The fourth issue of Jack Kirby’s Forever People brought us the second chapter in the five-part story arc which would prove to be the centerpiece of this ultimately short-lived series. But, published as it was on the first day of June, 1971, the issue was also the harbinger of a new era for its publisher, DC Comics — marking the end of the 32-page comic book at the company (at least for the next eleven months), as the standard-size comic’s page length was increased to 48 pages, and the price raised from 15 to 25 cents.
I don’t actually know whether this particular issue was the very first 25-cent DC comic I myself saw or bought — unlike the occasion of DC’s last price hike, I have no clear memory of the specific comic that presented me with the sensation of “sticker shock” that surely must have accompanied my discovery of the change. (And it was a change I would have been utterly unaware of until I was confronted by it at the spinner rack; DC had given no hint this was coming in the past month’s books, and I was not yet plugged into any fan networks, formal or otherwise, that might have broken the news.) But Forever People #4 could have been the first — it was in DC’s first batch of 25-cent releases, for sure — so I’m going to use its release as a platform for discussing the change.
Of course, twenty-five-cent comic books were nothing new in and of themselves. I was quite familiar with DC’s “80-Page Giants”, after all (as well as with their inevitably less impressive 64-page successors). There were also Marvel’s annuals (aka “King-Size Specials”) and even Archie’s Giant Series Magazines. But these were all out-of-the-ordinary, in one way or another. A “regular” comic book that would cost a quarter every issue? That was definitely new, at least to me.*
As they had in 1969, and before that in 1961, DC ran a text piece explaining the reasons for the price increase:
But, in fact, other than the reference to giving DC’s readers “more pages for your hard-earned bread”, Editorial Director Carmine Infantino’s note didn’t address why the standard comic book’s page count had so substantially increased, requiring a correspondingly drastic hike in the price. For that, we’d have to wait until 1998, when Infantino was interviewed by Jon B. Cooke for Comic Book Artist:. According to the account the former exec gave at that time, it all came down to intra-corporate maneuverings instigated by DC’s sister company (and distributor), Independent News:
CBA: Do you remember the books going from 32 to 48 pages? That was a radical move, jumping the price nearly 50 percent.
Carmine: That was Independent News’ idea. They made that decision!
CBA: What was their thinking — more for the reader’s buck?
Carmine: More for their buck! I didn’t find this out until I left the company and it killed me, but they were charging us 12 1/2%for their brokerage fee. Everybody else in the industry was paying ten percent, but we were paying 12 1/2%. That was quite a bite into my profit margin.
CBA: So it was a sweetheart deal — gouging their own company?
Carmine: It went into one pocket…
That, according to Infantino, is how we ended up (however briefly) with DC’s 48-page “standard” comic — which, by and large, broke down to roughly 60-70% new material, with the remaining story pages going to reprints — or, in Infantino’s words of 1971, “specially selected stories that we were planning for a special time… and that time is now!”
A “special time”, eh? Well, maybe. But I’ll defer what else I have to to say about this subject until nearer the end of the post.
We really are going to get to “The Kingdom of the Damned”, I promise — but before we do, there’s one more element of FP #4’s cover I’d like us to consider, which, if not quite as immediately arresting as that “Only 25¢ — Bigger & Better” seal was in June, 1971, was still not without significance.
And that’s the phrase that appears above the Forever People logo for the first (and last) time with this issue:
The complex, interconnected epic that Jack Kirby launched upon his arrival at DC Comics in 1970 is widely known to today’s comic book fans as “the Fourth World”. For that reason, I’ve used the phrase regularly on this blog ever since my post last August about Jimmy Olsen #133, the epic’s first chapter. But it’s worth noting that not only did Kirby himself never use the phrase in an actual story, but that it didn’t appear anywhere at all until May, 1971, at which time it graced the cover of Jimmy Olsen #139 (a comic I opted not to devote a whole post to, which is why we’re covering the topic here [don’t worry, you’ll get your Goody Rickels fix when I blog about JO #141 next month]). From there, “Kirby’s Fourth World” went on to appear on the cover of the fourth issue of New Gods as well as that of the subject of this post (both published in June), followed by Mister Miracle #4 in July. It then showed up in a house ad or two, as well as the cover of Mister Miracle #10 (in a smaller blurb at the bottom of the cover, this time)… and then it was gone. Gone — but, obviously, never forgotten.
