He's the main villain of X-Men: Apocalypse, a force of nature who risks bringing devastation to the planet. With a new trailer up, it's now time to reveal some of #Apocalypse's greatest secrets.
1. Apocalypse was originally intended to be — the Owl?!
Apocalypse makes his début in shadow at the end of X-Factor #5, to be revealed the next issue. The X-Factor team — the original incarnation of the X-Men reassembled — had been facing off against a mysterious conspiracy, and Apocalypse was the mastermind behind it all.
Ironically enough, though, writer Bob Layton had intended the main villain to be a criminal mastermind known as the Owl! However, Layton left the book after five issues, and it fell to Louise Simonson to pick it up. Editor Bob Harras requested a villain of a very different calibre:
"All I had communicated to Louise was my desire that an A-level, first class character be introduced. I wanted a Magneto-level villain who would up the stakes and give the X-Factor team reason to exist."
The result was Apocalypse!
2. Apocalypse is a fulfillment of social darwinism
Social Darwinism is a philosophy that takes the theory of evolution, and applies it to society as a whole. The idea is that "survival of the fittest" should apply to humanity just as much as it does in nature, and from here it follows that dominant societies are in a sense "fitter" than lesser ones. The theory of social darwinism came to a head in Nazi Germany, where Hitler believed the so-called Aryans were greater than other races of the world. It's thoroughly discredited as a philosophy.
For Apocalypse, though, it's an ideal hook for a villain. Apocalypse believes that only the strong should survive; thus he seeks to establish an iron rule over the world, with the most powerful in command. He doesn't even care whether or not you're a mutant; if you're weak, you're dead.
In an interesting twist, #Marvel Comics writer Cullen Bunn is currently writing an arc of Uncanny X-Men dealing with the Dark Riders, a band of Apocalypse's followers. Because of their belief in survival of the fittest, the Dark Riders are hunting down any mutants who can heal others, with the idea that these mutants subvert the natural order.
3. Apocalypse began his life as a slave
The Rise Of Apocalypse miniseries finally revealed the character's brutal history. Apocalypse is an ancient, possibly immortal mutant who was born in Egypt. A slave of Rama-Tut, Apocalypse challenged the Pharaoh's rule and claimed alien celestial technology as his own. Since then, Apocalypse has endured the ravages of time, frequently calling four Horsemen to his side and declaring war against those not fit to survive.
X-Men: Days Of Future Past hints at this, with an end-credits scene showing the (first?) Four Horsemen. According to the trailers, Apocalypse has continued to influence society through religion; in the first trailer, he laid claim to being identified with countless gods, even Yahweh.
4. Apocalypse's immortality is seriously confusing
When Apocalypse was first introduced, he was envisioned as simply being an immortal mutant. The Adventures Of Cyclops And Phoenix, though, changed everything; this story drew the titular superheroes into the distant future, where they lived in a world ruled by Apocalypse. Here we saw Apocalypse as an old being, dying as his body finally withered away. In a shocking twist, it seemed that Apocalypse endured by transferring his spirit into the body of another — he intended the powerful telepath and telekinetic Stryfe to be his next host. This idea was revisited in the X-Men arc "The Twelve," where Apocalypse possessed Cyclops
In the current comics, Apocalypse has finally been destroyed, but a teenage clone struggles to avoid becoming the same monster.
5. Apocalypse may well be one of the most dangerous mutants of all time
Fans of the X-Men Animated Series will well remember the excitement as Apocalypse took on the X-Men. His power is brutal; he can literally control every molecule of his body, enabling him to instantaneously heal, to change size, and to form his body into devastating weapons. There are hints in the trailers for X-Men: Apocalypse that these powers have been retained, as we repeatedly see him battling Quicksilver by manipulating his size and the length of his arm.
Interestingly enough, though, the Ultimate Universe — a modernized retelling of key Marvel Comics launched in the early 2000s — gave Apocalypse a different powerset. Here, he could control and manipulate the minds of other mutants. According to various interviews with Bryan Singer, this is the powerset we'll see Apocalypse using the most in X-Men: Apocalypse.
