Thursday, 22 October 2015


Images copyright DC COMICS

No matter how many times DC COMICS have tried to revive
JACK KIRBY's NEW GODS characters, none of their attempts
at following in the King's footsteps ever lasted for long.  True, there
have now been far more issues of non-Kirby Fourth World mags than
produced by their creator, but the only ones I found even remotely
interesting were JACK KIRBY'S FOURTH WORLD by JOHN

It was ambitious of them to try, because, to be frank, if Jack
himself couldn't keep the magazines going, the odds were stacked
against anyone else doing it.  I never found either the characters or
concepts of the original series particularly inspired, 'though there
was the occasional gem amongst the 40 issues (55 if you include
JIMMY OLSEN) that DC published in the '70s.

The recent 9-issue series of INFINITY MAN And The
FOREVER PEOPLE was immensely underwhelming (surely a
contradiction-in-terms, but you know what I mean), not helped by
the fact that certain liberties were taken with the players.  DC have
messed around with their continuity too many times for readers to
know (or care) precisely who's who or what's what anymore, and
it's well-past time DC realized that the characters work better as
supporting figures than major heroes who can carry their
own titles.  (Feel entirely free to disagree.)

It's likely that the nostalgic affection for Kirby comicbooks
read in their youth will ensure that some writers will continue in
their attempts to revive the Fourth World heroes in mags of their
own in the future, but I can't help but think it's that nostalgia for
a vanished age which compels them, rather than any obvious
inherent merit in the characters, as a whole, themselves.

However, John Byrne and Walter Simonson have carried the
torch higher, longer, and brighter than anyone else thus far, so
let's take a look at the first 7 covers of the latter's 25 issue series
from around 15 years ago.  Another 3 parts to follow, so don't
dare miss 'em or DARKSEID will bite you on the bum!


Paul McScotty -Muir said...

I think the reason for all the failed attempts at the New Gods comic ( a good concept in many ways) is that there was no really strong hero character to identify with (Darkseid the villain, was the strips strand out character ) and I think that was what Simonson was trying to do with his version of New Gods by focusing on a single hero . Simonson’s version was good (my favourite ) although I only read a few issues from the end of the run (issues 18 – 22 I think) that I got in the 50p bins in City Centre Comics in Glasgow. I missed John Byrnes version s at the time I was pretty fed up with comics at that time but he usually (imho) does a good job. Simonson’s run on Thor was my favourite of his wok it was the equal of Kirby’s (imho one of the all- time greatest runs in comics ) in many ways – I’m sure they both must be chuffed to see the mess Marvel have made of Thor now (Jack cursing from on high)

It’s good to see Simonson back in comics again this last few years (although his attempt at his own Thor based title “Ragnarok” isn’t my favourite although it looks amazing) but where is John Byrne now I haven’t seen him in a mainstream comic in years.

Kid said...

To answer your last question first, McScotty, I dunno what Byrne is doing these days (not a satisfying answer, I know), but I'd imagine he's working for some company or other. I always felt that some artists had the same thing going on that Sean Connery had with Bond. People wanted to see him as 007, but not really in any other role (unless they were more Connery fans than Bond ones). It's the same with Kirby and Byrne (and a few other artists) - readers want to see them on their favourite characters, but don't always follow them when they shift to another book that they're (the readers) not so keen on, or doesn't interest them.

I found Simonson's Thor interesting and entertaining, but I have to admit I didn't like the 'retirement' of Don Blake. I also thought his art was a bit too scratchy for Thor, and I'm not a huge fan of John Workman's lettering. (Nothing against the quality or professionalism - it's the style that jars with me.)

With Kirby's Fourth World series, it could just be that his clunky dialogue killed it; without the smoothness and skill of Stan Lee's scripting, it just read awkwardly. And you're right about there being no strong hero with which the readers could identify; they all came across as second or third-raters to me. Mister Miracle was the only one that showed any real potential, I thought.

Paul McScotty -Muir said...

I really liked John Byrnes run on the "Demon" and the few issues he did on JLA a (good) few years ago - I always thought that for some reason some fans/creators had turned agaisnt Byrne ( he could be a pit of a pain at times in the comic press) but a great artist and comic creator , one of the last true "traditional" comic book giants for me.

Kid said...

I appreciated Byrne because, starting with the FF, he initially restored a lot of the things I used to like about the series: Thick collars, Ben's dinosaur hide, story chapters, etc. However, wasn't keen on him having Johnny marry Alicia, and when he later revised Spider-Man's and the Hulk's origins and early stories, his complete turn-around in the way he regarded the characters' early histories annoyed me a bit.

Colin Jones said...

A couple of years ago John Byrne was drawing a Star Trek comic - I saw some of the artwork in a magazine (SFX or Comic Heroes I suppose) and I didn't even recognize it as Byrne's art, it looked so different from his X-Men/FF days.

Kid said...

I wish Marvel would put him back on the FF comic - as long as he gave us the same FF that Stan & Jack did.

TC said...

IMHO, it was a mistake to tie in Kirby's Fourth World saga with Jimmy Olsen and Superman. The concept might have worked better as a stand alone. But that's speaking artistically. From a business perspective, it might have made sense to try to get the Kirby fans (and DC probably hoped a lot of them had followed him from Marvel) interested in the Superman Family and the Justice League. And to get the Superman fans interested in Kirby's titles. So, if I had been the publisher or the editor-in-chief, I might have done the same thing.

Similarly, Kirby's Eternals may have been intended as a stand-alone series, but then S.H.I.E.L.D. made an appearance, and eventually there was a long arc in Thor ca. 1980 that fit the series in with the 616 (or whatever) universe.

Agree that one problem was that the New Gods and Forever People never really had a strong or interesting hero with whom the reader could identify.

Mister Miracle had potential, and was more of a straight superhero who could co-star in Brave & Bold, DC Comics Presents, and Justice League. And he could appear in stories that did not have to tie in with the God War. But his talent (escape artist) was kind of limiting. The climax of each story had to be an escape, so the premise was inherently formulaic.

Kid said...

And yet I thought that Jimmy Olsen was Kirby's best DC book by a mile, TC. The whole Fourth World thing worked better as a sub-plot in another book (in this case, JO), because I'm not sure that the concept was interesting enough as a stand alone.

It's interesting to note that although S.H.I.E.L.D. appeared in The Eternals, only generic agents were used, not Nick Fury or Jasper Sitwell (if he was still around then). Even when the Hulk appeared, it wasn't the real deal, only a cosmic-powered android.

While Mister Miracle's escapes meant that the mag had a formulaic aspect, if the escapes were inventive enough, that wouldn't necessarily limit what could be done with the characters. There's a formula to most comicbooks, it's how well that formula is dealt with which counts.

The Fourth World would probably have worked better in the Marvel Universe, as a possible alternate future in Thor. It would have been more interesting as a few issues-worth of story there than it was as an ongoing series of its own.

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