But where did the phrase come from? Whose idea was it to slap it on these four covers, and no others? What does it mean, for the New Gods’ sake?
There are theories aplenty — but no definite answers. And after half a century, it seems unlikely that any will be forthcoming. So, rather than speculate, I’m going to let Mark Evanier, who served as one of Kirby’s assistants during this period, have the final (at least for now) say.
In an October, 2020 blog post, Evanier wrote:
Don’t try to tell me you know where that name [i.e., the “Fourth World”] came from. I didn’t know, Steve [Sherman, Kirby’s other assistant] didn’t know and Jack didn’t know, If we didn’t know, you didn’t know.
I think that’s going to have to do us, folks.
In Forever People #3, Kirby had given readers the darkest chapter in his saga to date. Leading off with a chillingly appropriate quotation from Adolf Hitler, he’d shown us how easily ordinary people could be persuaded to give up their own free will — in Kirby’s formulation, to choose “anti-life” over life — when doing so allowed them to justify acting on their own worst impulses towards those of their fellow human beings they perceived as “other”. Made anonymous by their face-concealing helmets, the Justifiers obey the word of their spiritual leader, the Apokoliptican “revelationist” known as Glorious Godfrey, and descend upon an urban neighborhood to brutalize and abduct its inhabitants. What makes these particular people “other”? We’re not told, and it really doesn’t matter — not to Kirby, not to us, and perhaps not even to the Justifiers (When one exults, “Listen to their cries! I’ve been waiting to do this for years!”, he may be relishing the opportunity he’s finally been givent to lash out against some long-resented minority — or he may only be expressing his glee at being given the license to wield terror and violence against anyone.)
In the opening pages of “The Kingdom of the Damned”, we learn at last the fate of the “human trash” we saw abducted by the Justifiers in the previous episode:
When I first read this sequence at the age of thirteen, I considered it to be one of the most disturbing things I’d ever seen in a comic book — and I still find it unsettling. As far as I was concerned, it didn’t matter that, as far as we can see, Desaad’s prisoners are being subjected to no physical torments more awful than being confined together in close quarters. Simply the idea that they can be seen by the amusement park’s customers, who are oblivious to their fellow human beings’ plight due to Desaad’s “scrambler”– and thus are thought by the prisoners to be callously indifferent to their suffering — was terrible enough, all by itself.
As noted by Desaad’s underling on page 3, Darkseid himself has just arrived at Happyland. While his hovercraft is glimpsed by some of the park’s attendees, it’s thought by them simply to be a service vehicle, and so they pay it little attention as it lands in a walled-off “staff only” area. The Lord of Apokolips promptly disembarks, and is immediately escorted to a place where his servitor is preparing “a most interesting feat” in his honor…
Removing his helmet, Vykin checks an indicator within it which informs him that Mother Box is close by. But before he and his comrades can make any use of this information…
Rather than engage further with the Forever People one-on-one, Desaad’s minions simply lob “vertigo grenades”, the dizzying light and sound effects of which quickly subdue our young heroes:
As the guards wait for the transport that will carry the Forever People to the fates prepared for them, they taunt their captives by telling them, “Desaad will soon attend to you! And you would quail if you knew what keeps him busy right now!”
Darkseid opts not to exit Happyland by hovercraft; rather, he’ll make his departure in a “leisurely” fashion, walking among the “happy throngs” enjoying the park. If Desaad has any reservations about the wisdom of this plan, he conceals them well: “Like all great leaders, sire, you have the “common touch!” Are they not your future slaves?”
