Jack Kirby's Fourth World

From Academic Kids

The Fourth World is the popular name given to a number of interconnecting comic book titles produced by Jack Kirby and published by DC Comics from 1970 to 1973. Originally intended to form a finite epic story, the books were cancelled for reasons that remain controversial and unclear.

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 also adopted into the series.

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. Towards this end Kirby envisioned the finite series which would be serialized and collected in one tome later.

Unhappy with Marvel comics at the time as he had created or co-created a plethora of characters only to lose both copyright and creative custody of them, he turned to rival publisher DC comics. There he produced what is inarguably his most personal work in the "Fourth World" titles. Though a thirty-year veteran of the comics industry at the time, Kirby had previously worked only in collaboration with other creators. Kirby's operatic dialogue style and grandiose pageantry of heroes and villains surprised and disappointed some fans who were expecting work similar to that which he had produced with scripter Stan Lee at Marvel. Other fans were intrigued by the modern day mythology of the titles.

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 fabled Anti-Life Equation which will allow him galactic dominion. Opposing him is Orion, his son raised by 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 40s with a group of adolescents adventuring without an adult supervisor; Mister Miracle, the 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.

The Fourth World was never completed. Cancelled abruptly by DC, the story was never finished, despite an attempt by Kirby to create a final story a number of years later in a graphic novel entitled The Hunger Dogs. In the early 2000s Kirby's Fourth World comics were reprinted by DC in trade paperback format, though a number of fans were disappointed by the fact that the reprint was in black and white rather than in color. (Although the Jimmy Olsen work was reprinted in color)

However, the characters created have appeared in various series under different talents, becoming fully established in the DC Comics superhero universe. This is especially true of Darkseid who has become one of the major DC villains in general. A number of relaunches followed the Fourth World characters notably Mister Miracle in the early 1990s, Jack Kirby's Fourth World in the late 1990s, and Orion in 2000.


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