In March, 1972, the lead story of Mister Miracle #8 had ended with a “Coming!” blurb promising that the very next issue would introduce readers to a “lovable old rascal” named Himon — billed not only as the man who’d mentored the series’ titular hero in his craft of escape artistry, but as an updated take on the character Fagin from Charles Dickens’ 1838 novel Oliver Twist. With Ron Moody’s Oscar-nominated performance as Fagin in the 1968 film adaptation of the musical Oliver! still relatively fresh in the pop-cultural memory, readers might have been forgiven for expecting Mister Miracle #9 to be something of a romp — a tale one might read while listening to the movie soundtrack’s renditions of “You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two” or “I’d Do Anything” playing in the background.
On the other hand, readers who’d been following the “Young Scott Free” back-up feature in the last few issues of Mister Miracle might suspect that such a level of jauntiness would be incongruous (to say the least) in the context of our hero’s upbringing on the hell-planet of Apokolips. But even those readers might not be prepared for the reality of “Himon!” — probably the darkest and most brutal episode of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World epic yet to appear, although one that still ends on a strong note of optimism and hope.
The splash page of “The Pact!” in New Gods #7 (your humble blogger’s all-time favorite comic book, for anyone coming in late) had included a blurb explaining: “From time to time — this kind of segment will supplement the larger tapestry of the New Gods.” That “segment”, set in the time of the “Great Clash” between Apokolips and New Genesis, had explained how, years ago, Scott Free — the son of the New Genesis leader Izaya, or Highfather — had been exchanged with Orion, the son of Darkseid, to establish a truce between the two warring god-worlds. A similar blurb on the splash page of “Himon!” serves notice that this story is the second in the series of “segments” inaugurated by “The Pact!” — in other words, it’s a prequel to the main ongoing storyline that we’ve been following since Mister Miracle #1; one that we can expect to fill in the gaps in our knowledge of our hero’s background in very significant ways.
More than any other location on Apokolips, the slum area of Armagetto epitomizes the qualities ascribed by critic Charles Hatfield to the planet as a whole: “…a blotted, smoking, industrialized hell that makes mythology out of the author’s [i.e., Kirby’s] formative experiences, fusing Lower East Side squalor with visions of a thumping, jackbooted, Nazi-like technocracy.”*
It’s the story’s first moment of stark, shocking violence, as the ironically titled “protector”, “Wonderful” Willik, abruptly orders the summary execution by incineration of the “lowlies” who’ve just professed their complete allegiance to Darkseid and disdain for the “vermin” Himon. And what makes the violence even more appalling is its utter pointlessness; it doesn’t even achieve its only real objective, as we learn at the top of the next page:
Page 6 is the “second splash”, on which Kirby typically banners the name of the comic’s featured stars (having already highlighted the story’s title on the initial splash page). In any other issue’s lead story, we’d see “Mister Miracle” boldly emblazoned where here we see “Young Scott Free!” Kirby is signalling that in addition to being a companion piece to “The Pact!”, this story is also another episode (the last, as it turns out) of the “Young Scott Free” feature that had previously appeared as a 2 to 4-page backup in Mister Miracle #5, 6, and 7.
Whence comes Himon? As we’ve already discussed, Kirby points to Dickens’ Fagin as his inspiration for the character; and, over the decades, many readers have also come to see this “ultimate escape-artist” as a stand-in for the creator himself. But there’s at least one other model for Himon, at least visually; Kirby is known to have based his physical features on those of the founder of the San Diego Comic-Con, Shel Dorf (seen with Kirby himself in the photo shown at right).
Having just witnessed a group of people brutally murdered for no other reason than to flush him out, Himon already seems to have shrugged the whole thing off. Is he really that callous? Or is it simply that this sort of incident has happened so many times before that he’s come to realize that lingering on it serves no useful purpose?
This scene of Himon and his “heroes” is where the inspiration of Oliver Twist is most readily apparent. Like Dickens’ Fagin, Himon provides a haven for youths involved in criminal activities. But where Fagin’s mentoring and sheltering of his gang of child pickpockets was ultimately self-serving, intended to enrich himself, Himon’s teaching and encouragement of his “gang” as they explore areas of imagination and invention forbidden by Darkseid doesn’t seem to have any selfish motive attached at all.
