Category Archives: Locations

Day 94: The X-Pit!

The ill-fated Overlord created the X-Pit, a trap to ensnare and punish Scott Free, at the behest of Granny Goodness. “[Overlord] needs no discipline like my pouting, jealous soldier boys! Overlord is also creative! He makes things for Granny Goodness! That’s why Granny asked him to build the X-Pit! She has lost her patience with rebellious boys! Granny Goodness wants to kill Scott Free! He was the first to run away from her institution!”

Granny threatens her underlings: retrieve Mister Miracle or else… “But we know where he is now, don’t we?” screams the old battle-ax. “Get him! Get Scott Free! Bring him to Granny! — Or take his place in the X-Pit!” The minions kidnap Oberon and what they think is Scott Free (it’s just a Follower) and deliver to Granny, and when the real Mister Miracle comes by to rescue his assistant, Granny springs the trap. “I’m here, Granny! But I can’t stay long! Just to pick up a friend!” Granny demurs, “You’ll stay! You’ll stay for eternity! Open the X-Pit, Overlord!” She then pushes a button and Scott and Oberon plunge into the X-Pit!

There is an ominous humming sound! — An eerie flash — as invisible forces rush from a widening gap in the floor!!

Granny: Ha ha ha ha ha –! I’ve got you, Mister Miracle!

Scott Free: My Aero-Discs have been neutralized! I’m falling!

It is a long fall, because the pit is deep! But the mad downward flight of its trapped victims is slowed as they near the bottom!

Scott Free: Don’t panic, Oberon! We won’t be crushed! The hidden force-poles are reversing from attraction to repelling!

At the bottom of the X-Pit is a transparent cage of unknown substance! Its doors close on its hapless prey as they drift within its confines!!!

Scott Free: We’re still alive, Oberon! But prisoners of Granny! And, believe me — this is no ordinary prison!

Oberon: That shouldn’t stop you, Scott! Not you — Mister Miracle!

The pair then brainstorm and Scott ponders what he knows about Granny Goodness and concludes, “She’ll sacrifice anyone and anything — for gifts — rewards! On that premise — and with these studs — we must stake our lives!”

There appear to be 15 tiny buttons — five rows of three — in the transparent container and Scott pushes one.

Oberon: You pressed one of those buttons — and, now, we’re frying!

Scott Free:
Hang on, Oberon! I know this for what it is — a Torment-Circuit! Made by the creator of this pit for Granny’s pleasure! [Pushes another button] Steel yourself, Oberon! This is the Electro-Shock Cycle!

Oberon: I feel like I’ve swallowed a thousand hot needles!

Pressing yet another stud, Scott and Oberon are suddenly engulfed in muck.

Scott Free: I must continue the cycle! I must press another of the studs!

Oberon: Do it! No matter what happens next — It’ll be better than this! Whew! This is a welcome break! But I don’t suppose Granny rigged this to last too long!

Scott Free: No! Look about you, Oberon! Look at the quickly-rising mud!

Oberon: Scott! Do something! Before this mud covers us!

Scott Free: It will smother you first! This way, friend!

Using his right hand, Scott lifts Oberon above his head, keeping him out of the rising mud.

It won’t help, Scott! Try to press the next cycle!

Scott Free: Can’t — The mud is hardening! Tough to move —

At this point, like Granny, readers think Mister Miracle and his assistant are doomed… but, taa-dah! The Super Escape Artist reappears to explain to Granny how the two got out of the X-Pit! After Granny threatens to kill Scott with her bare hands, she demands, “How did you do this? How?

Scott Free:
Fair enough! Once I knew the Overlord created the X-Pit, I knew the make-up of its structure! Every atom of the X-Pit was linked to Overlord himself! Even the studs of the Torment-Circuit! I activated each terrible cycle —

We see Scott pushing a new stud, telling us, “The mud is hardening fastholding my arm — but my finger is free — touching the next stud –”

Scott Free: Then the mud was gone — as if it had never been there — because Overlord was transforming its atoms into another form of torment!

Oberon struggles to his feet and asks, “W-what next, Scott? What next?” Scott opens his shoulder access to Mother Box, replying, “Mother Box signals — radiation!” Then, jamming his shoulder into the studs, he declares, “And that makes her strong! Strong! Strike at the enemy, Mother Box!”

