Category Archives: The New Gods #1

The New Gods #1

Cooke Look: “Orion Fights For Earth!”

With Jack Kirby’s fine work on Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen and The Forever People, we’ve already got a good look at the conflict developing on Earth, but here, in “Orion Fights For Earth!” we now get view of the cosmic dimension, and it’s an awesomely impressive image of an unfolding complex tapestry of celestial intrigue with a universe-quaking background story. As is appropriate for a Kirby epic, this is BIG stuff, involving BIG characters and BIG concepts.

The comic book opens in cataclysmic fashion, Ragnarok depicted on page one; the violent, fiery creation of two planets on page two; and a gorgeous close-up of our hero with that extraordinary helmet on page three. I mean, counting the magnificent depiction of Supertown on page five, that’s three full-pagers out of the first five… and they are so gorgeous, it makes one yearn for an entire book of Jack Kirby splashes!

It is a beautiful set-up for a first issue in that we get a sense, right off the bat, that our main star is much more than he appears — evidenced by Metron and Highfather’s side-chatter — which immediately engrosses us with strong hints that Orion has a deeper connection to the enemy than he himself imagines. It also seems obvious to me that Jack had thought long and hard about the overarching storyline as there seem remarkably few loose threads. (The only one that immediately comes to mind is the fact the Earth-built “Mass-Director Unit” obviously didn’t work, as Darkseid and his minions would later focus on monitoring devices with decidedly smaller range, particularly Happyland (a.k.a the “camp” and “Kingdom of the Damned”), to find the human who possesses the Anti-Life Equation. You’d think, given how the King of Evil has the habit of roughing up and brutalizing those who fail to carry out his orders — think Brola, Desaad, Mantis, Mokkari and Simyan (well, a strong berating to the last two, anyway!) — we would see the Apokolips ruler mete out his unhappiness to whomever supervised the earthbound Mass-Director Unit. But, as we see in the referring panel, it looks like Darkseid himself is directing its construction, so maybe he gave himself a stern talking-to behind closed doors!)

There’s really not much more I can add. It’s a magnificent debut for the title, arguably the best of the Fourth World quartet of comics, and it confidently — and with supreme competence — sets the stage for the Super War on Earth to come… A bravura performance by THE master of adventure comics.

(Oh, just to tie up the story synopsis, let me round out this issue (though I’ve pretty much described what’s happening, only a bit disjointedly, I fear): After Orion confers with Metron, he frees the Earth folk from the brain-scanning device. Kalibak, now freed courtesy of Metron’s exit, engages Orion, who bears partial brunt of Kalibak’s nerve beam and returns fire with Astro-Power. Suddenly a Boom Tube appears and our heroes jump aboard, Orion holding up the rear astride his Astro-Harness. Kalibak hurls his Beta-Club in frustration at the disappearing Boom Tube to no avail, and our team arrives on Earth, to ominous winds of war coming toward them. Jack, who started this opener with an epilogue, audaciously closes with a prologue, a full-page splash of Darkseid and some spectacular minions in the background (none, I believe, who were seen again in the series!). Closing the comic, we sense we’ve just experienced something new to the form, a multi-layered, sprawling, complex and exhilarating epic of cosmic proportions which engages and screams for your attention: Simply put, an intelligent and still viscerally satisfying super-hero comic series…)

Day 66: Orion’s Earth Allies!

“On Earth, the home of mortal man, Orion the Hunter moves among strange allies and fearful enemies! Man is only dimly aware of the forces maneuvering, lunging for alignment on his world — for somewhere in man himself is the key to victory for the warring factions of the New Gods.”

Orion, during his Source-directed foray to the sinister world of Apokolips, was fortunate to encounter and rescue four brave Earth humans, who will become, to varying degree, his trusted allies as the Super-War reveals itself on our home planet. Upon Metron temporarily disabling Kalibak and his describing to Orion the stakes in this war anew between New Genesis and Darkseid’s realm, we see that the Master of the Holocaust has breached another solemn agreement with Highfather. Metron tells his comrade, “Darkseid has broken the rule, to bring humans through the [Boom] Tube!” Four Earthings lie recumbent, unconscious and the tops of their heads ensconced in brain-scanning devices. For Darkseid has been, as Metron tells us, “Probing the minds of test humans before he left [for Earth]!”

The king of evil is, you guessed it, searching for the Anti-Life Equation, a secret locked inside the mind of one or more unsuspecting humans, and as Metron transports our hero’s Astro-Harness to Orion’s feet, the Tiger of New Genesis releases the four kidnap victims from Darkseid’s vile contraption. “Proper use of my Astro-Force will dissolve the mechanisms that spellbind the humans!” Orion says to no one in particular. “They awaken unharmed!

And the now-conscious quartet rise to meet their new friend. Who are these three men and one woman? Allow me a description of their participation in the coming battle. In general, it’s safe to take for granted they are all from Metropolis or surrounding environs, given none of the four expresses any distress at being far from home upon their return. There’s no indication any of them knew one another before being awakened and the smart bet is to assume (as Dave Lincoln tells Orion of his abduction) they were individually snatched off the streets and alleyways of Superman’s city by Inter-Gang, “a division of Earth criminals” organized to serve Apokolips, possibly by Badger and his henchmen.

