Monday, 30 June 2014


Solomon Grundy's first appearance - art by Paul Reinman

Solomon Grundy. Born on a Monday. Christened on Tuesday. Married on Wednesday. Took ill on Thursday. Worse on Friday. Died on Saturday. Buried on Sunday. This is the end of Solomon Grundy.

The second muck-monster in comics is not a creature you may not think of as being part of the genre, at least not initially, but on closer examination there are a number of reasons for my including him here. The character is, as you may have guessed, Solomon Grundy, originally introduced in an story entitled "Fighters Never Quit" in All-American Comics #61 (October 1944) as a villain for the original 1940s Green Lantern. Although his appearance is that of a brutish, chalk-faced humanoid, rather than the shambling mounds of vegetation we would normally associate with these creatures, his origin story is all too familiar...
The scene is Slaughter Swamp in the latter part of the 19th Century, where the body of the murdered merchant Cyrus Gold in unceremoniously disposed of. Fifty years on, his corpse rises from the mire, a huge lumbering mockery of a man, part human, part swamp matter. He has little memory of his previous life, but one thing he does remember, however vaguely, is that he was born on a Monday. When a vagrant he encounters likens him to the nursery rhyme character Solomon Grundy, because of that fact, the creature that was once Cyrus Gold adopts the name.
Grundy fought Green Lantern a few times in the Golden Age and even took on the entire Justice Society Of America on one occasion. The character was later revived in the Silver Age and became a thorn in the side of many heroes including Batman and Superman.
At times Grundy is seemingly destroyed, but is then reborn in a new incarnation, some of which are more violent than others, and his intelligence also varies from the initial almost mindless creature, to more intelligent versions.
It is later revealed during Rick Veitch's run on Swamp Thing, that Grundy was in fact a failed attempt at the creation of a plant elemental by the Parliament Of Trees, who we'll learn more of further down the line. Their attempt was doomed to failure, as the human part of the elemental has to have died in fire. Without that fiery death, the transformation was not completed, leaving a form of semi-functional Plant Elemental.
As with The Heap from last week's Muck Monster Monday, Grundy's origin has changed at various  times over the years, but the basics remain the same. He may not look like the traditional swamp creature, indeed he resembles a neanderthal zombie, but in his origin at least he firmly belongs to the Muck Monster family.
Next time, a return visit from The Heap. Sort of. Things get Mad around here as we visit The Outer Sanctum!

Before that, I'll be back Thursday, with the next Fourth World Thursday.
See you soon,

Thursday, 26 June 2014


And so we move on from the raw recruits, The Forever People, to the seasoned veterans as we begin our look at, for me at least, the greatest of the Fourth World titles - The New Gods. And it begins with, not as you may expect a prologue, but an epilogue...

"There came a time when the Old Gods died! The brave died with the cunning! The noble perished, locked in battle with unleashed evil! It was the last day for them! An ancient era was passing in fiery holocaust! The final moment came with the fatal release of indescribable power--which tore the home of the Old Gods asunder--split it in great halves--and filled the universe with the blinding death-flash of its destruction! In the end there were two giant molten bodies, spinning slow and barren -- clean of all that had gone before -- adrift in the sounds of cosmic thunder... Silence closed upon what had happened -- A long deep silence -- wrapped in massive darkness... It was this way for an age...THEN -- THERE WAS NEW LIGHT!"

And which universe was it that had died? Kirby obviously intended for it to be a representation of the Marvel Universe. I've said before that Kirby may well have intended to introduced the New Gods in the pages of Marvel's Thor comic, with the intention of having the Norse Ragnarök which is described by Wikipedia (I know, I know, not the most reliable of sources) as "a series of future events, including a great battle foretold to ultimately result in the death of a number of major figures (including the gods Odin, Thor, Týr, Freyr, Heimdall and Loki), the occurrence of various natural disasters, and the subsequent submersion of the world in water. Afterward, the world will resurface anew and fertile, the surviving and returning gods will meet, and the world will be repopulated by two human survivors."
Well, that sounds about right, doesn't it? And, if you look very carefully, on the first page of the epilogue/prologue, there appears to be a figure in the heat of battle with a winged helmet about to smite an opponent with what might -- just might -- be a hammer.
If you think about it, Kirby was once again, as usual, well ahead of the rest of the industry. If this WAS his plan at Marvel, it would have changed the Marvel Universe forever. In other words one of those cosmic events after which nothing would ever be same (until a handy reset button is pushed later on) that have become de rigueur on an almost yearly basis in modern superhero comics. 
Orion, our hero and not the happiest of chaps!
Anyway, back to the issue at hand. In this two page prologue/epilogue Kirby somehow portrays a literal cosmic level of war and destruction and rebirth. And in the final panel, hurtling towards the reader we meet our one of our heroes, Orion, en route to his home world of New Genesis. As he arrives he is greeted by Lightray, another of the eponymous New Gods. Lightray's a rather exuberant chap with the ability to manipulate light and fly really fast. His cheerful demeanor is at odds with Orion's more belligerent nature, although the two seem to be good friends. Together they descend to the paradise that is New Genesis and the floating city Super-Town, glimpsed all too briefly in the premiere issue of Forever People, now seen it all it's magnificent Kirby glory.    
And it's in Super-Town that we are introduced to more of our ensemble cast. First there's the intellectual Metron, who rides around in his floating Mobius Chair and is obviously not fully trusted by Orion who suggests that Metron would sell the universe into slavery for a scrap of knowledge. And then there's High-Father, the leader of the New Gods, who resembles nothing more than a Moses-style prophet, complete with beard and magic staff. And it's High-Father that's summoned Orion home for a trip to the Burning Bush, er sorry The Source. They approach a blank wall on which a fiery hand mysteriously appears to write enigmatic messages. Time for a not-that-awkward exposition scene

HIGH-FATHER -  This wall is our link to the "Source". It lived, even as the old gods died!
ORION - That is so! It is eternal! It is the life equation! And it's power is part of your Wonder-Staff!