Scott Free: I jammed Mother Box into the Torment-Circuits — felt her power race with vengeance toward their insidious source! Somewhere, I could feel the power strike Overlord! Somewhere, I could hear his silent scream — somewhere, I felt him — die!

Granny: You killed Overlord! You had him killed by a damnable Mother Box!

Scott Free: I earned many things when I left your institution — like these Aero-Discs — on which Oberon and I rose from that now useless pit!

And so the demise of Overlord’s malevolent trap, the ex-X-Pit!

Day 58: Apokolips!

“What kind of world is it,” Jack Kirby asks, “that spawns gods of evil and lesser beings with horribly hostile hang-ups!!!??” The name of that planet is Apokolips and it is home to the undisputed ruler, the great Darkseid, seeker of the Anti-Life Equation and Master of the Holocaust. As Orion notes on his foray there during this adventure, “If the other side of good is evil, then surely Apokolips is the other side! Even its giant energy pits feed on the world itself, to gain its power and light!”

The New Gods #2 opens with a vivid description of the creation of Apokolips and her sibling New Genesis :

“It came to pass — that the holocaust which destroyed the old gods and split their ancient world asunder — and created in its place two separate and distinct homes for the new forces to rise and grow and achieve powers to move the universe in new ways…

“Now there is Apokolips — forever orbiting in shadow — its surface marked by mammoth fire pits — which illuminate its stark and functional temples — in which creatures of fury worship a creed of destruction!!

“And moving with majestic serenity, in eternal partnership with this seething giant, is its sunlit sister world, New Genesis!

Apokolips is a planet perpetually preparing for war, war against itself, war against New Genesis and war against Earth. “Living beings serve their guards!! The guards serve the war machines!! And their power serves — Darkseid!!!” All must be in eternal service to the “spearhead of pure elemental force,” because “Darkseid never rests! His shadow falls everywhere!

“It is,” Orion observes, “a dismal, unclean place of great, ugly houses sheltering uglier machines… Apokolips is an armed camp where those who live with weapons rule the wretches who build them! All that New Genesis stands for is reversed on Apokolips! Life is the evil here! And death, the great goal!”

The introductory paragraph to “Himon” reveals some distinct features of the nightmare planet: “The heart of Apokolips lies beyond Greyborders — across the darkening road to Longshadow! — Through the clanking horrors of Night-Time! — and rises white hot — at the raging, hissing infernos of the planetary fire-pits! The raw and dirty edge from which great Darkseid draws mammoth power!”

The world appears to be completely urbanized, devoted to the training of warriors, the building of weapons, and the amusements of the elites. All is powered by the mammoth fire pits and the will of Darkseid. Some distinct areas, mentioned above, are laid out in the saga:

• Night-Time: Location of the notorious orphanage run by Granny Goodness, “one of many institutions where the young of Apokolips are raised and trained to develop their inherent powers!!”

• Long-Shadow: Jurisdiction of Kanto, Darkseid’s personal assassin, found “on the road to Night-Time”

• Armagetto: Next to the gigantic fire pits, the living area for the working dregs of society: “Here, in the harsh light of the giant flames that burn before endless gods, are the jammed masses of ‘lowlies‘ who labor and sweat and glory in the greatest of them all! Darkseid! Who will allow belief in nothing but himself!!” And, we will learn, Armagetto is prophesied to be the staging for the final showdown between Darkseid and Orion

A few specific structures are also featured:

• The aforementioned orphanage (and warrior school), “Happiness Home,” where young Scott Free is raised, and where “the inhuman condition is mother, father and guiding light” to its residents

• Section Zero, a “house of horrors” devoted to The Lump and prison of the “mystery prisoner,” Orion’s mother Tigra)

• Barracks of Female Fury Battalion Special Powers Force, where trained Big Barda and her Female Furies

Much of society is devoted to the training of warriors for Darkseid’s perpetual conflict, and while military service appears to be one of the few places of advancement, Himon tells Scott the reality of life as a soldier: “You’re a nothing! You’re an object! Your body is a weapon! — And your mind is its trigger! You’re given a world of conflict to test and
improve your ability to kill! And you kill! — For Darkseid! — It’s the driving purpose of Apokolips!!