Here’s a look at each of the four Earth allies:

Harvey Lockman is definitely the youngest of the crew (“My parents are probably getting anxious,” he states on his exit), as well as the most irreverent and, apparently, self-important. Doubtless his greatest claim to fame in the series is the lad’s description of himself: “Me, young but cool, Harvey Lockman!” He is also the least-seen of the compatriots, as he disappears from the series shortly after the “O’Ryan’s Mob” affair. While we don’t know Harve’s vocation (probably a student, I should think), we do know he’s snappy with the always-ready apt comparison, a master of metaphor, if you will. Among his sometimes sarcastic quips, oft peppered contemporary slang: “It should be simple — like minnows turning into a shark!” and “[The Mother Box] feels strangely warm — and makes a sort of electronic sound — like a computer!” and “A movie without film! That’s wild! Roll, man, roll!” and “[Orion is] tougher than granite!” and, finally, “Groovy! He looks like he plays pro football!”

The young ally is also a mite… ummm… flamboyant, given Harvey’s fashionable ascot and apparent predisposition at being a bit disrespectful to his elders. During his next-to-last appearance with his friends, the young man calls Claudia “Doll” and addresses Dave by his last name only, never mind referring to the most malevolent personage in the universe as “old granite-puss”! Perhaps he’s compensating for his quaking fear displayed early in the saga — certainly an understandable reaction as this is a war between gods and monsters, after all! — despite his declaration at one point, “Scared — I’m not so scared — with you on our side, Orion!” (Youthful Lockman is quite courageous when fortitude is needed, rushing headlong into the Inter-Gang infested old mansion on that “little-used seacoast road” during the “O’Ryan Gang and the Deep Six” episode.) Despite his limited appearance, the kid is still a memorable character and leads one to wonder if Jack, an admirer of enthusiastic youth, had a plan to return to Harvey Lockman, as he did do with the three remaining allies.

Claudia Shane — who describes herself as “I’m a secretary — not a pawn in some spy game!” — is candid about her fear (“I’m terribly frightened by all that’s happened!”) and loyal to the new god (“Whatever I can do — consider it done!”), if not a bit infatuated, sounding like she has the hots for Orion, as Claudia boldly admires the Tiger of New Genesis out loud: “I must admit he’ll put those fashion ads to shame” and “He’s positively beautiful! Like a living statue modelled [sic] by the ancient Greeks!” She breathlessly holds her opened palm to her heart in admiration and she also exhibits deep concern for the god’s welfare. Orion is an immortal with no time for romance and there’s an intimation in the series that Claudia and Dave Lincoln pair up as, at the least, close friends who may share apartment keys, as the young lady enters Dave’s abode without knocking. In the last half of the series, they are very often in each other’s company.

Claudia is herself beautiful, as well as fashionable and full of derring-do. She appears to be in her mid-twenties and despite confessions of being simple and afraid, this lady has moxie, revealed especially during the O’Ryan’s Mob masquerade. Claudia’s exclamation of “Shades of Bonnie and Clyde!” is spot-on as she and her Earth cohorts disguise themselves as members of a rival criminal organization threatening to move in on Inter-Gang territory. Wearing the requisite beret (this being only three or four years from the release of the Warren Beatty/Faye Dunaway gangster flick), she drives right up to armed gangsters and creates a diversion.

(It’s worth noting she is compassionate, especially when attentive to middle-aged Victor Lanza’s state of mind throughout the “O’Ryan’s Mob” story. “Do you feel all right, Mister Lanza?” and “You were just marvelous, Mister Lanza!” Kind person, that Claudia.)

It’s notable the gang has the guts to place their hands collectively on Mother Box when Orion seeks her assist on hunting down the Inter-Gang “Jammer” threat, given their earlier experience doing the exact same thing by Orion’s order. Yeah, it’s a coincidence that Desaad’s “Sonic-Stimuli” beams induced mind-numbing fear throughout Metropolis at the moment the threat of Apokolips is being described by Orion, aided by vivid audio-visuals courtesy of Mother Box, but you’d think they’d at least hesitate the second time! Still, the occasions must have been awesome. Claudia says, “It’s a wild experience! Like watching a movie with your mind!” Jack describes the “trip”: “As Mother Box loudly activates, the entire city outside seems to rush into the room! — Into the mind! — A whirling maze of buildings — streets — lights — cars –”

(Probably not worth noting is her changing looks, but I will anyway! Apparently Claudia has time between arriving back on Earth and joining the crew to meet at Dave Lincoln’s apartment for a visit to the beauty salon, as she sports a whole new hair-do when they greet Darkseid. And, later on, her bobbed hair goes to shoulder-length… but does this really matter?)

Victor Lanza, insurance broker, is the oldest of the bunch but, while apparently the only married member, holds his own admirably during his tenure in the adventure.

