Forever People #3 (Jun.-Jul., 1971)

The third issue of Forever People leads off with a cover very much in the vein of several of the other covers of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World comics that immediately preceded it in publication date, including that of FP #2; it’s built around a drawn image, pencilled by Kirby and inked by Vince Colletta, which is then set against a photographic background, and, finally, framed by copy — a lot of it.  Based simply on this visual cue, one might expect this issue’s content to be as similar to that of the second issue as are the two books’ covers — i.e., for it to follow #2’s precedent of setting our young heroes from New Genesis against a powerful servant of Darkseid, a foe that ultimately can only be vanquished by summoning the more powerful adult champion Infinity Man to take their place, with everything being set back to the status quo by the end of the issue.

But if that’s what you were expecting, you’d be wrong.  Because with Forever People #3, Kirby abandons the formula he seemed to have settled into with the prior issue’s adventure, moving instead into the first chapter of a four-part narrative considerably darker and more disturbing than anything we’ve seen in a Fourth World comic to date.  Ultimately, this storyline will prove to be the central arc of the entire Forever People series (which, as most of those reading this likely already know, is doomed to meet a premature end with its eleventh issue), and one of the key narratives of the entire Fourth World project.  It’s where Kirby’s great theme of radical freedom versus absolute control — or, in his formulation, Life versus Anti-Life — comes to the fore more fully than it has in any previous chapter.  Read More

Mister Miracle #2 (May-Jun., 1971)

The cover of Mister Miracle #2, with its plethora of blurbs, follows in the tradition of the second issues of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World titles which preceded it.  Even more than the covers of Forever People #2 and New Gods #2, however, this one’s not just wordy, it’s shouty.  To my contemporary, 63-year-old sensibilities, it’s too much, at least by half.

But back in March, 1971, my thirteen-year-old self seems to have seen things differently.  That’s my prevailing theory, anyway, when I consider the fact that, unlike virtually any other comics purchases I made in the general timeframe of fifty years ago, I can remember the particular circumstances of my acquiring Mister Miracle #2.  While I don’t recall actually picking the book up out of the spinner rack at the Forest Ave. Tote-Sum in Jackson, MS, or paying for it at the counter, I do have a specific recollection of gazing upon that gloriously over-the-top cover as I held the comic in the front seat of my mom’s car, our having stopped at the aforementioned convenience store (at my request, I’m certain) on the way home from school.  Read More

New Gods #2 (Apr.-May, 1971)

Jack Kirby’s cover for New Gods #2 may be considered of a piece with that of Forever People #2, out earlier the same month.  Like its fellow installment in Kirby’s ongoing Fourth World saga, it features a black-and-white photo collage background, a dominant foreground figure, a set of floating heads…

And a whole lot of copy.  Even the book’s title acquires a couple of extra words, so that a newcomer to the series might think they were picking up a copy of Orion of the New Gods, instead of the indicia-official The New Gods. It’s a busy cover, you might say.

That’s my sixty-three-year-old self talking, though.  Back in February, 1971,when I first saw this cover at the age of thirteen, I doubt that the slightest critical thought passed through my mind.  I might not even have done much more than give the cover a glance before buying the comic and bringing it home.  I was, after all, already so invested in Kirby’s new epic that all I wanted to do was to open up the book to the first page, and find out What Would Happen Next.  Read More

Forever People #2 (Apr.-May, 1971)

While I can’t claim to have strong, specific recollections of my thirteen-year-old self’s reactions to the cover of Forever People #2 the first time I saw it, sometime in February, 1971, I’m sure I must have found it at least somewhat startling.  Mainly because the five titular heroes — presumably the stars of the book — were relegated to a row of floating heads at the bottom (where they might not even have been visible on the spinner rack), while a brand-new character, Mantis — evidently the villain of the piece — took the front and center spot.  Even the Forever People’s ally/secret weapon/kind-of-alter-ego, the Infinity Man, was relegated to the background, completely overshadowed by this “evil power vampire!

Power vampire?  I definitely recall being struck by the use of that latter word in the cover copy.  This was likely just because I was interested in vampires, thanks to my enthusiasm for the daytime television serial Dark Shadows.  But it may have also resulted at least in part from my subconscious realization of how unusual it was to see that word on the cover of a comic book — at least one published by either of my two favorite companies, DC and Marvel.  Read More

Jimmy Olsen #136 (March, 1971)

In early 1971, when the subject of today’s post blog first showed up on spinner racks, Jack Kirby had been producing new comic books for DC Comics for almost half a year.  Not only had three issues of Kirby’s debut project, Jimmy Olsen, been released by this time, but so had the premiere issues of his three brand new titles — Forever People, New Gods, and Mister Miracle (the latter actually hitting stands on the very same day as Jimmy Olsen #136, January 14).  He was becoming established (or, more accurately re-established) at the publisher, in other words.  Perhaps that’s the main reason that this fourth Olsen outing, unlike the first three, didn’t feature Kirby’s name anywhere on the cover; after five months, DC may have figured they no longer needed to tell us readers that Kirby Was Here — by now, we must know that, surely.  Read More

New Gods #1 (Feb.-Mar., 1971)

By the time DC Comics released New Gods #1 on December 22, 1970, we readers were beginning to get some sense of the scope of the conflict at the heart of the imaginative construct we would eventually come to call Jack Kirby’s Fourth World.