Several of the names of Himon’s young “heroes” — Kreetin, Bravo, Weldun — also have a pronounced Dickensian flair (as of course do many other names of characters throughout Kirby’s Fourth World). “Kreetin” may be the weakest of these, as it’s simultaneously too on the nose (being a homophone of a word with specifically negative connotations) and misleading (the name’s homophone indicates stupidity, and whatever else he may be, Kreetin is obviously not stupid.)
It’s interesting to me that none of the Female Furies that we glimpse in this scene are identifiable as any of the “A” team of Furies we readers first met in issue #6 — Bernadeth, Stompa, etc.. Did Kirby think that including them would pull too much focus from the other characters, or did he have other reasons?
As the mob turns its full attention to Himon, Kreetin slinks away…
The morally ambivalent New God Metron had already appeared in the first two episodes of “Young Scott Free”, in scenes that strongly implied that he — not Himon — was the first to reach out to Scott to encourage him to seek a different path from the one laid out for him by Darkseid.
But it’s just as the promotional blurb at the end of Mister Miracle #8’s lead story promised: “They kill him here! They kill him there! The hunters kill him everywhere! — but he always turns up alive!!” Darkseid’s subordinates dissolve him, blow him up, drop him from enormous heights, and still…
Kirby doesn’t say so, but I think we can assume that the “replicas“spoken of in the last panel above are similar, if not identical, to the “Followers” we’ve earlier seen in Mister Miracle #2 (and will see again in Forever People #10, out in June, 1972).
Kirby describes the location for this scene as “a gutted slag heap” — but there’s still something irreducibly grand, even Olympian about it, as these two New Gods — the “master of theories” and the “master of elements” have their (literal) summit meeting. When the Kirby Krackle of cosmic energy coruscates from Himon and Metron’s clasped hands, we have a sense of more going on than meets the eye — of a significance to this simple action that we mere mortals can’t quite comprehend. In its mysteriousness, the scene reminds me of Lightray’s final preparations of the “Glory Boat” (especially as regards the disposition of the body of Richard Sheridan) in New Gods #6.
There are aspects of the scene that are comprehensible, of course, and they’re at least as important as are the mysteries. For one, we learn in this scene that Metron — whom we’ve understood from earlier stories, especially “The Pact!”, to be the inventor of much of the technology used by both Apokolips and New Genesis — would never have been able to accomplish his prodigious feats of engineering without Himon’s imagination and vision. (By the same token, the gods’ handclasp can be taken as implying that Himon, who’s “eternally grounded” on Apokolips, needs Metron to be able to see his dreams made real; the two of them are thus dependent on each other.) For another, Himon reveals that he considers himself responsible for Darkseid’s rise to power; it’s strongly implied that he could escape, but won’t, as long as Darkseid rules Apokolips: “I fostered Darkseid’s power! I must be here — at its end!”
One of the revelations of “The Pact!” was that Darkseid always intended for Scott to one day attempt to escape. In the earlier story, the impression was given that Scott’s act in and of itself would justify Darkseid’s declaring his pact with Highfather broken, which in turn would allow the war between Apokolips and New Genesis to resume in earnest. Here, however, Metron’s dialogue seems to imply that Darkseid means to kill Scott when he makes his break for freedom, and that that’s the act which will end the fragile peace. It’s all a little murkier than it ideally should be, to be honest.
Kreetin’s unfortunate end could probably be predicted by most readers; but the abrupt, perfunctory quality of his killing is likely to startle many of them, all the same. Still, there’s worse yet to come, as we’ll begin to discover with the very next panel:
Kirby refrains from visually depicting the undoubtedly pain-contorted face of the deceased Auralie, leaving that grim work up to our own imaginations.
The explosive disposition of Willik is about as close as Kirby gets in “Himon!” to giving us the satisfaction of seeing good trump evil — and its blunt presentation, while darkly humorous in its own way, is far from the dramatically choreographed action that usually accompanies such moments in a Jack Kirby production. Call it one more signpost to let readers know that the King of Comics has a lot more on his mind than conventional superheroic thrills this time around.
“I found the X-Element and pioneered the Boom Tube!” Readers first learned of the X-Element in New Gods #7, in a scene where Darkseid, not yet the supreme ruler of his world, showed it (in the form of a small metal block) to his fellow high-ranking Apokolipticans over dinner. At that time, he allowed that he had come across this new scientific discovery while spending “time with our technicians!!” We now understand that Himon was one of those “technicians”, probably their leader.