This leads into one of the most indelible scenes Jack Kirby would ever write or draw featuring his ultimate villain:
Darkseid is, indeed, “the real thing”; and he is also us.
Desaad knows Mark Moonrider needs to simmer a while before he’ll be ready to provide “a proper show” of emotional meltdown; and so he turns his attention to Big Bear:
Once again the rifles fire — and once again, Big Bear is subjected to a “crashing, body-bruising shock wave!!”
But Desaad can take no real pleasure in watching the young god’s agony until he’s become “a spiritless wreck” — or so at least he says — and so, it’s on to Beautiful Dreamer:
The special, personal attention Desaad gives Dreamer has an obvious sexual subtext, and this sequence is all the creepier for it.
At this point, a guard calls Desaad’s attention away from Beautiful Dreamer — it seems the youngest Forever Person, Serifan, is refusing to “cooperate” with his captors:
With the exception of Desaad’s final, two-for-the-price-of-one trap — which feels more like something out of an old movie serial, or even the ’60’s Batman TV show — all of the situations to which the Forever People are subjected involve the use of the “master scrambler” in some way, and thus are variations on the scenario with which the story opened. Yet, regardless of how the basic setup may be amplified in the later instances — Big Bear’s getting rocked by shock waves, Beautiful Dreamer’s immobility and nightmarish visions — none of them can top the original scene for effectiveness, at least not for this reader.
And with the advent of this mysterious new character, Sonny Sumo, “The Kingdom of the Damned” comes to a close. We’ll be getting better acquainted with Mr. Sumo in a future post, rest assured — but for now, we’ve still got another 15 pages of comic-book content to review (and that’s not even counting the “Buzzing in the Boom Tube” letters page).
Said content leads off with a couple of pin-ups — which, incidentally, feature the inks of Vince Colletta, just as did the preceding story (and as will also the remaining “new” material in this issue). The first of these is the kind of relaxed group portrait that would have felt right at home in one of Marvel’s 1960s summer annuals:
But wait — where’s Beautiful Dreamer? I thought you’d never ask. Back in June, 1971, after perusing the aforementioned letters page, we readers were treated to this:
This pin-up is a bit more interesting than the first one — and not only because Beautiful Dreamer looks, well, beautiful. The caption’s declaration that both Dreamer and Darkseid “hold the key to victory” in the war between Apokolips and New Genesis is cryptically intriguing. It seems to call back to BD’s role in Forever People #1, in which she was identified as “one of the few whose mind can fathom the Anti-Life Equation” — an idea that Kirby hasn’t referred to since then, but which seems to hold lots of promise for future stories.
Also, Darkseid’s huge, blank eyes in this pin-up are really creepy. Just sayin’.
And now, we come to the reprint section of the issue — well, almost…
To the best of my recollection, in June, 1971 my younger self had yet to see any Kirby artwork that pre-dated his late-’50s-early 60s Marvel/Atlas “monster” material — and so I was genuinely intrigued by the chance to check out some of his Golden Age stuff, even though I knew next to nothing about the four features the King named here. (I did have something of a leg up on the Newsboy Legion, but only because their sons/successors were currently appearing in Kirby’s Jimmy Olsen.)
Actually, if I’m going to be honest, I also knew a little bit about the Sandman — or, at least, I thought I did. The version I knew, however, was the guy who wore a suit, hat, and gas mask. Him I’d liked ever since my eight-year-old self’s first glimpse of him being crushed between Batman and a THUD! on the notoriously campy cover of Justice League of America #46 — but I had no idea what relationship, if any, that hero had to this one. Eventually, of course, writers like Len Wein and Roy Thomas would clue us all in as to how Wesley Dodds had made the transition from his original modified-street-attire look to the purple-and-yellow tights he was sporting here (and then back again) — as well as to the tragic tale of what had befallen his protégé, young Sandy Hawkins. But at this particular point in time, I can’t say I was terribly excited by the notion of yet another “dynamic duo” in the vein of Batman and Robin, or (even more aptly) Captain America and Bucky — even if their adventures were drawn by Jack Kirby.
