When Jack Kirby went to DC in late 1971, the first thing he did were the first issues of FOREVER PEOPLE, NEW GODS, and MISTER MIRACLE.  However, in order to get a quicker return on their “investment”, the higher-ups at DC insisted that he take over some established book, and they apparently didn’t care which one.  They gave him his choice of any one he wanted.  He looked over them all, and felt none were right for him.  (CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN, which he had started himself, was about to be cancelled, and apparently was out of the running.)  Kirby asked for whichever book didn’t have a regular team, and as JIMMY OLSEN was in the midst of switching creative teams, JIMMY OLSEN it was.  Also, several people apparently suggested Jack revive his NEWBOY LEGION, and since Jimmy was already a “newsboy”, it seemed to make sense to somebody.  Anyway, this is how Jack got on JO, and how his 1st JO arrived 4 MONTHS before any of this other brand-new series.

Jack had a long tradition of creating “group” books, going back to “kid gangs”.  In the tradition of the “Dead End Kids” (who themselves eveolved into the East Side Kids and then The Bowery Boys), Jack, together with Joe Simon, had done The Young Allies, The Newsboy Legion, Boy Commandos, Boy Explorers, Boys’ Ranch, and finally the more grown-up CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN.  With Stan Lee, he did FANTASTIC FOUR (who only acted liked kids), THE AVENGERS, X-MEN (definitely a return to “young” heroes with an adult mentor).  And so it was, when he returned to DC, the very first thing he did (apparently) was a new “kid gang”, but one geared toward the modern-day of the late-60’s youth and counter-culture movement.  THE FOREVER PEOPLE were not quite hippies, not quite bikers, and not quite super-heroes either.  More like a little bit of each.  I always had the most restrictive, conservative upbringing anyone could imagine, and yet, in the late 60’s, while I admit I probably shook my head in dismay at some of TV’s depictions of “hippies”, there was something about the attitude, the philsophy, and the design and dress sense that I found appealing... and still do.

The cover of FP #1 shows the group racing toward the readers in their “Super-Cycle”.  Between the characters and the bike, the colors are as wild and glaring as you could get.  Probably for commercial reasons, Superman is a guest-star this issue (in a similar way that Spider-Man kept turning up early in the runs of new Marvel Comics).  If ever a costumed hero’s whole personal screamed “conservative”, by the late 60’s, Superman was it.  So how curious to see he’s racing after the young heroes of the book, apparently desperately in NEED of help only they can give him!  Like so many DC Comics of the 60’s (never mind that this probably came out right at the end of 1970), here was an image sure to pique any potential reader’s curiosity.

If you look close, it’s also very obvious the cover was inked by Frank Giacoia.  I always thought Frank did more work for Marvel than DC (in fact, I was somehow under the impression he worked exclusively for Marvel), so it was a surprise to realize he’d done this.  Apparently, he only did it because the cover was the very 1st piece of art Kirby turned in—and Vince Colletta hadn’t worked his back-office deal to ink ALL of Kirby’s books.  (Jack was FAST—so was Vince.  I guess SOMEBODY must have thought having them together was a good idea.  Oy.)

The book opens with 3 consecutive panels which show—SOMETHING—appearing from nowhere.  A glowing light, radiant energy, a cylinder-shape, accompanied by a steadily-increasing high-pitched noise.  And then—“RRRABOOOOM”—a strange, multi-colored multi-wheeled “bike” (it’s got handlebars, what the heck else would one call it?), with 4 equally-colorful teenagers (presumably) riding the thing, roaring out of the energy cylinder and into our reality.  The title reads, “In Search of A Dream!”, which suggests a combination of 2 different Moody Blues album titles, “In Search Of The Lost Chord” and “On The Threshold Of A Dream” (1968 & 1969, respectively).  “Biker” movies were a big fad in the late 60’s, the most famous and successful perhaps being EASY RIDER.  If that film had Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild’ as its theme song / anthem, looking over these first 4 pages, The Moodies’ “Departure” and “Ride My See-Saw” come to mind.  I can easily picture them being used over the opening credits of a possible FP feature film, as they seem to perfectly reflect the style, the attitude, and even the philsophy of the comic.

