New Gods #7 (Feb.-Mar., 1972)

Today’s post is one I’ve been looking forward to — with some trepidation as well as considerable anticipation — since I first began producing this blog, six and a half years ago.  That’s because its subject, DC Comics’ New Gods #7, is without question my single favorite comic book of all time.

Please note that I’m not saying that I think it’s the “best”, or “greatest” comic book of all time.  That would be a foolish thing to do, frankly, considering how many comic books have been published over the last century that I’ve never personally read.  I’m not even claiming that it’s the best or greatest comic book in my own collection (though I figure I could argue a strong case for it on that score, if the need ever somehow arose) — simply that, of all the thousands of comics I have read in the last 56 1/2 years, it’s the one I love the most.  And since love is entirely subjective and personal, I’m not required to justify why I favor it above all others, as I might if I were to declare that New Gods #7 is the indisputable worldwide GOAT, or whatever.

That said, I’m still eager — yes, and also anxious — to share this comic book with you, faithful readers, in the hope of having you understand, to whatever degree possible, just why I love it so much. 

Let’s begin by setting the stage for my fourteen-year-old self’s first encounter with NG #7, back in the waning days of December, 1971.  To the best of my recollection, I had few if any preconceptions of what to expect from the comic when I first picked it up out of the spinner rack.  The cover was frankly enigmatic, referring as it did to “a great mystery”, and spotlighting two characters whom I was pretty sure I’d never seen before.  (I was only half right, as it turned out, but I wouldn’t realize that until almost the very end of the story.)

Those of you with good memories for fifty-plus-year-old comics — or maybe just two-month old blog posts — might wonder at that younger me’s callow ignorance.  Hadn’t I read New Gods #6, back in October?  And hadn’t that comic’s “next issue” blurb (shown at right) been pretty specific about what we readers could expect from “The Pact!”?

It’s true; that blurb had been quite clear indeed in communicating writer-artist-editor Jack Kirby’s intent to reveal the origins of the lead characters of both New Gods and its fellow Fourth World title, Mister Miracle, in the former’s series’ next installment.  As had the letters column of Mister Miracle #6, published in November (“…next month’s New Gods will reveal the origins of Orion and Mr. Miracle!  Those of you who’ve asked what connection Miracle had with the other books — Here’s an answer like you didn’t expect!!”).  And, yes, I’d perused both of those, blurb as well as lettercol.  What can I say?  I was reading a lot of comics regularly in late 1971, and as much as I enjoyed the Fourth World books, there was too much other good stuff coming out then for the Kirby titles to be at the top of my mind, all of the time.  And so, when I finally sat down to read New Gods #7, I didn’t remember what I’d been promised I would find within its pages.

The first page of our story harks back to the first page of New Gods‘ first issue, with its evocation of the cataclysm that ended the world of those older divinities who preceded the titular characters.  It also gives us the strongest confirmation yet that those old gods were the same ones (more or less) that Jack Kirby had been telling stories about in the pages of Marvel Comics’ Thor, prior to his decamping to DC to launch the Fourth World — i.e., the gods of Norse mythology.  That confirmation comes in the form of a reference to the god Baldr — here spelled “Baldurr” (probably for the sake of creating a little distance between this version and Marvel’s “Balder the Brave”).  Some readers have speculated that the unnamed “sorceress” represents a nod to Kirby’s work on Thor, as well, suggesting that she should be identified with that series’ Karnilla, the Norn Queen — an enemy of the gods of Asgard, who nevertheless loves and is loved by Balder.  It’s certainly an intriguing possibility, though I have to say it never crossed my mind in 1971, big Thor fan though I was.

Perhaps that’s because I was more attentive to the Biblical allusions, which seemed to me to be at least as significant as those made to “pagan” myths.  As an earnest young Christian who hardly ever missed Sunday school, I not only recognized the reference to Genesis 1: 1-2, but also the name “Izaya” as having been derived from that of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah.

