Friday, September 3, 2010

Jack Kirby's New Gods

Beginning here, Jack Kirby established the groundwork for all future New Gods (and related) series'. New Gods #1 would mark the first appearance of Orion, Highfather, and Metron, among others, and further issues into the series would mark the first appearance of many other Fourth World characters, as well as explaining key concepts about the New Gods. Of note was issue #7, "The Pact", which sought to explain the backstory of the New Gods. Eleven issues were published before cancellation by the publisher. Simultaneously published during this time were the Forever People and Mister Miracle series, also written and drawn by Kirby. All three series saw reprint in black and white form by DC Comics in 1998. In 2007 and 2008, Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus reprinted the series, along with Kirby's other Fourth World stories, in color and in published chronological order.

The New Gods are natives of the twin planets of New Genesis and Apokolips. New Genesis is an idyllic planet filled with unspoiled forests, mountains, and rivers and is ruled by the benevolent Highfather, while Apokolips is a nightmarish, ruined dystopia filled with machinery and fire pits and is ruled by the tyrant Darkseid. The two planets were once part of the same world, a planet called Urgrund,[2] but it was split apart millennia ago after the death of the Old Gods during Ragnarok.[3] The characters associated with the New Gods are often collectively referred to as "Jack Kirby's Fourth World". The New Gods first appeared in New Gods #1 and Mister Miracle #1 (both titles were published concurrently). The other two "Fourth World" titles were Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen and The Forever People. Various New Gods, notably Darkseid, went on to interact with other denizens of the DC Universe.

The opening sequence of New Gods #1 references the "Old Gods" and the "New Gods" (e.g., "There came a time when the Old Gods died..."). In a "Young Gods of Supertown" back-up story in Forever People #5, the explorer Lonar retrieves a helmet from the rubble of what represents the last battle of the Old Gods. The helmet closely resembles that worn by the Marvel Comics' character Thor, a character whom Kirby drew for several years.

The beings of New Genesis and Apokolips call themselves gods and live outside of normal time and space in a realm called the Fourth World. These New Gods have evolved due to their close proximity to the Source, a primeval energy, believed to be one of the ultimate foundations of the Universal Expression of Energy, along with their superior technology, into beings of genetic stability and evolutionary perfection. The denizens of New Genesis and Apokolips are immortal, stronger, faster, and smarter than Homo sapiens, despite their resemblance.

The New Gods are vulnerable to a substance called Radion. Its source is unknown and its effects are toxic only in sustained amounts or after explosive exposure. The average New God can be slain by an application of Radion from a Radion blaster or bomb.

Writer Peter David introduced the idea that the New Gods were giants and that the Boom Tube would shrink them as they traveled to normal time and space or enlarge beings who traveled to the Fourth World realm.[volume & issue needed] For example, if Superman were to travel to Apokolips under his own power, he would be miniature in comparison to the New Gods.

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