Teenagers will be teenragers (wherever they might come from), and sure enough, no sooner does this wild bunch arrive on Earth than they almost cause a traffic accident.  But here they display some amazing talents, first by shifting their atoms to avoid a head-on collision (Barry Allen’s FLASH would be proud), but then to catch a plunging car in mid-air after it’s soared off a cliff.  Whoever these guys are, they’re definitely not baddies.

The large group shot on page 6 for some reason makes me think of the cast of THOR, as filtered thru an entirely different generation.  Something in their various appearances and personalities remind me of Hogun (Vykin), Thor (Mark Moonrider, the obvious leader), Volstagg (Big Bear) and Fandral (Serifan).  As if, if those guys had kids, this might be what they’d look like.  (I’m reminded that right around this time, Hanna-Barbera had a short-lived series on Saturday mornings, PEBBLES AND BAMM BAMM.)  By luck, the 2 people they saved after running them off the road are friends of JIMMY OLSEN (small world?) and intent to pass on their story, with pictures.

With the introductions out of the way, we’re plunged right into the drama, as Serifan collapses, exhibiting psychic power which clues him in on ther location of their missing friend, “Beautiful Dreamer”.  And while this is going on, they’re being watched by some underworld types, members of a group called “Inter-Gang”, who in turn are working for some nasty-looking character called “Darkseid” (nothing subtle about some of these names, is there?).

Meanwhile, in Metropolis, Clark Kent has just finished interviewing a fighter named “Rocky” (who doesn’t look like Sylvester Stallone—heh).  Rocky’s upset, because despite his fame and success, he points out how, with someone around like Superman, the whole “fight game is a farce”.  After he leaves, Clark (who, of course, IS Superman) finds himself pondering, does the general public fear, resent, or even hate Superman?  And after 30 years of comic-book stories, he suddenly begins to feel alone in the world.

Just then, Jimmy pops in with news and a photo of the “Boom Tube”, and, incredibly, his microscopic vision actually allows him to see something in the photo invisible to any other eyes—the sight of a CITY in the far, far distance, at the other end of the dimensional tunnel.  He’s suddenly overcome with the desire to find this “Supertown”, where, he hopes, he might find others like himself.  (I guess his buddies in the JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA wouldn’t be too flattered by his attitude here.)

Things happen fast for the rest of the story.  Supes is shot out of the sky by a helicopter that’s trailing the teenagers, who, after seeing him take out the copter, mistake him for being someone from the same place they come from!  As famous as Supes is, this clearly demonstrates they’ve never been to Earth before.  Then, attacked by a group of monsters, Supes seems helpless—until the kids gather as one around their “Mother Box” (apparently a sentient, living computer), and shouting a certain word—“TARRU!”—disappear, and are replaced by a super-hero type called “The Infinity Man”.  He makes short work of the critter, when suddenly, Darkseid appears in person.  He reveals he was after the girl, Beautiful Dreamer, because he believes she’s one of the few can fathom “The Anti-Life Equation”.  However, her mind somehow refuses to “interpret” it, making her useless to Darkseid, who nonetheless reveals there aree “others” who can—“and when the secret is MINE, I shall TEST it here!  --snuff out ALL life on Earth—with a WORD!”  With that, he vanishes.  WHOA.  Heavy stuff!

That’s when they notice Dreamer is laying atop some bombs which will detonate if she’s moved.  Supes quickly figures out the only way to save her is to move SO fast he can OUT-RUN the blast—and he DOES, taking her and Infinity Man with him to safety.  The hero vanishes, replaced by the kids, who offer to help him find “Supertown”, while telling him the fight is HERE, and he’s needed HERE as much as they are.  As Big Bear puts it, “You’ve earned the trip!  But I hope you can LIVE with your CONSCIENCE—LATER!”  He flies into the re-materialized Boom Tube, and almost makes it thru, before he realizes whatever is going on behind him is too important to put aside for personal reasons.

