New Gods

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New Gods

Cover to The New Gods #1 (February/March 1971). Art by Jack Kirby and Don Heck.
Species publication information
Publisher DC Comics
First appearance The New Gods #1 (February/March 1971)
Created by Jack Kirby (writer & artist)
Characteristics
Place of origin New Genesis/Apokolips
Notable members List of New Gods
The New Gods or New Gods
Series publication information
Publisher DC Comics
Schedule (vol. 1)
Bi-monthly
(vol. 2-4)
Monthly
Format (vol. 1, 3, 4)
Ongoing series
(vol. 2)
Limited series
Genre
Publication date (vol 1)
February/March 1971 – October/November 1972
(The Return of...[1])
July 1977 – July/August 1978
(vol 2)
June – November 1984
(vol 3)
February 1989 – August 1991
(vol 4)
October 1995 – February 1997
Number of issues (vol. 1)
19
(vol. 2)
6
(vol. 3)
28
(vol. 4)
15
Collected editions
Jack Kirby's New Gods ISBN 1-56389-385-1

The New Gods are a fictional race appearing in the eponymous comic book series published by DC Comics, as well as selected other DC titles. Created and designed by Jack Kirby, they first appeared in February 1971 in New Gods #1.

Publication history[edit]

Cover to The New Gods (vol. 1) #7 (February/March 1972), featuring "The Pact". Art by Jack Kirby.

Volume One (1971)[edit]

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 (German for "primeval ground"), but it was split apart millennia ago after the death of the Old Gods during Ragnarök.[2] 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 (the titles were published concurrently). The other two "Fourth World" titles were Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen and Forever People.[3] Various New Gods, notably Darkseid, went on to interact with other denizens of the DC Universe.

Kirby's production assistant of the time, Mark Evanier, remarked that:

Folks forget but the New Gods saga was intended to be a limited series ... There was no intention that these characters would go on forever. However, after Jack's books started getting good sales figures, DC demanded that we keep them going and use guest stars like Deadman, which we were very much against doing. So Kirby had this novel he was forever stuck in the middle of - he could never get to the last chapter. ... You can spot the issues where Jack kind of gave up trying to advance the story of Darkseid and Orion and was marking time. If those books had been intended from the start to run indefinitely, they would have been done very differently.[4]

New Gods #1 marks the first appearance of Orion, Highfather, and Metron, among others. The opening sequence 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. Issue #7, "The Pact", 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, the Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus reprinted the series, along with Kirby's other Fourth World stories, in color and in published chronological order.

Return of the New Gods (1977)[edit]

In 1977, DC revived the New Gods series, under the title Return of the New Gods[1] as part of the "DC Explosion" launch of 1977. The first new story was in the last issue of DC's 1st Issue Special #13, shortly followed by a relaunch. Despite the new title, the series retained its original numbering, running from #12-19. Gerry Conway would write the series, with Don Newton providing the pencils. The series was controversial[citation needed] for featuring a new, more mainstream superhero costume for Orion, which he would wear for the next few years.

The series was cancelled almost as soon as it had been revived, due to the "DC Implosion", where a variety of market-related factors caused DC to cancel almost all of the titles launched the previous year.

Adventure Comics and the Justice League[edit]

Due to the abrupt cancelling of the revived series, DC Comics decided to try to bring the series to an end with a special two part storyline in the pages of the Adventure Comics anthology series. Adventure Comics #459-460 (1978) featured a climactic battle between Darkseid's forces and the New Gods, culminating in Darkseid's defeat and apparent "death."

Another story appeared in Super-Team Family #15 (1978).

Darkseid's "death" would quickly be overturned in the New Gods' next appearance in Justice League of America #183-185. The three part storyline would tell of Darkseid's return to Apokolips and his scheme to destroy Earth-Two and teleport Apokolips into its place, so that he could conquer a new universe devoid of the New Gods. The plan would be foiled, however, by the combined power of the New Gods, the Justice League, and the Justice Society.

Volume Two (1984)[edit]

Cover to New Gods (vol. 2) #1 (June 1984). Art by Jack Kirby.