Oooh! A "life equation!". Last time we had Darkseid searching for an "anti-life equation". I wonder that's all about?
Apokolips. Not a nice place to visit!
So the burning finger writes it's message and it says "ORION TO APOKOLIPS--THEN TO EARTH--THEN TO WAR!!!!" Apokolips is, of course, the dark mirror image of New Genesis, a world whose surface is scarred by volcanic furnaces called energy pits. A world of labour camps, ugly buildings housing uglier machines. And it's ruled by, as we've seen before, Darkseid.
Orion is quickly out of the door, leaving Metron to suggest that Orion is a rather untypical child of New Genesis. In fact, he really could only be a product of another world -- Apokolips! A fact that High-Father reluctantly admits.
Meanwhile Orion spends six pages fighting his way through Darkseids' defences, the flying "Para-Demons", the canine "Dog Cavalry", and various other minions, only to find the stony-faced tyrant isn't home. He is of course on Earth, as we've already seen, leaving a super-computer called a "Mass-Director Unit" to rule in his place. 
Darkseid may not be home, but his son is. Kalibak is a big Neanderthal type with a big club. He is ready to take on Orion, but Metron pops up in his Mobius Chair (oh, didn't I mention it also travels through space and time?) and stops the battle before it even starts. And then - you've guessed it - another exposition scene, this time to bring readers up to date with what we've already seen, or at least as been hinted at, in the pages of Jimmy Olsen and Forever People. That Darkseid is on Earth, looking for the mysterious "Anti-Life Equation" which is apparently buried deep in the subconscious mind of some unsuspecting human.    

Metron then points out that Darkseid has even brought humans to Apokolips to probe their minds here. This is apparently against the rules according to Metron, leading Orion to exclaim "Darkseid has defied High-Father himself!"
All of which hints at some treaty between the two planets, which, as we will later discover, is indeed the case.
And so it begins...
Orion finds four humans in the next room, sets them free and summons a Boom Tube to take all five of them to Earth, where Orion tells the humans that they have been caught in the crossfire of a war between two worlds, in which Earth has become the latest battleground. And then, against a stormy background, Orion calls Darkseid out. And on the last page, a masterpiece of Kirby art, Darkseid replies "I hear you, Orion! The battle begins!"
And thus ends the first issue of The New Gods. By far the best issue of the Fourth World so far, Kirby's storytelling jumps up a notch or six, and his art too is elevated to a whole new level, from the opening Fall of the old Gods, through the depictions of Super-Town and Apokolips, to Darkseid's chilling final page appearance against an eerie green storm. And, as they say, the best is yet to come!
One final thought or two. This was the second story Kirby did for DC after his return and in some ways feels like it should have been published first. I, however like the fact that it was actually published fifth, allowing a degree of mystery to build up through the preceding issues of Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen and Forever People. Not that you need to have read any of the earlier Fourth World books to enjoy this. It stands perfectly alone, despite it's connections to the three other titles.
Next time on Fourth World Thursday, we've met the raw recruits, we've met the seasoned veteran, now it's time to meet the conscientious objector - Mr. Miracle.
See you soon,

Tuesday, 24 June 2014


I have, in the past segments of Fourth World Thursday, mentioned that I regard the canonical stories of the Fourth World as the 69 tales seen in the original Kirby runs of "New Gods", "Forever People", "Mister Miracle" and the King's issues of "Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen". That's 55 main stories, plus the 14 shorter tales that make up the "Young Gods Of Super-Town", "Tales Of The D.N.A Project" and "Young Scott Free" back-up features.
So these are the 69 stories which I'll be covering in Fourth World Thursday...
The main stories...


...Brings Back the Newsboy Legion!
The Mountain of Judgement!
Evil Factory
Saga Of The D.N.A. Aliens
The Four Armed Terror
The Big Boom!!
The Guardian Fights Again
Will The Real Don Rickles Please Panic?
The Man From Transilvane
Genocide Spray
A Big Thing In A Deep Scottish Lake
A Superman In Super town
Monarch Of All He Subdues

In Search Of A Dream
Super War
Life Vs. Anti Life!
Kingdom Of The Damned!
Sonny Sumo
The Omega Effect
I'll Find you in yesterday!
The Power
Monster IN The Morgue!
The Scavengers
Devilance The Pursuer

Orion Fights For Earth!
O' Deadly Darkseid
Death Is the Black Racer!
Orion Gang And The Deep Six
The Glory Boat
The Pact!
The Death Wish Of Terrible Turpin!
The Bug!
Earth -- The Doomed Dominion
Darkseid And Sons

Murder Missile Trap
The Paranoid Pill
The Closing Jaws Of Death
Murder Machine
Funky Flashman
Apokolips Trap
Battle Of The Id!
The Mister Miracle To Be
The Greatest Show Off Earth
The Dictator's Dungeon!
The Quick and The Dead
The Secret Gun
Shilo Norman, Super Trouble
Murder Lodge
Wild, Wild Wedding Guests

And then there's the shorter, back up stories...