As in its companion story “The Pact!”, in “Himon!” the critical moment of decision — of choosing a new way forward — must ultimately involve the Source, though here on Darkseid’s Apokolips it must make its presence known to Scott in a more subtle way — through the glowing of the Mother Box on Himon’s arm — than it did years before on New Genesis to Scott’s father, Izaya the Inheritor, when it wrote upon a wall in words of fire.
It’s obviously important to Kirby that readers not miss any of this scene’s references to “The Pact!” Here, he directs us to the very page of that story in which we first saw Scott’s mother, Avia, say the lines beginning with “You know, Izaya…” to his father; though how Scott appears to have a memory of that conversation, at which he wasn’t actually present (at least as far as we know) must remain a mystery.
The transition from the last scene to this new one — the final one of the story, as it happens — is jarring in its abruptness. Perhaps Kirby’s intent was for the reader to feel a sense of disorientation, but one has to wonder if the writer-artist simply miscalculated how many pages he needed to finish his story — despite the fact that, at 26 pages, it’ll still be coming in at 2 pages more than afforded most stories in DC’s new 20-cent/32-page format; pages made available only because Kirby is foregoeing the book’s usual two-page letters column this issue.
For all his determination, Scott soon finds himself boxed in between Darkseid’s infantry and his “dog-cavalry”. Things are looking grim…
Scott and Barda race for Armagetto through a junkyard of ruined old vehicles, hoping that the wreckage will give them cover; but then, danger comes from the air above them, in the form of “inferno-bolts“…
If Metron’s words back on page 18 are to be taken literally, Darkseid’s original plan was for Scott to die attempting to escape. But now, if we take Darkseid himself literally, he’s ready not only to allow Scott to reach Earth alive — but is even interested in having him stay, to become fully a creature of Apokolips, even though that would presumably mean that the truce between Apokolips and New Genesis would remain in place.
We’ve now arrived at the final page of our story, and here, we’ll take a brief detour to take a look at that page’s first two panels in an earlier form that what ultimately appeared in Mister Miracle #9.
In the 35th issue of The Jack Kirby Collector (Spring, 2002), readers were given the opportunity to view a great deal of Kirby’s original pencilled (and scripted) artwork for “Himon!” For the most part, what was on view was merely a rawer, pre-color version of the story as published. But in the two-panel sequence that opens page 26, there’s evidence that someone — presumably the writer-artist himself — had second thoughts about the dialogue of all three characters within, prior to embellisher Mike Royer’s inking and lettering of the final product.
First, here’s the original version:
Kirby’s pencilled-in word balloons are somewhat difficult to read, so here’s a transcription:
DARKSEID: The young fool goes on. He struggles to rise! If he stays with you Himon — I shall kill him when I finally kill you!
HIMON: I still welcome him! He may live with death — but know the universe!
SCOTT: Let me be Scott Free – and first know myself!
Now let’s compare that with the final, published version:
I don’t think that there’s any question that the revised version is much better. Not only is Himon’s encouragement of Scott to leave Apokolips more consistent with his earlier words and deeds than was the first take’s “welcome”, but the repetition of the word “find” in all three characters’ dialogue connects Scott’s ultimate declaration of self-determination to the words not only of his two father-figures here present, but also of his true, absent father, whose own moment of life-changing decision in “The Pact!” was accompanied by the words, “I must find Izaya!!”
When one reads about Kirby’s working methods, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that he generally operated in the moment, with both story and imagery flowing from his mind directly to the page through his swiftly-moving pencil, without much advance preparation or later reflection. Here, however, we can see that Kirby was quite capable of reviewing and refining what he’d done when it really mattered.
Both the rough and finished versions of the page follow that two-panel sequence with the wordless panel of Scott hurling himself into the Boom Tube — though the published version has the additional enhancement of the thicker panel borders added by Royer at the inking stage, which subtly give the image greater weight. It’s a device that the embellisher uses sparingly, but to good effect, throughout this entire issue, as well as in several other Kirby comics published around this same time.