(You have to wonder if Dave Lincoln wisely upgraded his apartment insurance with Victor, given his pad is repeatedly a battleground for grudge matches, with shattered furniture and blown-out walls.)

It’s hard to know why exactly Darkseid chose these four. There appears to be a hint that might have possessed elements of the Anti-Life Equation — Victor says to Orion, “You said — I-it was something hidden in our minds!” — but the fact they are not seized again by Apokolips minions seems to indicate they did not have the power.

Though Victor is visibly upset by all the ruckus — “I’m still shaken! I’ve never known such fear!” he states after the effects of Desaad’s “Sonic-Stimuli” beams wear off, he still stands firmly on the side of Orion and New Genesis: “I’m at your service, Orion!” But Victor does need time to screw up his courage. “We’re at the mercy of immensely powerful forces!” says he.

When the team meets in Dave Lincoln’s apartment to discuss the fantastic developments, the following exchange takes place:

Dave: I tell you, I saw it with my own eyes! We’re in a war! It’s hidden — but very real!

Victor: B-but why us? We’re just ordinary people!

Harvey: Orion got us back here! We owe him that!

Dave: We owe him that, Mister Lanza! Such as we are — we may have to tackle super-beings!

Victor: But I’m Victor Lanza! An insurance executive! A family man! My wife makes me carry an umbrella in case it rains! And now, this! New Genesis! Apokolips! And things that would scare John Wayne!

But when called to duty, the insurance broker stands with his comrades. During their scheme to destroy the “Jammer” in the possession of Inter-Gang, Victor is assigned to play the role of money man of a gangster named O’Ryan, looking to make a deal with Inter-Gang. Though he complains to Claudia that “Playing Indians in the woods at night is scarcely my cup of tea, Miss Shane!” Victor takes his direction from de facto leader Dave Lincoln: “Your job is up there, Lanza!” Dave says, referring to the Inter-Gang office on the second floor of the “seaside base,” an otherwise deserted mansion. “You don’t have to play Little Caesar — just his smart business manager! Okay?” (Though later, Dave does confess he too was antsy about the caper, as he tells the other three in their final meeting, “Helping [Orion] crack the Inter-Gang complex was flirting with death!“)

And Victor plays his role with gusto, puffing up a cigar and confidently telling Inter-Gangster Country Boy, “I’m Lanza — I make O’Ryan’s deals! We know about Inter-Gang! But not enough! Frankly, what I’ve seen so far, I wouldn’t spend a penny on!” With his entry, the O’Ryan Mob (spearheaded by Orion on his Astro-Harness) destroy the Jammer and break Country Boy’s criminal division.

But the masquerade takes a toll on Victor and despite the accolades of Harvey on the gentleman’s performance — “Your part in it was a gas, Mister Lanza!” — Victor knows it’s time to go home and get back to his day job. “Sure! Sure! — Playing games with gangsters is a great hobby for an insurance man like myself!” With that, Victor bids adieu, handing Dave his business card to share with Orion. The Tiger-Force remembers the address and he and Lightray visit with the bespectacled business executive during “The Death Wish of Terrible Turpin.” Here we get a glimpse of Victor’s home life, meeting his lovely wife and learning of their son in law school, Robert. Mrs. Lanza is obviously smitten by Lightray’s considerable charm and exquisite manner. This is the last time the saga features the Lanzas.

Finally, of “Orion’s little helpers,” we look at the foursome’s most active participant in these stories, Special Investigator Dave Lincoln. Though he cowers in terror by the effects of the Fear Machine, the private eye is certainly the bravest of the group, taking on, at one point, Kalibak the Cruel (though the cop may have been more a little perturbed at, yet again, the destruction of his habitat by another alien god!). Early on, Dave pledges to Orion his loyalty (even if the stepson of Highfather randomly destroys one of Dave’s college athletic trophies!): “But I’ve taken enough! I’m ready to help fight Darkseid!

And Dave proves the most useful in Orion’s secret war for he is an experienced associate of the city’s police force. Assuming the identity of O’Ryan, the new god joins the pipe-smoking officer as they investigate Inter-Gang on the mean streets of Metropolis, Dave sometimes wielding a .45 automatic or .38 Special, other times using his pipe handle as a faux pistol when sticking-up Inter-Gang thug Snaky Doyle. He also resists Detective Sergeant “Terrible” Turpin’s grilling for information on the emerging Super-War and pressure (as “the private eye, ambassador to our city’s super-guests!”) from District Attorney Hartwell.

Dave knows what he and his cohorts have sacrificed in their alliance with Orion. “Claudia — our private lives were probably the first Earth casualties in this war of the gods! We have no choice but to share Orion’s risks!” Maybe, too, they risk their dwellings as, yet again, Dave’s apartment is the site of another super-fight, when Kalibak trashes the place and gives Dave a thrashing himself. At one point, Dave, frustrated by the gods’ “Combat Code,” says, “You New Genesis people sure have hang-ups about fair play! I wouldn’t mind ganging up on Kalibak!” This, even after his fanny is whooped by the Tormentor! Whatta man!