Of course, my pegging the source of Izaya the Inheritor’s name didn’t give me much of a clue as to who either he or his wife, Avia, were supposed to be; all I knew was that I’d never seen either of them before (though, once again, I was only half-right).  Certainly, Izaya didn’t give the impression of having much in common with a Biblical prophet.  As a warrior of peaceful New Genesis, he probably had more in common with Orion than with any of New Gods‘ other regular characters; indeed, his being coaxed towards more gentle pursuits by Avia recalls a similar exchange between Orion and Lightray early in NG #1.  This parallel between Izaya and Orion will resonate even more clearly by the end of our story.

“Steppenwolf” (which is German for “steppe wolf”, in case you didn’t know [as I didn’t, before looking it up just now] ) has always struck me as one of Kirby’s more unusual Fourth World character monikers.  I’d frankly be surprised to learn that the King was a big fan of either the novel by Hermann Hesse or the rock group fronted by John Kay that, between them, probably account for how 99% of Americans know the name — though I suppose anything’s possible.  I suspect he just liked the sound of it.

With the turn of the page from 4 to 5, my younger self in December, 1971 was greeted by the first major surprise in a story that had even greater ones to come, as the identity of Steppenwolf’s mysterious nephew is at last revealed:

Immediately following this stunning two-page spread, we see the New Genesis forces drop huge bombs into the fiery “energy-pits” of Apokolips, eliminating them as power sources…

Among the figures at the dinner table within the “royal bunkers”, we see not only Steppenwolf, but also Darkseid’s “good friend”, Desaad;  although he doesn’t have any lines in “The Pact!”, Desaad’s appearance here underscores how significant the latter figure was in the Apokoliptican hierarchy, even in these early days.

The excited, near-frantic demeanor of Metron in this scene may not be quite as big a surprise as page 5’s reveal of Darkseid, but it’s still startling to see this most impassive and inscrutable of the New Gods behaving in such a fashion.  (Incidentally, Kirby never does explain how the New Genesis resident got into this supposedly ultra-secure bunker on Apokolips — but I’m not sure it matters.  Even prior to his obtaining the “X-Element”, young Metron was obviously a clever boy.)

“New Genesis vaulters rush Destructi-Poles against the invaders!” Kirby’s narration breathlessly informs us.  “But many fall!! — Even as their weapons are thrown!!”

Thirteen years after this comic’s publication, when Kirby returned to his Fourth World mythos to write and draw a new New Gods story, he chose to resurrect Steppenwolf.  Since then, the character has shown up fairly frequently in DC’s comics, and of course he also appeared in the recent Justice League movie.  Back in December, 1971, however, his death at Izaya’s hands seemed quite final (and satisfyingly so), at least to this reader.

In his 2012 book Hand of Fire: The Comics Art of Jack Kirby, critic Charles Hatfield has this to say regarding the above conversation between Izaya and Metron:

This exchange, a debate over the ethics of using technology to wage war, is surely a post-WWII, post-atomic bomb moment, with Metron standing in for the bombmakers and rocket-scientists of Kirby’s own lifetime.  Undermining Kirby’s spewing delight in high-tech invention, and our own delight in his inventiveness, is a grim recognition of war’s technological horrors and of the fact that scientific progress is often underwritten or prodded by military R&D…

The new, “techno-cosmic” phase of the war signaled by Darkseid’s planetoid bombardment of New Genesis — an action which, a caption on the next page assures us, is possible only because of “Metron’s methods” — continues with giant-sized “biological mutations” turned loose by Apokolips to wreak destruction on New Genesis, which “fights back with equal innovation!!!”  Then, in an even further escalation, the war “reaches across the universe”, so that “mammoth suns are transformed into cosmic-lasers“, capable of slicing entire planets into pieces.

As the war grows ever larger in its scope, Kirby makes it clear that there’s little moral difference in how the two sides are waging it.  Both Apokolips and New Genesis seem prepared to go to any lengths to achieve victory in their conflict; both are willing to engender havoc on an almost incomprehensibly cosmic scale…

The theme of the hero’s journey into the wilderness has resonance across a variety of mythologies and spiritual traditions; though, as we’ll see over the next two pages, its Biblical expressions appear to be Kirby’s primary inspiration here.

In the final panel of page 19, Kirby’s art (as faithfully finished in ink by Mike Royer) approaches the abstract, with the same slashing black strokes representing both Izaya’s face and the wind that whips against it.

