Five centuries ago, the being now known as Garokk was a British sailor aboard the H.M.S. Drake, a ship on a mission to find a new passage to the south. While exploring the Antarctic Ocean, the ship struck an iceberg and sank. The sailor survived, swept underwater by a warm current and presumably carried through an undersea cavern, into the Savage Land, a tropical jungle existing within the Antarctic continent.
Wandering through the strange realm, the cast-off sailor discovered a huge statue of Garokk, the sun god of one of the many tribes in the Savage Land. Thirsty, the sailor drank from a cup that had been placed before the idol. Unknown to him, the liquid had come from a fiery underground pool that supplied heat to the city of the Sun People. As the sailor was drinking, some tribesmen tried to kill him, forcing him to flee.
The sailor managed to escape the Savage Land and return to England. Soon he discovered that he was no longer aging, probably as a result of the mysterious liquid he had consumed. Unlike many men, the sailor did not find the possible immortality to be a blessing. Instead, as the centuries passed and he watched everyone he knew eventually die, he began to long for death.
His body also visibly changed, becoming grey and hard, like stone, eventually transforming him into a living model of the Garokk idol he had seen in the Savage Land. He became known as the "Petrified Man".
Through telepathic dreams, the former sailor learned that the people of the Sun Empire, worshipers of Garokk, believed the Year of the Sun had arrived. They were confidant that Garokk, the Sun God would come to them, so in his honor, the Sun People planned to wage war on other Savage Land tribes.
To prevent the bloodshed, the Petrified Man sought out Ka-Zar, the Lord of the Savage Land, who was in the United States at the time. Together, they traveled to the Savage Land to prevent the war.
Despite their combined effort, they were too late. The Sun People, led by Zaladane, the high priestess of Garokk, had already massacred many of the primitive Fall People. Zaladane continued to lead her soldiers against the Vala-Kuri, a race of green-skinned people. Ka-Zar tried to stop her.
The Petrified Man found the idol of Garokk and discovered he now possessed tremendous superhuman powers, also as a result of the mysterious liquid he had consumed all those centuries before. He transformed from his physical form into a being of pure energy and appeared before the Sun People, pronouncing himself as Garokk incarnate. He declared his displeasure with their war and his desire for peace, and displayed his power by dissolving all their weapons.
Garokk returned to his physical form but the liquid created a madness in him. He decided that the only way to ensure a lasting peace was to kill all the human beings and beasts living in the world. Zaladane stood before the idol and summoned Garokk, causing him to transform back into energy and go to her. Garokk once again returned to a physical state and became enraged at Zaladane's demands. She fled from him and he attacked Ka-Zar instead. During their battle near the idol, the two combatants fell into an underground cavern and Ka-Zar forced Garokk into a fiery pool there, having already heard from Zaladane that immersion in the pool would restore Garokk to human form. It worked, leaving him a five centuries old human. His sanity restored, he quickly made his peace with Ka-Zar before dying, his frail body turning to ash.
Months later, a man named Kirk Marston became Zaladane's prisoner, after venturing into the Savage Land. The High Priestess used oil made from the ashes of Garokk's body to paint a fiery circle that caused Marston to transform into Garokk. Garokk's consciousness had supplanted Kirk's, but it was unclear what happened to his own consciousness after his body became petrified & his mind replaced with the Sun God's.
Zaladane told Garokk that she had summoned him from the Shadow Kingdom because his people needed him and showed him a city of the Sheenar that had been transported to the Savage Land. Using his vast power, Garokk fired beams of light and energy from his eyes, transporting the entire alien city and all its people back to their own dimension.
Still with a desire to bring peace to the Savage Land, Garokk used slaves to build a great metropolis of his own where the alien city had stood. Garokk's intention was for all of the inhabitants of the Savage Land to dwell together, peacefully, in his city and under his rule. He would kill any who refused.
Garokk had built his metropolis over the geothermal "heat-sink" that was essential to maintaining the Savage Land's tropical environment. His structure prevented the heat from reaching the surface of the land, which was rapidly overwhelmed by the frigid condition of the nearby Antarctic continent.
Recognizing not only the peril to the Savage Land, but also the horrific ultimatums for peace, Ka-Zar had tried to stop Garokk with the Fall People but was unsuccessful. Ka-Zar asked the mutant heroes, the Uncanny X-Men for help, which at first they thought to decline, having concerns of their own, until Garokk's warriors captured Cyclops, Colossus, Banshee and Ka-Zar.
Storm, Nightcrawler and Wolverine fought their way past Garokk's warriors and fierce dinosaurs to rescue their friends, who were going to be executed by Garokk and Zaladane as a lesson to anyone else who disobeyed Garokk's will.
During the attack, Garokk slipped away to replenish his energy he had used to build his metroplois. Cyclops chased after him and they had a final confrontation on top of Garokk's energy dome. Garokk fired beams of force and energy drawn from the city's generators, from his eyes directly at the optic blasts Cyclops fired in return. The tremendous energy unleashed by the two combatants eventually caused the dome to collapse. Banshee managed to rescue Cyclops while Storm attempted to reach Garokk but ultimately failed, leaving the Sun God to fall into the city's thermal shaft. With the city destroyed, the climate returned to normal.
Garokk survived the fall, rescued somehow by Magneto, another enemy of the X-Men. He was strangely transformed however, one side of his body misshapen rock, his arm melted into his leg, while the other side was crystal. He was also larger and stronger. He was guarding Magneto's Antarctic underground base when he fought the X-Men once more. He was powerful enough to knock Colossus out cold with a single blow, he forced Nightcrawler out of the shadows by making his crystalline side glow with the blinding light of a star and he resisted the adamantium claws of Wolverine, but he found himself hurt when Kitty Pryde phased through him. Garokk finally used his disintegrating eye beam to create another pit that he planned to throw Storm into, as he had fallen, but Kitty Pryde's phasing power proved his undoing again and he fell alone into the dark shaft.
Months later, an alien being in the guise of the extraterrestrial menace Terminus destroyed the advanced technological systems that also contributed to maintaining a tropical climate of the Savage Land and it's neighbor, Pangea, plunging both into Antarctic cold, destroying virtually all life there. the alien, who was not the real Terminus, was defeated by the Avengers and presumably perished.
Somehow Garokk had returned to his previous size and petrified form, without the crystalline half, and was forced to inhabit another Terminus battlesuit, presumably by the real Terminus. Garokk was under some mental control and was forced to combat the X-Men, who had returned to the Savage Land. Garokk was defeated with the combined efforts of the X-Men and Storm's friends, M'Rin and her wardog, C'Jime and freed. He regained his free will, but had no memory of what happened to him since his last encounter with the X-Men.
The High Evolutionary, an Earthman who had artificially evolved himself into a superhuman state, sought to restore the Savage Land's tropical climate, fauna and flora. Assisted by Zaladane who he knew as Zala, he needed Garokk to act as the power source for the machinery that would perform the feat, but he warned Garokk that the process would cause Garokk to cease to exist as an individual being. Instead, Garokk's essence would be infused into the Savage Land, which he agreed to.
As a result, the Savage Land has been restored to its previous state, complete with vegetation and wildlife. Savage Land natives that escaped the destruction by fleeing to another dimension, returned and now live as the United Tribes, just as Garokk woul have wished.
Although the High Evolutionary has asserted that Garokk no longer exists as an individual being, it must be noted that Garokk, the Sun God, has returned from apparent death more than once, hence, it remains to be seen whether Garokk will one day return as an individual, living being.