Category Archives: Supporting Characters

Day 60: Darkseid’s Minions!

At the risk of repeating a Himon quote I’ve already used in this blog, I can’t resist the succinct and graphic definition of service on Planet Darkseid by that “lovable old rascal who taught Scott Free his trade”:

“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!!

As apt a description as any for the inhabitants of the holocaust world, especially so for the soldiers and specialists who serve as minions for the supreme ruler and his elites, those just above the slave labor “lowlies” and below the officers and “aristocracy” in the rigid caste system of Apokolips. Allow yours truly to delineate some specific groups of different corps:

Gravi-Guards: Possibly the subterranean contingent of Darkseid’s shock troops are some of the earliest Earth invaders. These magenta-colored, oversize creatures are endowed with the power to “transmit gravity waves from heavy mass galaxies,” and are able to apply crushing weight to even the mighty Superman.

Darkseid’s personal guards are audacious enough to abuse even the Tiger-Force’s elites, as a couple manhandle and berate Mantis.

Unnamed uniformed “Underlings” who attack Orion en masse when he first arrives on Apokolips during the opening volleys of the Super-War. Apparently without superior officers, they seize the initiative and rush the new god: “We have sufficient numbers to do away with you, great Orion!” Another exclaims, “We are nurtured in war — and savage in battle!” And yet another: “Come! We shall swarm over you like a roaring flood!

(I suspect the aforementioned unidentified platoon is related to an earlier encounter with Orion, when as a boy he is forced into the dimension chamber after flattening a good number of the soldiers in resistance.)

Glorious Godfrey’s Justifiers: While certainly a good number of the zealots are earth-born, others seem to be Apokolips natives, as one exclaims, “Anti-Life works! We’re justified in ridding the city of this human trash!” Godfrey’s immediate lieutenants look like Madison Avenue types, well-coiffed and one bespectacled; whether they are of Darkseid’s world is debatable.

Inter-Gang goons: While some seem to speak in an American vernacular (two of ’em tell Thaddeus Brown, the original Mister Miracle, “Yeah! We think you smell, too!” and “Your gimmicks are rusty! They drag, man!”), 1970s’ slang is not unknown on Apokolips, as indicated by the seductive talk of Section Zero’s guard post sentry who woos a Female Fury: “It’s your hands I dig, Gilotina!” I tend to think the ones appearing in trademark Kirby uniforms typically as recruits from Apokolips, though they can also be of mixed origin. These thugs include:

Steel Hand’s henchmen, one a sniper who assassinates the Great Thaddeus

Pilot/gunmen of the Inter-Gang helicopter who fire at Superman with a Sigma-Gun (though the gunner does sound like an Earthling with his Dracula banter)

Ugly Mannheim’s shock gun-wielding Assault Troops, who attack and kidnap Jimmy Olsen, the Guardian and Goody Rickels

Back to the Apokoliptian hordes, Steppenwolf’s Demon Raiders appear in the hunting party sequence where Izaya’s wife is murdered (and likely a designation that becomes become Darkseid’s Raiders later in the saga). Certainly, the Para-Demons, both present and pre-Great Clash, qualify for minion status but are unique enough, methinks, along with the Dog Calvary [coming tomorrow!], to warrant their own entry.

We also have the “Soldier Boys” of Granny Goodness (a.k.a. Granny’s Raiders), with their bug-like, pointed helmets, doubtless trained in her notorious “Finishing School.” They appear on Earth during the Overlord sequence, spouting their affection for the old battle-ax: “She’ll sing our praises and give us gifts! I can’t wait to get back!” (And the schoolmistress returns the love — “My soldier boys never fail their Granny! My solider boys are the best!” even given her tendency to open a can of whoop-ass on the grunts.)

Back on Apokolips, one of Granny’s military escorts is abused into submission by Big Barda upon her return to the barracks of the Female Fury Battalion.

Virman Vundabar’s troops appear similar in appearance to Goodness’s crew and might be from the same company/division. In their Earthly encounter with Barda bathing in a stream, we even catch a glimpse of a couple of fancily-clad superior officers, who order her to be shocked by an Energy Disperser. Vundabar’s subordinate Klepp gives us another look at an upper-level officer of Apokolips.