To the very end, Dave stands by his New Genesis friend, wielding a new type of rifle and facing down, yet again, Kalibak, even as it seems Orion is dead. The greatest Earth ally of New Genesis is even there, in the penultimate panel of the last issue of The New Gods regular series, as Orion the Fierce’s comrade-in-arms.

Are these four the only Earth humans to have tread the dark corridors of Darkseid’s nightmare world? Claudia, the “simple but worried secretary,” wonders, “How many just plain folks have been abducted to a weird world like Apokolips!” But this quartet does have an awesome responsibility given them by Orion: “Since Darkseid chose you as his first victims,” says the warrior to his newfound friends, “You must be the first of Earth to stand against him!” And they tenaciously stand with the new god, following the directive he gives them in his very first words to the four: “Have no fear! There is no time to explain! You must trust me!” (Well, the fear they can’t control, but Dave, Claudia, Victor and Harvey do trust Orion throughout the adventure, and what more can you ask of an ally?)

This entry must end where it begins, when Orion and the earthlings jump off the Boom Tube onto Earth soil. Asking Orion what this is all about, the Wielder of the Astro-Force replies, “This ‘game,’ as you call it, is bigger than you think! As large as the universe! — And a battle looms which binds us all! There is a being abroad here with powers beyond your wildest dreams! Darkseid is here!

Then, gazing into the darkening horizon, the sky flashing and rumbling “with the angry voice of an unseen giant,” Orion beckons, “Darkseid! I have come! The battle begins!” And his sinister foe answers the taunt: “I hear you, Orion! The battle begins!” And this, the first installment of Jack’s superlative New Gods title, which cleverly begins with an epilogue, leaves us with: “Prologue — As it was in the time of the old gods — the titanic struggle for the fate of mankind is to rage once again!! The New Gods wield greater power — for in our day, it’s we who live in the dark shadow of the outcome!”

In postcript, it is important to note that there were a good number of other earth people, besides these four, who stood with New Genesis in the war against Apokolips, however unwitting they might have been to the larger conflict at play. The roll call includes Jimmy Olsen, the Newsboy Legion, Oberon, “Terrible” Turpin, the Sheridan family, Dubbilex, Sonny Sumo, Scrapper Trooper, and the laudable efforts of the Metropolis Police Department, often going above and beyond the call of duty fighting back the “super-weirdos” from Apokolips!

Day 65: The Anti-Life Equation!

The great MacGuffin of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World is the Anti-Life Equation, the nebulous object of Darkseid’s intense desire, the power that will give him control over every living being in the universe. But the secret of the Equation is locked inside of the mind of human or humans unknown and a great deal of the Master of the Holocaust’s energy in the first half of Jack Kirby’s magnum opus is devoted to the pursuit of this, the ultimate power.

Chronologically, we first encounter the concept when Superman meets The Infinity Man in The Forever People#1. After the allies beat back a pack of Gravi-Guards, The Infinity Man alludes to the ruler of Apokolips. “This great peril couldn’t be named — Darkseid — could it!” asks Superman. His new friend responds, “Holocaust and death is what he serves! That is why he abducted the girl — she is one of the few whose mind can fathom the Anti-Life Equation! The ultimate weapon!

We quickly learn “the girl” is Beautiful Dreamer and Darkseid makes an appearance before the heroes to confess, “The girl’s mind is unique! It will not interpret the Equation! … There are others who can solve the Equation! One of them shall yield to me! — And when the secret is mine, I shall test it here! — Snuff out all life on Earth — with a word!”

And Darkseid’s threat weighs on Superman’s mind, even as he travels the Boom Tube to be with people of similiar abilities as he in a place called Supertown. “Does the answer really lie ahead of me?” the Man of Steel asks himself, beginning to doubt his selfish action. “Darkseid and his hidden terrors — The Anti-Life Equation — The danger to mankind — Am I going the wrong way? Is Earth the battle ground for some strange Super-War? It could be as real as the Boom Tube! — And I may be deserting mankind when it needs me most!” Needless to say, Superman returns to Earth.

But in the revealed history of the News Gods mythology, we learn that that Darkseid’s desire for the Anti-Life Equation predates the breaking of the pact between New Genesis and Apokolips which had brought an era of peace between the rival worlds. When Scott Free finally escapes the hellish world of perpetual shadow, Himon and Metron share some words with Darkseid, who had urged (however disingenuously) Scott Free to remain on his planet. As the Boom Tube to Earth fades, Himon says, “He’s gone, Darkseid! You’ll have your war with New Genesis, now!” Metron adds, “If you win the Anti-Life Equation, you will rule our minds with all the others!” And, shaking the rafters with a booming voice, Darkseid responds, “…And in the end, I will ‘Shut down’ this universe to all life!! — Except the will of Darkseid!

Back to the chronology, during our episode being covered presently, Metron has detained Kalibak from attacking Orion and he explains the stakes of this unfolding conflict to his New Genesis ally. For Darkseid has broken another sacred vow to Highfather. “He and his power elite are now on Earth — creating a tube network beneath its great cities!” Metron explains. “Soon they will be able to reach any spot on that globe! Darkseid’s minions are busily at work on a Mass-Director Unit that will monitor the mind of every human! One of those minds holds the secret of the Anti-Life Equation!