I’m not certain if I’d yet heard of Kirby’s collaborator on this tale from Adventure Comics #85 (Apr., 1943), Joe Simon — after all, in this era Marvel wasn’t exactly going out of its way to promote Simon’s role as the co-creator (with Kirby) of Captain America. And I’m not sure what I thought his actual job was in what I’d come to learn was the long-term “Simon & Kirby” partnership, either. But based on the credits-box conventions that another Kirby collaborator — Stan Lee — had established at Marvel, I probably looked at this story’s byline and assumed that Simon was the writer, while the art was all Kirby. The truth of how the two men worked together seems to have been a bit more complicated than that. (For the record, however, the Grand Comics Database credits Kirby with both the script and the pencils for this story, while noting that Simon may have contributed the inks.)
I’m not going to take you through this story page by page (my apologies if that’s a disappointment), but I do want to share a single page that gives a better sense of Kirby’s style circa 1943, especially in regards to his page design and approach to storytelling, than do the two pages I’ve already shown (which, aside from everything else, illustrate the exact same scene!):
To set this up: Ex-con “Gentleman Jack” Jarvis, wanting revenge on Sandman for sending him up the river in the first place, has lured the crimefighter to his very comfortable home, which he has set up as a fake “prison”, complete with bars and guards, ostensibly because “these surroundings provide the contrast that makes everything else seem much more luxurious!” (Jack had in fact dreamed of something similar while in stir — whence comes the story’s title, and its tenuous connection with Sandman’s night/sleep/dream motif.) But Jack and his “guards” imprison Sandman in a real cell — an airtight one, that’s slowly having the air pumped out of it. Luckily for our hero, his pal Sandy has disobeyed Sandman’s explicit instructions to stay home, opting instead to follow him…
The freed Sandman joins with Sandy to quickly overcome Jack and his hoods, then cart them off to jail. The end.
In 1971, if I hadn’t been told beforehand that the artwork in this story was by Jack Kirby, I don’t believe I would have recognized it as such. Seven panels to a page? Circular panel borders? Those spindly, rubbery figures? None of that evoked the Kirby “style” as I’d come to know it.
In later years, I’d come to appreciate the groundbreaking achievements of “Simon & Kirby” in expanding the visual vocabulary of the comic-book medium, especially in regards to page design and the depiction of action. But in 1971, I couldn’t see this work as much more than a novelty. And the “novelty” would wear off for me, pretty quickly.
The issue wraps up with one last pin-up, this one featuring the Forever People’s adult super-friend, the Infinity Man — whom Darkseid had vanished to some unknown nether region in the closing pages of FP #3:
Sadly for IM’s fans, his would be the last time we’d see the guy until the eleventh — and final — issue of Forever People, 14 months from now.
Forever People #4 was hardly what you’d call a bad package; nevertheless, my thirteen-year-old self would as soon have kept his 32-page comic book, with all-new art and story, just the way it was, even at a somewhat higher price. Sorry, Mr. Infantino, he might have said, but if you want me to buy reprints — excuse me, “specially selected stories” — then please put them in a book all their own. Maybe I’ll buy it; I’ve done it before. But new stuff and reprints really shouldn’t mix — at least not in a 60/40, or even a 70/30, ratio.
I should note here that I was a fortunate young comics fan in 1971, in the sense that I don’t recall having to give up buying any titles due to the price increase. As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I was an only kid, which allowed my middle-class parents to be rather generous with my allowance — which I didn’t spend on anything but comics (and the occasional paperback book). So while I may have had some general concerns about getting good value for my dollar, the price hike didn’t cause me any actual hardship, as far as I recall.