The story ends with the prophecy of Darkseid’s final showdown with his son Orion in Armagetto. That’s a story that Kirby would eventually tell, though not until the 1985 graphic novel The Hunger Dogs — and when he did, Himon would play a major role. It’s an indication of the high significance he accorded the character — a character whose one and only appearance in Kirby’s original, unfinished Fourth World opus of 1970-72 would be in the story we’ve just finished looking at.
For the Fourth World was rapidly nearing its end — something that Kirby may well have suspected was in the offing when he created “Himon!” in early 1972, even if he didn’t actually know for certain it was about to happen. The bottom-of-the-page blurb announcing the next issue’s story — “Mister Miracle — To Be!” — would prove to be prescient — sadly so, as Mister Miracle #10 found Scott, Big Barda, and their Female Fury allies going up against an altogether Earth-bound menace: the “Earth Protective League”, under the leadership of the “Head”. As a follow-up to a story that had furthered and deepened the Fourth World mythos as much as “Himon!” had, this tale, completely free as it was of any connection to the New Genesis-Apokolips war, was inevitably a disappointment.
Still, it might have been taken simply for a brief respite from the larger storyline, especially when the very next issue brought Doctor Bedlam — the only one of Mister Miracle’s hometown foes who hadn’t turned up for the “return to Apokolips” storyline of issues #7 and #8 — back for a rematch. Even with its fellow Fourth World titles Forever People and New Gods having seen their eleventh and final issues published the previous month, Mister Miracle #11 gave fans of the project like my younger self hope that the Fourth World saga would continue, even if in a severely diminished format. Surely, if nothing else, we’d at least see the missing piece of Scott’s history filled in — the story of what happened to him between his empty-handed flight through a Boom Tube to Earth at the end of MM #9, and his showing up at Thaddeus Brown’s place at the beginning of issue #1, carrying a carpet-bag full of “tricks” that he said represented his “inheritance… Things left with a foundling by parties unknown!”
But issue #11 turned out to be the last one that referenced the hero’s New Godly heritage at all, at least until the very end of the series’ run. In the issues that followed it, Kirby would focus on the “super escape artist” aspect of Mister Miracle to the exclusion of everything else that had made the series compelling, as the hero and his companions took on one disposable villain after another. Along the way, Scott Free and Big Barda, and even the Female Furies, were reduced to oddball characters whose otherworldly origins were hardly ever alluded to; even Mother Box was demoted to mere “circuitry” hidden inside Mister Miracle’s headgear. All that might have been enough, if that’s all the Mister Miracle title had been from the very beginning; but an awareness of the larger universe from which the feature had been severed made it impossible to accept this lesser iteration; at least, it did for your humble blogger. I quit buying Mister Miracle during this time, and didn’t come back until the very last issue, #18, in November, 1973.
That comic, which at the time of its publication gave every appearance of being Jack Kirby’s final, formal farewell to his Fourth World, is regrettably flawed — but still pretty special, for all that. Special enough for its own blog post, for sure — which it’ll get, eighteen months from now. I hope to see you then.
*Charles Hatfield, Hand of Fire: The Comics Art of Jack Kirby (University Press of Mississippi, 2012), p. 218.
After finally reading the collected Fourth World stories (and why have they been allowed to go out of print?) I was struck that Himon was such a major figure. Seems like he’s never in any continuations or adaptations…
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He’s appeared more frequently than I realized — check out this checklist of pre-“New 52” appearances — but probably not nearly as often as a number of other characters. I wonder if some creators have been reluctant to utilize him simply because Kirby actually killed him off in “The Hunger Dogs”.
A contentious opinion, I know, but I’ve always ranked Himon above The Pact as the best of Kirby’s Fourth World stories. Some of that is simply taste, but I feel that Himon contains a greater number of unshakable images and lines of dialogue than pretty much any other New Gods-related story.
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It may just be the way you edited the story here, Alan, but it really seems like Kirby could see the writing on the wall and wanted to cram in as much of the backstory as he could because he knew he probably wouldn’t have the chance to come back to it. I would’ve liked to have seen the scenes where Willik and company try to kill HImon get more room to breathe and properly tell the story of what happened there.
