Demon #7 (March, 1973)

Last summer, we took a look at the first two issues of The Demon — a series created by writer-artist-editor Jack Kirby as a response to DC Comics’ request for him to come up with something in the “horror hero” vein.  Although this new feature hadn’t originally been intended to replace Kirby’s beloved “Fourth World” titles on his production schedule — at least, that hadn’t been Kirby’s intent — following the cancellations of both Forever People and New Gods, and the mandated retooling of Mister Miracle, that’s effectively what happened, as both Demon and Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth (another series dreamed up by Kirby at DC’s direction) had their publishing frequencies increased from bi-monthly to monthly status within their first three issues, so that by the beginning of 1973, they, along with the still bi-monthly Mister Miracle, effectively absorbed most if not all of the creator’s time and effort.  Read More

Defenders #4 (February, 1973)

Behind an attention-grabbing cover pencilled by John Buscema from a rough layout by Jim Starlin (and inked by Frank Giacoia), the Defenders creative team of writer Steve Englehart, penciller Sal Buscema, and inker Frank McLaughlin began this latest installment of the super-team’s continuing adventures right where the previous one had left off.

It wasn’t exactly what you’d call a happy scene…  Read More

Fantastic Four #131 (February, 1973)

Readers of our Avengers #105 post back in July may recall how that issue’s plot — the first from the title’s brand new writer, Steve Englehart — concerned the team’s search for their missing member Quicksilver, who’d disappeared towards the end of the previous issue.  Following the inconclusive resolution to their efforts in that tale, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes would continue their quest for the mutant speedster for months to come.  But, surprisingly — well, it surprised me, back in November, 1972 — when Pietro Maximoff was finally “found”, it didn’t happen in the pages of Avengers; instead, Quicksilver resurfaced in, of all things, an issue of Fantastic Four — which, as it happened, was the new super-team scripting gig of Roy Thomas, the man who’d written Avengers for the last five-plus years prior to Englehart taking over, and thus the guy who’d launched the whole “where is Pietro?” mystery in the first place.  From a creative standpoint, it made a certain kind of sense that Thomas would be the one to ultimately wrap things up; but in terms of the ongoing mega-story of the Marvel Universe, it seemed to come out of nowhere.  How did Quicksilver ever manage to end up in the Himalayan homeland of the Inhumans, the Great Refuge?  And why the heck was he fighting the Fantastic Four’s Human Torch, Johnny Storm? Read More

New Gods #11 (Oct.-Nov., 1972)

As was related in our post about Forever People #11 at the beginning of this month, Jack Kirby is reputed to have already begun work both on that comic and on New Gods #11 when he received word from DC Comics that those two issues would be the last for both titles.  The official word was that the two series were being “temporarily suspended”; but Kirby seems to have known that this was truly the end for both of his cherished creations, at least for the foreseeable future.

While we’ll probably never know just how far the writer-artist had already gotten in plotting, drawing, or scripting either comic, there can be no doubt that he made whatever adjustments were necessary to be able to provide the readers of both Forever People and New Gods with not just one last adventure of the series’ titular heroes, but with an ending for each.  In the case of Forever People, Kirby quite literally took his characters off the field, transporting them across the cosmos to an idyllic planet far from the battlefront between the warring god-worlds of New Genesis and Apokolips.  Read More

Captain America #155 (November, 1972)

When Steve Englehart came on board as the new writer for Captain America in June, 1972, your humble blogger had been a regular reader of the series for about ten months — coming on board with issue #144 — after having been an off-and-on one ever since #105, way back in June, 1968.  Originally drawn in by #144’s dramatic cover by John Romita (the effect of which was unquestionably enhanced by the Falcon’s sharp new costume design, also by Romita), I’d hung around for the quite enjoyable Hydra/Kingpin/Red Skull multi-parter that had followed, as delivered by writer Gary Friedrich and a cadre of artists including Gil Kane and Sal Buscema.  And when that storyline wrapped up in issue #148, I’d stayed with the book — despite the fact that the subsequent yarns concocted by Friedrich’s replacement Gerry Conway weren’t all that compelling.  I suppose that inertia may have been carrying me along by that point; that, and the fact that by mid-1972 I was buying the vast majority of Marvel Comics’ superheroic output.  In the context of the Marvel Universe as a whole, Captain America felt like a key title, and I didn’t want to miss anything important.  Read More