In any event, the 25-cent, 48-page DC comic was here to stay — at least until April, 1972. Of course, not every editor at DC dealt with the need to fill those extra pages in the same way. We’ll have lots of chances over the next eleven months to see the different approaches taken by those different editors — beginning with our very next post regarding a DC comic, which ought to be coming your way about ten days from now. I hope you’ll join me then.
*Tower Comics (home of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents), in operation from 1965 to 1969, had distinguished itself by making 64-page, 25-cent comics the basis of their whole line; but, alas, I’d never bought any of their titles. More recently, DC had started experimenting with converting several ongoing series to “giants” — but those books were mostly all-reprint, and the ones that did include some new material (e.g., G.I. Combat and Young Romance) belonged to genres I didn’t read; in any event, they weren’t on my radar.
The thing that strikes me about these old Kirby Fourth World books (I wonder what the first THREE worlds were supposed to have been?), is how little the story moves forward with each issue. Sure, it’s Kirby and the art is incredible but the story itself proceeds at an almost glacial pace that really reveals nothing more than how much our heroes are willing to suffer to win out in the end. I don’t know that we understand any more about the motivations of the FP or of Darkseid, other than “one is good,” and “one is bad,” but the why’s and wherefores of this philosophical opposition is more than a little hazy. Nowadays, most comics wouldn’t be able to get away with that; comics fans of the twenti-first century are a bit more discerning perhaps than we were back in the day and the story requirements for comics are a bit more rigorous, but for the seventies, it was all just “hand-waved” into a drawer to look at later and we accepted it like we had been trained to do. I have no memory of “Sonny Sumo” at all, so perhaps I stopped reading FP for a bit for some reason around this point. No idea.
As to the re-printed back-up story and the price hike, I can guarantee you that the extra dime wasn’t worth it to me. I dismissed most back-up stories in general as not being worthy of my time, so you can bet re-prints of stories from before I was even born, would have seemed to this reader like a waste of space. I suppose, like the Sandman, these stories put me to sleep (do you see what I did there? Of course, you did). At least at this point, DC was trying to justify the price hike and give us “something” extra. It won’t be long before these continuous price hikes would simply be the norm and there wouldn’t even be an illusion that we were getting something in exchange for it. It’s easy to sit back today with our $3.99 and $4.99 comics and twenty dollar graphic novels with superior stories and graphics and say it was all worth it, but as Carmine said, “It went into one pocket…”
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“I wonder what the first THREE worlds were supposed to have been?” Personally, I’ve always assumed that Kirby was riffing on the “three-world model” in political science — but as I said in the post, none of us are ever going to know for sure.
You may be right about the story moving at a slow pace, Don, but I feel obliged to push back somewhat on the idea that Kirby is at all “hazy” as regards the “philosophical opposition” between the Forever People/New Genesis and Darkseid/Apokolips. Perhaps he doesn’t get into the specifics as much in this individual installment, but in the previous issue — with all of its direct references and clear parallels to Nazism — he was quite explicit as to what he thought “Life vs. Anti-Life” was all about. Taken as a whole, the themes of Kirby’s Fourth World material are well-developed and clearly presented. In any event, I don’t think that we have to make allowances for this work having been produced for a less discerning readership, or under less rigorous story requirements. I’m not saying it’s flawless, but I strongly suspect it will still hold up fifty years from now, at least as well if not better than most of today’s comics will.
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I was only buying a few comics at the time (well, my folks were anyway), so I don’t guess the extra dime made a lot of difference to them. However, I LOVED the additional stories, especially the reprints of older stories and characters that I wasn’t familiar with. Those characters from the 40’s and 50’s fascinated me. If not for the expanded comics and the later 100 pagers, I might not have stuck with comics as long. It opened up a much larger universe to this kid. I was sort of sad when they went away.
The Forever People are the Fourth World Series that I knew the least about at the time. Upon reading them later, I have to say that I would have liked to see where Kirby ended up taking them if not cut short.
Thanks for sharing your perspective, bluesislove! I’m sure that many other fans felt the same way you did about the reprints.
