Thursday, 22 May 2014


My favourite of all of the prodigious output by the late Jack "King" Kirby has always been his meisterwork, the so-called "Fourth World" trilogy (technically a tetralogy). I realised the other day that Kirby was 53 when it started publication for DC Comics, the same age I am now.
Jack's departure from Marvel Comics in 1970 to go to their biggest competitor DC shook the industry. It was if John Lennon had left the Beatles to join The Rolling Stones. Kirby had been one of the lynchpins of Marvel the Lennon to Stan Lee's McCartney (maybe with Steve Ditko in the George Harrison role). 
It was while at Marvel that Kirby came up with the idea of a major epic storyline detailing a great war between two races of gods, with Earth as the battleground.
It has been suggested that Kirby originally intended to set up his new concept in the pages of Thor. Asgard would fall in Ragnarok, and out of the chaos two worlds would form - one of light, one of darkness.
When he left Marvel, he took his new concepts with him. At DC, he planned to tell his story across three new titles, "The New Gods", "The Forever People" and "Mister Miracle" whilst also taking over the already existing title "Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen". 
As an aside, Kirby, as always ahead of his time, conceived the notion of serialising the storyline in the comics, later collecting them in book form. Although a familiar concept in European (but not British) comics, it was a whole new way of thinking for the American market. Sadly it never came to fruition. It was another 10-15 years before the idea of the Trade Paperback or Graphic Novel would develop in the US market. In addition, sales on the new titles didn't reach expectations and one by one the series were cancelled, leaving the grand saga unfinished.  Kirby continued at DC, creating Kamandi and the Demon along with other shorter lived series.  But back to The Fourth World...
 It could be said that each of the four books showed the great conflict from a different perspective. "New Gods" showed the seasoned warriors in action, primarily the god Orion. "The Forever People" showed the eager young recruits, not yet scarred by battle. "Mister Miracle" is the conscientious objector. And "Jimmy Olsen" (and also the non-Kirby "Lois Lane" to a lesser extent) tied the book to the rest of the DC Universe and showed some of the effects of the war on Earth. And it was there in the pages of "Superman's, Pal Jimmy Olsen" that we saw the first seeds of Kirby's magnum opus.
So that's where we will start our issue by issue look at "The Fourth World" next time, with "Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen" # 133.

No comments:

Post a Comment