As for the “change” after Mister Miracle #11 when the book became a much more streamlined, uncomplicated affair: in other words, more like the rest of DC’s stable of titles at the time, I imagine that was an editorial decision from over Jack’s head. Carmine or someone looked at the sales figures and told Jack that the Fourth World books were too complicated and too hard for kids to understand and that he had to water future issues down in order to improve sales. Did Jack ever address this change, Alan? Anyone? Did he ever mention why he so emasculated the character and stripped him of the depth of his backstory after taking such pains to establish it? It’s a shame. Jack was crashing through so many characters at this point in the Fourth World books, trying to get as much out as he could, you have to wonder what he could have accomplished if he’d had more time and more pages to lay the full story out for us to read and give it the layers it deserved.
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I don’t think that Kirby ever specifically addressed Mister Miracle’s change in direction (if he did, it’s not referenced in John Morrow’s Old Gods & New, and that book is pretty comprehensive). I’ve always assumed that the change was dictated by Carmine Infantino, but I suppose it’s possible that Kirby himself decided that without the other two legs of the tripod (Forever People and New Gods) there was no way to move his larger story forward, and thus no real point in referencing those aspects of his MM characters. Mark Evanier is quoted in the Morrow book as saying that following the cancellations of FP and NG, Kirby felt that every issue of MM could be the last; if so, that would surely have affected how he approached the series.
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Kirby was trapped in the system as it was back then, as he was financially dependent on the big comics publishers of the day and wasn’t willing to risk independent publishing, even if it would have meant that he would outright own the characters he created. Of course, there was the example of the underground publishers, and the likes of Robert Crumb in the 1960s, but I’d guess due to family obligations, Kirby wanted to play it safe, working for a well-established firm after the business he’d founded with Joe Simon had gone under in the 1950s. By the early 1980s, there was also the examples of Dave Sim and the Pinis as independent publishers and eventually Kirby would work for one of the smaller firms that allowed him ownership of his creations. But by then he was also making much more money in animation than he’d ever gotten in the comics industry. Also hard to say what the difference in value of a character like Darkseid would be as part of the DC universe rather than as part of an independent Kirby-verse.
Still, I’d think if Kirby had started his Fourth World saga circa 1983 independently, it likely would have earned enough for Kirby to keep it going long enough to tell the main story he wanted to tell and then maybe have successor artists and writers keep it going. Still lots of maybes as to how successful it might have been. But in the early 1970s? Far too financially risky. And even if Kirby could foresee the future in 1970, he certainly wouldn’t have wanted to wait that long to do something with the ideas percolating in his head.
As to this particular issue, yep, very dark indeed, with mass murder and even the vengeful assassination of Willik — none of that somehow having him be responsible for his own death, as with the original Baron (or Dr.) Zemo in Avengers #15. I wonder if the CCA might have any quibbles with any of that just a few years earlier, in a situation where in an unjust society under Darksied’s “law”, it was perfectly “legal” for Willik to kill dozens of people simply to try to weed out a suspect, as well as to execute others for association with the suspect, but illegal for that suspect to kill Willik in retaliation for the murders he had committed. That brings up the nasty little detail that just because something is the “law” of the land, doesn’t mean it is just or in any way morally right. Too much to bring to the attention of little kids who just might happen to read these sort of stories. Also notable for the use of replicas as Kirby had also done in the very first S.H.I.E.L.D. story, with the Life Model Decoys, since been used quite a bit at Marvel. I have no idea if DC had any widely used equivalent at the time.
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Contentious opinion it may be, but I agree that “Himon” is the high point of the Fourth World. It’s a pity Kirby didn’t do a series set on Apokolips.
“You keep a pelt – and forever lose a Mother Box!” is one of my favourite lines of Kirby dialogue. Perhaps Himon simply got hold of Kreetin too late.
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Y’know, I can’t find any sources at the moment, but I know I read somewhere that “Himon” was originally slotted for Mister Miracle #10 and then bumped up to #9 when Kirby got word that New Gods and Forever People were to be cancelled. So yes, I’m fairly certain that Kirby got some notice from DC/Carmine before it all ended.
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From John Morrow’s “Old Gods & New”, p. 111: “As he finished drawing Mister Miracle #8 in late 1971, Jack switched gears, setting aside the story he’d originally planned for Mister Miracle #9. There are visible signs of erasures on the pencil stats of the final panel of #8 … indicating Jack changed the “next issue” blurb at the last minute because of that. But Evanier and Sherman weren’t aware of that switch when they wrote a different description of what Jack planned next in #8’s letter column…”
The lettercol description Morrow refers to mentions Bernadeth and the Female Furies coming after Big Barda again — which isn’t a story that ever got told, apparently, as it’s all nice-nice between the gals in every MM story after #8. Still, the note describes #10’s contents better than it does #9’s, so…
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Crustymud, I recall reading that too somewhere.
