Art by Shane Davis and Sandra Hope
Millennia ago, before the creation of even the Green Lantern Corps, the mad Guardian Krona sent the Manhunters on a rampage through Space Sector 666. Among the planets in the sector was a world called Ryut. A man named Atros lived on this planet with wife and children, and he watched them slaughtered by the Manhunters. Swearing revenge on the Guardians and Krona, Atros, now calling himself Atrocitus, and four other survivors of Sector 666 became the Five Inversions. These beings began experimenting with blood magic and formed a kingdom they called the Empire of Tears. Through their eldritch dabbling, they foresaw the coming of the Blackest Night. They continued to periodically lash out at the Guardians of the Universe whenever possible. However, the Five Inversions were eventually defeated and imprisoned on another planet in their sector called Ysmault for thousands of years.
Eventually, a Green Lantern named Abin Sur went to Ysmault to ask question the demons about an investigation of his, and one of the Inversions, named Qull, told Abin of the Blackest Night. Fearing this coming doom, Abin frequently returned to Ysmault to question the Five Inversions. He went as far as releasing Atrocitus with the intent of having the beast lead him to the origin of the Blackest Night. This led him to Earth, where Atrocitus broke free, fatally wounded Abin Sur, and escaped. Atrocitus continued his own research into the origin of the Blackest Night, and he found the human who would bring it about: William Hand, later known as Black Hand.
Before he could kill William Hand, he was found by Green Lanterns Sinestro and Hal Jordan. They entered a dangerous duel with Atrocitus, ending with the arrest of the beast. He was taken back to Ysmault. He would remain here for another number of years, swearing revenge on Sinestro.
After the Sinestro Corps waged war against the Green Lanterns, Atrocitus dabbled with blood magic once more, creating a Red Lantern Power Battery, fueled by rage. He christened it with blood by using it to beat Qull to death. He continued with killing the other three Inversions to form a Central Power Battery and a Red Ring. He created more Rings to recruit members to his newly formed Corps. He searched for beings with the strongest rage, and, when the Ring attached itself to them, it replaced their heart and turned them into beings of pure rage who could vomit blood that burned like napalm.
He began a warpath to track down Sinestro, killing Green Lanterns and Yellow Lanterns alike until he found him. The Red Lanterns captured Sinestro and took him back to Ysmault. Atrocitus crucified him upon the Central Power Battery with the intent of using his blood to create more Red Rings. He vowed to destroy Sinestro’s home of Korugar, the Sinestro Corps, the Green Lantern Corps, and Sinestro’s daughter, Soranik Natu. Before he could enact this plan, Hal Jordan, Saint Walker the Blue Lantern, and his fellow corpsman Brother Warth arrived. In addition, a number of Sinestro Corps members arrived with the intent of rescuing their leader. During the ensuing battle, Atrocitus discovered that the Blue Light of Hope could break the hold of a Red Lantern Ring. Sinestro was freed, and he, the Sinestro Corps members, Hal Jordan, and the Blue Lanterns escaped. Atrocitus knew he had a new enemy in the Blue Lantern Corps, as their light held the weakness of the Red Light of Rage.
When the Blackest Night finally fell upon the universe, Atrocitus found his fellow Inversions reanimated. They attacked him, ripping out his heart, but he survived the wound due to the fact that Red Rings pump blood through the body after they attach, therefore removing the need of a heart. He tracked down the Orange Lantern Larfleeze to steal his ring as a weapon against the Black Lanterns. He was intercepted by a coalition made up of Hal Jordan, Star Sapphire Carol Ferris, Sinestro, Saint Walker, Indigo Lantern-1, Guardian Sayd, and Guardian Ganthet. After another battle that ended with the Black Lanterns invading, Atrocitus agreed to help the Lanterns end the Blackest Night. This platoon of Lanterns tracked the Black Power Battery to Earth. They attacked it, and, after a long battle, the creation of White Lanterns managed to end the Blackest Night and banish its creator, the embodiment of death known as Nekron.