Hairie Secrets Revealed! (JO 142)
The Alien Thing (JO 143)
The Torn Photograph (JO 144)
Arin The Armoured Man (JO 146)
Genetic Criminal (JO 148)

Part 1 (MM 5)
Part 2 (MM 6)
Part 3 (MM 7)

Introducing Lonar (FP 5)
Introducing Fastbak (NG 5)
Raid From Apokolips (FP 6)
Lonar and His Horse Thunderer (FP 7)
Vykin The Black (FP 7)
Beat The Black Racer (NG 8)

At the moment my plan for the shorter stories is to do one blog entry for each feature, so the five DNA Project tales will be covered in one entry, the six Young Gods stories in another, and the three Young Scott Free stories in a third.   

That means there should end up being 58 Forth World Thursdays, not counting the occasional interludes such as this one and the ones dealing with the apocryphal non-Kirby stories. And then, who knows? Although I will probably look at Kirby's later "endings" to the saga in the stories "On The Road To Armagetto", "Even Gods Must Die" and "The Hunger Dogs". Even though they may not been Kirby's original intended ending, they were at least by the King himself. Still, that's a long way off.

The next regular edition of Fourth World Thursday will appear on your screens on, not-surprisingly, Thursday at 00:30 BST, when I'll be looking at the first issue of New Gods. Five down, fifty-three to go...
See you soon,

Monday, 23 June 2014


Air Fighters Comics #3 - 1st Appearance of the Heap
Less than two short years after Unknown published Theodore Sturgeon's seminal story "It!", the first of many similar creatures made in appearance in the comics pages. Hillman Comics were first in on the act when the Skywolf story "Wanted By The Nazis"  in Air Fighters Comics #3 (December 1942), written by Harry Stein and drawn by Mort Leav, introduced Baron Von Emmelmann, a German fighter pilot who is shot down at the end of the First World War over a Polish swamp.
Somehow clinging to life, his body decayed and merged with the plant life in the swamp, until during the early years of the Second World War, a strange creature rose from the mire. A creature that would become known as "The Heap". In appearance it resembled nothing more than a huge, shambling, green, haystack with a root for a snout.
After his initial encounter with the fighter ace Skywolf, the Heap turned against it's former countrymen, fighting with the Allies against the Nazi regime.
It later started wandering the globe, sometimes encountering other sinister creatures, sometimes wandering into town, helping people in need, like a moss encrusted version of Shane.
Splash page to the Heap story in Airboy Vol. 10, #3
After Air Fighters Comics #3, the Heap continued to appear sporadically in the Skywolf series as a guest star, before being given it's own back up strip starting in Airboy Comics (as Air Fighters Comics was retitled in 1945) vol. 3 #9 (1945) and continuing until the final issue, vol. 10, #4 (May 1953).

In the earliest issues, The Heap was accompanied by a young boy, Ricky Wood whose model biplane stirred deep buried memories within The Heap of his/it's former life.
Later on in this run, the Heap's origin was slightly tweaked, with the revelation that the Roman Goddess Ceres was responsible for The Heap's origin.
Oh, wait a minute, another story says it was Mother Nature that was responsible.
And another variation of the origin says it was the souls of innocent babies, murdered by an ancient warlord that brought the monster to life!
Er, make your minds up Hillman!
Although the strip ended in 1953, the character wasn't forgotten and was a major influence on Marvel Comics' Man-Thing and DC Comics Swamp Thing. In fact, The Heap even made a brief blink-and-you'll-miss-him cameo appearance during the "Parliament Of Trees" issue of "Swamp Thing" by Alan Moore and Stan Woch.
The Heap returns in the 1980s
Then, in 1986, Eclipse Comics picked up the rights to some of the Hillman properties and launched a new Airboy comic, which occasionally featured The Heap as a supporting character. The muck monster also appeared in another Eclipse title, the team book "The New Wave". After Eclipse Comics went bankrupt in the 1990s, the company's assets were acquired by Todd McFarlane's Image Comics. McFarlane introduced a new Heap in the pages of his popular comic "Spawn", but that's a story for another time...
In the meantime the original Heap stories have found a new audience in a three volume hardcover series entitled "Roy Thomas Presents The Heap" from the British publisher PS Artbooks. For more information, see their website

Links for the individual volumes can be found at...

Vol. 1
Vol. 2
Vol. 3
That's it for now for this Heap, but rest assured we'll be looking at other Heaps soon.
Next time on Muck Monster Monday, a look at DC's first Swamp Monster. No, not Swamp Thing. In fact, you may not even think of him as a muck monster, even though his origin is virtually identical. Who is it? I'll leave it to you to work it out. But he WAS born on a (Muck Monster) Monday...