Malevolent Granny Goodness on a life in the army: “You’ll become a rat! Then a wolf! And who can tell? — You may get to be one of Granny’s fine young tigers! Won’t that be a glorious day!! All praise to Darkseid!!

The skies of Apokolips are patrolled by Darkseid’s Para-Demons, devilish airborne creatures ever vigilant for interlopers from their sister world, and the surface is defended by Apokolips’s Dog Cavalary, demonically giant hellhounds ridden by the Master of the Holocaust’s well-armed elite soldier corps.

While New Genesis is generally populated by celestial beings, such as Orion, Lightray and The Forever People, Apokolips has a mixed bag of citizens: “The new gods are power beings — But on Apokolips their power is maintained by lesser entities! And from these emerge interesting personalities!!”

Included in the Apokoliptian “rogues gallery,” many of whom are now stationed on planet Earth:

Mokkari, Simyan, Kalibak, Mantis, Doctor Bedlam, Desaad, Granny Goodness, Glorious Godfrey, Virman Vundabar, The Female Furies (Mad Harriet, Stompa, Lashina, Bernadeth and Gilotina), Kanto, Hoogin, Steppenwolf, The Deep Six (Slig, Jaffar, Gole, Shaligo, Trok and Pyron), Wonderful Willik…

Indeed, Apokolips is, as advertised, “A world without mercy! A jungle of the super-strong!! The creation of evil gods whose code is shape up — or die!!!” And, in the end, it is an entire planet completely devoted to the whims of one being: “The grim and dismal world of Darkseid! — Where life is subservient to conflict and death!!”

And what is Darkseid’s will today? “My elite and I bring Apokolips to Earth…” to search for the Anti-Life Equation, presently residing in the unsuspecting brain of an Earthling or two…

Day 53: New Genesis!

Home world of Orion, The Forever People, Lightray, Highfather, and many other new gods, as well as the birthplace of Scott Free, a.k.a. Mister Miracle, New Genesis counts Truth, Love and Freedom as allies in their great war against sinister Apokolips. The singular municipality, a satellite city the young people call “Supertown” (described by — who else? — Superman as, “It’s Incredible! Beautiful! Majestic! Supertown is truly a place for super-beings!!”), floats above the Eden-like planet, a lush, pristine globe of natural splendor.

“No more glorious sight has ever greeted any eyes than that of New Genesis, home of the New Gods,” trumpets The New Gods #1, “A golden island of gleaming spires that orbits a sunlit, unspoiled world of green forests, white mountains, and bright waters…”

NG #2 proclaims: “New Genesis is a world caught up in the joyful strains of life!! There are no structures on its green surface — except those which serve the cause of well-being… Destiny’s road is charted in the city, massive yet graceful — gleaming on its great platform — a skyborne satellite drawn in endless silence by its hidden mechanisms!”

In the beginning of the saga, we do see New Genesis as the perfect home, a place of love and friendship. When the young gods called The Forever People bid a young Earthling adieu, Beautiful Dreamer says, “Good-bye, Donnie! We leave you what cannot die — Love! Friendship!” And her comrade Serifan adds, “It is so in New Genesis! It can be Here!

Highfather rules New Genesis with a benevolent hand and he regularly seeks the advice of The Council of the Young. (Supertown was indeed a very hip ’n’ happening place, man!) At one point distressed about The Forever People, Highfather proclaims, “Darkseid raises his children to destroy and die!! You know that it’s our duty to provide the alternative!!

In these, the early days of the Super-War, idyllic New Genesis is still physically untouched by the conflict. But only a little while prior, Apokolips attempted a preemptive attack. In The Young Gods of Supertown segment, “Raid From Apokolips,” denizens of Darkseid attempt to use a Thermo-Bolt Machine to take down the orbital city of Supertown, only to be thwarted by Big Bear. The vignette has an ominous epilogue:

“Of course, this incident occurred in the days before Darkseid openly broke the peace and chose Earth as the battlefield!! But, even then, the energy flame-pits burned brighter on the sinister world of Apokolips — as its dark shadow began to crawl across the sun-dappled green of New Genesis!

