- Jack Kirby's Fourth World
"The Fourth World" is the popular name given to a
metaseriesof interconnecting comic booktitles written and drawn by Jack Kirbyand published by DC Comicsfrom 1970 to 1973. Originally intended to form a finite epic story, the books were canceled for unknown reasons. The characters and concepts were later integrated into the DC Universe.
The original comics
Published as the newsstand distribution system for comics began to break down, Kirby foresaw a day when comics would need to find alternate, more legitimate venues for sale."Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus" Vol. 1; Afterword by Mark Evanier.] Toward this end, Kirby envisioned a finite series that would be serialized and collected in one tome after the series had concluded.
The three original titles comprising the "Fourth World" were "The Forever People", "
Mister Miracle" and " New Gods". The pre-existing title "Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen" was used by Kirby to introduce the "Fourth World" concept and characters.
Marvel Comicsat the time, as he had created or co-created a plethora of characters without ever having copyright or creative custody of them, he turned to rival publisher DC Comics, with his sketches and designs for a new group of heroes and villains.
As described by Ronin Ro in "Tales to Astonish": "The Fourth World" dealt with the battle between good and evil as represented by the worlds of "
New Genesis" and " Apokolips." Darkseid, the evil lord of Apokolips, seeks the Anti-Life Equationwhich will allow him to control the thoughts of all living beings. Opposing him is Orion, his son raised by Highfatherand his enemies on New Genesis. Other characters caught in the deadly battle included the Forever People, an extension of the kid gang concept from the 1940s with a group of adolescents adventuring without an adult supervisor; Mister Miracle, a native of New Genesis raised on Apokolips who triumphed over a torturous childhood to become the world's greatest escape artist; and Lightray, the gaily flamboyant warrior of New Genesis. Their adventures would take them to Earth where the war continued.
Kirby was writer and editor on each of the series, enabling him to use more complex themes, storylines and brutal violence than was usually the case in comic books at the time, although less graphic than what would become allowed in the comic book industry years later.
After learning that the books were going to be cancelled, Kirby attempted to tie up the storylines in the final issues of each series, but the overall story of the Apokolips-New Genesis war was never truly finished. A few years later, Kirby went back to Marvel Comics where he worked on a number of titles including "
Captain America", but most importantly, once again created a vast new mythology in the new title The Eternals. Eventually other existing Marvel myths, most especially Kirby's Thorwere incorporated into the storyline.
Very shortly after The Fourth World series wound down, comic artist
Jim Starlinwove together a number of established Marvel Comicscharacters (mostly Captain Marvel, but also Iron Man, The Thingand Avengers) into a new, but similar cosmic storyline revolving around a powerful Darkseidtype character of his own invention, named Thanos.
The Fourth World characters later reappeared in various titles and were fully integrated into the DC Universe. The "
Legion of Super-Heroes" storyline "The Great Darkness Saga" in 1982 merged Darkseid into the DC Universe and recast him as a major villain.
1984 Baxter reprint series
In 1984, DC Comics reprinted Jack Kirby's original eleven issues of "New Gods" in a six issue limited series. The first five issues each reprinted two consecutive issues of the original series. Originally, issue six was to have included the eleventh final issue of "New Gods" and an all-new twenty-four page story to allow Kirby to bring his story to a close.
However, Kirby soon found himself clashing with DC editorial, who bluntly refused to publish any story that involved Kirby's original planned ending to the series, where Darkseid and Orion would die in a firey battle in the streets of Armagetto. Kirby responded by producing a one-off story called "On the Road to Armagetto", which DC also rejected due to the fact that the story failed to bring any sort of closure towards the series. [ [http://www.captaincomics.us/forums/index.php?topic=29692.75 "Captain Comics": Jack Kirby's Fourth World] ]
Ultimately, a forty-eight page story titled "Even Gods Must Die" was published in the pages of New Gods V2 #6, which served as a lead-in to the
1985graphic novel " The Hunger Dogs". "The Hunger Dogs" was designed to give Kirby a vehicle to give an ending to the story of the New Gods, while fulfilling editorial mandates that he could not kill off any of the New Gods in order to ensure future use of the characters by later writers.
The graphic novel, which incorporated several sections from the unpublished "On the Road to Armagetto" story into it, brought Kirby's New Gods series to a close as the final, fatal battle between Orion and Darkseid is averted by an unlikely turn of events: as the "hunger dogs", the poor, abused, enslaved, and tortured citizens of Apokolips finally overthrow Darkseid and his cruel regime, ultimately forcing Darkseid and his allies into exile. [ [http://www.aai-nyc.org/cuchifritos/Exhibits/Cartoonisiada/index.html Exhibits: Cartoonsisiada] ]
Concurrent with DC's New Gods reprint series in 1984, Jack Kirby drew two "Super Powers" comic book limited series for DC Comics in which he continued the Fourth World characters and mythology.
The "Fourth World" characters continued to be revived at various times. The Forever People had a miniseries in 1988, the "Mister Miracle" and "Jack Kirby's Fourth World" series (the latter by
John Byrne) were launched in the 1990s, and "Orion" had a solo series with art and story by Walt Simonsonfrom 2000 to 2003. Mister Miracle was featured in the "Giffen-DeMatteis" incarnation of the "Justice League". Grant Morrisonalso used some of the "Fourth World" mythology in various titles he worked on, including his run on "JLA", with Orion and Big Barda becoming members and more recently in the " Seven Soldiers of Victory" metaseries, in which the New Gods played a major role.
From October 2007 to April 2008, the "
Death of the New Gods" limited series, written and drawn by Jim Starlin, was published, which brought the Fourth World characters and mythology to an end.
The Kirby-produced "Fourth World" titles were reprinted by DC in
trade paperbackformat in the early 2000s in black and white rather than in color, although the " Jimmy Olsen" preludes were reprinted in color.
September 11 2006, DC announced that it would reprint the entire Fourth World saga in publishing order in a four book hardcover collection entitled "Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus". [ [http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=83723 Newsarama: DC ANNOUNCES NEW COLLECTIONS; BLACK DOSSIER DELAY (11 September, 2006)] ] [ [http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=103933 Newsarama: KING-SIZED KING: GEORG BREWER ON THE FOURTH WORLD OMNIBUSES (6 May, 2007)] ] The first volume was released on July 12, 2007, the second was released on September 5, 2007, the third was released on November 21, 2007, and the fourth was released on March 26, 2008. The fourth Omnibus included the remaining issues of "Mister Miracle", "Forever People", and "New Gods", the Fourth World character entries written for "Who's Who", the forty-eight page "Even Gods Must Die!" story published in the 1984Baxter reprint series, "The Hunger Dogs" graphic novel and the unpublished twenty-four page cut of "The Hunger Dogs", titled "On the Road to Armagetto!". [ [http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=132385 Newsarama.com: DC RESTORES HUNGER DOGS ART FOR KIRBY OMNIBUS v4] ] [ [http://www.dccomics.com/graphic_novels/?gn=8753 DC Comics' solicitation for Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus (Vol. 4)] ]
In other media
*Characters from the "Fourth World" have appeared in the animated series "", "
Batman Beyond", "Justice League" and " Justice League Unlimited".
*Toys of several "Fourth World" characters have been made over the years, with the first being part of the "Super Powers" toy line.
List of New Gods
* [http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/01/books/review/Hodgman-Comics-t.html?_r=1&oref=slogin Review of "Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus"] , "
New York Times"
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