“There is no force to stay Darkseid’s thirst for absolute power over all living things!” So tells us The Forever People, the title most devoted to this intriguing concept, but the Super-Kids sure try their darndest. We learn in “Super-War” that while Apokoliptian super-villain Mantis yearns to take over our world, Darkseid wants a bigger reward: “Fool! Take Earth! Enslave all of mankind!” berates Darkseid. “But do not challenge my power here! For I seek another prize — meant for myself alone!”

And Mantis, in his destructive attack on the city, is lauded by Darkseid, as Desaad evidently works his Fear Machine (which might be able to detect a possessor of the Anti-Life Equation), as Darkseid states, “Mantis is inspiring great results! He’ll shake every mind in that city to its very roots! Especially the mind we seek to contact — the one that must be made to yield its secret — the Anti-Life Equation!” But The Infinity Man defeats Mantis and the Forever People ponder, “Mantis wants only the ego power of the conqueror!” [Beautiful Dreamer]… “But it’s Darkseid the universe must truly fear!” [Big Bear]… “He wants the ultimate power! And it is here — on Earth — in the mind of someone nameless — the ability to solve — and put into action — the Anti-Life Equation!” [Mark Moonrider].

The dreaded Fear Machine, created by Apokolips chief torturer Desaad (made from “the blueprint of the weird,” according to a cover blurb), just might be able to ferret out the secret from Metropolis citizens in New Gods #2. “Emotional turmoil breaks the dikes of the mind,” Darkseid tells his old friend, “and releases the flood in which we must fish, Desaad! Perhaps in this very city is the mind which will yield the Anti-Life Equation! The ability to control all free will!” But the Fear Machine fails Darkseid and so he turns to another within his powerful elite.

This seemingly ambiguous notion, the Anti-Life Equation, begins to gel quite substantially in the Forever People “Happyland” story arc that includes a superb villain, one apparently based on televangelists who preach to persuade, get attention and gain reward. Glorious Godfrey, however, has an entirely new gospel to promote: “It’s Darkseid’s gift of Anti-Life,” crows the pulpitarian. “It’s the ‘happiness package!‘”

“Life vs. Anti-Life” opens with a quote by Adolf Hitler and a visual depicting a crowd of zombified folks singing the praises of their preacher, shredding any allusions whether the Anti-Life Equation has no precedent on Earth. Goebbels-inspired placards surround a double-page spread of the beautiful, white-clothed Glorious Godrey, which trumpet: “LIFE HAS PITFALLS! ANTI-LIFE IS PROTECTION”; “LIFE WILL MAKE YOU DOUBT! ANTI-LIFE WILL MAKE YOU RIGHT!”; “YOU CAN JUSTIFY ANYTHING WITH ANTI-LIFE”; and “JUDGE OTHERS! ENSLAVE OTHERS! KILL OTHERS! ANTI-LIFE WILL GIVE YOU THE RIGHT!”

And, of course, it is Godfrey’s sermon that brings it all home: “Though Life is ever filled with those who threaten us, it is Anti-Life which gives us the power to eliminate them! The holocaust is coming! The day of Apokolips on Earth! The day of Darkseid, who brings this power only for us to use! Yes, it is his gift to us, friends! The cosmic hunting license! The right to point the finger or the gun!

Glorious Godfrey is seeking recruits to become Justifiers, zealot soldiers who are capable of mass kidnapping, singling out people for oppression, and even suicide bombing. (Mark Moonrider notes of the suicide bomber: “The Anti-Life principle is now part of him!”) As the head caption on the title page states, “Thus, Apokolips makes contact with Earth! Thus, the harbingers of holocaust link up with the human minds and hearts that wait to act in chaos! Like the ancient witchdoctors of old, Glorious Godfrey sounds the clarion call and begins the dance of death in modern times! The message of Anti-Life is powerful!”

As Justifiers commit acts similar to the Nazis atrocities against the Jews — rounding up entire neighborhoods to be held in concentration camps, targeting certain folks in a fashion not unlike “Kristalnacht” (the painting of the letter “S” for “scapegoat” on storefronts), and burning entire libraries because the books are “decadent” and mind-polluting — His lieutenant notes, “Anti-Life is a heady, exhilarating experience, Godfrey! They’re in ecstasy!” To which, Godfrey replies, “Yes, they no longer think! They revel in violent emotion! They will do anything I say — in order to feed their emotion! They are now no more than zombies in my control!”

It seems Godfrey’s mesmerizing power of persuasion is linked to the “demon’s organ” played at his revivals and, naturally, The Infinity Man arrives to destroy it (though at great cost as the amalgamated Forever People character is exiled by Darkseid for doing so until appearing again in the very last issue of the series).

Desaad is given another chance to help in the Apokolips ruler’s quest by setting up a special “camp,” where the possessor of the Anti-Life Equation just might show up. “I trust this camp of yours is serving the purpose that overrides all others, Desaad!” ponders Darkseid. “If the mind you seek to contact is among those at my camp,” replies Desaad, “it shall soon give up its secret, great Darkseid!”