The Harrassers of Night-Time are “brutal, relentless, and efficient” in beating obedience into the young and fearful new recruits to Granny’s Happiness Home. We learn that Hoogin, the presiding Harrasser, had been demoted when Scott Free first escaped Apokolips.

Additionally:

• There’s also Doctor Bedlam’s chrome-skinned Animates, servitors of the evil possessor of the Mind-Force

Border Guards, one an “arrogant dog” who dares to fire upon Big Barda of the Special Powers Force

Kanto the Assassin’s Jet-Bow Squad, executioners attempting to pierce Mister Miracle on his return to the nightmare world

Aero-Cycle Patrol, guardians riding levitating speedsters in the neighborhood of Longshadow

Section Zero guards, including those escorting combatants of The Lump and “Non Being” prisoner guards, who openly berate the captive wife of Darkseid, Tigra, the disfavored mother of Orion

Wonderful Willik and his District Protectors, a troop which brazenly massacres Lowlies in ruthless pursuit of Himon, the man “hounded by an army of Darkseid’s murderers — He’s the only free mind on Apokolips!”

Though it’s definitely fear that keeps the subordinates of Apokolips in line, it is worth noting that in a “Young Scott Free” sequence we see the cadets dining mess and ascertain the food they eat, their “Energy Blocks,” are “saturated with ‘Brain Drain‘ chemical,” as phantom Metron informs the future Mister Miracle.

The bottom-most caste in Darkseid’s cruel, merciless society? They are the Lowlies and, in the climax of this epic adventure, we will call them the Hunger Dogs…

Day 59: Para-Demons!

Darkseid’s Para-Demons are the sentries of Apokolips, patrolling the skies over the sinister planet to secure the air from intrusion by the gods of New Genesis. As a “Young Scott Free” vignette tells us, “Bred by Darkseid to destroy all intruders in the dark spaces above Apokolips, nothing equals the para-demon for ferocity and speed!!”

There seem to be a few different varieties of the airborne sentinels, some with four-fingered hands, some five-fingers; others with three toes, a type with four digits on their feet. All are appropriately demonic in appearance, though certains ones decidedly better looking than their brethren.

Their use pre-dates the “Great Clash,” as an Apokoliptian defender screams in the opening attack by New Genesis on Darkseid’s home world of that conflict : “War! War! Apokolips is under attack!! The enemy has broken through our para-demon air defense!!”

We can see they are relatively humanoid, but are they human? We’re not privvy to their origins but their services will no longer be needed by the time of The Hunger Dogs, being replaced with high-tech planetary shielding, as Lightray will learn.

But, in their prime, para-demons were used in mock battle exercises to help train Darkseid’s military cadets, as Scott Free, during his days in the Granny Goodness warrior academy, thwarts para-demon defenses during war games: “In a world of destructive extremes, young Scott Free, training as an aero-trooper in Darkseid’s forces, learns the extent of his skill — against para-demons!!

Armed with mechanized clubs, the para-demons boast, “Batter poles up!! Pick your man — and fly in swinging!! Go, demons!!” But, though “the sky is filled with darting, savage forms,” the future Mister Miracle eludes punishment and, in “a primitive first attempt at the ‘escape art,’ strikes out a raging, murderous sentry.

Para-demons are used in one of Darkseid’s innumerable attempts to kill Himon, as Mister Miracle’s mentor is “dropped by para-demons from the sky.” Needless to add, that and other attempts are unsuccessful… for a time.

The hellish creatures seem not to possess wings in a traditional sense, but small, wing-like protrusions from their backs (possibly containing some anti-gravitational element?). Though they valiantly try, para-demons are unsuccessful in stopping Scott Free from breaking the pact by escaping to New Genesis.

Day 39: Rocky the Champ!