But to call, as I have in these entries, New Genesis a “virgin” planet is wrong, for the world of gods as we know it reemerged from a terrible, cataclysmic conflict called “The Great Clash,” which started when a ruler of Apokolips, Steppenwolf and young Darkseid, his “obscure and humble” nephew (and son of ruler Queen Heggra), partake in a hunting party on New Genesis. There is an incident (planned by the future Master of the Holocaust) when Steppenwolf kills the wife of New Genesis leader Izaya the Inheritor and the poachers leave Izaya for dead. But (as was Darkseid’s intent) the Inheritor lives and commands his forces to wreck horrific vengeance on Apokolips with massive bombing forays.

A precursor to the Boom Tube, the “Matter Threshold” materializes Apokoliptian death machines (called Dragon-Tanks) onto the surface of New Genesis and repeated raids are made on Izaya’s home world. The Inheritor kills Steppenwolf, both still unaware of Darkseid’s orchestrations, and with the death of Steppenwolf, the son of Heggra has escalated the confrontation into a “Techno-Cosmic War”!

“Techno-Cosmic War produces techno-cosmic machines!! — Machines that draw the debris of space and send it crashing down upon New Genesis!!… Giant biological mutations are bred in Apokolips’ laboratories! — Turned loose to pillage and kill!! New Genesis fights back with equal innovation!!! Wherever the giants tread, the ground beneath their feet cracks wide from seismic shock and swallows them in its deep recesses!!! But the war grows ever larger!! It reaches across the universe and mammoth suns are transformed into cosmic-lasers — designed to cut New Genesis into blazing, lifeless shards!!

Larger! Larger grows the war! Larger grow the ‘God-Machines’!! An impacter, the size of a planet, is sent crashing into an enemy-captured sun!! And inside Izaya of New Genesis, something dies with each such deed!! Where will this end? How can he destroy the cosmos — and yet save New Genesis!?

“‘We are worse than the old gods!’” laments Izaya. “‘They destroyed themselves!! We destroy everything!! This is Darkseid’s way! I am infected by Darkseid!! To save New Genesis — I must find Izaya!!’”

And thus the Inheritor searches for his own identity, not that of a warrior but something… more. He wanders the “ugly landscape, empty of all that was once New Genesis!! It’s soft, green forested lands are gone!!” The former paradise is desolated, smoldering weapons of war replacing the vegetation. “A wasteland!!” grumbles Izaya, “Seared and cracked and gaping with endless pits — in which bacterial monsters fester and play!!!” And amongst such devastation Izaya finds his inheritance, The Source, and the warrior lays down his war-staff and becomes The Highfather, a lover of peace and virtue.

New Genesis, even today, is not quite as serene as initially imagined. Beneath the surface, strange beings — monsters — evolved from germ warfare used in the “Great Clash,” and then there’s the plague of “micro-life” used to infest the planet. In other words, there’s the matter of the “Bugs” and their nests under the ground of the super-world… but we’ll get to those “destructants” eventually, chums.

Let’s leave you with this homily about the “good-guy” planet: “To serve a friend is certainly to serve New Genesis!!

Day 49: The Birth of the New Gods!

Their world torn apart in an orgy of self-destruction, the old celestials pass onto Valhalla and make way for the new eternals, as the globe’s violent rendering form two spinning, molten spheres, worlds that will cool to become planets named New Genesis and Apokolips, one a Eden-like paradise, the other consumed with fire and brimstone.

And so Jack Kirby sets the good-and-evil duality of his saga, as these worlds are the respective homes of Darkseid and Highfather, worlds about to be engulfed in a Super-War.

These planets are the homes of the New Gods, and they are the stage where we will learn of the many fascinating and engrossing characters that will be cast in the Fourth World epic. We will meet Orion, son of Darkseid and hero supreme of New Genesis; Scott Free, the soon-to-be Mister Miracle; Kalibak the Cruel, Orion’s half-brother; Metron; Himon; Desaad; the Female Furies; Esak; Granny Goodness; Fastbak; Steppenwolf… Oh, you get the idea! We are in for a fantastic journey, a multi-layered saga of Shakespearean proportions, chock full of Dickensian touches, Faustian lessons and Faulkneresque family drama.

We, my friends, are about to go cosmic…

Day 48: The Death of the Old Gods!