Long time reader, first time responder. Thanks for these Alan. I’m roughly your age, and remember these stories fondly. I just have to say that letter from Infantino (and I do remember reading it at the time) just cracks me up. I can’t remember a more ham-handed attempt to appear “cool” to us young people/beatniks/hippies (whatever grown-ups called kids back then). “Rap,” “turns us on,” “telling it like it is” (underlined, yet), “your hard-earned bread,” etc. Half-expected a “daddio” or a “groovy” in there. :-). Yes, there’s a lot of that in the “new” Jimmy Olsen, but seeing it in a business letter format from National just takes the cake. Enjoy your day, and keep ’em coming!
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Just keep readin’ ’em, Cornerman, and I’ll keep writin’ ’em!
Perhaps they should’ve got Bob Haney in his Teen Titans mode to write the letter!
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Although I had enjoyed comics prior to this period, the “Bigger and Better” era was when they really started meaning something more to me and started following specific series. so I will always love them. Like Blueislove , I found the older stories and characters fascinating. Still being, young, I preferred the reprints that most looked like the new stories, so the Kirby books were strange. Now, I love the Simon and Kirby look, if not so much many of the stories. Thank you for the fun blog!
You’re welcome, Scott. And thank you for reading!
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I only ever got a few DC comics in the late ’60 and very early ’70s before I became a dedicated Marvel Zombie, and for the most part my parents bought many of my comics for me, at least up until I was 9 or so — I do recall buying several issues of the FF from 1970 (when I turned 8), getting the last two by Kirby and a few of Romita’s brief run. The Fantastic Four was my favorite comic of that era, even if I’d missed Kirby’s best era on that title. Anyhow, given that what I purchased largely depended on how much money I had on hand when I was perusing the racks, and that I often had to leave behind titles I would love to have purchased but just didn’t have enough funds, DC’s increase to 25 cents in 1971 would have made me even less likely to purchase their fare at a time when Marvel had settled down to 20 cents. For whatever reason, I didn’t get any comics during the period when Marvel jumped from 15 to 25 cents for a month then went down to 20 cents — I just happened to not get any comics for several months before and after my family moved from Long Beach, CA, to Salt Lake City (dad was in the Navy and took up recruiting duty in SLC). In late ’72, my “Irish Twin” younger brother and I did come across a mom & pop store about a 15 minute bike ride down the street from our home and where I resumed my comics collecting hobby by which point 20 cents was the normal price for most issues and I was firmly into only using my meager shekels only for Marvel titles. And I couldn’t even get all the Marvels I would have liked, never mind getting any DCs which may have piqued my interest somehow. That would have to wait another decade when my purchasing power had significantly increased.
Anyhow, I find it rather amusing that no one really knows how Kirby’s saga took on the moniker of “The Fourth World” and it seems it was a mystery even to Kirby himself. Was it really Intantino’s bright idea, or does anyone know? One of those little mysteries that will likely never be resolved to anyone’s satisfaction, particularly since if Mark Evanier never got the scoop from Kirby himself or anyone else, and if there was never any explanation given in the comics themselves or any published commentary from someone involved in creating that sobriquet, seems whoever would have known is dead and never provided an explanation. Given that Kirby’s stories were fully set within the regular DC universe, it doesn’t seem credible that the name had anything to do with the various DC universe worlds, but more possibly related to the then current Cold War politics divisions of our world into the developed capitalist first world, the communist second world, and the somewhat neutral, less developed “third world”. Kirby, it is speculated, discussed his vision of another world beyond those divisions, hence, the “Fourth World”, and, hey, it slyly references his much heralded work at the competition. All idle speculation.
At any rate, much enjoy your personal reflections and reviews of these old comics, Alan, and it gives me a greater appreciation for Kirby’s ideas, influences and artistry in his 4th World titles.