Information had been delivered on a steady, if limited basis since the release of Kirby’s first new comic for DC, Jimmy Olsen #133, back in August.  There we’d been introduced to Inter-Gang, a shadowy criminal organization whose insidious reach extended even into the everyday workplace of the DC Universe’s premiere superhero and his closest friends.  In the following issue, published in October, we’d learned that Inter-Gang reported to someone called Darkseid; and in November’s JO #135, we’d discovered that this craggy-faced figure was also the boss of a couple of aliens, hailing from a world named Apokolips, who managed an Evil Factory where they conducted sinister experiments with human DNA — with the clear implication that Darkseid shared their extraterrestrial origin.  Finally, in Forever People #1, published December 1st, we’d met a group of strangely garbed — and gifted — young folks from someplace called Supertown, who arrived on Earth by a bizarre means of transport called a Boom Tube.  One of their number had been kidnapped by none other than Darkseid, who had come to our world in search of an  “ultimate weapon” called the Anti-Life Equation — and it seemed clear that while Darkseid himself might not be from Supertown, he and these Forever People were nevertheless connected in some way. Read More

Forever People #1 (Feb.-Mar., 1971)

In December, 1970 — a little over three months after the appearance of Jack Kirby’s first new comic book work for DC, in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #133 — the first of the creator’s three brand-new titles for the publisher finally had its debut, with Forever People #1. The comic’s cover, pencilled by Kirby and inked by Frank Giacoia, was a powerful (if somewhat busy) invitation to check out the story within — a story which, via its inclusion of Superman, was clearly set smack-dab in the middle of the DC universe every bit as much as Jimmy Olsen was.

But DC could have put the book out with nothing on the cover but the title, and it would have sold just as readily to my thirteen-year-old self.  Because after three wildly imaginative, breathlessly paced issues of Jimmy Olsen, I couldn’t wait to see what “King” Kirby would give us next.  Read More

Jimmy Olsen #135 (January, 1971)

The month of November, 1970 brought comics readers the third installment of writer-artist Jack Kirby’s run on Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen — a book which also happened to be the third installment of the massive, multi-title, interconnected epic that we’d eventually come to know as Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, though few if any of us who were reading the comics as they came out fifty years ago had more than the vaguest inkling of that fact.

But it hardly mattered, because Kirby was giving us so much to thrill to and wonder at in each issue of Jimmy Olsen on its own, with no need for reference to any larger narrative.  The “King” had come roaring out of the gate with his very first issue, #133, which set Jimmy and his new best friends, the Newsboy Legion, on a mission into the mysterious Wild Area, where they immediately got mixed up with a community of motorcyclists called the Outsiders, who made their home in a “tree city” called Habitat.  The next issue, #134, found Jimmy and company taking their super-vehicle, the Whiz Wagon, out onto a subterranean drag strip called the Zoomway, joining the Outsiders in a quest for the Mountain of Judgement — which turned out to be an enormous, high-tech mobile home, the headquarters of yet another hidden society, the Hairies.  In the issue’s climax, a bomb that had been surreptitiously placed in the Whiz Wagon was discovered and — with the help of Superman, who’d followed Jimmy and his colleagues to the Wild Area — dealt with just in time to prevent the Mountain of Judgement and its inhabitants from being blown to bits.  The issue ended with Jimmy’s new boss, Morgan Edge — the man who’d built the Whiz Wagon for the Newsboys in the first place, and then sent them and Jimmy into the Wild Area — reporting in to his own, secret boss: a forbidding-looking fellow named Darkseid.

Quite a lot to take in for just two issues, wouldn’t you say?  Read More

Jimmy Olsen #134 (December, 1970)

In August, 1970, when DC Comics released Jimmy Olsen #133 — the first new comic book produced for the publisher by Jack Kirby to make it to print — they marked the occasion with a “Kirby Is Here!” banner headline (a consummation of the “Kirby Is Coming!” promotional campaign they’d been running the last couple of months), topping a cover drawn (mostly) by Kirby himself.

Two months later, when the publisher brought out their second Kirby comic, they continued to use his name as a selling point, with the cover’s banner headline now proclaiming “A King-Size Kirby Blockbuster!”  (“King-Sized” was in fact not an entirely accurate description, since both the physical comic itself and the featured story within were of standard length; perhaps DC was trying to evoke the “King” nickname that Kirby had acquired at his former employer, Marvel Comics.)  But the cover illustration itself wasn’t by Kirby, this time; rather, it was the work of Neal Adams. Read More