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,

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