See you soon,

Thursday, 19 June 2014


So, last time we ended on a cliffhanger with a clone of 1940s superhero The Guardian about to take on a Giant Green Jimmy Olsen Clone. Well, it'll be a while before we see the outcome of that little melee, as for the next three weeks we'll be looking at the other parts of the Fourth World Tetralogy.
Forever People #1 cover by Kirby
I mentioned a while back that although Jimmy Olsen was the first of the Fourth World titles to be published, it wasn't the first book Kirby produced for DC. That book was the premiere issue of "The Forever People", and it is here that Kirby's great cosmic saga starts to really take shape.
The first page introduces us, rather poetically, to one of the classic Fourth World concepts - The Boom Tube. What's a Boom Tube? An extra-dimensional travel mechanism in the form of a tunnel.
Anyway, a Boom Tube opens up on Earth, and from it emerges a typically Kirbyesque vehicle called the Super-Cycle (with a garish pink and yellow paint job). Imagine a quad-bike with a central front wheel rather than two. And with it come a group of cosmic biker/hippies, the eponymous Forever People! Well four of them at least. We have Mark Moonrider (the leader), Big Bear (the strongman), Serafin (the hopeless romantic type) and Vykin The Black (the stoic one - who as his name helpfully tells us, is black).
They've come to Earth from "Super-Town", which we'll later discover is on the planet of "New Genesis", in search of the fifth member of their team, Sif.
Ooops! Sorry, wrong comic. I mean Beautiful Dreamer. Come to think of it, in a way most of the Forever People could have counterparts in Kirby's earlier work on Thor. Big Bear resembles Volstagg obviously, Serafin could be Fandral and Vykin's demeanour is not too dissimilar to that of Hogan. That leaves Mark Moonrider - Balder the Brave? Or Thor himself, perhaps? Of course it could be all be coincidence...
Anyway, the four Forever People materialise right in the path of an oncoming car. No problem! Big Bear, who's driving the Super-Cycle, presses a couple of buttons and initiates an "emergency phase out". As BB helpfully tells everyone "our atoms have been re-shifted so we can pass through the car like ghosts!"
The spooked driver of the other car comes off the road, going over a cliff. Never fear, Vykin is here, complete with his handy-dandy "Mother Box". Using Mother Box, a kind of sentient computer, Vykin levitates the car and it's occupants to safety.
The car's driver, Bobby, takes a picture of our cosmic crusaders and the Boom Tube while Vykin feels the need to lay on the exposition and explain their mission. Turns out that Beautiful Dreamer has been brought to Earth by Darkseid and the others are here to rescue her. Bobby takes his leave, claiming to have a scoop for a reporter friend. A reporter called Jimmy Olsen. Man, that Olsen gets everywhere!
At this point, Serafin passes out. Obviously the excitement's been too much for him. No, that's not it. He's made mental contact with Beautiful Dreamer (he's telepathic, you know). When he awakes, Vykin says, "We will know her message".
What the FPs don't know is, they are being watched from some nearby bushes by none other than Intergang. And they're supposed to report back to Darkseid once they've found them. Which they do. Darkseid's orders? When they leave, follow them. Just how ol' stony puss knew the FPs were on the way, and where they'd arrive is left unexplained. Presumably he's monitoring all Boom Tube activity in the area.
Over at the Daily Planet, Clark Kent is interviewing a championship boxer, Rocky. Well THAT'S original! And Rocky isn't a huge fan of Superman, because "He can put down an army of title-holders! With Superman in the picture, the fight game is a farce!"
An angst ridden Superman? That's a first!
Which hurts Superman more than any punch could. Clark watches Rocky leave and starts getting all introspective. "Despite his powers, he is a minority of one in a teeming world of billions! A stranger in a strange land! What does Superman mean to you down there?" he thinks to himself staring out of the window at the passers by on the street below, "Do they secretly resent him? Fear him? Hate him? For the first time in many years--I feel that I'm alone--alone!"
A bit of an identity crisis there, heightened by Clark initially referring to his alter-ego as him rather than ME or I. As far as I'm aware it's the first time his alienation from the human race had ever been addressed in the comics. Yes, it's another Kirby first!
It's at this point Jimmy Olsen runs in with Bobby's story. Now, as I said before, this was the first story Kirby produced for the Fourth World, which goes some way to explaining the pre-Kirby style Olsen seen in this story, complete with bow-tie. In fact, I think it would be safe to assume that the already published Olsen stories take place after this premiere issue of Forever People.
So Jimmy tells Clark about Bobby's encounter with the kids from Super-Town, which piques Clark's interest, especially when he uses his super vision on Bobby's photo of the Boom Tube and spots Super-Town in the distance. Bundling Jimmy out of the office, Clark quickly changes into Superman and takes off in search of the Forever People in the hope that they'll point him in the direction of Super-Town, a place that maybe, just maybe, he'll feel more at home.
Boy, that Rocky sure has a lot to answer for, doesn't he?
So off Superman goes and quickly finds the Forever People. And Intergang, who now have new orders from Darkseid. Take down Superman with their "Sigma-Guns". The Intergang goons know their weapons aren't powerful enough for the job, but they're obviously more scared of Darkseid than an angry Kryptonian. Needless to say, Superman makes short work of the Intergoons leading the Forever People to jump to the conclusion that he's another volunteer from Super-Town.
The Man Of Steel tries to put them right, but the FPs don't believe him. So in an attempt to gain their confidence he uses his X-Ray vision to reveal a "strange metal valve" buried in the ground nearby. Realising they've found Darkseid's underground base, The youngsters go charging recklessly in. Bad move! First they set off a trap, releasing a "toxi-cloud" into the air. Fortunately Superman quickly gets rid of that. Harder to deal with though are the self proclaimed "most faithful to Darkseid", the Gravi-Guards. They can even pin the Man Of Steel to the ground by transmitting "gravity waves from heavy mass galaxies". They probably also have the ability to blind people with their sartorial combination of bright pink skin with yellow and purple trunks.
With the tide of battle turning against them, it's time to for the Forever People to use their ace in the hole. Quickly they gather round the Mother Box and utter the magic word "TARRU!" The Forever People vanish, and in their place stands - INFINITY MAN!
Who, or what, Infinity Man is, isn't entirely clear. Is he a composite being consisting of the Forever People merged together as one? Or is he a separate entity entirely, who appears in their place Captain Marvel style?
Either way, it obviously doesn't take a full compliment of Forever People to summon him as we are still missing Beautiful Dreamer.
Infinity Man, armed with his terrible dress sense and the ability to speak enigmatically, soon deals with the Gravi-Guards by apparently turning gravity against them. That done, he demands that Darkseid appear before him and return the girl. Which Darkseid does. He announces he has no more use for Beautiful Dreamer because her unique brain wasn't able to determine "The Anti-Life Equation" (of which we will learn much more in the future).  