6. Although he traditionally battles the X-Men, Apocalypse once hunted Thor
Uncanny Avengers #6 stepped back in time to the Middle Ages, and gave us a battle that we'd not expected: Apocalypse versus Thor! Manipulated by Kang the Conqueror, a time-traveling #Avengers villain, Apocalypse attempted to kill Thor before the Thunder God could ever oppose him. Thor got a nasty shock when Apocalypse's celestial armor was proof against his power — to be fair, these were the days before Thor was given Mjolnir.
It was all a trick, with Thor manipulated into creating a new weapon that could penetrate even celestial armor. Wounded, Apocalypse retreated, and abandoned those particular dark plans.
7. There's almost a tradition of X-Men becoming Horsemen
During Apocalypse's battle with X-Factor, he approached Warren Worthington, the X-Men's Angel. Angel had been injured in battle with a bloodthirsty group of mutants known as the Marauders, and had lost his wings. Slipping into deep depression, he actually attempted suicide, but was rescued by Apocalypse. Apocalypse transformed Angel into his Horseman, the Archangel of Death, and so began a pattern that continues to this day.
#Wolverine had a period as a Horseman; Apocalypse had Wolverine and Sabretooth duel, and recruited the winner, restoring Wolverine's adamantium (it had been stripped out of him by Magneto). Even Gambit became a Horseman — even if that is a plot twist that most writers nowadays try to forget. In the latest issue of Extraordinary X-Men, we've just been introduced to a new band of Horsemen — including Deadpool among their numbers. Colossus, incredibly, has either become the next Apocalypse, or another Horseman!
Interestingly enough, X-Men: Apocalypse actually features two mutants becoming Horsemen who, in the comics, have yet to do so: Magneto and Storm!
8. Apocalypse once recruited the Hulk as a Horseman
In the Marvel Universe, the most powerful aren't necessarily mutants — and Apocalypse, as a result, has always been free to recruit Horsemen from elsewhere. His most significant Horseman was undoubtedly the #Hulk; as War, the Hulk went head to head with the X-Man named Cable, and took on the Juggernaut!
9. The Age of Apocalypse was launched by the death of Charles Xavier
Perhaps the best critically received event the X-Men books have ever had, "Age of Apocalypse," saw the creation of an alternate timeline where Apocalypse ruled. The catalyst had been a time-traveling jaunt by #Legion, son of Charles #Xavier, who had aimed to kill #Magneto before the Master of Magnetism could ever oppose the X-Men.
Naturally, it all went wrong. Legion killed his father by accident, and the power displayed in this battle led Apocalypse to awaken from cryogenic slumber. Apocalypse struck in an age before heroes, conquering the United States, and establishing a harsh dystopian reality. It was all eventually averted when this reality's X-Men, assembled by Magneto, travelled back in time and killed Legion.
"Age of Apocalypse" is a firm fan-favorite, and the comics have revisited it countless times (including just last year). In many ways, it formed the template Marvel followed with last year's "Secret Wars" event.
10. Apocalypse looks to be a turning point for the X-Men comics
It's a matter of record that relations between Marvel and Fox have often been troubled. The Mutant X lawsuit led to a very difficult status quo, and for some years X-Men fans have been frustrated; rightly or wrongly, they've believed that Marvel was sidelining the X-Men to get at Fox. All that's begun to change over the last few months, though, with Marvel and Fox seeming to reach a new accord.
A key part of this is found in the so-called "Apocalypse Wars" event - a comic book event (launched just this week) that will run through past the theatrical release of X-Men: Apocalypse. Although Marvel has often tried to tie comic book plots in with their own movies, they've never really tried to do so with the X-Men. Even before relations soured, the success of the X-Men franchise kind of took Marvel by surprise!
For X-Men fans, this is a seriously exciting development!