Otherwise I also recall Himon featuring prominently in the Englehart-Rogers revival of MM, this time with Kirby features.
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Thanks again for another insightful review. Of course I do remember reading this issue of Mister Miracle and I find myself agreeing with other comments that in some ways this story is even more memorable than “The Pact.” I remembered that Auralie had died and that was the catalyst for Barda helping Scott escape…but I had not remembered that Willik had killed all the other pupils of Himon introduced in this story. That was very shocking and disturbing. There are many disturbing images in this story that seem to be direct reminders of the Holocaust and Willik certainly seems to be written like a Nazi officer. Kirby is at hits toughest and most uncompromising in this story. What also fascinates me is that although Darkseid’s presence permeates the entire story he does not appear until the last two pages. While his statement to Scott to stay seems inconsistent with his desires, something occurred to me about that. Darkseid is portrayed by Kirby as a master manipulator. Was his statement to Scott intended to goad Scott into leaving? I don’t know, but it seems likely. Regarding Mister Miracle 10 (The Mister Miracle To Be), according to the Jack Kirby Collector (sorry to say I can’t recall which issue) the contents of that issue were supposed to be something different, possibly the transitional story of Scott Free before MM No. 1. In fact, the title of MM 10 (The Mister Miracle To Be) was a mistake, and if you notice that title has nothing to do with the story in MM 10. In another interesting bit of trivia, Jack actually did 2 covers of MM 10. The other cover is out there and you can find it if you look for it..it’s from a slightly different perspective. The printed cover is better, but it’s not clear why the other one wasn’t used. I’m guessing either Jack or Carmine rejected it. During this time, I went through a period where I stopped buying a lot of comics, and MM 10 was my last issue. I came across MM 18 many years later at a comic convention but before then had no idea what happened to Mister Miracle. But was Mister Miracle even slightly more commercially viable than Kirby’s other books? He did manage to team up with Batman in Brave and Bold in the 70s. I guess we’ll never really know. And although we know why Barda helped Scott in MM 9, why did she suddenly appear to help Scott in MM 4? I guess that is another story that Kirby never got to tell. Barda was certainly a welcome addition to this book. Thanks Alan.
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You’re welcome, brucesfl — and thanks for the additional details on “The Mister Miracle To Be”.
Another Amazing Article, Alan! I have the “Old Gods and New” book, but have yet to find time to read it, as I merely a squirrel-brained, no-account, easily-distracted so-and-so (got plenty of hyphens, though! maybe I should call myself “Hy-Phon?”). I’m glad I took the time to read this post, as I am always amazed by your powers of recall and the character of your critiques! As for the un-epic end to the era of Miracles, it’s something I’ll always hold against DC’s leadership of the time. The Fourth World books weren’t selling as badly as some in those offices claimed, I hear…
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I’ll need to read this lengthy article tomorrow (and am eager to do so), but I just want to say it’s a shame that Kirby couldn’t do a trilogy — we saw The Pact and we saw Mister Miracle grow up on Apokalips, but I’d love to see a companion issue where we see Orion growing up on New Genesis.
Alas, what could have been had this been allowed to continue another year or two, much less indefinitely.
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Terrific story and a great job. I always wondered how Scot had escaped Apokalips. I wish it had been a little more Great Escape and a little less fight, but that’s Kirby. Unfortunately for me, the name Himon irks me. I just hear Grandpa Al Lewis calling his son-in-law. “Hoimin, where are ya?”
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>“Hoimin, where are ya?”
Thanks for the chuckle, Fred
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Hi, Alan. Excellent recap & analysis, as always.
A very unsettling thought occurred to me while reading this blog post. I am surprised that it never occurred to me before, because I have read this story several times. Maybe now it’s hitting so much closer to home:
Darkseid’s forces whip the downtrodden masses into a frenzy, getting them to attack Himon, a man who actually wants to improve the lives of the “Lowlies.” This really reminded me of how the Republicans and Fox News have spent the last two decades telling rural working-class white Americans that their true enemies are the Democrats & liberals who are trying to give the country universal health care and protect the quality of our air & water and increase wages & working conditions and curb the epidemic of gun violence that has claimed the lives of so many innocents and all sorts of other policies & proposals that would actually help America.