Yikes, it’s been a little over a week covering the characters, concepts and contraptions of The Forever People #1 and we’ve hardly alluded to the actual plot of the comic book. Allow me to play catch-up for those anxiously awaiting an opening synopsis:

The four male members of The Forever People arrive on Earth via Boom Tube aboard their Super-Cycle, in search of the fifth member, Beautiful Dreamer, who has been kidnapped from Supertown by Darkseid’s minions.

A young motoring couple, Bobby and Laurie, swerve to avoid the team, crash through a guard rail and off a cliff, only to be saved by the miraculous technology of Vykin the Black’s Mother Box. Reassured by the New Genesis kids of their peaceful mission, Bobby grabs his camera and takes a picture of The Forever People. Bobby notices an eerie light in the distance, which Vykin identifies as an oncoming Boom Tube, and he and Laurie, sensing a scoop, rush off to investigate, the latter mentioning that their pal “Jimmy Olsen will eat this up!”

Suddenly Serifan, making telepathic contact with Beautiful Dreamer, collapses in an open-eyed coma, as the unwitting crew is in the gunsights of Inter-Gang agents. The henchmen connect with Darkseid, who orders them to follow — and not kill — the kids.

Meanwhile, back in Metropolis, Clark Kent (alter-ego of Superman) is interviewing Rocky the Champ, a stereotypical boxer, one who laments he can never be the best “with Superman in the picture…” and, while we never again see the pugilist in the series, he serves as an important catalyst for the Man of Steel to ruminate about the loneliness being a super human in a non-super world.

Day 30: The Golden Guardian!

Talk about an in-your-face ending to this ish! Here, comin’ rightacha, is the return of one of Jack and Joe Simon’s great 1940s super-hero creations (the last costumed hero the pair initiated for DC during the WWII era), The Guardian! Originated as a guardian angel of a group of paperboys, in 1942′s Star Spangled Comics, the adventurer is actually Suicide Slum beat cop Jim Harper, who apparently can justify his nightime vigilantism. The group headlined SSC until their disappearance after the war.

To be frank, The Guardian was a bald-faced swipe of S&K’s greatest creation, Captain America, right down to the shield (though the DC character’s accessory was in the shape of a police badge), only without the “Old Glory” color scheme and Harper didn’t have just one kid sidekick — the rookie-by-day had four: Scrappy, Gabby, Tommy and Big Words!

Admittedly, The Guardian, with his great cyan-&-gold ensemble (was the helmet gold-leafed?), served as permanent guest-star within the breathless exploits headlined by The Newsboy Legion, but the audacity of S&K of virtually transplanting Timely’s “Sentinel of Liberty” and making a home for him at their new publisher, The House of Superman, was exhilarating and apropos of the creative team’s tenacity and chutzpah. (The duo suspected they were being cheated out of royalties by Timely publisher — hence their move — and they only produced ten issues of Captain America Comics… but, boy oh boy, what star-making issues they were!). Here was a S&K action hero smashing, punching, flying, exploding from the page… Yowza!

I’ll confess, too, that though I had zero prior knowledge of the character, upon first seeing this very same final page of Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #135, The Guardian instantly became one of my favorite super-heroes (a very short list). Why he’s never caught on in the “DC Universe” to much of a degree is a shame; maybe because he’s a Cap rip-off? But that’s one of the main reasons I dig the hero — it’s S&K stealing from… S&K!!!

But, wait, this isn’t the original Guardian. This one has been grown from the dead cop’s DNA in The Project from a test tube by Harper’s former wards. And, there is something even more different about Guardian 2.0… The clone complains of feeling out-of-sorts… Doc Big Words worries that the resurrected Harper has “some strange unidentifiable activity in the brain area,” and later agrees that though, “He’s physically perfect and well-adjusted mentally! But in his brain is something common to all of the living products of our genetic labs! Something still elusive!”

Alas, Jack never expanded on these tantalizing hints of storylines to come, and while the hero only guest-starred in a small handful of JO stories during the Kirby run, The Guardian of Metropolis was a joy to behold!