We’ve seen the Source Wall before, of course, in New Gods #1.  In our discussion of its appearance in that issue, I noted the influence of the story of “the writing on the wall”, from Chapter 5 in the Book of Daniel, while reader Ben Herman noted in a comment that Kirby may also have had in mind the ritual Torah pointer of Judaism, the yad.  Both of those correspondences are still applicable here, obviously, but the setting and dramatic presentation of the Wall’s appearance in this scene call to mind even more antecedents from Jewish scripture (the Old Testament in Christian tradition), such as the burning bush of Exodus 3, or God speaking from “out of the whirlwind” in Job 38 – 40.*  Still, even in the midst of this fierce and turbulent encounter with ineffable mystery, Kirby is careful to note that the Source comes to Izaya as a “friend“.

Is the Source “God”?  I believe so, broadly speaking; although I also think it would probably be a mistake to try to fit Kirby’s imaginative conception, created and developed in the context of a work of fantastic fiction, into the box of any specific religious orthodoxy.

Darkseid disdains to answer Tigra — who, as she’s dragged away by her guards, swears that their son will grow up to kill his father.  He then asks another guard if the “dimension door” has been activated, and receives a reply in the affirmative; Granny Goodness is already standing by, the subordinate says, “awaiting the arrival of the child from New Genesis!!!

The impact of this page on me as a young reader in 1971 was immense; my closest point of comparison is probably the “I am your father” moment from The Empire Strikes Back (which itself may have taken a bit of inspiration from Kirby’s Darkseid-Orion relationship) — another indelible gobsmacker which, like this sequence, cast virtually everything that had preceded it in a new light.  This revelatory scene, which provided my younger self with the frisson of intense delight only stories can give us (but which doesn’t come along all that often, nevertheless, even in very good stories) is probably the single most important reason New Gods #7 is my all-time favorite comic book — which begs the question, would it have had the same impact if I’d been a little more alert, and had remembered the advance notice given that this story would relate “the origin of Mister Miracle”?  I’d like to think that it would have, since even if I had been waiting for Scott Free to turn up before the end of “The Pact!”, I don’t believe I could have anticipated it happening quite this way; but, of course, I’ll never know for sure.

While Kirby had never come right out in previous issues and confirmed that Orion was the son of Darkseid, he’d hinted at the truth broadly enough so that my fourteen-year-old self had no doubt of the name of the boy introduced on page 23 (even before I got a good look at his bushy red eyebrows).  Nevertheless, I still had one more major surprise coming for me in December, 1971, believe it or not.  Yeah, I probably should have caught on to the “secret identity” of Izaya the Inheritor before the story’s very last page.  But what can I say?  I didn’t.

“A great destiny” does indeed await Orion — though, ironically, it’ll find him taking on a role similar to the one held by Izaya at the beginning of our tale — that of the leading warrior in a society devoted to peace.

So ends “The Pact!” — a story which has re-contextualized much of what we’ve read in Jack Kirby’s Fourth World epic up to this point, and which will inform everything that follows henceforth — including the more-or-less direct sequel that will be coming up in Mister Miracle in five months, issue #9’s “Himon!”  (And yes, we’ll be discussing that comic on this blog, too.  Like anyone had to ask.)


As I noted near the beginning of this post, I don’t consider New Gods #7’s status as my personal favorite comic book of all time to be dependent on anyone else’s opinion of it.  Yet I’m gratified that it seems to be well-appreciated by many other readers as well; and even more pleased that Kirby himself reportedly ranked “The Pact!” as his own all-time favorite in his complete body of work.

Of course, when I say that New Gods #7 is my all-time favorite comic book, what I really mean is that “The Pact!” is my all-time favorite feature-length comic book story.  The remainder of the comic book’s actual content — which includes another 13 pages of actual comics, in addition to the letters column, ads, and whatnot — is basically irrelevant.  Really, all of those pages could have been blank, and I’d still love New Gods #7 every bit as much.  Probably.

But as regular readers of this blog know, we like to take a holistic approach here at Attack of the 50 Year Old Comic Books, at least as far as a given book’s comics-format material is concerned.  And the two-page backup strip that follows “The Pact!” deserves better than to be simply ignored as irrelevant, in any case.

