Darkseid is one of the great archetypal characters, and one of the last to arrive in comics. Most of them were created back in the thirties or forties; the next wave came with Marvel in the sixties; most of today's young turks are still middle-aged grouches from the seventies like Frank Castle or Wolverine. But just before the creativity ended Kirby gave us Darkseid, the stone-faced tyrant from outer space who inspired one highly successful copy (Jim Starlin's Thanos) and a less successful copy of a copy (Jim Starlin's Mongul, now routinely used as a punching bag to show how tough some johnny-come-lately is) as well as any number of more fleeting and forgettable imitators. The best of these characters aren't just antagonists in any particular plot, they are fascism personified, its means and desires incarnated in humanoid form. Thanos lays bare its psychosexual death drive, and brilliantly, but Darkseid is a more mature, more psychologically stable, and therefore far more threatening figure: imagine a Hitler who's both physically intimidating and not the slightest bit insane. Darkseid is what Hitler wanted to be, the visions he sold to himself in his sleep made real. A walking dream, or nightmare, of total control.
Just like the way that I'm often bored by stories where Superman just lifts up heavy stuff and punches out robots, stories where Darkseid is played as a big physical threat are usually completely uninteresting -- with the notable exception of the huge knock-down, drag-out fight in Walter Simonson's Orion #6. Instead, I'm fond of the stories where Darkseid manipulates the characters around him, preying on and exploiting their distrust for each other, their fear, their selfishness. He's not a guy who walks out of a Boom Tube, shouts his own name and starts punching people -- except when he is, which is terrible -- he's a guy who pushes people to embrace the dark side of their own personalities. For all of Kirby's craftsmanship, he never did have much time for subtlety.
That's why my favorite Darkseid stories are the ones where he shows up, sets something in motion and then leaves people to tear themselves apart, breeding the mistrust and isolation and hate that turn otherwise good people into willing servants of evil.