Thor #188 (May, 1971)

Back in November of last year, we took a look at Thor #184 — the premiere installment in the first multi-issue, large scale epic that editor-scripter Stan Lee had attempted in the title since losing his longtime collaborator Jack Kirby to DC Comics.  Hyping the comic in the Nov., 1970 Bullpen Bulletins, Marvel went so far as to compare it to the debut of the Inhumans in Lee and Kirby’s Fantastic Four, some five years previously.  And upon my thirteen-year-old self’s actually reading it, it really did feel like Lee and his collaborators, penciller John Buscema and inker Joe Sinnott, had pulled out all the stops for this one.

This opening chapter of what would prove to be a five-issue story arc introduced us readers — as well as the mighty Thor, himself — to the menace of the World Beyond: a mysterious realm somewhere out past the farthest reaches of space, which was, somehow, devouring our universe from the edges in.  Associated with this menace was a word — perhaps a name — of unknown significance: “Infinity”.  We and Thor also met an intriguing new character, appropriately dubbed the Silent One, who had recently shown up in Asgard unannounced; All-Father Odin had since decided to let him hang around, sensing that he was in some way the key to the mystery.   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

Fantastic Four #108 (March, 1971)

In December, 1970, after four months of whetting fans’ appetites with Jack Kirby’s first three issues of Jimmy Olsen, DC Comics at last published the debut issues of two brand new titles by Kirby, Forever People and New Gods.

And in that same month, Marvel Comics published Fantastic Four #108, containing the very last new work by Kirby for that title, some six months after the last issue fully drawn by the artist had shipped.

Some fans are of the opinion that the concurrence of these events was not coincidental; that either because Marvel wanted to capitalize on the publicity surrounding Kirby’s new DC titles, or because the company wanted to steal a bit of Kirby and/or DC’s thunder concerning their launch, or perhaps for some other reason entirely, Marvel purposefully contrived for this issue — a patchwork put together months after Kirby’s departure from the House of Ideas, featuring a combination of his pencilled art with additional work by John Buscema and John Romita, all inked by Joe Sinnott and scripted by Stan Lee — to reach spinner racks around the same time as the debut issues of the King’s highly anticipated new projects.  Read More

Amazing Adventures #5 (March, 1971)

As I wrote in this space back in May, in 1970 my younger self bought the first two issues of Marvel Comics’ new double-feature title Amazing Adventures upon their release — but then skipped the next two.  Half a century later, I can’t recall what my decision-making process was (and the vagaries of distribution being what they were at the time, it’s entirely possible that I never saw AA #3 and/or #4 on the stands).  But I’d guess that I simply wasn’t all that crazy about what I’d found in #1 and #2.  Even though I liked the Inhumans a whole lot, and was an admirer of Jack Kirby’s art (I was also a fan of his plotting, of course, if only unconsciously, since I didn’t yet comprehend the extent of the King’s creative contributions to his collaborations with Marvel editor/scripter Stan Lee), the two-part tale that inaugurated the Inhumans feature, written as well as drawn by Kirby, didn’t feel like essential work.  At the time he produced these stories, Kirby was on the verge of unleashing a tremendous amount of pent-up creativity with his “Fourth World” project for DC; but, as with a lot of his other material for Marvel at the end of his monumental ’60s tenure at the publisher, his heart didn’t really seem to be in this stuff.

As for the title’s second feature, the Black Widow — she was more of an unknown quantity for me, anyway.  Besides the obvious fact that this was her first solo strip, I had at this point read very few of her earlier appearances in Avengers and elsewhere, and had little to no investment in the character.  Despite the reliably fine draftsmanship of John Buscema on her first two installments (with John Verpoorten inking Buscema’s pencils), I didn’t find enough there to hook me and bring me back.  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