Coming Soon: After tomorrow’s JO #135 round-up, we finally advance to the second title in Jack’s Fourth World opus, The Forever People, so grab your Mother Boxes, buckos, cuz the Super-War heats up Big Time! (Remember, we’re dissecting the 4W chronologically, looking at each issue in the order they were published.)

Day 26: Jimmy Olsen XLIII!

Wouldn’t you think, coming face-to-face with a clone of yourself, grown from cells taken from unsuspecting you during a routine workplace medical check-up, wouldn’t you be the tinsiest bit concerned that your D.N.A., the essence that is you had been stolen and there were hundreds of your duplicates being used by the government in place of “authentic” humans?

Apparently not our intrepid Daily Planet reporter, James Bartholomew Olsen, who greets a double — designated Jimmy O. 43 — with no more than a startled gasp, while he takes a tour of The Project hosted by his pal, the Man of Steel (who knew the cell tissue of Jimmy, the Newsboy Legion, and even his impervious self was being nipped). Consider the ethical implications! Would this lead to a Blade Runner-like future?

After encountering No. 43, Jimmy is led by Supes into a laboratory where, the red-headed journalist looks through a “magno-microscope” to see a bunch of tiny underwear clad mini-Jimmys, as small as dust motes, unconscious. Our super-hero tells the kid, “Yes, they’re real, Jimmy! They’re you! – and they are in shock! Some outside agency has rifled our replica section!”

(Interesting how Superman uses the plural possessive for The Project. Hard to say he isn’t a staunch ally of this questionable government endeavor, huh? And also, the accelerated growth process isn’t even hinted at — the cloning procedure seems to develop the replicants fully-formed… never mind being grown with clothes on!)

Day 25: Legionnaires At Ease!

A marvelous moment, calm and joyfilled, as the two Newsboy Legions, the old and new, greet one another with affection and delight. Even Flippa-Dippa’s father (this, as is obvious, is a meeting of fathers and sons) is there, who was not a member of the original Suicide Slum gang, but apparently pals around with the guys.

We soon learn that the fathers have been at work at The Project, on their own secret enterprise, one that involves an old ally of the grown-up Legion. We’re also informed about the adult occupations of the men in this issue:

Gabby, Sr., is now a teacher; “Big Words,” Sr. (still no first name given) is appropriately a geneticist; Scrapper, Sr., is now, natch, a social worker; and Tommy, Sr., is currently a medical doctor. Flippa’s dad? Not so sure…

Linking the Golden Age kid gang to the present was a splendid touch in not only adding some continuity and relevance to the concept, but it also gave readers a sense of Jack’s own history as a comic book creator through the decades. Always a forward-looking guy, it’s remarkable the artist/writer resurrected characters of a bygone era, so it reveals an affection he held for the boys and their erstwhile protector (whom we will soon learn much more about, Kirby fans!).

Enjoy the friendly moment, fathers and sons, ‘cuz things are about to heat up!

Day 20: The Mini-Clones!

The splash page of Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #135, takes us, full bore, right into the Apokoliptian plot to sabotage The Project, Supes, Jimmy and the gang. No more shadowy background plotting; now we start to see details of The Evil Factory, Mokkari, Simyan, the Superman-hating giant… and the Superman, J.O. and Newsboy Legion mini-clones.

The implications of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) research by 1970 were obvious (and likely reality today): Human beings could be cloned, making exact duplicates from cells extracted from a person. In a future entry, I’ll discuss Jack’s fascination with DNA and the cultural history of the double-helix discovery in 1953, but for now lemme just note the amazing little replicas of our heroes, creations of Darkseid’s Evil Factory.

Itsy-bitsy doubles, en masse — all dressed in their trademarked costumes, no less! — “alive and spirited,” have been grown in the “rival project” run by agents of Apokolips, Mokkari and Simyan, who stole the originals’ cells from The Project. While we will see the legendary Scrapper Troopers in the series to come, Jack never delved into the implications of an army of miniature Men of Steel, for instance… an example of his throwing new concepts at us at such a fantastical pace that he himself often didn’t stop to contemplate the myriad story possibilities. (Though, as we always need to be reminded, the Fourth World was aborted quite early in its intended run, so it is very likely Jack had ideas for future stories using what seems now to be throwaway concepts and characters… He does have Mokkari say the critters will be sedated “Until a mission is devised for them!”)