This is one WILD comic-book.  Kirby creates a non-stop thrill ride, and Vince Colletta doesn’t do all that badly (though I thought he did MUCH better work on the JIMMY OLSEN series).  There’s a few problems, though, and most of them center on Superman—and Jimmy.  For the most part, I didn’t mind when Murphy Anderson re-drew Supes & Jimmy in JO, as he’s just so good, and somehow the difference between him and Kirby isn’t as glaring as it might be.  But Al Plastino, who did the redraws on the first 2 JO issues, also did this one, and Supes is in SO much of this book (the teens are almost reduced to guest-stars in their own mag), it’s really glaring, especially as Plastino did both pencils AND inks with no regard to how the rest of the book looked.

Also, when Jimmy walked into Clark’s office—all smiles and wearing his BOW-TIE, I suddenly realized, THIS issue MUST take place before the story in JIMMY OLSEN #133-138.  Has to!  Aside from anything else, there’s no mention of Morgan Edge, who, presumably, took over the Daily Planet JUST before the events in JO #133.  Also, Supes & Jimmy do not leave “The Project” until JO #139, and there’s NO obvious break between issues or during the issue wherehis other appearances should take place.  (Having no knowledge of Supes’ OTHER books, I’m not even gonna try to figure out the continuity between Jack’s stories and the rest of them.)

This may seem odd, considering how slowly, subtly, Darkseid is introduced and built up, a bit at a time, over those JO issues, while HERE, he gets a full-blown personal appearance, and actually SPELLS OUT what his goal is.  I know this was done FIRST, but I imagined the JO issue (since they came out first) were designed as a “prologue”.  Now, I feel THIS is the prologue, and the JO issues are the first act, though in the beginning, it’s not apparent to everyone involved.

The funny thing about that is, in the JO story, Supes repeatedly shows no care for the fact that he’s up-staging everybody (Jimmy, The Newsboys, etc.), and that becomes a deep concern of his here.  Also, in this issue, Darkseid talks about “the war”, and the “Anti-Life Equation”, and the fact that there are “others” he will find who can put it into effect for him.  Which of course, makes this story serve as a direct lead-in to NEW GODS #1, which came out a couple weeks after this comic did!  In effect, FOREVER PEOPLE #1 can be seen as a direct lead-in to JIMMY OLSEN #133, NEW GODS #1, and of course, FOREVER PEOPLE #2.  Take yer pick!

Before I finish, I’d just like to mention two things that struck me re-reading this time.  One, the way the Forever People say “TARRU!”, disappear and are replaced by The Infinity Man (and vice-versa), seems like nothing less than a modern-day (1970) version of the Billy Batson-Captain Marvel transformation!  In current comics, writers have completely re-interpreted “Captain Marvel” as being Billy himself, in a grown-up body (but still with the mind of a child).  Apparently, for the characters’ entire existence at Fawcett Comics, this was NEVER the case.  Secondly, when I look at Beautiful Dreamer, especially when she’s sleeping, she reminds me a young Shelly Winters.  So there!

Oh yes.  And one more thing.  As far as I can recall, FP #1 is the ONLY time Darkseid is wearing a CAPE. You know, WITH the cape, all of a sudden those boots make me think of something out of some tiny European country from the middle ages. Not sure I ever noticed that before. Sort of like in THE PRISONER OF ZENDA. As far as I know, he was NEVER seen with a cape again... until Kenner gave him one with their SUPER POWERS line action figure!  (It still butg me how those IDIOTS packaged those things.  In a crate, they'd have like 10 SUPERMANs, 10 DARKSEIDs, and 1 of each of all the others.  And specialty dealers who were pals with the guys who worked at the toy stores would have access to them FIRST, so a lot of the figures NEVER even got on the shelves.  Is it any wonder they wound up going for SO MUCH per figure at conventions?)