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I discovered your website several months ago, and have been greatly enjoying your comments regarding comics from 50 years ago. I am the same age (63) although my comics buying experiences are similar and slightly different in some ways. However, I do remember this month (June 1971) very well and buying Forever People 4. I remember that the first comic I saw (for 25 cents), which came out the same week was Flash 208, with a very nice Neal Adams cover and a typically strange Kanigher story. As you noted, it was a case of major sticker shock and I remember being very surprised and not happy. Considering how expensive comics are today it is probably difficult for people today to understand what a big deal the price increase from 15 cents to 25 cents was back then, although you have done a good job of explaining it. I did wind up dropping several books including Teen Titans and the following year Brave and Bold, among others. I believe that DC held onto the 25 cent price too long, and that most people were not really that happy with the additional reprints in any event. Regarding Forever People 4, I have several follow-up comments to your excellent review. When considering why this book was eventually cancelled, I believe that 2 of the reasons are addressed here. First, the price increase could not have helped at such an early stage of the book’s life. Second, as you point out, this issue is the second part of a 5 part story. A 5 part story in the early stages of a book that is just getting its bearings, that is also a bi-monthly book. This concept might have been fine in a monthly book such as FF or Thor in the prime of its run, but in a new book, I believe another editor might have questioned this decision, but of course that did not happen here. Making matters more difficult,for example, the new character Sonny Sumo would be featured to the exclusion of the Forever People and then be tossed aside and forgotten In fact, is it correct that Glorious Godfrey basically disappeared after his appearance in FP 3? I don’t recall seeing him again in this storyline. This was a problem…Jack had all these incredible ideas that would be introduced and then…? Still, FP 4 is a very good issue, the artwork is quite good, and the characterization of Darkseid in this issue and the previous issue is excellent (actually frightening and holds up well today), some of the best we have seen from Jack so far, although there are some excellent Darkseid moments in forthcoming issues of FP. The problem is that the Forever People never really receive a status quo (that was eliminated in FP 3), they are not getting the opportunity to come into their own as characters. With the exception of “The Pact” (New Gods 7), it does appear that some of Darkseid’s best characterization is in the Forever People, which is interesting. Sometimes I wonder if Jack overextended himself with too many books, but will always believe that the cancellation of the books was done far too quickly and Jack should have been given more time to complete his vision. Thanks again for the enjoyable reviews.
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You’re welcome, brucesfl, and thank you for reading them! FYI, Glorious Godfrey will resurface in FP #6 and 7, though he won’t dominate the proceedings as much as in #3.
I bought this as a back issue in the early 1990s. I was in my teens at the time. I recall being caught off-guard by Jack Kirby’s scripting, which was of such a very different approach from Stan Lee. However, as time went on, I came to very much appreciate the style of Kirby’s dialogue & narration.
Darkseid as depicted by Kirby is interesting and different. This is something I did not really become cognizant of until I had the opportunity to read the whole of the “Fourth World” saga. Darkseid in these stories is typically a very grim, brooding, melancholy figure. The two occasions when he breaks out in what we might consider stereotypical supervillain “evil laughter” are in this issue and in Mister Miracle #18. And what does he do in these two stories? He frightens a little girl and he crashes the wedding of Scott Free & Big Barda.
From all of this, I felt that Kirby was trying to show that Darkseid may have been one of the most powerful beings in existence, but he was in fact a deeply unhappy individual. Darkseid claims that he has a grander vision than Desaad’s petty cruelties, but then we see Darkseid acting very petty. The fact that he’s scaring a little girl and ruining the most joyous occasion of Scott & Barda’s lives is a huge indication that Darkseid is miserable, and that he cannot stand seeing other people being happy, having families and loving relationships. This certainly appears to be validated by what Kirby reveals in new Gods #7, when we get a very close look at Darkseid’s own horrifying personal life.
By the time Kirby returned to Darkseid in the mid 1980s, he had reduced the fearsome tyrant of Apokolips to a lonely, haunted, almost irrelevant figure. I originally did not enjoy The Hunger Dogs graphic novel, but nowadays I really appreciate if for Kirby showing just how empty Darkseid’s existence was, and for having Orion successfully avoid following in his father’s dysfunctional footsteps by consciously deciding to life his own life and find happiness.