Forever People #11 (Oct.-Nov., 1972)

As I previously covered back in June in my post about the first issue of The Demon, sometime in the first half of 1972 DC Comics requested writer-artist-editor Jack Kirby to come up with a couple of new series concepts to complement the three titles already on his schedule.  The results were pitches for what ultimately became The Demon and Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth — and DC liked them a lot.  Indeed, from Kirby’s perspective, they may have liked them a little too much. Read More

Demon #1 (Aug.-Sep., 1972)

I’ll be honest with you — it feels a little strange to be writing about the first issue of Jack Kirby’s The Demon in June, at a time when I still have my final posts about Forever People and New Gods coming up in August.  That’s because for the better part of the past half-century, I’ve tended to categorize the bulk of Kirby’s work at DC Comics in the 1970’s as being either “the Fourth World” or “everything after the Fourth World”.  But the fact of the matter is that those categories overlap chronologically, even if only by a couple of months.  And that’s significant, I believe, as it reflects the fact that when the writer-artist came up with the series concepts for both The Demon and Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth fifty years ago, he thought of them as complementary — and probably secondary — to his ongoing Fourth World epic, rather than as the replacement for that ambitious project that they inevitably became.

Which doesn’t necessarily mean that Kirby would have approached the development of Demon and Kamandi differently, had he known that these two series were what he was going to be spending the majority of his working hours dealing with for the next year or more.  But it’s something to think about,  at least.  Read More

Mister Miracle #9 (Jul.-Aug., 1972)

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.  Read More

New Gods #9 (Jun.-Jul., 1972)

In its design, the cover of New Gods #9 mirrors that of Forever People #9, the other Jack Kirby comic published by DC in April, 1972.  Both covers feature a dominant image that excludes the comic’s titular stars, who are shunted off to a narrow. left-side border; both utilize a considerable amount of black in their color schemes, as well.  This striking similarity seems unlikely to have been a coincidence.

In his indispensable book Old Gods & New: A Companion to Jack Kirby’s Fourth World (TwoMorrows, 2021), author John Morrow posits that, in both cases, the intent was to boost sales by making the books look less like superhero comics and more like something in the horror-mystery genre, which was then a successful niche for DC.  Morrow suggests that this was part of a move by the company’s publisher, Carmine Infantino, to take a heavier hand in setting the course for these two titles, both ostensibly under the editorial control of Kirby.  (Another known indicator of that heavier hand was Infantino’s directing Kirby to include Deadman as a guest star in issues #9 and #10 of Forever People, regardless of Kirby’s disinterest in the character.)  Read More

Forever People #9 (Jun.-Jul., 1972)

In October, 1971, Don and Maggie Thompson’s fanzine Newfangles reported:

There are indications that DC is in serious trouble. Dealers are not too keen on the 25¢ comic book[s], sales are skyrocketing for Marvel, Charlton and Gold Key (GK has 15¢ books, Marvel and Charlton 20¢)… DC’s titles are also reported to be dying in droves on the stands, if they get that far—wholesalers prefer to handle the 20¢ books, apparently.

A couple of months later, with disappointing sales reports now in for about a quarter-year’s worth of the “bigger & better” format DC had inaugurated in June, publisher Carmine Infantino prepared to make some course adjustments.  The most significant upcoming change would be to the format itself (more on that later), but there were other indicators of Infantino’s efforts to staunch the bleeding as 1972 got underway; for example, Green Lantern, one of the signature series of DC’s Silver Age, was cancelled with its 89th issue, shipping in February.  As for the titles written, drawn, and edited by Jack Kirby, with which DC had clearly hoped to clean up with sales-wise following Kirby’s 1970 defection from DC’s chief rival, Marvel Comics: Jimmy Olsen was removed from Kirby’s purview with the 148th issue (which, like GL #89, came out in February); and while Infantino wasn’t quite ready to pull the plug on Kirby’s three remaining titles — the core books of the star creator’s interconnected “Fourth World” epic — he appears to have been determined to take a more active role in guiding their respective directions than he had before.  If the King could ever have been said to have had free rein in managing “his” comics at DC (and that’s by no means an indisputable statement), that day was over.  Read More