Despero was once a Kalanorian exile due to his third eye, who, after encountering the Flame of Py'tar, became ruler of Kalanor and built an empire, bent on galactic conquest. Only through the intervention of the Justice League and the Green Lantern Corps were his plans halted.
Despero was a Kalanorian peasant born with a deformity — a third eye. For that reason he was cast out, and went to wander in the wasteland. One day, when he was jumped by a group of criminals, Despero was saved by the mystical Flame of Py'tar. It infused him with great physical strength and mental powers, which he could project through his third eye. Moreover, the Flame revealed itself to be sentient when it told Despero of a time when Kalanor would become a paradise. Consumed by anger and hatred, Despero misunderstood this message and believed that he had been chosen to impose his will upon the galaxy, and as a result, he used his mental powers to subjugate his fellow natives.
Despero quickly established himself as the ruler of Kalanor, his once-reviled deformity now acting as his link to the Py'tar. With an entire planet in his hands, he built an empire called the Legion of the Third Eye. Despero's selfish misuse of the Pytar twisted it into a source of hatred, fueling his despotic rule. He banned all those not worthy of reading and punished anyone who opposed him. He was often accompanied by his beautiful "personal attendants".
After solidifying his hold on Kalanor, Despero began planning to expand his power. He immersed several of his loyal followers in the Py'tar and attacked the planet of Ranstad-7 as a test run. The Green Lantern Corps counter-attacked by dispatching Katma Tui, Kilowog, Arkkis Chummuck and Galius Zed to fend off Despero's forces. However, they were vastly outnumbered and overpowered. Arkkis and Galius were annihilated and Kilowog was forced into a retreat, while Katma provided cover. She was subsequently taken in and then infiltrated Despero's inner circle as a priestess.
When Green Lantern John Stewart arrived to find Katma Tui, his old mentor, he was captured and brought before Despero. The villain attempted to convince the Green Lantern to step aside, hoping that he would carry the same message to the Guardians of the Universe. He informed John of his origins, but the Lantern was not convinced of him nor of his "bonfire". Despero attacked John with his third eye and managed to over-power him to the point of breaking his will. He ordered a priestess to throw John's body into the Py'tar where he assumed him to be dead.
Despero began his conquest soon afterwards. He bestowed the Flame's energies upon his followers and sent them off as an invasion wave to spread his word and will across the cosmos. However, Despero had a thorn in his side to deal with: a small underground resistance. He ordered his troops to eliminate them, however, assistance from Earth arrived with Kilowog and helped them escape.
Some time later, Despero ordered his Py'tar infused troops to attack again after receiving a tip from Radocko, a former resistance fighter who had betrayed them by giving Despero this information. The leader of the resistance, Shifflet, the Green Lantern Kilowog, and two Justice League members escaped in separate directions. But the attack was not a complete loss. His troops managed to captured the thought to be dead John Stewart, Katma Tui and Justice League member, Hawkgirl. Despero infused Katma with the Py'tar and bound her to his will. However, Despero found Hawkgirl's Thanagarian wings to be of "exotic quality" and would rather have her as one of his personal attendants.
As Despero attempted to bind Hawkgirl, John Stewart summoned the will to call his power ring to him and break free of the bindings Despero had placed him in. John blasted Despero away from Hawkgirl and the two fought each other in the caves underneath his palace. The battle raged on, much differently then the last. Despero's third eye was sealed shut when John punched it and left the Green Lantern symbol over the lids.
The battle would finally end when Kilowog, The Flash, and J'onn J'onzz arrived in the Pytar chamber. J'onn leaped into the Py'tar in an attempt to communicate with it, allowing the Py'tar to use him as a mouthpiece with which to address Despero's army. It informed the people of Kalanor of Despero's evil ways and asked them to step into the light, where Kalanor would return to its former paradise state. When the people of Kalanor did so, Despero's powers immediately ceased to exist. Where he stood, a tree shot up from the ground and wrapped him in its branches. Moments before he was completely enveloped, Despero saw a vision of the true paradise Py'tar had hoped to create, and he was fully at peace in the revelation as he was absorbed into the tree.
All over the planet, the Py'tar spread new foliage and greenery around their sterile wastelands. In space, Despero's infused troops transformed into foliage themselves. The new foliage destroyed Despero's kingdom and the people of Kalanor were left to rebuild its civilization with Katma and Kilowog.
- Despero debuted in Justice League of America #1 (Oct. 1960), and was created by Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky. He was an inhabitant of the planet Kalanor, and like all of the other natives, Despero had pink skin, pointed ears, a fin on his head, and violet eyes. However, Despero wasn't an ordinary Kalanorian; he was born with a third eye on his forehead — a mutation that resulted from the radiation of a previous atomic war. One day, Despero stumbled upon the Flame of Py'tar, a power-giving flame that imbued him with great mental powers. He used such powers to enslave his own kind and assert himself as the ruler of Kalanor. The Justice League brought his tyranny to an end, and Despero had ever since sworn revenge against the heroes. Despero has undergone many transformations. Originally, he was a scrawny dictator, using chess as a gimmick to play with the fates of his foes. Later on, he was redesigned into a bulked-up version of his old self, capable of physically standing up against the mightiest of heroes, and driven by his blinding hatred of the Justice League. Despero is generally remembered for wearing a United Nations flag like a cape, and murdering the parents of the Leaguer Gypsy. The Flame of Py'tar gave Despero super-strength, durability, intelligence, and telepathic powers that he could channel through his third eye, making him altogether a formidable foe. The version featured on Justice League is a combination of both DC Comics incarnations.
- While Despero's skin in the comics had a pink-orange shade, his skin color was changed into a shade of purple for Justice League in order to differentiate him from Katmai Tui. There is also speculation that the color purple was chosen because of Keith David's past voice role as a purple character from Gargoyles known as Goliath.