Infinity Man Pin-Up from Forever People #4
So he just gives her back and nonchalantly strolls away. Well, it's not quite that simple obviously. Turns out that if anyone lifts her off the table she's laying on, there will be one huge explosion!
No sweat! Superman, travelling at "near light speed" grabs both Infinity Man and Beautiful Dreamer and easily outruns (or rather outflys) the explosion.
The danger over, Infinity Man vanishes, returning the four Forever People back from wherever they were.
Leader Mark offers his gratitude, asking the Kryptonian if there is anything they can do for him.
Show me the way to Super-Town says Superman. Piece of cake reply the Forever People and they summon up a Boom Tube to take him there. However, they also lay it on thick about Darkseid's plans for Earth. Despite Superman's protestations that he'll be back if there's danger to Earth, the Forever People aren't impressed. As Big Bear says "I hope you can live with your conscience -- later!"
Only Serafin seems to stand by Superman, who promptly flies into the Tube, en route to Super-Town. However, he doesn't get too far before the Forever People's words hit home. So, just as he gets a glimpse of Super-Town, he hightails it back to Earth. "It was the wrong time to go," he opines, "Perhaps someday, I'll try again.. but the time is not now -- not yet --"

And there it ends for now, with the raw recruits setting out on their great adventure, not yet scarred by the ravages of war. Next time, we look in on one of the grizzled veterans of the war, as we are introduced to Orion in the pages of the book that in some ways was the core of the Fourth World. That book was called "The New Gods" and it is there that Kirby's great epic really takes flight.

Oh, and just if you're wondering, Superman DOES eventually make it to Super-Town, but that's a story for another time.

Monday, 16 June 2014


Welcome, loyal readers, to the first edition of "Muck Monster Monday", where, every Monday I'll be looking at the shambling heaps that roam the swamps of four-colour comics. From Man-Thing and Swamp Thing to the lesser known creatures such as The Heap.
Now, when I decided to do this it was to do an issue by issue look at Alan Moore's classic run on Swamp Thing in the vein of my current series looking at Jack Kirby's Fourth World. Then I decided to take it back to the original Len Wein/Berni Wrightson run. That then led to a comparison with Marvel's Man-Thing which in turn led to me going back to the earlier muck monsters. Sometimes I just don't know when to stop!
The roots (if you'll pardon the pun) of the swamp creature genre, however lie not in the comics medium, but in the science-fiction/horror pulp magazines of the 1930s and 1940s.
For it was in the pages of one of the pulps that a particular short story was published that started an entire genre. This seminal story by Theodore Sturgeon was simply called "It!" and originally appeared in the August 1940 edition of "Unknown".
 Supernatural Thrillers #1 featuring an adaptation of "It!"
It's the tale of a plant monster that is revealed to have been formed in a swamp, around the skeleton of a man called Roger Kirk. In a book review published in the September 1949 of Astounding Science Fiction writer and critic P Schuyler Miller described "It!" as "probably the most unforgettable story ever published in Unknown."
The story influenced a number of comic book stories, especially in the giant monster titles of the pre-hero Marvel Comics such as Tales Of Suspense, Tales To Astonish, Strange Tales and Journey Into Mystery. 
Marvel would later adapt the story itself in the first issue of the horror anthology "Supernatural Thrillers" although the suggestion by Marvel that it should become a regular series was vetoed by writers Roy Thomas and Tony Isabella because of it's similarity to Marvel's already existing Man-Thing. As Isabella said on his blog on 16th April 2013...
"When Supernatural Thrillers #1 sold very well, someone high up at Marvel wanted an "It!" comic book. When Roy Thomas and I discussed this, we decided that we couldn't do a continuation of the Sturgeon story because we were already publishing Man-Thing as an ongoing series. That's when I suggested we look at the sales of our monster reprint titles and how we discovered that the two issues that reprinted the Colossus stories by Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby had sold better than other issues of those titles. I started developing what became It! The Living Colossus!"
Although we had to wait until 1972 for this official adaptation, "It!" inspired muck monsters started roaming the comics pages much earlier. In fact the first appeared just two short years after Sturgeon's story.
That creature was known as "The Heap", and there'll be more about him next week...
I'll be back later in the week with another "Fourth World Thursday".
See you soon,

Sunday, 15 June 2014


A few days ago, I mentioned that I was compiling a list of stories from the non-Kirby titles that link, albeit sometimes very loosely, into the Fourth World saga during the tetralogy's original run. In the end, I came up with a shorter than I expected list of seven stories, five from the pages of Lois Lane, and two from the post-Kirby issues of Jimmy Olsen. All seven stories were published prior to DC cancelling New Gods and Forever People at the end of 1972. As I said, some of the connections are tenuous at best, but I will include them as extra entries in Fourth World Thursday/Friday when I reach the appropriate point. The seven stories are...

