Jimmy Olsen #138 (June, 1971)

Behind an attention-arresting cover, which — like most others Jack Kirby produced for DC Comics around this time — was built around an imaginative photo collage (and which also, like the cover of the issue of Jimmy Olsen that had immediately preceded it, featured Neal Adams’ inks over Kirby’s pencils), the comics readers of April, 1971 — including your humble blogger — were treated to the thrilling conclusion of the first multi-part storyline (indeed, the first storyline, period) of the massive Fourth World project written, drawn, and edited by Kirby.  Read More

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

Jimmy Olsen #137 (April, 1971)

Taken together, the first six issues of Jack Kirby’s run on Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen — beginning with #133, and continuing on through #138 — comprise one long story, which, for purposes of discussion, can conveniently be broken down into three discrete parts, each two issues long.

In the first part (#133-134), Kirby hits the ground literally racing, introducing such new characters and concepts as the new Newsboy Legion, Inter-Gang, the Wild Area, the Outsiders, Habitat, the Zoomway, the Mountain of Judgment, and the Hairies — oh, and some fellow named Darkseid — without giving Jimmy, his pal the Man of Steel, or us readers, a chance to catch a breath.

Moving into the middle section (#135136), the writer-artist-editor slows things down a bit, as the headlong narrative comes to rest (at least temporarily) at the Project, a secret U.S. government initiative successfully experimenting with human cloning.  In these issues, the majority of scenes function in an expository mode — though that mode is significantly interrupted at one point by violent action, in the form of an attack from the Project’s rival operation, the Evil Factory.

Finally, in the third and final part, the pace ratchets up again, as the Evil Factory unleashes a second, more deadly assault on the Project — one which threatens virtually all of the characters and locales we’ve met in the series to date, including the entire city of Metropolis.  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

Mister Miracle #1 (Mar.-Apr., 1971)

The first issue of Mister Miracle, written, drawn, and edited by Jack Kirby, was the sixth book to be released in the creator’s new “Fourth World” project for DC Comics.  (Or, if you prefer, the seventh, as both it and Jimmy Olsen #136 — which I’ll be blogging about next week — were published on the same date, January 14, 1971.  So, take your pick.)  The earliest chapters of Kirby’s epic, published in three consecutive issues of Jimmy Olsen (beginning with #133 in August, 1970), had introduced readers to Darkseid — a mysterious and sinister figure hailing from a world called Apokolips.  Next, the premiere issues of two new titles, Forever People and New Gods (both published in December), had revealed that Darkseid was no ordinary alien, but a god — the supreme leader of the “new gods” of Apokolips, who stood in eternal opposition to the more benign divinities of New Genesis.  Now, as the new year began, it was time for the fourth major piece of Kirby’s Fourth World to fall into place, and while my thirteen-year old self wasn’t sure what to expect from Mister Miracle, I was confident that we’d see a further expansion of the already compelling, cosmic-scale mythology Kirby had introduced in his first three titles.

I was therefore somewhat bemused, and even a bit disappointed, to find behind the Jack Kirby-Vince Colletta cover of Mister Miracle #1 a completely earthbound story, with nary an alien god in sight (so far as I could tell, anyway), and not even a single mention of Darkseid.  What in the heck was going on?  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