Essentially a reprint series, this volume packaged two issues apiece per single issue of the original 1971 series. The mini-series' final issue was originally intended to include a reprint of New Gods (vol. 1) #11 and a new 24-page story which would conclude the series and end with both Darkseid and Orion dead. However, DC editors prevented Kirby from using his original intended ending.[citation needed] Kirby instead turned in a one-off story called "On the Road to Armagetto" which was also rejected, due to the fact that it did not contain a definitive ending to the series.[citation needed]

A 48-page new story called "Even Gods Must Die" was published in the sixth issue of the reprint series instead, which in turn served as a prologue for the upcoming The Hunger Dogs graphic novel, which DC editors greenlighted in order to conclude the series.[citation needed]

The Hunger Dogs[edit]

Published as DC Graphic Novel #4, The Hunger Dogs was intended by Kirby and DC to serve as the end to the entire Fourth World saga. However, the project was mired in controversy over Kirby's insistence that the series should end with the deaths of the New Gods, which clashed with DC's demands that the New Gods could not be killed off.

As a result, production of the graphic novel suffered many delays and revisions. Pages and storyline elements from the never published "On the Road to Armagetto" were revised and incorporated into the graphic novel, while DC ordered the entire plot restructured, resulting in many pages of the story being rearranged out of Kirby's intended reading order.[5][6]

In the end, The Hunger Dogs saw the tormented, slave population of Apokolips rise up against Darkseid in a massive slave revolt, forcing Darkseid to flee his homeworld. However, this ending would not last, as Darkseid would reclaim Apokolips off-panel prior to the events of the 1986 Legends crossover.

Volume Three (1989)[edit]

Written by longtime Kirby understudy Mark Evanier, with co-author and penciller Paris Cullins, this would be the most lengthy New Gods run yet. Coming in at 28 issues, this volume was published from February 1989 to August 1991. This series is sometimes considered volume two, as the aforementioned volume two was essentially a reprinting of volume one.

Volume Four (1995)[edit]

Originally written by Tom Peyer and Rachel Pollack, and pencilled by Luke Ross, volume four of New Gods ran from October 1995 until February 1997. Eventually taken over by John Byrne (for issues #12-15) at the tail end of the series, this title would be renamed as Jack Kirby's Fourth World, also by John Byrne, with numbering reset to issue #1, and covers provided by Walt Simonson. Walt Simonson's Orion series, which continued to host the backup feature "Tales of the New Gods", began in Byrne's Jack Kirby's Fourth World and served as an extension of it. Simonson wished to simply title his series "New Gods", but DC had felt the name had been used too recently.[7]

2007-present[edit]

Cover to Death of the New Gods #1. Art by Jim Starlin.

Death of the New Gods and Final Crisis[edit]

Taking place in both the yearlong series Countdown to Final Crisis (2007–2008) and its spin-off, Death of the New Gods, written by Jim Starlin, was a story-arc involving the mysterious deaths of the New Gods across the universe in preparation for the coming storylines in Grant Morrison's Final Crisis, published later in 2008. As elaborated in Death of the New Gods, the mysterious Godkiller turned out to be an agent of the sentient Source itself, which sought to destroy the imperfect Fourth World — compromised by the disruption in its creation by the Old Gods — in favor of a more perfect "Fifth World" by reuniting the Source with the Anti-Life Equation. The Source's initial attempts to recreate the Fifth World had been hampered by the Crisis on Infinite Earths which unified the Multiverse and forged an impenetrable Source Wall around the Anti-Life Equation. However, subtly manipulating characters like Alexander Luthor, Jr., and Booster Gold[8] to recreate the Multiverse made the Source Wall less impenetrable. The Source's agent is revealed to be the New God Infinity-Man. Darkseid acquires the powers of the Anti-Life Equation and capitalizes on the deaths of the New Gods by using the human Jimmy Olsen as a "soul-catcher" for the Gods, from which he can claim all their powers and recreate the universe in his own image, but he is killed when the Source is able to send Darkseid's resurrected son, Orion, to rip out his heart. Orion leaves the scene of the fray to die of his own wounds; and, seemingly with success, the Source entity manages to reunite with the Anti-Life entity and merge Apokolips with New Genesis to create the Fifth World, with the New Gods of the Fourth World all deceased.