Who but Jack Kirby would begin the masterwork of his life with an epilogue, and one that (metaphorically, at least) eliminates his prior legendary characters in a conflagration of death and inferno, closing the book on the myths he created for a certain House of Ideas. Look closely at the hammer-wielding warrior about halfway down and to the left on this page-one splash page of his New Gods #1 and you tell me that doesn’t resemble a God of Thunder. (You want more evidence? Check out the artifacts Lonar discovers, particularly the winged-helmet, in “The Young Gods of Supertown” back-up vignette in The Forever People #5, when he chances upon a city of the old gods.)

Yes, here we finally witness the End of It All: Ragnarok! Warring gods battling for pride and possession and resulting only in their mutual destruction! “An ancient era was passing in fiery holocaust!”

(Allow me a quick aside regarding Jack’s frequent use of the word “holocaust”: It needs to be understood that the term, as we know it today, pretty much singularly refers to Germany’s war against the Jews (and other folk despised by the Nazis). The U.S. Holocaust Museum, for instance, is devoted to the genocidal events on the 1930s and ’40s in Europe. Though frequently a term used to describe the attempted extermination, the connection between the word and the event wasn’t etched in stone until, of all things, the broadcast of a U.S. television mini-series, Holocaust, in 1978. (The American Heritage Dictionary defines the word as “Great or total destruction by fire.”) So please note, the former Jacob Kurtzberg, acutely aware of the Nazi atrocities against his people, the Shoah — as you will see in the allegories to follow — was not using the term lightly.)

Besides the ruins of an old city chanced upon by Lonar and The Source, all that survives the great destruction are the “living atoms of Balduur” and the evil “which was once a sorceress” (Karnilla, Balder’s lover in The Mighty Thor?), which respectively settle upon the two worlds of New Genesis and Apokolips, planets sprung from the split sphere of the dead celestials.

As in the real world, life follows death and the eternal cycle begins again, and so it is from the ashes of the Old Gods rise the New.

Day 40: Supertown!

What else does one call the residence of the gods of Highfather’s world, domicile of those fantastically-powered humanoids who go about their daily routine doing fantastical things? Word is that Jack originally intended to call the megalopolis floating high above the pristine and virginal planet, Supercity, but the New York office nixed it for the more humble appellation. And that works better, I think, bestowing it a more ironic, playful name that also gives it a more homey, welcome designation, where friends and family reside.

Supertown is the wildly futuristic capital of New Genesis, homestead of the New Gods (the good ones, anyway), including The Forever People. And its discovery by Superman, using his microscopic vision to deeply “enhance” Bobby’s photo of a fading Boom Tube (now that’s some high-definition camera!), gives the Man of Steel pause to consider there just might be a sanctuary of equals for him to feel at home.

Supes sees evidence of a towering golden metropolis and, having just pondered his intense loneliness as a minority of one on earth, he yearns to find out if it really exists. The marvelous conurbation, he will later learn while visiting in a forthcoming issue of Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen, is very real indeed, graced with massive memorial statues of departed gods (commemorating the fallen of the first New Genesis-Apokolips war), sprawling council halls, magnificent fountains, rich and fragrant gardens, and spires that reach for the heavens.

Perhaps Supertown represents young Jacob Kurtzberg’s view of the midtown Manhattan of the 1920s and ’30s, Gershwin’s sparkling, glowing urban center, with the majestic, newly constructed Rockefeller Center (with its massive, gloriously gold statute of a Titan), the grandiose heights of the just-built Empire State Building, the Great White Way’s promise of love and riches and happy endings, and the “young gods” toiling in the resplendent edifices rising from littered avenues to better their lives and improve the world in spite of the Great Depression crushing down on the nation.

As the Fourth World unfolds, we’ll be spending more time in the awe-inspiring principality of Izaya the Inheritor, but it’s fun to note our first viewing is a mere glimpse from a microdot in a photograph, a tease and promise of a place where dreams and miracles are made real.

Day 24: The Project!

A vast American underground preserve, hidden in a mammoth cave under the foundations of Metropolis, The Project is an enormous Federal scientific complex devoted to DNA research and experimentation. Jack tells us it’s “a new and far reaching experiment which could change humanity as we know it!” Comparing it to the Manhattan Project, Superman tells Jimmy and the boys, “Even as the A-bomb began a new era for man — this project may begin a new history!”

