||This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (November 2014)|
Cover to The New Gods #1 (February/March 1971). Art by Jack Kirby and Don Heck.
|Species publication information|
|First appearance||The New Gods #1 (February/March 1971)|
|Created by||Jack Kirby (writer and artist)|
|Place of origin||New Genesis/Apokolips|
|Notable members||List of New Gods|
|The New Gods or New Gods|
|Series publication information|
|Format||Vol. 1, 3, 4
Vol. 2 and Death of the New Gods
|Publication date||(Vol. 1)
February/March 1971 – October/November 1972
(Vol. 1 continued)
July 1977 – July/August 1978
June – November 1984
February 1989 – August 1991
October 1995 – February 1997
(Death of the New Gods)
Early December 2007 – June 2008
|Number of issues||Vol. 1
Death of the New Gods
|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.
- 1 Publication history
- 2 2007–present
- 3 Powers and abilities
- 4 Bibliography
- 5 In other media
- 6 Awards
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Volume One (1971)
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. The characters associated with the New Gods are often collectively referred to as "Jack Kirby's Fourth World". Kirby began the "Fourth World" in Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #133 (Oct. 1970). The New Gods first appeared in New Gods #1 (Feb.-March 1971) and Forever People #1 (Feb.-March 1971). Another "Fourth World" title Mister Miracle was launched in April 1971. 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. 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.
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. Comics historian Les Daniels observed in 1995 that "Kirby's mix of slang and myth, science fiction and the Bible, made for a heady brew, but the scope of his vision has endured." In 2007, comics writer Grant Morrison commented "Kirby's dramas were staged across Jungian vistas of raw symbol and storm...The Fourth World saga crackles with the voltage of Jack Kirby's boundless imagination let loose onto paper."
Return of the New Gods (1977)
In 1976, the New Gods were featured in the last issue of 1st Issue Special. The issue featured a new, more mainstream superhero costume for Orion, which he would wear for the next few years, but failed to lead to a relaunch. That same year, Jenette Kahn became DC's new publisher and decided to revive the "Fourth World" lineup in 1977. The New Gods series relaunched in July 1977, and with 1st Issue Special still a relatively recent publication, it picked up where the storyline of that issue left off. Although the title remained "The New Gods" in the indicia and retained its original numbering, launching with #12, the covers used the title "The Return of the New Gods". Gerry Conway wrote the series and Don Newton providing the pencils.
The series introduced the character Jezebelle. It was cancelled with issue #19 (July–August 1978) prior to the "DC Implosion", where a variety of market-related factors caused DC to cancel almost all of the titles launched the previous year. The final chapters of the series were published as backup features in the 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." Conway later said that he felt the finale he provided for the New Gods saga was inadequate, though he greatly enjoyed working with Newton on the series.
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 by the combined power of the New Gods, the Justice League, and the Justice Society.
Volume Two (1984)
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. DC editors prevented Kirby from using his original intended ending. 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. 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.
The Hunger Dogs
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. 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.
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. This ending would not last, as Darkseid would reclaim Apokolips off-panel prior to the events of the 1986 Legends crossover.
Volume Three (1989)
Following the Cosmic Odyssey limited series by Jim Starlin and Mike Mignola, a new New Gods series was launched. 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)
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. It was taken over by John Byrne for issues #12–15 at the end of the series, this title would be renamed as Jack Kirby's Fourth World, also by 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.
Death of the New Gods and Final Crisis
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. By subtly manipulating characters such as Alexander Luthor, Jr., and Booster Gold 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. 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."
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.
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."
The New 52
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 Steppenwolf 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. 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 stated 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 its 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', whose lives were often lost in the battles. One 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 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
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 #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.
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
"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. 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. Two backup stories, though not under the "Tales of the New Gods" banner, were printed when Byrne filled in as penciller on Orion for the main stories in issues #13 and #14, with Simonson providing writing and pencilling, and Bob Wiacek inking.
The various New Gods stories have been collected into various volumes. All eleven issues of the original series have been collected into Jack Kirby's New Gods (ISBN 1563893851). DC Comics published 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 a previously unpublished story by Mark Millar and Steve Ditko originally meant to be printed in the pages of Orion. 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). and later reprinted in trade paperback.
The entirety of Kirby's work on the "Fourth World" was collected in four Omnibus editions published in 2007 and 2008:
- Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus
- Volume 1 collects Forever People #1–3, Mister Miracle #1–3, The New Gods #1–3, Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #133–139, 396 pages, May 2007, ISBN 978-1401213442 (hardcover); December 2011, ISBN 978-1401232412 (paperback)
- Volume 2 collects Forever People #4–6, Mister Miracle #4–6, The New Gods #4–6, Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #141–145, 396 pages, August 2007, ISBN 978-1401213572 (hardcover); April 2012, ISBN 978-1401234409 (paperback)
- Volume 3 collects Forever People #7–10, Mister Miracle #7–9, The New Gods #7–10, Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #146–148, 396 pages, November 2007, ISBN 978-1401214852 (hardcover); August 2012, ISBN 978-1401235352 (paperback)
- Volume 4 collects Forever People #11; Mister Miracle #10–18; The New Gods #11; "Even Gods Must Die" from The New Gods vol. 2, #6; DC Graphic Novel #4: "The Hunger Dogs"; "On the Road to Armagetto!" (previously unpublished), 424 pages, March 2008, ISBN 978-1401215835 (hardcover); December 2012, ISBN 978-1401237462 (paperback)
In other media
- 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.
- 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 series has notable influences from the New Gods. At a 1972 dinner that included comics writer/editor Roy Thomas and comic shop owner Ed Summer, George Lucas told his story for Star Wars, after which Roy Thomas noted that it sounded very similar to Jack Kirby’s New Gods.
Other notable Fourth World characters and concepts:
- Anti-Life Equation
- Boom Tube
- Jack Kirby bibliography
- Mother Boxes
- The Source
- Source Wall
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- Levitz, Paul (2010). "The Bronze Age 1970–1984". 75 Years of DC Comics The Art of Modern Mythmaking. Taschen America. p. 447. ISBN 9783836519816.
Kirby began introducing new elements to the DC Universe, building toward the introduction of a trio of new titles based on a complex mythology he called the Fourth World.
- 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.
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- Index to the Earth-1 Fourth World stories
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