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.
- Photo: DC Comics
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.
- Photo: Marvel Comics
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.
- Photo: Vertigo Comics
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.
- Photo: DC Comics
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.