I just love this splash page (and hate the false cover — not the art; Neal Adams did great stuff on the 4W covers! — but given the incident doesn’t take place in the ish… well, it’s a cheat, innit?).

Jack’s pacing from issue to issue is perfectly expert and after last ish’s pulse-pounding race, a leisurely stroll through the Evil Factory is just the right change of tone.

Day 18: The Hairies!

Are The Hairies, the super-secret young scientific community on wheels, Jack’s take of the hopes he instilled on the iconoclastic and questioning-of-authority hippy culture of the day? Whoever they are, whatever they represent, the roving clan of twenty-something geniuses are a remarkable inclusion into the emerging Fourth World mythos… though I’m not totally convinced Jack himself knew what they were all about.

The longhairs drive around the Zoomway, avoiding enemies and scaring Wild Area residents in the monster-like “king-size mobile home,” the Mountain of Judgment, and they use their super-intellects and abilities to develop new devices and concoctions to advance the human race.

In his essay, “The Hairies — Super-Race — Or Man’s Second Chance,” in JO #135 (which I’m including, in its entirety, below), Jack says the Hairies are “literally what I call them — DNAliens!”

But isn’t Dubbilex — or his Apokoliptian counterpart, the Four-Armed Terror — aren’t they DNAliens? Hairies are “Step-Ups,” Jack’s designation for the next evolution of man, correct?

And, if as Jack’s essay indicates, they are compassionate, giving, connected people, who “fear nothing, hate nothing, worship nothing but their own compatibility with the rest of Creation,” why the heck are they working with a U.S. government complex that’s monkeying with the very essence of life itself, doubtless for the benefit of one nation over all? Isn’t that a huge contradiction?

I quibble. The Hairies represent hope dawning for the King, optimism under a persistent threat of nuclear Armageddon. That’s enough for me!

The Hairies — Super-Race —
Or Man’s Second Chance

by Jack Kirby

I don’t believe that I shall ever get to see a Hairie. Perhaps, that’s as it should be. Perhaps, all that’s owed to a man is hope dawning instead of dreams fulfilled. Somehow, I feel that the question with its ramifications is more exciting than the answer wrapped in organized, practical, well-defined reality.

In the “Now,” in the shadow of the atomic silo, when Apokolips and New Genesis race neck and neck for the fate of man, the Hairies are being born. Of course, at this stage they merely represent what stability and rationale still drive us to survive despite the widening seams and traumatic shocks that have rattled the underpinings of the Twentieth Century.

I choose this strange hope and fashion what reality I can give it from the code of life itself. I call it File 202 — “The Breaking of the Genetic Code”! In short, the Hairies are literally what I call them — “DNAliens!”

They are born differently, raised differently and mature with their own imaginative views and directions. They don’t accept the accepted. They are their own experience, and follow it where it leads them. Their minds are fresh and new, clean slates unmarked by rigid, hardening, conflicting indoctrinations. They cannot be pigeonholed, labeled in the context of all that has gone before.

Thus, they fear nothing, hate nothing, worship nothing but their own compatibility with the rest of Creation. That is their challenge — to find a way of living with what is around them without the mindless, merciless prerogative of inflicting destruction.

Of course, this makes the Hairies perfect targets for all of us! We’ve got to kill them! Wipe them out! They are not like us. We are pridictable, they are not. We recognize our enemies, they do not. We will kill to protect ourselves, while the Hairies find other effective ways.

The Hairies do not view the mysteries and wonders about them as we do. What we conquer, we impose our will upon and violate it for our own needs. Our behavior generates the problems that arise to confront us with equal menace.

The Hairies operate with foresight and viability with a pattern without rules or dogma. They wing it with a zest to live and learn and make existence an art form instead of a mad, grim march towards death. They exert no pressures on their fellows. They strive to give each other what they can — and that can be quite a bit, in view of the fact that each Hairie considers the other a most valuable and miraculous organism.