This installment of “The Young Gods of Supertown!” — a feature which ran in both New Gods and Forever People during DC’s 25-cent “bigger & better” era, and which in this instance actually stars one of the latter series’ titular heroes — actually complements “The Pact!” by making direct reference to the “Great Clash” — a reference which would have been meaningless prior to our reading the preceding story.

I believe that “Vykin the Black”, as brief as it was, may have been the first DC Comics story to feature a Black superhero in solo action; but even if it wasn’t the very first, it would certainly still have been a rarity in its era.  So, while it may not rise to the level of significance of “The Pact!”, it’s still worth taking note of in its own right — and is certainly way better than having a couple of blank pages in its place.

That’s probably a bit more than I can honestly claim for the nine-page “Manhunter” reprint which follows it in New Gods #7.  It’s not that t have anything against this Joe Simon-Jack Kirby tale from a 1942 issue of Adventure Comics; I simply don’t have anything to say about it one way or another, save that it made no impression on me whatsoever back in December, 1971.  Sorry, Paul Kirk fans, but this guy would have to wait for his 1973 revival by Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonson for Detective Comics to really catch my interest.

The two-page reprint from Real Fact Comics which brings up the rear of NG #7 fares slightly better, however, at least in my present-day estimation…

Like the similar gee-whiz take on “The Future” reprinted in New Gods #6, this 1946 piece already seemed quaint in 1971; and fifty years later, the disconnect between what was predicted in the mid-20th century and what’s actually come to pass since then approaches the level of absurdity.

A “hydra-armed robot servant” to handle all the housework?  I’m sorry, S&K… but Roomba’s just not cutting it.

 

*In its general size and shape, as well as its solitary positioning in an open landscape, the Wall also recalls the Monolith from the early scenes of the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey — a work that Kirby would adapt directly for Marvel Comics some five years later.

36 comments

  1. DontheArtistformerlyknownasfrodo628 · December 29

    Your “favorite comic of all time,” huh? I’m not sure I could reach back and name just one comic to qualify for that distinction, Alan. Certainly, I could come of with a list of my “favorites,” as in “more than one” comic I enjoy more than any other…though it’s making my head hurt just trying to come up with a couple of examples…but I appreciate that you love this one enough to want to make that distinction and award it that title. And truthfully, it’s as good a pick as any. I would certainly call “The Pact” my favorite of all Kirby’s Fourth World efforts, perhaps even my favorite of DC’s entire output of the first half of the seventies. Maybe.

    Still for all it’s power and glory, there are some things I wish Jack had handled differently. Connections to Balder and Karnilla aside, I may not have realized Izaya the Inheritor was the High Father back in ’72, but it’s certainly obvious now, with the advantage of fifty years of hindsight. I just wish that Jack had taken the time to build out New Genesis society and the royal pecking order a bit more in the same way he did for Apokolips. Heggra, Steppenwolf (who was certainly as ‘Born to be Wild’ as any of Jack’s other creations), Desaad and that young whippersnapper Darkseid are given the chance to breathe a bit; to demonstrate their personalities more that simply being evil for evil’s sake, while we don’t get that opportunity with Izaya and company. Was Izaya the ruler of New Genesis when the war began? Was he even ruler before he went walk-about and came back with the white hair and the Moses staff? If not, who ruled before him? These answers aren’t necessarily required by the story, but would have gone a long way to create a better balance between the two dogs in this fight and the 64-year-old me would have appreciated the additional insight, even if the 14-year-old me might not.

    There are also two things that happen off-stage that I wish we could have seen. I wish we could have seen Darkseid’s rise to the throne of Apokolips.and I wish we gotten some more detail on how it is that Izaya and Darksie both have kids and how the pact came about in the first place. Speaking of, do we ever see Tigra again? Does she have any more impact on Scott’s story than just being the royal incubator in this story? I don’t remember, but given that there’s another character with that name, I could easily be confused. I do find it interesting that Darkseid’s kid is so much older than Scott. Kirby never says, but the way he draws them both as adults, they seem to be of roughly the same age. And why does Kirby seem to have drawn the young Orion bald? The colorist makes a brave attempt at coloring in a white head of hair, but if you look at the lines we are given, the boy seems bald save for those bushy eyebrows, yet for a newborn babe, Scott certainly seems to have a luxurious mane of jet black hair.