In DC Universe #0, a bridge between the Countdown and Final Crisis limited series, Darkseid is resurrected on Earth. In Final Crisis, Darkseid and his minions now exist on Earth in the guises of organized criminals, with Darkseid taking the name "Boss Dark Side". Other New Gods, such as Metron and the Black Racer also appear reborn in newer, more elaborate Fifth World incarnations. Orion is discovered dead by detective Dan Turpin, prompting the Guardians of the Universe to launch an investigation. Batman surmises that Orion was in fact killed not of injuries from battling Darkseid, but by a sort of bullet sent backwards in time. Darkseid spreads the Anti-Life Equation among the human population, creating monstrous slaves out of its victims as he ushers in the Final Crisis of Mankind. Shilo Norman begins recruiting an army, warning of a war in heaven having occurred where evil won. Darkseid similarly claims to have ultimately come out of this war in heaven the victor. The villain Libra reappears on Earth after a long absence, making promises to the villains of Earth in the name of the deity he worships.

Grant Morrison addressed what he described as "the disconnects that online commentators, sadly, seem to find more fascinating than the stories themselves", by explaining that he provided a rough draft of the first issue, and an outline of the plot, before the writing began on Countdown and Death of the New Gods.[9] He outlined his thinking on the issues of continuity between the stories by stating that he "started writing Final Crisis #1 in early 2006, around the same time as the 52 series was starting to come out, so Final Crisis was more a continuation of plot threads from Seven Soldiers and 52 than anything else."[9]

As the events of Final Crisis unfold, it is revealed that the evil gods of Apokolips have been hiding in human bodies, and some have their bodies "rebuilt" for them in the Evil Factory, formerly the Command-D bunkers in Blüdhaven. Darkseid inhabits the body of Dan Turpin, after Turpin finally succumbs to the evil god. Kalibak inhabits a new body, that of a humanoid tiger, leading a team of similar creatures in battle. Mokkari and Simyan appear, looking more or less identical to their previous forms, with no explanation given to where their bodies came from. Granny Goodness takes up residence in the Alpha Lantern Kraken, using her to attack the Guardians of the Universe, while Desaad inhabits the body of Mary Marvel. The Female Furies themselves are not shown to still exist, but they are recreated using Anti-Life controlled heroes and villains in the forms of Wonder Woman, Batwoman, Catwoman, and Giganta.

At the conclusion of the series, the essence of Darkseid is destroyed; the New Gods, including the previously deceased Highfather, are reborn; and Nix Uotan implies that they will guide the recently destroyed Earth-51, restoring it to prosperity and peace. Nix also indicates that the Super Young Team are the new Forever People of the Fifth World.

Post-Final Crisis[edit]

In an interview with Newsarama, DC Executive Editor Dan DiDio spoke of the future of the New Gods in the DC Universe, saying, "The other thing we’ll give a rest to as well is the concept of the New Gods and the ideas surrounding them. There's a very clear conclusion to the New Gods’ storyline in Final Crisis #7. The good part about it is that readers will see that ending, and we won’t have to return to it right away. Like the Multiverse, the New Gods will be out there and available to us, and we can use them when we see fit, and feel the time is right. Just because we introduced concepts doesn’t mean that we have to constantly use them."[10]

The New 52[edit]

Darkseid and his parademons make their debut in The New 52 in the pages of Justice League #1 (Darkseid first appears in Justice League #4). Desaad and Kanto also briefly appear in this story arc, experimenting on Superman and referring to "the search for Darkseid's daughter", explaining Darkseid's actions throughout the cosmos and his assault and assimilation of various cultures throughout the universe. In subsequent issues it is revealed that Cyborg's teleportation powers are linked to the Boom Tubes (thanks to upgrades performed by his father utilizing the Mother Box found by the team in their initial adventure), and that every 1,000 times he uses this technology, a glitch in it transports he and his Justice League comrades to Apokolips.

In the pages of Earth 2 #1, it is revealed that Darkseid's "search" has also resulted in his traversing the multiverse and invading this parallel Earth. However, unlike his encounters in Justice League, this one is far more successful, resulting in the death of that Earth's Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman; in the midst of this war, Power Girl and Huntress somehow traverse into the realm of Prime-Earth.

On the final page of Wonder Woman #12, it is teased that the fall of the Olympian Gods leads to the creation of New Gods, but not state if they mean the race of New Gods populating the Fourth World or simply newer younger gods. A figure, with Orion's helmet, appears to emerge from the ashes and disappear into a Boom Tube. Orion goes on to fight against, then assist Wonder Woman in her struggle with the gods of Olympus and the monstrous First Born of Zeus, and eventually leads her to New Genesis and it's leader: Highfather. While Highfather appears much younger than his pre-Flashpoint incarnation, New Genesis appears much the same, consisting of a futuristic floating city above a mostly rural world covered in forests.