A chagrined Godfrey audaciously chimes in: “But surely you can’t mean — Surely not even the great Darkseid believes in the existence of the Anti-Life Equation! Why, if one could master such an equation — he could control the minds of all living things with a mere word! I-I believe in Anti-Life, great Darkseid — but it can only be induced in others by the means of inventive selling!

Kirby krackles crackling behind him, replies Darkseid: “The Anti-Life Equation exists! Locked in the mind of someone here on Earth! — And only I dare reach for it! I shall create chaos here! Shake up the planet — Shake up the mind!”

The camp of Desaad’s making? The outside world calls it Happyland and believes it a giant amusement park devoted to public entertainment. Those behind the scenes call it the Kingdom of the Damned and know it is a massive torture chamber dedicated to cruelty… and the discovery of the Anti-Life Equation. Desaad says, “Among them is hidden the mind which can solve the Anti-Life Equation! With an answer to that –” Darkseid interrupts, “I shall control every living creature in this universe with a mere word!

It is during this adventure when we finally discover someone who, in conjunction with a Forever People ally, has the power of Anti-Life. When Mother Box is being “murdered” by Desaad and his minion, she escapes and materializes before professional sumo wrestler Sonny Sumo, who himself has a mystical power called “wound rejection,” which heals bruises received during his bouts. Together they save The Forever People and destroy Happyland. Mark Moonrider tells Sonny, “In union with your mind, Mother Box can create waves of titanic power!” Big Bear adds, “Mother Box sought out and found the man with the power!! This man knows the Anti-Life Equation! This man can control all living beings!”

But Sonny is baffled, “I don’t know what you’re talking about! What’s Anti-Life!?

Serifan answers, “Why, the very opposite of living! If someone possesses absolute control over you — you’re not really alive!”

“Without independent will — you may just as well be a robot!” says Mark. “Yes, you know the Equation! But it’s hidden — deep with your mind! Mother Box helped bring it to the surface!”

Mark says, a few moments later, “Aw, where we come from the Anti-Life Equation is one of many others — almost as awesome!! But they merely exist!!

Vykin chimes in, “Don’t you see? It’s we who live!! Why not just live, Sonny? Your way!!”

Big Bear declares, “That’s our only objective! To stop the forces that won’t let us do just that!

Ironically, Sonny uses his power to oppose Desaad and company: “But Anti-Life can be used against its disciples!!! The combined force of a Mother Box and the wondrous mind of Sonny Sumo have miraculously brought into being the awesome, dreaded power known as the Anti-Life Equation!!” Mark Moonrider ominously says, “True Anti-Life!! Right now, as wielder of the power, Sonny Sumo is even greater than Darkseid himself!!”

But Desaad is aware Sonny is only one part of the equation: “Sumo, without mind stimulation from the Mother Box, can’t use the Anti-Life Equation!!” the torturer tells his master. Thus Darkseid, angered at The Forever People and doubtless fearful of Sonny, sends the team (except Serifan) and Sonny Sumo, into different historical eras via the “Total Wipeout” — The Omega Effect. While The Forever People are eventually reunited, Sonny Sumo and Mother Box are sent hundreds of years into Japan’s past, when Sonny becomes a “wise man, athlete, farmer,” and the Mother Box is returned to the Super-Kids, after centuries in the custody of Buddhist monks.

The last great Forever People adventure centered around the Anti-Life Equation is “The Power,” which features the “priceless brain” of the reprehensible Billion-Dollar Bates, which possesses the Equation and whose user had exploited the mysterious ability for monetary gain and power. “After years of generating the ‘power’ in secrecy,” Bates yells, “building it to its full and fearsome potency — I establish it, this night, as world regency!!!” But the “Sect,” allegedly a cult of Satan worshippers, has other plans. Upon crowning Bates with a “Stimulus Hat,” the ruthless capitalist is intentionally rendered comatose: “Perfect! He’s in shock! — But still alive! — And the Anti-Life Equation lies ready to be plucked from from that living brain!” And we learn the Sect is actually Darkseid, Desaad and their Apokolips agents. But, due to the trickery of The Forever People, Bates is killed, leaving Darkseid to ponder the latest possessor of his coveted prize: “Billion-Dollar Bates!! To think that destiny would store the ultimate power in a yapping jackal’s hide!! — While Darkseid — the spearhead of pure elemental force — must thirst for that knowledge!”

Unfortunately, except for brief mentions in “Even Gods Must Die” and The Hunger Dogs — mostly lamentations that the “New Age” of the Micro-Mark has supplanted Darkseid’s great “hunt” — this is basically the last we see of the Anti-Life Equation, but assuredly it was a fantastic concept while it was in play.