    Finally, let’s talk about the Source Wall. My main memory of the Wall is the way Walt Simonson drew it in the Titans/XMen team-up in the 80’s (one of my favorite comics), made up of the bodies of those poor fools who tried to surmount it or control it in some way. Compared to the majesty of that (and let’s face it, Simonson is the heir to Kirby’s penchant for huge dramatic visual presentations), the vaguely transparent wall the King gives us on page 20 seems somewhat lackluster. What a difference as decade (more or less) makes.

    So that’s your favorite comic, huh, Alan? I approve, all things considered. And as I gently place my pristine mint-condition copy of the Little Lulu All-Star Treasury #2 with the pop-up splash page and the 3-D cover from 1955 back into it’s double mylar bag to be stored in my hermetically-sealed, environmentally controlled storage vault, programmed only to be opened in the event of my death or other cosmic-inspired apocalypse, I think perhaps, you’ve made the wiser choice. Happy New Year, all…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Alan Stewart · December 29

      Tigra will be turning up in Mister Miracle in a couple of issues. 🙂 As for the Source Wall, it’s a little confusing because that term can be applied to two things that were originally separate. The original Wall — to the eye a simple slab of stone until the hand of fire starts writing on it — was the Source’s means of communicating with Highfather and the other gods of New Genesis, and was introduced in New Gods #1. Then, in New Gods #5, Kirby introduced the “Final Barrier” between our universe and the Source, which he never visualized per se but whose proximity is signified by the floating bodies of the Promethean Giants who tried to breach it (https://50yearoldcomics.files.wordpress.com/2021/08/ng5-promethean.jpg). That’s the barrier that Simonson later re-conceptualized as a wall in which the Giants are embedded. It’s a stupendous visual, I agree — but it illustrates what’s essentially a different concept.

      Liked by 2 people

      • DontheArtistformerlyknownasfrodo628 · December 29

        There’s more than one wall? I had no idea. I guess it makes sense, considering how different Kirby’s Source Wall was from the one I referred to earlier by Simonson. Is there a Fourth Wall? I hear it’s broken…(hold for the sound of no one laughing). Sigh. Thanks for the correction.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I can’t remember if I mentioned this in a comment before, but I wonder if the inspiration for the Source Wall seen in the original Jack Kirby stories was the Western Wall, aka the Wailing Wall, in Jerusalem.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Alan Stewart · January 8

          Ben, that sounds familiar, though I don’t think you shared it on the blog — on Facebook, maybe? Anyway, I appreciate you bringing it up here. It certainly seems to me as though the Western Wall could have been one of what seem to have been Kirby’s multiple inspirations for the Source Wall.

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    • crustymud · January 1

      Did they ever reveal who Scott’s birthmother was? (It can’t be Avia, at least not based on the time table we’re given here.) Or what Scott’s given birth name was?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Alan Stewart · January 1

        I’m not sure that Avia couldn’t be Scott’s mom — in fact, I think I’ve always assumed she was. In my reading, the “Great Clash” begins and escalates very quickly following her death. Plus we don’t really know how fast children age on New Genesis (or on Apokolips).

        As far as Scott’s birth name, I don’t think it’s ever been revealed — rather admirable restraint on the part of the post-Kirby storytellers at DC, actually, considering the amount of additional backstory John Byrne and others eventually added in.

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  2. Steve McBeezlebub · December 29

    The 4th World series all ended just before I discovered comics so my intro to Kirby was Kamandi and the Demon but I think I’ve read most of it over the years. I loved Mister Miracle, kinda liked New Gods, and rather actively dislike the Forever People. I feel like only Bob Haney did more cringe worthy young characters than Kirby. Kirby’s stilted dialog never helped and may even be why I don’t enjoy 99% of what he wrote. I’m also in the minority apparently for not caring for Kirby art all that much. I love his plotting, what he added to the birth of the Marvel Universe is incredibly, yet generally I’d rather see Kirby characters and concepts drawn and written by others.

