervillain, you ask?

He's one of Jack Kirby's original New Gods of the Fourth World, one of its longest-running villains, and he's even known to fans of the Super Friends. We're talking about the 'Big D' himself.

No, not Darkseid – we are of course referring to his lackey and royal torturer, DeSaad.

If you're a bit confused as to who this classic – well, perhaps cult classic – DC character is and what role he might play in the film, fear not (although DeSaad would prefer if you did!), because Newsarama's got the rundown on the sordid history of DeSaad of Apokolips right here.

Who is DeSaad?

(Image credit: DC)

DeSaad of Apokolips is one of Darkseid's most darkhearted minions – a torturer who wields unparalleled pain and fear as weapons to crack the will of the enemies of Darkseid.

If his name rings a slight bell, it's a reference to the lecherous, libertine, 17th/18th century author known as the Marquis De Sade, known through history for his love of deriving pleasure from the pain of others (the term 'sadism' comes from his name). DeSaad even once employed an assistant named Justeen, a reference to one of the author's most notorious works of debauched fiction.

Over the years, he's primarily challenged the New Gods, especially Orion, whose mind he once fully infiltrated and bonded with. Outside of that, he's been a thorn in the side of Superman, regularly visiting Earth and teaming up with the Man of Steel's enemies. He's also specifically targeted SHAZAM! and the Marvel Family (as they were known before DC began using SHAZAM! as the hero's name as well as his magic word), fully possessing the mind of Billy Batson's sister Mary Marvel and corrupting her to evil (remember he can do that… hint hint).

That's one more direct connection the New Gods have to the heroes of the DCEU through SHAZAM!, who will get his own film sequel in 2021 (not to mention the connections SHAZAM!'s comic book archenemy Black Adam, himself soon headlining a DECU film, has to the Fourth World mythos - read more on that right here).

He's also regularly tried to overthrow his own master, Darkseid, as a power-hungry tyrant in his own right – though what he saw when he temporarily stole Darkseid's dread Omega Force power shook even the lord of torture to his core, leading him to relinquish it back to Darkseid.

What are DeSaad's powers?

(Image credit: DC)

In Jack Kirby's original New Gods continuity, DeSaad didn't have many unique powers – he mostly employed a variety of weapons and torture devices. He's also been able to use diabolical super-science for everything from cloning, to brainwashing, to fully possessing the mind of Mary Marvel.

In fact, the 'New 52' era's alternate-reality Earth-2 version of DeSaad has the power to manipulate and control the emotions of his enemies – a power he employs to torture and brainwash his victims into submission.

This part might be especially relevant.

Those who saw Snyder's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice may recall the so-called 'Knightmare' sequence, in which Batman envisions a world ruled by Superman, apparently under Darkseid's control.

That story bit takes its queues from the 'New 52' Earth-2 series, in which Superman is seemingly killed by the warriors of Apokolips and resurrected as Darkseid's new invincible enforcer, partially thanks to DeSaad's technology.

How does DeSaad fit into the DC Universe?

(Image credit: DC)

DeSaad has played a role in numerous Fourth World stories over the years and has branched out into the DC Universe at large a few times. We've mentioned his brainwashing and possession of Mary Marvel, which took place in the reality-rewriting limited series Final Crisis. 

Prior to that, he also split the nuclear hero known as Firestorm, who fans may know from The CW's DC's Legends of Tomorrow, into his respective entities of Ronnie Raymond (Firestorm's host at the time) and Professor Martin Stein, stealing the element controlling Firestorm Matrix for himself.

DeSaad's also branched out into other media before – most specifically, he was one of the core villains of the early 80s animated Super Friends revival Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show (which took the Super Powers moniker from the popular Kenner toyline of the same era, in which DeSaad was a figure along with many New Gods) and its subsequent spin-off The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians. (That's him on the bottom right, along with other Apokolips villains).

Interestingly, Galactic Guardians marked the first meeting in any medium of DeSaad and Cyborg, a key character in Justice League, with each of them making their cartoon debuts in those series. Given Cyborg's DCEU connection to the Mother Box technology of the New Gods, there's a chance he and DeSaad could have a very specific rivalry in the re-cut film.

DeSaad also made an appearance on Smallville, as – what else – a minion of Darkseid who corrupted people through evil night clubs (something that also came up in the aforementioned Final Crisis), played by Steve Byers.

Apokolips Now

In Zack Snyder's Justice League, DeSaad will be portrayed Peter Guinness through scenes that were removed from the original theatrical cut, in which DeSaad was replaced with Steppenwolf, another of Darkseid's minions from comic books. 

He's briefly seen in the trailer that was released during DC FanDome, bearing a strong resemblance to his traditional appearance of a gaunt, cloaked figure with a mechanical apparatus on his chest (in fact, it's in some ways closest to the design he sported in the Super Powers toyline and Super Friends cartoons).

In a nutshell, DeSaad is, while lesser-known among wider audiences, a core villain of the Fourth World mythos. And while it remains to be seen what connection Zack Snyder's Justice League will have to the wider DCEU, if any, the film's potential plotline between Superman and the minions of Apokolips may set the spiritual stage for the planned New Gods movie from director/co-writer Ava DuVernay.


George Marston

I've been Newsarama's resident Marvel Comics expert and general comic book historian since 2011. I've also been the on-site reporter at most major comic conventions such as Comic-Con International: San Diego, New York Comic Con, and C2E2. Outside of comic journalism, I am the artist of many weird pictures, and the guitarist of many heavy riffs. (They/Them)