P.S. Totally agreed that the Beautiful Dreamer & Darkseid pin-up is incredible.
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A fascinating analysis, Ben. I’ve never really thought of Darkseid as being a lonely, miserable creature, but I can see it. Thanks for sharing.
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Well, just like when it took me months to finally sit down and write comments on your blog post on Kirby’s first Jimmy Olsen issue, waiting this long has made me forget most of the stuff I wanted to write about. Some of the stuff I wanted to write about D.C. increasing the size and price of its books I actually covered in my recent comments on your blog post on the New Gods #5 issue that you posted last week so I don’t need to deal with them here.
One thing that I wanted to say in general is that although I’ve always considered myself a Marvel man over D.C., I have been shocked to notice as I’ve been re-reading the books from the first half of 1971 from both companies, that the most interesting story-lines and characterizations are in D.C. hands down: Kirby’s Fourth World (Don Rickles excepted), Green Lantern/Green Arrow, Ras’s Al Ghul in Batman, the sand Superman. Compared to that the only thing I really remembered about Marvel during this same period is Spider Man 100 and the Kree/Skrull War beginning to take shape in the Avengers (and even that had a dud of an issue that you blogged about–I thought that it was a dud, not you). This wound up changing in the month when Marvel temporarily increased in size, but still 1971 was definitely a D.C. year and it was in no small part to Jack Kirby being there, although D.C. in short order sadly would not recognize it.
When I read The Forever People in 1971, I didn’t really care much for it because I looked at them as mostly stereotypical hippies. The New Gods was real sci-fi and Mister Miracle was a nice combination of traditional and new (for then) comic book writing. However, reading books like Forever People #3 and #4 fifty years later with perpective and knowledge that I did not have then, I fully appreciate the adult and mature concepts that Kirby put into these books that out Marveled Marvel if you will and certainly was 180 degrees different than the traditional D.C. comic.
The whole concept of trapping people in an amusment park where oblivious innocent park goers on the other end of a mirror are laughing at disorted or false images of the trapped people is chillingly sadistic. You described the first three pages better than I could Alan–extremely disturbing indeed. Desaad is a real sadist, only the original Joker could compare in D.C. in 1971 and even Darkseid has little patience for his pleasure in pain. It was certainly a very interesting characterization to see Darkseid’s barely concealed contempt for Desaad and how he is wasting Darkseid’s time. Then, as you note, Kirby’s frightening vignette of Darkseid mingling with the family in the amusement park. In this single issue, Darkseid in my opinion becomes more interesting than any D.C. or Marvel villain at the time because of what Kirby shows us of him.
From here we get the nightmarish experiences of Big Bear, Beautiful Dreamer, Serifan and Vykin all triggered by happy oblivous people having fun in an amusement park. Alfred Hitchcock couldn’t have come up with a better story. Many people before and since have played up the trope of horror in an amusement park, but I don’t think anyone does it better than Kirby here. I honestly think that my favorite two comic books of the year 1971 in retrospect are the last two Forever People books at least in terms of originality, symbolism and being ground-breaking for its time. In my New Gods No. 5 comments (in response to your blog post six weeks after this one), I noted that Orion actually fit into the darker and grittier comics of the late 1980s and 1990s. Well, the last two Forever People books I think could fit in there as well.
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A few typos, Alan.
“King-Sixe Specials” s/b “King-Size Specials”
“firther” s/b “further”
“Desaad;s” s/b “Desaad’s”
I’m guessing “vertigo greades” s/b “vertigo grenades”
This one has a misplaced period.
“just the way it was., even at a somewhat higher price Sorry, Mr. Infantino,”
“just the way it was, even at a somewhat higher price. Sorry, Mr. Infantino”
“aa far as I recall.” s/b “as far as I recall.”