    Because I don’t know if I missed it in the original runs, did Kirby ever show Scott Free hating or even just disliking his father for the hell he was raised in? Did Scott even know while Granny tortured him he was put there by his own father? Yes, adult Scott would obviously see the positive reasons for The Pact but that doesn’t preclude resenting the man who was supposed to raise and support him choosing instead to abandon him to hell. Maybe it was hinted at by Scott choosing to base on Earth rather than return to the home of his ‘loving’ family? I think Tom King dealt with this but he would, wouldn’t he? King loves accentuating any torture or PTSD an existing character has in their past, even that glossed over in the Bronze and Silver Ages. Heck, he’ll add some even if it wasn’t there!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Alan Stewart · December 29

      Steve, I’m pretty sure that Kirby never has Scott feeling resentment towards Highfather in any of his stories. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, there’s not even a clear indication that he’s aware of his true parentage during the original Mister Miracle series — at least not until the final issue, #18, in which it’s treated in a matter-of-fact, no-big-deal way.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. somtooti · December 29

    Great

    Liked by 1 person

  4. frednotfaith2 · December 29

    I’d read enough about Kirby’s 4th World saga to know about the Pact but this is the first time I’ve seen parts of this issue giving more details about the Pact. Seems to my vague recall that in ancient times there were such pacts. Although it wasn’t part of any such pact, the young Vlad Dracula and his brother were kept as “guests” of the Ottoman Sultan to ensure the good behavior of their father. As to Heggra, if she was meant to be a much older Karnilla, time was not kind to her! Heggra looked even worse than Kirby’s version of Agatha Harkness, but, particularly as drawn by John Buscema, Karnilla was bewitchingly lovely. Also strikes me that Kirby took inspiration from aspects of both the World War he had taken part in and the Cold War he, as well as most of us older readers, lived through as he was producing these comics, with the ever present threat of escalation into a horrific nuclear war.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. maxreadscomics · January 1

    Alan! Long have I wandered from commenting here, but short of calling it a “resolution,” a term which I abhor because I am impossibly bad at keeping them, let’s say I have missed doing so, and intend to feel that absence less from this day forward! (My written”speech” pattern may have been slightly affected by reading the blog post above…heh). This issue of New Gods stands as one of my favorite pieces of work in any art form, period, and I even WOULD defend it as objectively better than most others, but that is because I have not yet fully rejected the ways of war 🙂 When I finally discovered this book, in a reprint for sure, it not only lived up to the promise of its legend, but it opened my eyes to the fact that Kirby’s original vision was untouchable compared to even the best attempts to adapt or expand upon it. Yes, even more so than my beloved (and still very much so) “Great Darkness Saga” in the Levitz/Giffen “Legion of Superheroes” series. I enjoyed this column greatly, as always, and perhaps even more than usual, even beyond the fact that I got to see Alan Stewart use the term “GOAT!” Happy New Year, and Happy New Gods to us all!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. crustymud · January 1

    This is a great story, probably Kirby’s best as a writer, but it also offers much food for thought beyond just the creative/artistic side of comics.

    Since the comics audience was still primarily young kids in the early 70s (and the DC audience skewed even younger than Marvel, I’m guessing), would Kirby’s New Gods have had a better shot at commercial success if the series began with “The Pact” as their first issue? Don’t get me wrong, the way Kirby held off this reveal is what makes it a dramatic masterpiece, but was it wise from a commercial standpoint? Firstly, the non-linear narrative might be too much for a juvenile audience to grasp and/or appreciate. Secondly, if that juvenile audience had gotten the backstory from the jump, might they have been more invested in the characters and better supported the title(s) as a result?

    Again, personally, I loved the way Kirby did it. If they adapted this to a live-action TV series today, holding off on the reveal would be a genius move. But for a comic book series published in 1971-72, I’m not sure it was the best business decision.

