Who is Steppenwolf in the comics?
It's strange that a character this weird ended up in a big budget tentpole blockbuster. As io9 points out in a helpful primer, Steppenwolf has his mythical origins in the pages of comics legend Jack Kirby's Fourth World, a universe filled with new gods that the creator dreamed up after switching from Marvel to DC in the early 1970s. In the wake of the move, Kirby began some of his most imaginative, complex, and innovative work. Unfortunately, those boundary-breaking titles never quite connected with audiences, and his ambitious inter-connected series were cancelled. By 1976, he was back at Marvel.
But his creations lived on. The villain Darkseid, who was introduced by Kirby in the pages of Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen, went on to become a super villain who has popped up in multiple DC comics, cartoon series, and even on the live-action series Smallville. While many fans assumed Darkseid would be the primary villain in the Justice League's movie, after a deleted scene from Batman V. Superman hinted at his arrival to Earth, the main villain responsibilities were passed on to his uncle Steppenwolf. That's how second-rate Justice League feels: Even the villain is a relative called in because the actual Big Bad is too busy.
The wonky, mind-bending science-fiction storytelling of the Kirby's New Gods titles is an often awkward fit with the rain-splattered, grief-stricken world of director Zack Snyder's DC Comics films. In the movie, Steppenwolf is played by Ciarán Hinds, the Irish character actor perhaps best known for playing Mance Rayder on HBO's Game of Thrones. But good luck actually recognizing him. Hinds shot his part using motion-capture technology and wasn't on set during the filming. (In an interview from this summer, he said he never even met his co-stars, joking, "I don’t know whether they’re all afraid to come and meet me.")