Are the Hairies nutty, naive, little idealists? Don’t they know that even we, who are spawned, are too carnivorous to stake our lives on a world filled with other men?

Well, that’s something we don’t know! We’ve lived with ideals, but when has man, as a species, disseminated idealism without destruction? When has man tried idealism as a viable, constructive pattern of living? When has “Get yours — and the devil take the hindmost” not been the universal state of things? On a world scale, man does not believe that idealism will work, and thus each division practices its own brand — struggling with it, exporting it and killing for it to protect its individual continuity.

The Hairies, by their own nature, do not accept this. They merely live in harmony with whatever and whoever they contact. Idealism is part of their make-up and they react to its shortcomings with intelligence and sobriety. They do not panic. They do not fear death. They expect the unexpected and are ready for it when it comes upon them.

To sum it all up, the Hairies are in trouble! The world of man mistrusts and fears those who live by patterns considered foolish and unworkable and clear of conflict. It isn’t natural! It has no strength, no obvious invincibility! The Hairies are weak, treacherous, unpredictable, little bleeding hearts! Someone had better take them in tow and stop them before they become a menace! After all, they’re not like us. Why take a chance onletting them grow larger, expand to the point of colliding with our power? Get them now! Kill the Hairies and kill our fear. It would be easy to do — now!

I felt great, writing that! It made me feel that all’s right with the world, that my place in it was secure. It made me feel like a man!!!

(I assume the above is ©1970 National Periodical Publications. Boldface emphasis on Jack’s original. This appears, of course, for research purposes only and is not intended as copyright infringement. — JBC)

Day 16: Jude!

The duly elected captain of the Mountain of Judgment is Jude, looking every bit like a grown-up, twenty-something Kamandi (the Last Boy on Earth) or the moody, angelic Angel from Boys’ Ranch (or, for that matter, a younger version of Thor or Captain Victory!). The blond hippy is part of a new, mobile scientific society known as the Hairies, who constantly ride the Zoomway (“…to avoid our unseen enemies”) in the giant green vehicle, creating splendid new devices to aid mankind.

It’s interesting to speculate (for me, anyway!), why Jack chose the name Jude. Given the high esteem he held for The Hairies (as we’ll see in the entry to come) regarding their idealism and respect for life, ya gotta wonder if the name choice comes from St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes in the Catholic Church. Yet, as I don’t reckon Jack got too New Testament on us with any frequency, perhaps it’s more likely he snagged the name from The Beatles song that had been #1 on the Hit Parade a few years prior, longer than any other single up to its time, the ever-popular “Hey Jude.” Enough digression… suffice to say it is a cool name that connotes peace and serenity… Now, back to our tale:

Superman saves the Whiz Wagon from being crushed by the Mountain of Judgment but man and super-car are sucked into the giant maw of the Hairie bus. Out burst the mysterious clan who know of Morgan Edge’s REAL reason for supplying the Newsboy Legion with the sleek, silver-coated ride…

Day 14: Flippa-Dippa!

Okay, okay, this is way off the chronology as far as first-appearances here, but this scrawny kid is full of pugnacious courage and off-the-wall craziness, all in his perennial scuba gear, I gotta single him out… I just love it when Jack goes a little bonkers: I mean, how was the King thinking he could regularly use a newspaper delivery boy-slash-adventurer who always wears a wet suit, flippers, diving mask and oxygen tanks??? You’d think the lad would be a… errr… fish out of water, wouldn’t ya? Well, this sequence, taking place during the wild underwater ride on the Zoomway, is your answer, skeptics!

Flip is, natch, the newest member of the New Newsboy Legion (given he wasn’t born into the group). In a follow-up ish, we find that his unnamed father (Mr. Dippa?) is coincidentally associated with the now grown-up original Newsboy Legion! I mean, what are the odds…?

I still haven’t figured out if the newest Newsboy’s official name is Flipper Dipper (sometimes with a hyphen) or Flippa-Dippa (sometimes without). Me, I dig the non-parenthetical latter, dig?