In the Darkseid special issue, it is revealed that he and Highfather are some of the only survivors of a previous larger world, where they were brothers and peasants. Their world was also inhabited by colossal beings known as Old Gods, who spent much of their time brawling with each other, feeding off the worship of the 'mudgrubbers', who's lives were often lost in the battles. On day the man who would become Darkseid decided to steal the powers of a wounded Old God, to battle the others and bring about a new order. One by one, the Old Gods were destroyed by Darkseid, who became more more horrific in turn. As Darkseid's schemes started to tear the planet apart, one of the last and greatest of the Old Gods came to Highfather and convinced him to accept his power to battle Darkseid. The brothers, now equal, tore the world apart during their battle, leaving them to rebuild on the remains, which became Apokolips and New Genesis.

Powers and Abilities[edit]

The beings of New Genesis and Apokolips call themselves gods, living outside of normal time and space in a realm known as the Fourth World. Due to their superior technology and close proximity to the Source, a primeval energy believed to be one of the ultimate foundations of the Universal Expression of Energy, these New Gods have evolved into genetically stable higher beings of evolutionary perfection.

All of the New Gods possess superhuman abilities of various kinds and to differing degrees, including superhuman strength, stamina, reflexes and speed. Along with their superhuman abilities, the denizens of New Genesis and Apokolips are also immortal and endowed with a greater intelligence than Homo sapiens, despite their resemblance. Most of the inhabitants of both worlds receive martial and military training, being a race of warriors.

Despite their immortality, 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 in Supergirl Vol. 4, issue 29 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. For example, if Superman were to travel to Apokolips under his own power, he would be miniature in comparison to the New Gods - Orion remarked that "Earth is but a speck in an air pocket" and that the universe of New Genesis is the "real world". Proportionally, entire planets were shown to seem no larger than golf balls.[11]

Bibliography[edit]

Outside of the original three Kirby titles, and those strictly labeled "New Gods", other characters from Kirby's Fourth World have had their own titles. Mister Miracle has had numerous other iterations of his own comic, and Orion was given his own title in 2000 that ended in 2002. The aforementioned Jack Kirby's Fourth World is another example, as is Takion, a New God not created by Kirby, but one that had his own series for seven issues in 1996. The New Gods and their concepts have at times played a central role in the DC Universe, in series such as Jim Starlin's Cosmic Odyssey. Particularly, the character Darkseid has been a major force in the DC Universe, and is one of the main villains in the various Superman titles.

Tales of the New Gods[edit]

"Tales of the New Gods" was a backup feature that began in John Byrne's Jack Kirby's Fourth World, and continued in Walt Simonson's Orion series for DC Comics. In the features for Jack Kirby's Fourth World, Byrne almost exclusively provided the pencils and text for the stories. In the features for the Orion title, Simonson often wrote the story, and fellow artists would, appropriately, provide the artwork; although on rare occasions, other writers would provide the script/story.[12] Two backup stories, though not under the "Tales of the New Gods" banner, were printed when John Byrne filled in as penciller on Orion for the main stories in issues #13 and #14, with Simonson providing writing and pencilling duties, and Bob Wiacek inking.[13]

Collected editions[edit]

The various New Gods stories have been collected into various volumes. All eleven issues of the original series has been collected into Jack Kirby's New Gods (ISBN 1563893851).[14]

DC Comics released a Tales of the New Gods trade paperback (ISBN 978-1401216375) in January 2008, which collects all of the back-up stories listed above, a Mark Evanier/Steve Rude Mister Miracle one-shot comic from 1987, and an unpublished story by Mark Millar and Steve Ditko originally meant to be printed in the pages of Orion.[15]

In 2008, DC released a one-shot titled Countdown Special: New Gods #1, which reprinted Forever People #1, Mister Miracle #1, and New Gods #7.

Death of the New Gods has been collected into a hardcover edition (ISBN 1401218393).[16] and later reprinted in trade paperback.

