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.

No comments:

Post a Comment