An apocryphal Desaad appearance in Lois Lane #116
LOIS LANE #111 (7/71) - Dark Side Of The Justice League (DNA Project, Intergang appear, Evil Factory BTS)
LOIS LANE #115 (10/71) - My Death, By Lois Lane (Black Racer, Intergang, Morgan Edge)
LOIS LANE #116 (11/71) - Hall Of 1,000 Mirrors (Darkseid, Edge, Desaad, Happyland)
LOIS LANE #118 (1/72) - Edge Of Darkness (Evil Factory, Edge, Darkseid)
LOIS LANE #119 (2/72) - Inside The Outsiders (Edge, The Outsiders (subplot only))
JIMMY OLSEN #150 (6/72) - Where's Charlie Now? (back-up story - Newsboy Legion, Angry Charlie)
JIMMY OLSEN #152 (8-9/72) - The Double Edged Sword (Darkseid, Edge, The Outsiders)

There's also a reference to Darkseid in the story "The Hero Superman Doomed To Die!" in Action Comics #408 (January 1972). I haven't yet had a chance to check out that story, but I believe it to be no more than a mention and thus not worthy of inclusion.

These apocryphal stories won't take the place of the regular Fourth World Thursday updates, I plan to do an extra update that week.
If anyone knows of any other non-Kirby Fourth World stories from the 1970-74 period, please let me know and I'll add them to the list.
I'll be back tomorrow with the first edition of Muck Monster Monday, then Thursday with Fourth World Thursday.
See you soon,


Thursday, 12 June 2014


SPJO #135 cover by Neal Adams. This does not happen!
Okay, if you've read the first two installments of Fourth World Thursday/Friday and found Kirby's new universe so far a bit strange, then to coin a phrase, you ain't seen nothing yet! As this issue begins, Jimmy Olsen and the Newsboy Legion, still looking for adventure, are chilling with the Hairies at the Mountain Of Judgement.
Elsewhere, however, we find two strange masked figures wandering around a mysterious complex, full of typical Kirbyesque machines, giant vats containing bizarre grotesque lifeforms, and finally stopping in front of a tank containing the figure of a masked giant. Our two figures take three pages to get to this point and they spend the whole time telling each other the purpose of their mission. Yes folks, it's another lengthy exposition scene! Turns out they have stolen cell samples from "the Earthmen" and have been cloning Superman, Olsen and the Newsboys. And the giant clone has been made to destroy Superman! As one of our villainous strangers says "His exploits shall brighten our leader's cause!" Hmm! I wonder just WHO that mysterious leader could be? At the end of the scene they remove their masks and stand revealed. We have a short Neandrathal figure who goes by the name of Simyan(!) and a taller yellow skinned chap called Mokkari.
Fantastic background but awkward exposition!
Meanwhile, back at the Mountain Of Judgement, Jude, the leader of the Hairies, tells Superman there's trouble at t'mill... sorry I mean The Project. What is "The Project"? Well, whatever it is, it produced Jude and his kind - and Superman was one of the first to participate in it. Hold on! Last issue he went from not knowing about the Hairies, to having seen their file, and now he's had some involvement in the mysterious project that created them! Make your mind up Supes!
So Superman shoots off to The Project with Jimmy and the Legion in tow. The Project turns out to be a gigantic underground military base where, we are informed, trouble has broken out in the "Cell Duplication And Replica Refining Section".  So, let's get this straight, the military has been experimenting with genetic engineering. Okay, makes sense to some degree. IF they're trying to create some form of perfect soldier. What they have created instead is a race of hippies. Who are now working side-by-side with the military on more genetic manipulation. Only Jack Kirby could a) come up that idea and b) make it actually work!