I realize that Jack Kirby was undoubtedly thinking of Hitler & the Nazis when he wrote this story, of how they convinced the masses of Germany that it was the Jews and the gays and the gypsies and the trade unions who were their true enemy, giving the masses easily-identifiable scapegoats on which to blame the complex, difficult-to-solve crises of the 1930s. But this is just as applicable to what has been going on for some time in 21st Century America. And seeing how the oppressed masses’ blind, fervent worship of their oppressor Darkseid, their willingness to even die for him upon command, definitely parallels the Rural America’s cult-like blind devotion to Trump and the rabid veneration of the greedy billionaires & corporations who hoard wealth & oppress workers who are the actual architects of so many of America’s problems.
To quote Mark Twain, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.
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A sobering analysis, Ben — but very much on the money, I’m afraid.
Our current political situation, as well as those of many other nations, is becoming ever more disturbing. Perhaps not as dire as things may have felt to anyone paying attention to global politics in early 1914 or early 1939 but still bad. Kirby himself was born during the first major conflagration and served in the army during the 2nd and much worse global conflict. I hope that sufficient reason will prevail such that we or the young generation of today don’t have to live through another round of totalitarian psychopaths attempting to impose their will on hundreds of millions of people, slaughtering anyone they deem an enemy or simply “unworthy” despite having caused no harm to anyone. In June 1939, I don’t think anyone could have imagined just how horrific the Nazis would prove themselves to be. By June 1945, Kirby was among those who saw first hand how terrible they were and although his trade was creating escapist fantasy, it still impacted much of his work over the remaining decades of his life.
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Glorious Godfrey’s revival meeting in Forever People 3 has similar effect on me — “Tell us how our pride has been dragged in the dust! It’s the work of those who do not belong here — who do not love the country like we do!” (not an exact quote but that’s the gist)
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I didn’t want my comments to run too long, so I’m splitting them in two.
“You showed Scott the way to me… and I can teach him to escape Apokolips! But I can’t give him the resolve! Only Scott can renounce what he has here!”
I understand this so much better now. You can present people with all the facts & evidence & truths that you have available, but you can’t make them listen; it has to be their own decision to think for themselves & act in their own best interests rather than mindlessly following propaganda & living as virtual slaves. We’ve discovered that fact the herd way over the last several years.
It’s so odd that Kirby compared Himon to Fagin. I guess it was a quick way to draw an easily-understood parallel, but the actual Fagin in Oliver Twist was very much a villain, a greedy miser who exploited children, as well as an anti-Semitic stereotype, so much so that an embarrassed, frequently-critiqued Charles Dickens finally felt compelled in later years to revise his novel in an attempt to make it less offensive. Kirby was very invested in his Jewish heritage — Himon’s Motherbox on his shoulder and the straps on his arm are very evocative of the tefillin in Jewish religion — so it’s strange that Kirby would compare, even superficially, one of the most benevolent figures of the Fourth World mythos to one of the most reviled depictions of Jews in 19th century literature.
This is the first time I ever heard of Shel Dorff being the inspiration for Himon’s appearance. Interesting factoid.
Anyone else see the parallels to a looming Darkseid, hand outstretched to a helpless Scott Free, attempting to tempt the youth over to his side, with the scene from The Empire Strikes Back just eight years later when Darth Vader, hand outstretched, similarly attempts to turn a helpless Luke Skywalker to the dark side of the Force? George Lucas obviously drew on A LOT of influences when creating the Star Wars movies, but one of the least-acknowledged ones has to be the works of Jack Kirby. Empire also has the scene where Han & Leia arrive in Cloud City to find a menacing Vader waiting for them at the head of the dinner table, which is very much like that scene from Fantastic Four #87 where Sue & Crystal find Doctor Doom waiting for them at the head of the dinner table.
Anyway, while I still feel that “The Pact” is probably Kirby’s finest hour, “Himon” runs a very close second.
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Darkseid’s “Stay warrior” is an odd moment indeed — I wonder if the thought of corrupting and crushing such a strong spirit was a temptation Big D couldn’t resist?
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