What makes someone a god? Incredible power? Worshippers? Gods in comic books have both. In fact, some readers might argue that comic book characters are already the modern equivalent of ancient gods. Mortals tell stories about their incredible feats, pay tribute to them with hard-earned cash, and even dream about what it would be like to join their ranks.
Yet godhood itself possesses a singular significance, even in the world of superheroes. Comic book gods tend to be the most powerful characters in any given series. Think of Thor, Darkseid, or Zeus. Those recognized as gods usually far outrank mere mortals in terms of both power and prestige. And then there's comic book characters that became gods - like Jean Grey, for instance, or Superman. Their struggles with their own potential led to some gripping storylines.
While it’s never easy to achieve godhood in comics, several characters have ascended to these rarified ranks over the years. Maybe your favorite superhero (or villain) is among them.
Possibly the most iconic superhero of all time, Superman possesses an already enviable power suite. From strength to flight to multiple kinds of vision, the Man of Steel is often considered to have god-like abilities. In the DC One Million series, however, Superman achieved a new form of divinity.
Functionally immortal due to his Kryptonian physiology, Superman lived to the 700th century in this mini-series. After spending his existence traveling the entirety of the DC Universe, moving beyond time and space and even allegedly reaching Heaven and Hell themselves, Superman was trapped in the "Super Sun" for fifteen thousand years. He emerged with a new golden visage, having absorbed unthinkable levels of raw solar energy.
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Doctor Victor von Doom has always desired one thing above all else: complete control. During the massive Secret Wars crossover event in 2015, Doom finally achieved this goal. By defeating the Beyonders (a race of extradimensional beings with nearly omnipotent abilities), Doom was able to obtain their powers and shape reality to his will.
The newly styled God Emperor Doom then cobbled together elements from various parallel universes and converged them into Battleworld, a single planet over which he had total and complete control. It took the combined efforts of several of Marvel's greatest heroes to take him down.
Doom did get something for his trouble, though. When he woke up in Latveria, stripped of his godhood, the evil Doctor discovered that his face was no longer disfigured.
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Jon Osterman was not a costumed crime fighter or street-wise vigilante - he was simply an atomic physicist in the wrong place at the wrong time. In Alan Moore's critically acclaimed graphic novel Watchmen, Osterman has his "intrinsic field" removed during a nuclear physics experiment gone awry. When his consciousness pieces his body back together, he is reborn as Doctor Manhattan.
An entirely new category of being, Doctor Manhattan has the ability to restructure atoms however he sees fit. He sees all of time simultaneously and is shown to be functionally immortal. While Osterman didn't set out to become a god, he certainly did. Indeed, at the end of Watchmen it's implied that he is going to attempt to become a god in the more traditional sense. His final appearance depicts him departing from the galaxy and musing about the possibility of creating life on a distant planet.
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Heroes always seem to have godhood thrust upon them. Villains tend to steal it. And the Joker is no different. His insanity and cruelty made it especially terrifying when he ascended to godhood in the Emperor Joker storyline.
After tricking the omnipotent trickster Mister Mxyzptlk into giving him 99.9% of his reality-warping capabilities, the Clown Prince of Crime wasted no time remolding the universe in his image. He re-imagined all of the Justice League as villains and tormented them with psychological tortures tailored from the darkest parts of their own psyches. Luckily, he was ultimately defeated by his own mental instability.
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Billionaire playboy, world's greatest detective, beloved superhero: Bruce Wayne has a lot going for him. It almost seems unfair to add godhood to the list. But that's just the kind of person Batman is.
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Superman's archnemesis Lex Luthor might just be the most dangerous human in the world. His incredible intelligence and unrivaled ruthlessness have allowed him to repeatedly defeat some of Earth's mightiest superheroes. From time to time, Luthor has even achieved superpowers himself. During the Justice League event Darkseid War, Luthor managed to transcend humanity all together and become the new God of Apokolips.
After being beaten to oblivion by Superman, Luthor was found by a group of people looking for a vessel to house Darkseid's "Omega Force" - the source of all the mega-villain's power. Luthor fooled them into thinking he was the answer to their prophecy, absorbed the godly energy, and basically became the new Darkseid.
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The Flash is one of the last superheroes you'd expect to be a psychopomp. Nevertheless, the Scarlett Speedster became the vessel for the Black Racer (an aspect of Death that Darkseid supposedly captured) after the two combined to kill Darkseid himself.
Wielding the awesome powers of the Speed Force and Death, the new Black Racer combined two of the most powerful forces in the DC Universe. The Flash, of course, wasn't easily persuaded by Death to join forces in the first place. The deity had to convince the heroic Flash that if he didn't take on the mantle, he would be forced to meld with one of his enemies. Horrified at the prospect of the Reverse Flash or Gorilla Grodd gaining sovereignty over mortality, the Flash begrudgingly became the new God of Death.
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One of the most powerful psychic minds in the Marvel Universe, Jean Grey is a force to be reckoned with in her own right. She's so powerful, in fact, that her psionic prowess made her an attractive host for one of the oldest cosmic entities in existence: the Phoenix Force.
The Phoenix Force is a primeval manifestation of the universal forces of life and passion. It wields all the energy of life that is, was, and ever will be. When it bonds with an avatar, as it did with Jean Grey, it grants the user cosmic level abilities such as matter manipulation and time travel.
As with many great gifts in comic books, however, the Phoenix Force comes at a terrible price. When the Force manipulates cosmic energy, it's really tapping in to the life-force of future generations. Thus it denies existence to countless unborn sentient beings.
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