(Mister Miracle, which did not much involve the Anti-Life Equation, does have a notable comment in “The Apokolips Trap,” which deals with whether the formula exists on Darkseid’s world: “Beyond Grayborders — toward Night-Time, the real evil of Apokolips becomes evident!! Anti-Life is real here!! Living beings serve their guards!! The guards serve the war machines!! And their power serves — Darkseid!!! But this is Anti-Life manufactured by slogans, threats, despair and acceptance — it’s not the Equation itself — but proof to Darkseid that the Anti-Life Equation exists!!!” Darkseid’s failure to get the secret from Beautiful Dreamer’s cranium also seems to indicate his appetite cannot be sated on his home planet or on New Genesis.)

In the final analysis, the Anti-Life Equation just begs the question: If Darkseid had finally achieved his quarry, to finally subjugate an entire universe to his will, to gain dominion over every single life form in existence… what word would he have used?

Day 64: Kalibak’s Beta-Club!

Terror from Apokolips! And it can have no greater force than in the arrival of Kalibak the Cruel!”

And when the eldest son of Darkseid and half-brother of Orion comes on the scene, you can bet your Mother Box that Kalibak will be wielding his dreaded Beta-Club, with its agonizing Nerve Beam capability!

It’s a weapon we see when Orion first encounters his sibling in this adventure and, a little bit later, as the Tormentor aims it at the fierce new god. “How high is your threshold of pain, Orion!” barks the troll-like beast. “This Nerve Beam from my Beta-Club will test you!”

The next caption states: “Turned on to full power, the Nerve Beam can cause an army to writhe in agony! But quick use of the Astro-Force smothers its total effect!

Though Orion absorbs a portion of the impact, still “My body is afire as if with a mortal wound,” thinks our hero. Needless to say, Kalibak’s half-brother survives.

As Orion and his new Earth allies depart Apokolips via Boom Tube, Kalibak hurls his Beta-Club at the retreating guests, but the weapon falls just short of connecting and the Tube dissipates.

We next see the club briefly in “Spawn” and then, in spectacular fashion, during “The Death Wish of Terrible Turpin,” from the cover and splash page inward, where Jack calls it a “Blast-Club.”

Kalibak uses his weapon to smash into Dave Lincoln’s apartment and splinter the cop’s furniture. Then the Beta-Club blasts Metropolis police officers, including Detective Sergeant Daniel Turpin, who brazenly takes on Kalibak, only to get beaten to a pulp. Orion flies in with Lightray to save “Terrible” Turpin, who is being flung about like a rag doll by Kalibak.

Then, in a great Kirby panel of elemental ferocity, Kalibak smashes his club upside Orion’s head and, in the next, square down atop his helmet. Brutal! Kalibak turns on Lightray and is about to bludgeon the young new god when Orion grasps his half-brother’s truncheon and, with “overwheming” fierceness, the foster son of Highfather twists the Beta-Club from the beast-man’s grasp.

Then, in a classic Kirby page, Orion begins to incurvate the Beta-Club with his bare hands. “Now, by what I do, you many well get a glimpse of inner fires that burn with forces unmatched by your fire-pits!”

Kalibak is dumbfounded, sputtering, “My club — I-it’s beginning to –”

“To bend! To crack!” says Orion. “To break loose from the sinister energies that bind its atoms as one unit!”

The club strains until… “KRAAK!

No! No!” screams Kalibak, “Impossible! It can’t be happening!

But it is. Orion tears apart the weapon, shards flying. “It would take all the might of Darkseid himself to do that!!” Kalibak stammers. “You’re a monster, Orion!!”

Grim Orion responds, “Behold a more painful truth! — The broken fragments of your club!!”


Then, a piece of the disabled weapon in each hand, Orion jams them into the sides of Kalibak’s head, and, well, let’s just say a world-class Super-War donnybrook ensues! That unprecedented “Death of a Weapon” sequence is, of course, the last we see of Kalibak’s Beta-Club!


Day 63: Kalibak the Cruel!

Once upon a time, there were two rival kingdoms that fought one another, one side good and the other bad. In the evil land ruled a monster and throughout his court there were many intrigues, as his underlings coveted the throne and vied for the tyrant’s favor.

In a previous era both domains suffered a terrible conflict between them and the monster sought a truce to bide time and rebuild his vast army. So he offered a bargain to the other king and they exchanged sons, each to be raised in the other’s respective kingdom.

Unbeknownst to the monster’s royal court was that the leader once led a secret life and had had a clandestine marriage to a lover, a passionate union which begat a vile son. But the evil queen, mother of the monster (for, you see, this was before he became king), had designs on her own son’s future and saw to it that the mystery wife was poisoned and the queen’s son publicly married (in a loveless arrangement). With the tempestuous new wife, the monster fathered his second son, a righteous boy, who was traded for the rival king’s offspring.

In revenge, the monster had his own mother murdered and insured that neither of his progeny knew of their lineage. Starting in childhood, both the righteous son and vile son would feud, always drawn together in savage combat, a mutual hate for one another fueling primal rage. And so it came to pass that these two, in adulthood, would fight a battle to the death, not for their father’s crown (as they were still unaware, until the very end of this lethal sibling rivalry, of their supremely prominent father), but rather because of a compulsive, lifelong bloodlust of each to kill the other. Indeed, one would not live happily ever after…

Jack’s pin-up of Kalibak states, “In the realm of Darkseid of Apokolips, where all things serve the cause of destruction, there is none so savage as Kalibak the Cruel! His is a never-ending battle with the New Gods for the fate of mankind!”