After this, Atrocitus and Red Lantern Dex-Starr go to Earth in search of the Red Entity, the Butcher. Sensing great rage on Earth, they kill a number of heinous criminals during the search to protect innocents. His search is halted by Hal Jordan, Sinestro, and Carol Ferris. He fights them off and is then attacked by the bounty hunter Lobo. The Lanterns defeat Lobo (whom was apparently actually hired by Atrocitus so that he could gain the trust of the other Lanterns).
The Butcher is finally located possessing a man whose daughter was mutilated and killed by someone on death row. The murderer continues to taunt the father until the Butcher finally possesses him and the father incinerates the murderer. The Spectre, God’s Spirit of Vengeance, arrives on the scene. He almost kills the father for his crimes, but Atrocitus points out the flaw in his judgement and argues that the father’s action was in itself vengeance. The Spectre turns his ire on Atrocitus but deems his mission a holy one, so he allows him to continue.
Linking up with representatives from the other Corps, Atrocitus, Hal Jordan, Sinestro, and the others continue their search for the Entities and learn that the mad Guardian Krona is the being hunting them. Their search for Krona leads them back to Ryut where they find the Book of the Black. Lyssa Drak, former acolyte of Sinestro, ambushes the Lanterns and traps all but Hal Jordan in the Book of the Black with her mystical abilities. They remain in there for some time until Hal Jordan frees them after killing Krona.
The rebirth of the New 52 didn’t actually change that much about Atrocitus’ story, and the new universe finds him continuing to expand his Corps. He was forced to contend with the fact that Krona was killed by hands that were not his own. He was given the body of Krona by the Green Lanterns as a show of good faith.
He recruited the first human Red Lantern shortly after, a man he named Rancor whose brother was beat to death in front of him. Atrocitus’ past came to haunt him when he was attacked by mutilated beings whom were his first attempts at creating an army. He was also threatened by the reanimated Five Inversions. Both of these threats he managed to dispatch after much struggle.
When the Third Army attacked the Red Lantern Corps, he, Red Lantern Bleez, and Rancor managed to drive them away. Atrocitus also participated in the final assault against Volthoom, the First Lantern, when he usurped control over the universe. This siege, which all Lantern Corps participated in, ended with the death of Volthoom as well as the Guardians of the Universe, the latter of which were killed by Sinestro with the power of the Yellow Entity, Parallax.
Green Lantern Guy Gardner, under orders from Hal Jordan, usurped the Red Lantern Corps away from Atrocitus. Gardner locked away Atrocitus for a time and took control of the Red Lantern Corps. During this time, the Butcher, along with every other Entity with the exception of Parallax, was killed to fuel the emotional reservoir to save the universe.
Gardner eventually left the Red Lantern Corps, and Atrocitus resumed his reign. His first action was enacting the prophecy of the Red Dawn. To do this, he began infecting humanity with rage and raised a Hell Tower on Earth. This was halted by new Green Lanterns Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz. He left Earth after the Hell Tower was destroyed, but he apparently still obtained that for which he came.
Calling Atrocitus a villain seems a little unfair in the same manner calling Magneto or the Punisher villains is. I would call both of them antiheroes, but Atrocitus frequently fights heroes. So I guess it’s just easier to call him a villain (maybe I’ll do a Top 10 Antiheroes List at some point). Atrocitus is a being whose pain from loss has never died. It only transformed to rage. Rage gave him new meaning, purpose, and power. As a result, he became an acolyte of rage. He believes in rage as an agent of justice. He will do anything to permeate the universe with fury.
This is why I love Atrocitus. He is a character that will do what others won’t to the guilty. Whenever a mass shooting or terrorist attack is perpetrated, it’s hard not imagine what one would do to the guilty party if they got their hands on them. Atrocitus provides that revenge fantasy. His punishment is brutal and pure. I won’t say that line of thought is healthy or particularly progressive, but I’m not here to sugarcoat my opinions or my reasoning for them.
Going back to Atrocitus, he’s also compelling because his rage is purest, as it comes from a place of love. He believes his continuous rampage across the universe is an act of devotion to his lost family. He’s complex, furious, and will never stop meting out pure and harsh justice across the universe. This is why Atrocitus is my 3rd Favorite DC Villain of all time.