    Back to the creative side, just a few other things that haven’t yet been brought up in the comments discussion: Things get even more interesting, at least imo, when Darkseid is also revealed to be Kalibak’s father. The idea that Darkseid’s marriage to Tigra was a political arrangement, and that Suli, Kalibak’s mother, might be Darkseid’s “true love,” these complex family dynamics are fascinating to me. And Darkseid is strictly a schemer, at least in the early portions of the story, apparently lacking his “Omega Effect” powers. There could be (or could have been) a great story there in how he gained these powers and how they played into his rise to leadership on Apokolips.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Alan Stewart · January 1

      “…would Kirby’s New Gods have had a better shot at commercial success if the series began with “The Pact” as their first issue?”

      It’s an interesting thought. Personally, I think that it would have been harder for the younger audience of the time to become as invested in Scott, Orion, and the other characters at a stage when they and their worlds have no apparent connection with Earth. Today, such an audience would probably readily accept a completely separate New Genesis/Apokolips as the setting for a fantasy or SF story, but there weren’t a lot of examples of that sort of thing in 1970-72, at least not in American comics. And so I think it was probably good commercial sense, as well as more dramatically effective, to start the Fourth World series the way Kirby and DC actually did — with Forever People and Mister Miracle on our planet Earth from the get-go, and Orion there by the end of New Gods #1 — and giving us the backstory later. Of course, I could be dead wrong (and obviously, we’ll never know, anyway. 🙂 )

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  7. Brian Morrison · January 3

    This was amongst the 20 or so comics that I bought and mentioned in my comments on Forever People 7. It was the first issue of New Gods that I had read so I got an early insight into the history of the Fourth World before I tracked down and read all the back issues I could find. I don’t think I appreciated the expanse of the world building at the time but I certainly think that it and the story stands the test of time.
    The practice of taking the children of your defeated enemies as hostages to act as guarantors of loyalty was very common in Medieval Britain and Continental Europe. Often these children would marry into the family which would cement loyalties and kinships. Having recently become a grandfather to twin boys I can’t imagine the heartbreak of deciding to give them up to an unknown but almost certainly hostile and violent fate. I can’t remember if Izaya ever showed any remorse or regret for giving up his son or if Jack or any subsequent writers ever explored this in later iterations of the Fourth World comics.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Alan Stewart · January 3

      Brian, I’m pretty sure that Kirby never followed up on how Izaya felt about it all later, how it affected his relationship with the adult Scott, etc.. I’m almost as certain that later DC creators *did* explore the topic, though I can’t point you to a specific issue, or even run, at the moment. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Stu Fischer · January 6

        This one’s easy. On the last panel of page 23, which you reproduced above, the newly arrived scion of Darkseid comes upon “an elder with a staff sits at a table bent with grief”. This is Highfather right after his son is transported to Apokolips.

        I’ll have more thoughts on the issue later, but I will say that while I’m familiar with the European practice of sending royal daughters off to an enemy country for marriage to that country’s king or prince to sue for peace (e.g., Marie Anotinette, Catherine of Valois), I never heard of mutual child hostages–which doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, just that I’ve never heard of it.

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        • Alan Stewart · January 6

          Obviously, Izaya feels grief in the immediate aftermath of surrendering his son to Apokolips. By “later”, I was referring to the years to come, and more specifically, to the “present day” of Kirby’s Fourth World stories. Does Highfather still believe the Pact was worth it? How does that long-ago decision affect his relationship with Scott today? These are matters which Kirby, at least, never went into.

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          • J.M. DeMatteis explored the relationship between Scott and Izaya when he was writing Mister Miracle in the late 1980s.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Alan Stewart · January 10

            Thanks for that reference, Ben!

            Liked by 1 person

          • Stu Fischer · January 11

            I forgot to mention that, coincidentally, in December 1971 Marvel’s Incredible Hulk #149 featured a villain called “The Inheritor”. He was a creation of the High Evolutionary and was devolved and stepped on at the end of the issue (he was a mutated cockroach).

