New Gods #6 (Dec.-Jan., 1971)

Over the six years that I’ve been producing this blog, I’ve found the fifty-year-old comic books I write about here — all of which I bought off the stands when they first came out — generally fall into one of three categories.  First, there are those comics that I liked, or even loved, when I originally read them, but which don’t hold up all that well today; though I can usually still find things to enjoy about these books, it’s by considering them either through the rosy lens of nostalgia, or at something of an ironic distance — sometimes both.  Second, there are those comics which, allowing for the inevitable changes in popular tastes and prevailing styles that have occurred over the last half-century, still hold up quite well indeed; such books continue to provide an entertainment experience that can be recommended to other readers with few if any reservations.

And then there’s the third, as well as the smallest, category: the comic books that I didn’t enjoy as much when I first bought and read them as I do today.  The comic books that I needed to grow into to fully appreciate.  Read More

New Gods #5 (Oct.-Nov., 1971)

With this post, we’re taking a short break from Giant-Size Marvel Month to pay a brief visit to the DC Universe — more specifically, to that section of it known as Jack Kirby’s Fourth World.  When last we looked in on the New Gods, our hero Orion had assumed the earthly disguise of “O’Ryan” just in time for he and his ally, P.I. Dave Lincoln, to go into action against Inter-Gang — the human criminal organization allied with the forces of Apokolips — and their plan to take out Earthly communications technology for thousands of miles.  While the duo were able to thwart Inter-gang’s immediate plot with the secret aid — or at least the presence — of the mysterious Black Racer, the organization itself was hardly slowed down — as Orion would learn as early as the next issue.

In New Gods #4’s “O’Ryan Gang and the Deep Six”, the war between Apokolips and New Genesis enters a deadly new phase, as for the first time — or at least the first we readers have been privy to — a denizen of the latter god-world falls to enemy forces upon our own Earth.  Pulled from harbor waters by police officers, he is recognized by Orion:  Read More

New Gods #3 (Jun.-Jul., 1971)

The Black Racer is undoubtedly one of the most enigmatic and ambivalent characters who ever appears within the pages of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World comics.  Somewhat ironically, however, his creator appears not to have originally intended him to be part of the sprawling cosmic epic that ran through his DC titles in the early 1970s.  According to Mark Evanier, who was working as an assistant to Kirby during that period:

At the time, it was intended as a stand-alone series, utterly unconnected to the NEW GODS, FOREVER PEOPLE or MISTER MIRACLE series, and what Jack wanted to do was to hold a big talent hunt to find a young black writer and a young black artist- or maybe one person who could do both under Jack’s supervision. He presented this all to Carmine Infantino, who was then the guy in charge at DC, and Infantino convinced Jack to launch the character himself…and to do so right away, in the pages of one of the above-mentioned three comics.  (“The Soul of Willie Walker”, The Black Racer and Shilo Norman Special [Oct., 2017].)

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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

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

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