Jimmy and the Newsboys are in for a shock, though. In fact, a few shocks. First we find out that the original Newsboy Legion, including Flippa Dippa's father (Flippa Dippa Sr.?) all work at The Project, much to their offspring's surprise. Now, given the nature of The Project, and the fact that there is absolutely no mention of the boys mothers, could it be the youngsters are really actually clones of the originals?  Kirby's not saying, but it certainly looks like a possibility.
So while the Newsboys catch up with their "fathers", Superman takes Jimmy on a tour of The Project and explains that "the genetic code has been broken" and that "human beings like yourself can now be produced from a single cell". Jimmy is mind-blown by all this, as you'd expect, especially when he encounters one of the soldiers, who turns out to be - - an Olsen clone! One of many in fact. And just how did they get hold of the DNA needed to create a Jimmy Olsen clone? Superman helpfully tells him (and us) that it came "From a tissue sample taken from your last medical examination at "The Daily Planet" dispensary. It was a simple, painless procedure -- carried out on you and me and the Newsboy Legion!" Er, Superman? I think you just told Jimmy that you work at The Daily Planet. You're supposed to keep quiet about your other life, remember? That's why it's called a SECRET identity! And how DID they get a sample from Clark Kent/Superman anyway? Being invulnerable and all? And then of course there's the questionable legality and morality of using cells taken from a person without their knowledge.
While we're on the subject, shouldn't there also be clones of other Planet employees? Lois Lane perhaps? Perry White? Morgan Edge? Not to mention numerous Clark Kent and Superman clones which really MUST compromise that ol' secret identity! 
Darkseid makes his second appearance and Simyan speaks too soon...
Anyway, back at The Project's dark mirror image, which we will come to know as "The Evil Factory", Simyan and Mokkari have decided to give their masked giant a green paint job. Of course, it's not your common or garden green paint. Oh no, it's actually synthetic Kryptonite that'll give him one hell of an edge when he comes face to face with The Man Of Steel. Mokkari and Simyan report to their leader, who turns out to be... Darkseid, first seen having a stern word or two with Morgan Edge in a single panel last issue. He fares slightly better this issue, his stony visage being seen on screen for a whole TWO panels, with his dialogue spilling over to a third. Darkseid obviously has his doubts about Simyan and Mokkari's giant "uncontrollable organic murder machine".
"But we CAN control him mighty Darkseid!" protests Simyan.
Open mouth, insert foot!
Said giant promptly bursts out of his tank and starts rampaging around The Evil Factory. Simyan quickly grasps a "penetrator beam" and teleports the giant to The Project, where he locks horns with Superman straight away. In the heat of the battle his mask is displaced and his face is revealed. Superman is in fact battling a giant green Jimmy Olsen clone! This seems to be Kirby's version of a standard Jimmy Olsen trope. Numerous times in the pre-Kirby Olsen comics Jimmy would be transformed into some bizarre creature - werewolf, human porcupine, and perhaps most famously, Giant Turtle Boy (see cover image somewhere on this page).
A classic J.O. transformation from SPJO #53. Art by Curt Swan.
So it doesn't take long for Superman to be taken out by the not-so-jolly Green Giant Olsen. Fortunately The Project have a back-up plan. You know, just in case a Giant Green Kryptonite Enhanced Clone is transported into the heart of your project by an alien rival complex. The Newsboys (the originals, not the sons) rush to a top secret experiment they've had running within The Project. In a tank they've been growing a very special clone. "I am strong! Strong!" cries the mysterious clone from within his tank. "Let me out! My mission is to defend -- to protect! You face disaster! Let me out!" At which point he picks up a shield.
Yes, the Newsboys have cloned Captain America!
Ha! No they haven't! Remember the original Newsboys had a guardian called Jim Harper who was also a costumed hero called, er, The Guardian? Well, that's who they've cloned. The Guardian lives again and is ready for battle! As they say on TV, "To Be Continued..."
Kirby's story barrels along throwing out ideas left, right and centre. It rushes by, leaping effortlessly over a few plot holes such as the Superman clone thing. The art, inked by Vince Colletta is prime Kirby, although Al Plastino (and possibly Murphy Anderson) was still making some alterations to bring Superman and Jimmy closer to DC's house style. More threads of the great epic tapestry to come are woven into place. We know now this tale is cosmic in scale with the revelation that the Evil Factory and it's master Darkseid are from another planet called Apokalips. And there are hints of much greater things to come...
Next time on Fourth World Thursday - - things are still decidedly weird as we move away from Jimmy Olsen to encounter - The Forever People!
And coming soon... Muck Monster Monday!
See you soon,

Tuesday, 10 June 2014


Definately NOT Kirby! The Black Racer by Werner Roth.
As I work my way through the Fourth World, I find myself wondering how to treat what I call the "Fourth World Apocrypha". Those are the stories that fall outside what I regard as the Kirby Canon, which are the 69 stories that Kirby produced in the pages of the four original Fourth World titles, "The New Gods", "The Forever People", "Mister Miracle" and "Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen". Anything Kirby produced after that, even the graphic novel "The Hunger Gods" and it's precursors "Even Gods Must Die" and "On The Road To Armagetto", are not necessarily part of his original master-plan. In addition, there are other stories, produced during Kirby's original run, in other titles by other writers and artists that utilize the Fourth World concepts. Stories such as "My Death... By Lois Lane" and "Edge Of Darkness" from the pages of "Superman's Girl-Friend, Lois Lane" are prime examples, along with a couple of stories from the post-Kirby issues of Jimmy Olsen. 
So, my intention is not to include the apocryphal stories in the main Fourth World Thursday updates, but instead to do a separate update as I get to them. I'm still compiling a list of the apocryphal stories, so if anyone has any suggestions, I'd be glad to hear them.
See you soon,

Sunday, 8 June 2014


When I started Strip Search, the earliest updates tended towards collections of newspaper strips rather than comic books. Recently the emphasis seems to have shifted the other way, but today I'm going back to the strip reprints for  a quick note about a book that has somehow slipped under my radar.
In 1986, cartoonist Bobby London took over the Popeye newspaper strip. Up to then London was known for his work for National Lampoon and Playboy, and most notoriously the underground comic "Air Pirate Funnies" which led to a lawsuit by the Walt Disney corporation over a Mickey Mouse satire.
London was the perfect choice for the strip, both updating the strip but staying true to the spirit of the strip's original creator E.C. Segar. He lasted 6 years before a controversial storyline allegedly about abortion found him removed from the strip.
IDW have now published a hardcover book collecting the first three years of London's run, with a second volume due, I believe, in November.
I haven't yet seen the book, but IDW's track record in strip reprints is exemplary, and I can't wait to get my hands on a copy. When I do, I'll give it a more detailed review.
I'll be back with more later in the week, including the next Fourth World Thursday.
Be seeing you,

Wednesday, 4 June 2014


Further to my recent review of the latest issue of Rob Imes fanzine Ditkomania, Rob informs me that he has made some copies available via Ebay. He also has a few earlier issues available as well as a trio of old Atlas era comics.
Check out for more information.
I'll be back Thursday or Friday with the next installment of Fourth World Thursday/Friday.

Monday, 2 June 2014


And we're back...

The second (published) chapter of the Fourth World saga picks up where the first left off, with Olsen and his new biker gang getting ready to head out on the highway to find the mysterious Mountain Of Judgement.