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I'm sure everyone who's a REAL Jack Kirby fan (as opposed to "Marvel" or "L**" fans) would agree that NOBODY but Kirby should ever have been involved re-writing HIS stories. It's my understanding, that's the kind of thing he wanted spelled out in a new contract with Marvel, which they refused to give him, and which Carmine DID give him.

That said, there's a reason Kirby doing exactly what he did AT DC probably did not work as well as it might have AT MARVEL... if he'd gotten the kind of contract he wanted (editorial control and payment & credit for the writing he was actually doing).

When you start any new series, the tendency is-- OR SHOULD BE-- to smart small. You do a pilot episode that stands alone (whether it's a 1-hour or 2-hour movie). Then you do a series of stories that expand on that. It's not until a certain amount of time passes, and a series is firmly established and successful, that it's "safe" to do a "BIG EPIC". Lots and lots of TV seeries in the last 20 or so years have followed this pattern. Heck, FANTASTIC FOUR, or the Marvel Universe in general, followed this pattern. Even DR. STRANGE.

The Fourth World could have worked at Marvel, purely on the basis of it being seen as some kind of extension and expansion of what was already there. I've already theorized that the initial 6-part introductory storyline (seen in JO #133-138) could have been done as a crossover between AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, FANTASTIC FOUR and THOR. This would serve as a lead-in to FOREVER PEOPLE #1 and NEW GODS #1.

But doing this at DC was just NUTS.

People say, "assigning" Kirby to JIMMY OLSEN was a slap in the face. Why? It was a long-established, successful book, and featured SUPERMAN. Hard to get more "DC" than that.

Even so, everything else Kirby did-- and Kirby doing it on his own, in his style, must have seems so totally ALIEN to DC readers... they probably didn't know what the hell to make of it.

And then of course you have the "Marvel" fans. They either refused to follow (because it WASN'T "MARVEL!!!"), or thought it was "weird", because "IT DIDN'T SOUND LIKE "S*** L**". And their "hero" had spent 10 solid years lying to them, telling them HE wrote the stories that JACK had actually written.

You know, maybe it would have been better if MISTER MIRACLE had not been part of the Fourth World?

Something very misleading about the reprint series NEW GODS #6-- the issue with #11 and the all-new "conclusion"-- is, they do NOT take place back-to-back. They take place with more than a DECADE in between them, story-wise. (Yeah, I know, time doesn't pass the same in comics-- deal with it.)

What so many completely miss in comparing NEW GODS to some sort of "inferior" version of THOR (just as Frank Thorne's masterpiece, GHITA OF ALIZARR, is so often dismissed as being somehow a "lesser" version of RED SONJA, despite having vastly-superior writing) is, NEW GODS as a concept was intended to comment on MODERN times. Mythology-- Greek, Roman, etc.-- put into fictional terms concepts to help people deal with their world. NEW GODS was meant to do the same, for "today". It's amazing how something so simple tends to get totally overlooked by so many, in their mad dash to DISS the books as "NOT BEING MARVEL" (or L**).

It's been discussed before that Kirby was planning all these new characters right around 1967. Note: the long epic that led to Asgard ALMOST being destroyed started with the Aug'67 issue. Note: the issue of F.F. that (Kirby's editor) TOTALLY F***ed over ("What Lurks Behind The Beehive?") had a Sep'67 cover date. Note: the "Summer Of Love", which epitomized the entire hippie / love generation era, was 1967. Note: THE FOREVER PEOPLE seem to have stepped right out of an idealized version of what "1967" was all about (or, should have been).

And "SCUBA DUBA" was off-Broadway in... 1967!

Some thoughts inspired by JO #147, p.23...

I don't think I really thought about this before. A lot of people, the ones who tend to DISMISS the Fourth World as merely "2nd-rate" variations of THOR and such, will point to High-Father as a knock-off of Odin. Here's it's clear there's a difference. Odin was always a hard-headed pain-in-the-ass. He had 2 sons-- a natural son (not by his own wife!!) and an adopted one (who was a non-stop trouble-maker). And he always, repeatedly, gave more hell to his real son, the loyal, steadfast one, than he did to the one who was forever trying to KILL his real son, or take over his throne.