In other media[edit]

In the mid-1980s, Darkseid, Kalibak, Desaad, and the planet Apokolips were featured in the final two incarnations of the Super Friends animated series, entitled Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show and The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians. New Genesis and its residents did not appear, and were not mentioned.[15]

Various New Gods characters have appeared in the modern DC animated universe, with Kalibak, Darkseid, and the Fourth World characters making their initial appearance in Superman: The Animated Series. They would appear in several episodes of that series, as well as Justice League and Justice League Unlimited.

Darkseid, Kalibak, Granny Goodness and Darkseid's other followers appear in Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Lashina and Stompa also appear, but as female fighters employed by Mongal rather than servants of Darkseid.

Many of the New Gods characters, such as Darkseid, Granny Goodness, Desaad, and Godfrey appear in the final season of Smallville. Orion and Highfather are also mentioned.

The Forever People, Desaad, New Genesis and Apokolips appear in the Young Justice episode "Disordered". Darkseid is alluded to, but is not mentioned by name and does not appear onscreen until the finale episode "Endgame". G. Gordon Godfrey is recurring character throughout Season Two: "Invasion".

George Lucas's Star Wars has notable influences from the New Gods. At a 1972 dinner (that included comic's writer/editor Roy Thomas, comic shop owner Ed Summer and George Lucas) George Lucas told his story for Star Wars, after which Roy Thomas noted that it sounded very similar to Jack Kirby’s New Gods.[17]

Awards[edit]

This series, along with Forever People, Mister Miracle, and Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen won Jack Kirby a Shazam Award for "Special Achievement by an Individual" in 1971.[18]

In 1998, Jack Kirby's New Gods by Jack Kirby, edited by Bob Kahan, won both the Harvey Award for "Best Domestic Reprint Project"[19] and the Eisner Award for "Best Archival Collection/Project".[20]

See also[edit]

Other notable Fourth World characters and concepts:

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b The series was cancelled in 1972. When it was revived in 1977, the numbering was carried over. Although the indicia remained "The New Gods", the cover used the title "The Return of the New Gods".
  2. ^ "The Unofficial Old Gods Biography". DCU Guide. Retrieved October 19, 2010. 
  3. ^ McAvennie, Michael; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1970s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. Dorling Kindersley. p. 145. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9. "As the writer, artist, and editor of the Fourth World family of interlocking titles, each of which possessed its own distinct tone and theme, Jack Kirby cemented his legacy as a pioneer of grand-scale storytelling." 
  4. ^ Kraft, David Anthony; Slifer, Roger (April 1983). "Mark Evanier". Comics Interview (2) (Fictioneer Books). pp. 23–34. 
  5. ^ "Longtime Kirby assistant Mark Evanier's comments about The Hunger Dogs". NewsFromMe. February 23, 2001. Retrieved October 19, 2010. 
  6. ^ Lorah, Michael. "King-Sized King: Georg Brewer on the Fourth World Omnibuses". Newsarama. Retrieved October 19, 2010. 
  7. ^ "Interview with Walter Simonson". WestfieldComics.com. Retrieved October 19, 2010. 
  8. ^ Infinite Crisis and 52
  9. ^ a b "Grant Morrison on Final Crisis #1". Newsarama. June 9, 2008. 
  10. ^ "Dan DiDio: 20 Answers, 1 Question". Newsarama. January 23, 2009. 
  11. ^ New Gods v.3 #10
  12. ^ "Walter Simonson: Bibliographie comics partielle". ComicsVF. Retrieved February 9, 2007.  (French)
  13. ^ "Orion (série VO)". ComicsVF. Retrieved October 19, 2010.  (French)
  14. ^ "Jack Kirby's New Gods trade details". DC Comics.com. April 21, 2010. Retrieved October 19, 2010. 
  15. ^ a b "Tales of the New Gods trade details". DC Comics.com. April 21, 2010. Retrieved October 19, 2010. 
  16. ^ "Death of the New Gods hardcover details". DC Comics.com. April 21, 2010. Retrieved October 19, 2010. 
  17. ^ Ro, Ronin (2004). Tales To Astonish : Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, and the American Comic Book Revolution. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 199. ISBN 1-58234-345-4. 
  18. ^ "1971 Academy of Comic Book Arts Awards". HahnLibrary. Retrieved October 19, 2010. 
  19. ^ "1998 Harvey Award Nominees and Winners". HahnLibrary. Retrieved October 19, 2010. 
  20. ^ "1998 Will Eisner Comic Industry Award Nominees". HahnLibrary. Retrieved October 19, 2010. 

External links[edit]