But first a word from our sponsor.  "Beware! Prepare for events new to all your past experiences! This is the strange assignment upon which Jimmy Olsen and his young friends of the Newsboy Legion have embarked! Come to the wild area -- the sub-world of bizarre sub-cultures. Like the Outsiders -- who live with a secret -- the awesome deadly secret Jimmy Olsen hopes to ferret out -- Jimmy Olsen must come to grips with The Mountain Of Judgement!"
So runs the first caption on the opening page of this story. As I've said before, Kirby had a real way with words. Sometimes it's just not the right words. "Prepare for events new to all your past experiences!" Huh? What does that even mean?

Oh well, back to the story...

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #134 cover by Neal Adams
Olsen, The Newsboy Legion and the Outsiders are ready to set off to find the Mountain Of Judgement when Super-Drag... I mean Superman butts in and starts to try to talk them out of it, suggesting it would be certain death or them. Looks like Supes knows more than he's letting on...
He doesn't get very far before one of the Outsiders decides enough is enough and tries to run the Kryptonian down with his motorcycle. A rocket powered motorcycle to be sure, but this is Superman we're talking about. Still, it gives another Outsider a chance to grab a convenient bazooka and fire a shell at him. A shell full of Kryponite gas! Hold on just a moment, here! Last issue a Kryponite ray-gun, now shells of K-gas? Did they just stockpile Kryptonite weapons in case of an invasion of Kryptonians? But wait! Our bazooka firing Outsider claims the weapons actually belong to the "Hairies". "And what are the Hairies?" asks Superman.

Time for another session of "Tell It To Auntie"...  
Yes, it's one of those awkward exposition scenes. Yango (remember him from last issue? The one that suddenly decided that Jimmy Olsen was his new leader?) explains to Supes that the "Hairies" were the original creators of Habitat, The Wild Area and the Kryptonite weapons. Then one day they just vanished, abandoning everything. He keeps on explaining all of this while beating on Superman, even after the Kryptonian loses consciousness and is being carried off. Who are you REALLY telling, Yango? Superman or the reader? Is this a case of the Fourth World breaking the Fourth Wall?

Anyway, with the Big Blue Boy Scout (and the exposition) out of the way, Olsen, the Newsboys and the Outsiders take to the road in search of the Zoomway, a mysterious road that supposedly leads to The  Mountain Of Judgement.  The road they're taking appears to be a dead end ending in a rock wall, but acting on his gut instinct, Jimmy guns the Whiz Wagon's motor, aims straight at the cliff face...

A nightmare of kaleidoscopic form black & white
...and tears through a fake wall onto a futuristic looking highway.  Not any old highway, this is the Zoomway. And it's full of dangerous traps which gradually whittle down the contingent. Loose rocks come flying at them. A giant gap in the road. A water filled tunnel (well, they need something for Flippa Dippa to do). And then, they activate a bizarre psychedelic light show, making it impossible to see the road ahead. Kirby informs us that "Jimmy Olsen and The Newsboy Legion and their Whiz Wagon careening madly through a nightmare of kaleidoscopic form and color!" Quite apart from that caption not quite making sense ("careen" would have better than "careening"), the freaky light show is portrayed by one of Kirby's patented cosmic photo-collages - in black and white(!). Fortunately the Whiz Wagon is equipped with radar, enabling them to stay on the road. By the time they pass through the cosmic mind-trip the Outsiders have all fallen by the wayside leaving just Jimmy and the Newsboys.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I mean Habitat, Superman has recovered from his beating earlier in the issue and sets off in hot pursuit of the youngsters. Just in time too, because they have found the Mountain Of Judgement and it's heading straight towards them! Turns out the MOJ is a gigantic (and I do mean gigantic) missile carrier that been disguised as a oriental dragon to terrify intruders.
The Mountain Of Judgement revealed!
Supes dives down and pulls the Whiz Wagon out of the path of the MOJ but both are pulled into the maw of the "dragon" by a powerful magnetic force. No sooner are they inside, then a group of hippies, the mysterious "Hairies", reveal themselves and start searching the Whiz Wagon for... a bomb! Which they finally find hidden inside the vehicle's TV camera. Aha! So that was Morgan Edge's ulterior motive all along. Use Olsen and Co. to find the "Hairies" and blow them up! Good job Superman's tagged along, as he takes the brunt of the explosion, leaving everybody unharmed! Jude, the elected leader of the "Hairies" thanks the superhero, saying "You know our story! We seek only to be left alone - to use our talents to develop fully!"
To which Superman tellingly replies "Yes I've been let in on your top secret file!"
Uh, Superman? Just a few pages back you DIDN'T know about them! You had to ask the Outsiders about them, remember? Or was that just to goad Yango into giving the readers a bit of exposition?

Darkseid's 1st appearance. In one panel of an issue of Jimmy Olsen.
And who are the mysterious unseen enemies of the "Hairies"? Morgan Edge and his cronies in Intergang, obviously. But wait! There's a last minute reveal. Old Morgan has a boss, and he is NOT happy. He's also not human! He is in fact, as we'll soon find out, a god. And not a good god, either! His name is Darkseid and he is destined to become one of the major villains of the DC universe. And his first appearance? ONE minor panel in an issue of Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen. How ignoble a beginning!
Still, more hints of Kirby's great cosmic epic to come and another of the major players is now on the board. Maybe we won't find out much about Darkseid for a while, but when we do...
Oh, and  it's pronounced Dark-SIDE, not Dark-SEED in case you were wondering.
Next time on Fourth World Thursday - things get even weirder!
See you soon!