Cover of the first issue. Artist: Jack Kirby.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1970
Creator: Jack Kirby
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"When the Old Gods died," read the first issue's cover blurb, "there arose the New Gods." Cartoonist Jack Kirby's first work upon returning to …

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DC Comics after more than a decade (he'd previously done Newsboy Legion, Challengers of the Unknown and more for them) was nothing if not epic in scope.

"Kirby's Fourth World", as the concept was collectively called, was first glimpsed in the 133rd issue (October, 1970) of Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen, which got Jimmy involved in a sprawling saga full of aliens, super-advanced DNA research, secret underground government installations, and all sorts of other grand sci-fi concepts. But the Fourth World kicked into high gear a few months later, when DC launched three inter-related Kirby-created titles — Mister Miracle, Forever People and New Gods. The latter, which began with a March, 1971 cover date, was the flagship of the group, the one most central to the overall storyline.

The main character was Orion, ostensibly the son of Izaya, Highfather of the planet New Genesis, "good guys" in the interstellar struggle, in which Earth had recently become involved, between that world and Apokolips. The latter, a dreary totalitarian state devoted entirely to manufacturing the means for waging war, was ruled by Darkseid, a towering villain clearly intended to rival Marvel's Doctor Doom — also a Kirby character, by the way. After a year in which unmistakeable clues were dropped with gay abandon, it transpired that Orion had been switched at birth, as part of an exchange of hostages pursuant to a peace agreement between the two planets, and was actually the son of Darkseid.

A minor attraction started a few issues into the series, when DC added pages to its comics and used the extras for reprints. New Gods reprinted a series Kirby and his partner, Joe Simon, had done for them in the 1940s, Manhunter.

Kirby originally intended his Fourth World titles as limited series — once the story was told, he planned to move on to new ideas. But limited series weren't part of DC's repertoire at the time, and the idea was nixed by publisher Carmine Infantino (formerly an artist, and co-creator of The Flash, Adam Strange and other long-running DC characters), who didn't see why a title should be dropped if it was still selling.

How ironic, then, that Kirby never got a chance to see the Fourth World concept through. Both New Gods and Forever People ended with their 11th issues (November, 1972). Mister Miracle continued, but mostly as a regular superhero — in fact, during the '80s, he even joined the Justice League for a little while. Kirby went on to create new characters for DC, such as Kamandi, Kobra and The Demon, but didn't return to this set for over a decade.

Years later, other writers and artists picked up the Fourth World concept, usually under the New Gods title. Mini-series, graphic novels, oneshots etc. have come out from time to time since the late 1970s, and still continue to do so. Tho interrupted during their first run, the characters and ideas of Kirby's Fourth World have been permanently incorporated into the DC Universe.

In the 1980s, Kirby made two attempts to wrap up his story. The official one, commissioned by DC for a graphic novel, The Hunger Dogs, had to be watered down to permit continued use of the characters, before DC would publish it. Unofficially, Kirby gave broad hints of his original intentions in his Captain Victory series, strongly implying that Cap is Orion's son. If that's accepted as canon, then Captain Victory brings the story into a new generation.


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