Jack Kirby is best known for co-creating many of Marvel’s superheroes including Hulk, The Fantastic Four and Captain America. In 1970, he ended his 102 issues run of Fantastic Four and with it his work with Marvel. Moving over to DC he took over writing and penciling chores for Superman’s Pal: Jimmy Olsen. I can can only assume that the Jimmy Olsen title was about to be cancelled and DC gave him the title to test his Fourth World story before launching new titles.
Kirby began his Fourth World run with issue 133 of Jimmy Olsen. If you don’t know what “Fourth World” referred to, it is the New Gods. There were the Gods of old and when they got destroyed the New Gods came around. Somehow, it was determined that they were the fourth set. At least this is how I understand it, it’s all very confusing, but ultimately, also trivial. The New Gods are divided into 2 planets: New Genesis, home of the good gods, and Apokalips, home of Darksied and his evil minions.
It all began right here, in the 2 part story of Superman’s Pal: Jimmy Olsen. The story begins with Morgan Edge, the new owner of the Daily Planet and member of a criminal organization called Intergang, sending Jimmy Olsen on an assignment to find a place called the Mountain of Judgement. Joining Jimmy are the second generation of The Newsboy Legion. (Kirby and fellow Captain America co-creator Jack Simon created the original legion in 1942). Clark Kent tries to get sent on the assignment as well, but Edge refuses. Unsure that Kent will stay behind, Edge arranges for Kent to get hit by an intergang car. However, Clark Kent is also Superman, so he survives the attack, and still goes. Following Olsen and the Newsboy Legion as they take their very Reed Richard style vehicle, the Whiz Wagon toward the Mountain of Judgement. Edge has promised the Legion the Whiz Wagon as a reward for going on the assignment.
Did you know that Superman can use his heat vision to sense the heat trails left by someone whose travelled any path. Neither had I until today. That’s how he follows Jimmy. But he follows a while behind. Before Supes arrives, Jimmy and the Newsboy Legion come across a group of people called the Outsiders. The Outsiders attack them, but Jimmy knocks out their leader and inadvertently becomes leader himself. Superman arrives and tries to stop them from going any further. Against their new leaders orders, one of the Outsiders, who just happens to have a kryptonite gun, takes out Superman. The Outsiders show Jimmy the way to The Mountain of Judgement and take them there. Upon their arrival they meet a group of people called the Hairies.
Superman has now awoken and heads into the Mountain of Judgement as well. He arrives just in time to save the Legion and Jimmy from a booby trap and also meets the Harries. The Harries show Jimmy, Superman and The Newsboy Legion the real reason for the assignment: their destruction. Inside the Whiz Wagon, promised to the Newsboy Legion for a job well done, was an explosive meant to destroy everyone, and everything there. Superman controls the detonation and everyone survives. The issue ends with Edge reporting his failure back to his boss on a viewing screen. The boss and the man behind the scheme is one we will come to know intimately in the future. That man is a New God. That man is Darksied.
I felt the storytelling in this was just mediocre. It wasn’t as compelling as a Stan Lee story, and I felt the story was a little to “wacky”. For just 2 issues of a Superman book, there were a lot of very diverse introductions. We had realistic characters like Morgan Edge and the Newsboy Legion and we also had weird hippy characters like The Outsiders and the Hairies. The story could have done with one of those two groups eliminated for simplicity. It may have been easier to swallow if we had Edge and The Newsboy Legion introduced in one issue, and this story, with a heavier Darksied presence, told after. That being said, Jack is the King for a reason, and he probably did what he did for a reason. While this is possibly his most famous work, I didn’t enjoy it as much as his later DC stuff such as OMAC and Kamandi, OMAC being one of my favourite DC characters of all time.
The art is another topic though. I feel Jack just brought a lot of what he did with Fantastic Four and Thor and mixed only the best parts for this book. The Whiz Wagon was super science fictiony while the Outsiders had a very unique look to them. He also did some cool black and white negative work when they travelled to the Mountain of Judgement.
These issues (and the whole Fourth World Epic as a whole) are probably most significant for introducing Darksied to the DC mythos. He is one of Superman’s biggest and baddest adversaries. He is also the man who killed Batman. He has had many writers take him on and give him crucial roles since Kirby. Among these are Grant Morrison in both his Justice League run and Final Crisis and Jim Starlin in his miniseries’ Cosmic Odyssey and Death of The New Gods.
One of my favourite Darkseid tales comes from the Superman Animated Series, where Darkseid manipulates Superman into leading an assault on earth for the whole world to see. The story was the last before cancellation and the series ends with the world not trusting superman. It wasn’t the intended ending, but I did feel it was a dark twist. Superman was later in the Justice League Animated Series and had regained the worlds trust.
Thanks for reading! Tell me your favourite Jack Kirby or Darkseid stories in the comments section below.
Images from http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darkseid#/media/File:Darkseidgeogreperez.jpg And http://img1.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20081121035433/marvel_dc/images/d/d7/Jimmy_Olsen_133.jpg And http://img2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20081121153404/marvel_dc/images/3/30/Jimmy_Olsen_134.jpg