High-Father winds up with 2 sons. His natural son he treats in the most mind-bogglingly- WORST, HORRIBLE way possible, almost beyond imagination. His adopted son (the son of his sworn enemy), a savage, brutal animal, he treats so well the guy becomes a hero despite himself. Kirby never really got around to reconciling High-Father & his real son. MM #18 went by too fast, too abruptly, for that to happen. It took Steve Gerber, OF ALL PEOPLE, to finally deal with it. Hard to believe he was only ever meant to be a fill-in writer...

Now, in the Marvel-DC comparison game (which I enjoy playing a lot these days, more and more of it becomes more obvious), Superman actually fills in as the most blatent analog for Thor. He's not Thor, but for the purpose of these stories, he fills that slot. And High-Father, perhaps because he's NOT the guy's father, shows him more thought and consideration than Odin EVER showed Thor. Sheesh.

But then, New Genesis does seem to live up to its name. The spirit of "1967" lives on... despite, or because, of the stark contrasts, the nightmarish horrors existing side-by-side with the blindingly bright optimism for a better future.

When the JLA and JSA wound up in the Fourth World in Justice League of America #183-185 (O-D'80), much was made of Orion's conflict with his father, Darkseid. Even though Highfather was held in a torturous prison, Mister Miracle never mentioned him at all nor was there any sense of concern.

At least, Big Barda "visited" her Granny! ;-)

MM moved from Earth to New Genesis when he got married at the end of MM #18.  However, in Steve Gerber's 2nd issue, he pulled a "180" from how Steve Englehart had been handling the character, and had him move back to Earth, making a big deal over the way his father had essentially abandoned him to a lifetime of growing up in an unrelenting HELLHOLE. So he felt no closeness or connection with Izaya, and preferred to be his own person, just as he had broken away from any initial allegiance to Darkseid.

I'm looking forward to re-reading those issues one of these days...

Picking up a bit late here...

MISTER MIRACLE #19  /  Sep'77

When Gerry Conway barged into Marvel to become their new Editor-In-Chief, among other tings, he deliberatley kicked several very successful & popular creative teams off of books, just so HE could write them himself to make more money in his spare time away from the office. Among the atrocities he committed (yes, I just can't say enough BAD about this guy lately), was nit-picking Steve Englehart to death on THE AVENGERS to the point where he managed to send Englehart off the deep end, inspiring him to decide to QUIT comics altogether!! But first, he'd spend a year at DC, and get whatever he had left out of his system.

One of the 3 books Englehart tackled was MISTER MIRACLE. There had been plans announced for a MM revival at the time of the infamous 1st ISSUE SPECIAL issue of NEW GODS. That never materialized. But here, Englehart was teamed with Marshall Rogers (who he also worked with on DETECTIVE COMICS, on what many consider the "definitive" run of BATMAN ever, ever done), and, perhaps in a sign of just how pathetic DC could really be... Vince Colletta.

Of all the various "Fourth World" revivals ever, ever done since Jack Kirby had his most personal project cancelled out from under him, THIS brief run remains, in my mind, the BEST ever done. When I look back on it (and keep in mind, I have NOT re-read these... YET), so much about it seems... "wrong". But compared to EVERYTHING else I've seen...and that especially goes for the Conway-Newton NEW GODS that was running at the same time... THIS-- is a MASTERPIECE.

I reccomend it without any reservations!

NEW GOD #14 (Oct'77)
cover by Rich Buckler & Al Milgrom

by Gerry Conway, Don Newton & Dan Adkins

I have very little memory of this. Except, I think, Esak gets kidnapped in this one. If I'm right, that MAY have been the inspiration for what Kirby did with Esak later on.

Apparently, Orion fights Dr., Bedlam in this. Doesn't seem right, somehow, Orion fighting a Mister Miracle villain...

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