            Liked by 1 person

          • Stu Fischer · January 10

            I apologize Alan. I didn’t mean to be dense or make you think that I thought that you were dense. I should have used my typical restraint of not posting until I had time to write intelligently (and intelligibly). Of course it’s obvious that Izaya is immediately grief stricken and you were talking about how he feels about it later.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Alan Stewart · January 10

            No worries, Stu. 😉

            Like

  8. Pingback: Mister Miracle #7 (March, 1972) | Attack of the 50 Year Old Comic Books
  9. The bare bones of this story were summarized in various Who’s Who in the DC Universe entries that I read in the early 1990s. So when I found a copy of New Gods #7 for sale at a comic con in the mid 1990s for something like five bucks I basically knew what to expect. Of course reading the actual story was so much more satisfying than getting the info from Highfather and Darkseid’s bio pages. I can only imagine the impact this story must have had in December 1971 when no one would have known what to expect from it. So I appreciate you sharing your recollections of reading in for the first time half a century ago.

    I agree with you and with many others, this is my single-favorite Jack Kirby comic book. It is a masterpiece, simultaneously epic in scope and intimate in its examination of tragedy & loss.

    I have often felt that the United States emerging victorious in World War II without the slightest loss of life or devastation on the American mainland gave our society an idealization of war that continues to the present day. Kirby, having seen combat first-hand during World War II, knew better than to ever glorify war, and in this story he really drives home just how terrible armed conflict actually is. He probably would have been dispirited to see idealized, glorified depictions of war & violence in American pop culture. Perhaps “The Pact” was his attempt to demonstrate to readers the genuine, soul-destroying horrors of war, both on society as a whole and on the individual.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Val · January 8

    The New Gods series at DC in my opinion was Kirby’s best. Kirby accomplished so much at Marvel but the family of New Gods comics, even including the Jimmy Olsen issues, are my favorites in both artwork and in storytelling.
    I had been a comic fan going back to buying comics off the racks in the fifties. I drifted away until meeting a comic fan who said to check out Kirby’s New Gods. Great advice… Kirby restarted my love of comics and I was lucky to have Barry Smith, Steranko, and Adams active at that time.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Stu Fischer · January 10

    When I first read this book 50 years ago, I never thought about how revolutionary it was–a whole issue in an existing continuing series without an immediate connection at all to the events in the previous issue, taking place in the past without connective explanation from the prior issue and containing almost none of the familiar characters of the series (at least recognizably at first) and not taking place on or referring at all to Earth. I kind of remember being a little annoyed by the issue when I first read it because of this whithout thinking of the issue specifically (please forgive me, I was a tender ten years old then, not a more mature 14). I was shocked at the ending though, learning the Scott Free was the son of Highfather and that Orion was the son of Darkseid (yes, I had figured out that Orion was born on Apokolips, but I did not think he was Darkseid’s son. After all, he looks much more like his mother).

    I certainly appreciate this issue much more now as an adult (not that I dislike it as a child mind you, despite my impatience). I do wish that Kirby had depicted the making of the Pact, how it came about, how it was agreed to. This isn’t my favorite book of all time–quite honestly, I couldn’t even begin to pick one or even a top 10 out of the many good candidate–however, I certainly understand your position Alan.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Stu Fischer · January 11

    I forgot to mention that, coincidentally, in December 1971 Marvel’s Incredible Hulk #149 featured a villain called “The Inheritor”. He was a creation of the High Evolutionary and was devolved and stepped on at the end of the issue (he was a mutated cockroach).

    Like

  13. Pingback: Jimmy Olsen #147 (March, 1972) | Attack of the 50 Year Old Comic Books
  14. Pingback: New Gods #8 (April, 1972) | Attack of the 50 Year Old Comic Books
  15. Cornelius Featherjaw · March 1

    Was Steppenwolf shopping for headwear at the same store as Elric?

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Pingback: Mister Miracle #8 (May-Jun., 1972) | Attack of the 50 Year Old Comic Books
  17. Pingback: New Gods #9 (Jun.-Jul., 1972) | Attack of the 50 Year Old Comic Books
  18. Pingback: Mister Miracle #9 (Jul.-Aug., 1972) | Attack of the 50 Year Old Comic Books
  19. John Minehan · May 9

    The last sequence with Izaya and the Source Wall is about the bets depiction of PTSD in any artistic medium.

    Kirby’s own emersion into combat with 3rd Army in the Bulge and his almost losing his legs to frost bite must have stayed with the man.

    This is great work.

    Liked by 1 person

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