Supes is a big supporter of the program, which grows its own clones to staff the huge facility (some for secretarial tasks, others for military duty), so much a booster he donated the first cells to be grown into duplicate beings! (What happened to that backstory!)

While it appears Jack, pretty much confirmed as a Kennedy liberal Democrat and no Nixon fan, had a generally optimistic view of a government devoted to the betterment of its peoples (think moonshots, not Vietnam), ya gotta wonder, if the saga had kept going, whether the dark side of The Project itself would have eventually come to fore. Perhaps we get a glimpse when Jimmy says to the Man of Steel, “Do you realize what weird, and perhaps dangerous, channels are being probed here?”

When Supes gushes to his pal, “The Secret of Life, long hidden in the DNA molecule, has been extracted and is now being used for mankind’s benefit” by The Project, and you see evidence of unethical cloning of unsuspecting donors, and the possible use of clones as slave labor, you just gotta ask the big guy, “For whose benefit?”

At least The Evil Factory is upfront with its intentions!

Anyway, the place is rife with story possibilities and we’ll meet a bunch of groovy inhabitants in the entries to come…

Day 22: The Evil Factory!

Things start to get truly foreboding with our first wide-angle look at the Apokoliptian “rival Project” called The Evil Factory, run by the sinister odd couple, Mokkari and Simyan. Allusions of the Auschwitz-Birkenau laboratory of Josef Mengeles, the Nazi doctor called “Todesengel” — The Angel of Death — who conducted horrific genetic experiments on concentration camp inmates at the notorious Nazi extermination camp.

Jack had no illusions about the potential dark side of DNA research — humans to be cloned and used as slaves — and as The Fourth World is essentially an allegory of the duality of mankind, it is only fitting that The King gives us a glimpse at the chamber of horrors built to suit Darkseid… a rancid comparison to the noble and life-enhancing organization called “The Project.”

Day 12: The Zoomway!

What’s freedom all about if it’s not about hittin’ the road? Jack could definitely dig the American obsession with motoring, and nowhere is car and road more beloved than that land of the Little Deuce Coupe, the Golden State! And who could convey that better than the King of the road! (groan!)

The Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways — y’know, the I-95s, etc., that crisscross this great nation which came to fruition by the 1950s (under the administration of President Ike) — changed the American way of life, and none more so than in California. Suddenly folks could drive virtually anywhere on a U.S. infrastructure that was the envy of the world. (Ahh, those were the days!) And, like I keep hammering away at here, Left Coasters lived in their automobiles — being conceived, spending vacations, going to school, driving to work, conceiving, driving-in the movies, eating at the drive-throughs, drinking, and, well, dying in increasing numbers… you get the gist.

So it was natural for Kirby’s Kalifornia — that’s what I call the Wild Area (and certain portions of Apokolips — yuk-yuk!) — to be linked by the incredible Zoomway — a combination of SUPER-superhighway, roller coaster ride, and Deathrace 2000 — which traverses underground tunnels and waterways, in varying degrees of condition, weaving in and out of The Wild Area, Habitat, and into ominous zone called The Project. The Outsiders, led by their new leader, Jimmy Olsen, are out to find the thunderous, mysterious “Mountain of Judgment” that’s shaking the very foundation of Habitat!

Watch out, Whiz Wagoneers: The Big Jump is ahead!

Day 11: Habitat!

By 1970, the environment was becoming a huge concern to average Americans (note that the first “Earth Day” was marked in that year) and there was a “Back To Nature” movement taking place within the counter-culture, with young people gathering into communes, living self-sustaining lives.

Jack tapped into these issues and, I suspect, might have visited a Giant Redwood forest (having moved recently to the Left Coast), and his feverish imagination went into overdrive.

Of course, Habitat is a section of the Wild Area, adopted home to the “dropout society” called The Outsiders… But just who built the wooden city… and for what purpose? And what about these rumors of a monstrous “Mountain of Judgment”?

After Supes recovers from being zapped with a Kryptonite Paralyzer Rod and wakes up in Habitat, we learn that Jimmy’s assignment is to find answers to the aforementioned questions.