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,


  1. I've always thought that, interesting as the concepts were during Kirby's time at DC, the mags would've been better (and more successful) had Stan Lee scripted them. Out of all JK's series, I enjoyed Jimmy Olsen the most. Looking forward to the next post.

  2. Cheers Kid! Thanks for dropping by. For those of my readers unfamiliar with Kid's Blog Crivens, it's one I heartily recommend. Go visit it now at
    I used to think myself that Jack could have used, if not a scripter, then an editor to reign in some of his excesses. Not necessarily Stan Lee, maybe someone like Archie Goodwin? As time has gone by, however, I've started to realise that Kirby editing and scripting himself was probably the right way to go, giving us the pure Kirby vision, unfettered by outside influences.
    Having said that, the idea of a Stan scripted Fourth World is endearing, but I wonder how much of the Kirby Koncepts would have changed once Stan's Stamp was on them?
    Oh, and Jimmy Olsen was my second favourite Kirby DC title after New Gods. It's a crazy, rollercoaster ride, with Kirby throwing ideas at you left, right and centre. I also have the most fun writing the Jimmy Olsen entries, as you can probably tell.
    Thanks for the comment, hope you enjoy the rest of my Fourth World blogs.

    1. I'm sure I will, Steve. For myself, just like with his art, I'm not sure that Kirby unfettered by outside influences was the best way to go. I think he worked better as a collaborator than by himself - because then the result was greater than the sum of its parts. Kirby's idiosyncracies in art and scripting needed subduing to a certain extent, which is why his art looked better when inked by the likes of someone like Wally Wood or Joe Sinnott, and his stories read better for the input of Stan Lee or Joe Simon. I agree that Archie Goodwin would've been a good fit, scripting wise - I'd have liked to have seen that. Thanks for the extremely kind words about my blog.