If you look in the background of that full-page panel, past vain Kalibak (gazing at his own visage and speaking to himself in the second person, “This is a face to fear! Someday, Kalibak, you may supplant Darkseid himself!”), we see withering, half-naked prisoners grasping for freedom behind a glass enclosure, Kalibak’s self-described “torment chamber.” It’s only mentioned here and there, but Kalibak has an official capacity on Apokolips as, it seems, chief torturer. His nickname, after all, is “Kalibak the Tormentor.” (In their final showdown, Orion tells his adversary, “Let the silent shades of your countless tortured victims stand by to witness the finish of their tormentor!”)

The Scourge of Apokolips, looking very much like a super-size Neanderthal caveman, usually dressed only in briefs and boots, sports a high-tech weapon, the Beta-Club, which can be used as a bludgeon as well as shoots nerve beams capable of stopping a platoon. (More on that accessory tomorrow!) We do see the low-to-the-ground thug (Jack describes him: “His body is squat! His breath rasps like a file! And his feet are hammer blows of sound in steel corridors!!”) but Kalibak does possess a bit more intelligence than your typical knuckle-dragger, given his repartee with Police Commissioner Kiernan, where the ugly son of Darkseid admits, “Kalibak is not without a sense of humor!”

But Kalibak’s gargantuan conceit and cosmic hatred for Orion are his Achilles Heel, but as we will learn, the Terror of Apokolips’s rage will transcend death itself.

In our saga, Orion’s first encounter with Kalibak is at the Mass-Director Unit, where it appears the Tormentor is the single defender of the dark planet, apparently the only one of Darkseid’s inner circle not on Earth. The half-brothers briefly tussle and Orion escapes Apokolips via Boom Tube (with some new friends) as Kalibak vows, “This isn’t our last encounter, Orion! When we meet again, I shall deliver your carcass to Darkseid! Rememer that!”

Kalibak appears on Earth and the events of “The Death Wish of Terrible Turpin” transpire, when Orion and the Scourge of Apokolips engage in a ferocious battle, incredibly brutal even by Jack Kirby’s standards. Acknowledging their constant antagonism as he chokes Orion, Kalibak screams, “All the pain and torment in the universe can’t stop what drives us!! I’m your equal, Orion!!” To which the Tiger of New Genesis righteously replies through the stranglehold, “But — not — my better –”

Though Orion’s true face is revealed to Kalibak, it is the earthlings who momentarily defeat the Tormentor, by massive electrical shock-power. But the villain is not imprisoned for long, as he is released with a promise to deliver a message to the gods to evacuate Earth. But Kalibak is no messenger boy, not with nemesis Orion but mere blocks away…

Meanwhile, the father of the combatants is distressed at the coming fight. The Master of the Holocaust tells Desaad, “Then there will be fierce battle, Desaad! Those two have fought each other since childhood! But destiny has always kept one from killing the other! However — in the event of destiny’s failure, Darkseid shall intervene!

“But why, sire?” Desaad pleads. “If Kalibak proves the stronger, we are rid of that wolf Orion! Yet this logic doesn’t seem to please you! Somehow, the thought of Orion’s death stirs your fear and anger!”

Roars the Apokoliptian monarch: “Silence, Desaad! You go too far! Darkseid explains his motives to no one!

Then we see a side of Darkseid hitherto unknown in the Fourth World epic in this, the last issue of the regular New Gods title. A caption reads: “The moments are few when the shadows of deep concern creep across Darkseid’s granite visage — and the secrets hidden there begin to emerge — as if to retreat before great pain — !”

Bemoans Darkseid, “Orion and Kalibak! How those two names haunt my life and destiny! — Give me no rest! — darken my future as surely as their maternal forebears ruled my past! My mother, Queen Heggra! — Orion’s mother, Tigra! — And the sorceress — Suli!

Dessad is shocked: “Suli was Kalibak’s mother!? Then before Tigra was chosen for you — there was Suli! It was rumored that you defied the queen’s wishes to court Suli!”

And, finally, the secret is revealed: “– To secretly wed her, you sly dog! Orion and Kalibak are half-brothers!both are my sons!”

The half-brothers’ rivalry seems endless. Says Orion during the “Turpin” engagement, “We fought when young, Kalibak! We fight fully grown! And we shall fight till death takes one of us!! There’s something we share that’s always driven us to each other! — What it is, I cannot say!! But we shall seek each other out until it’s done!

And we can feel the end is coming fast, in the form of an armor-clad specter on skis! Lightray beats Orion to the punch and, yelling “Orion has borne the burden of battle too long! Hail, Kalibak! Hail, king of tormentors!” he attacks the giant troll-like warrior, the “veteran of a thousand battles,” who gives the young new god a terrific pounding.

Staying out of the fight because of the “Combat Code,” Orion watches in horror as Lightray is brutalized and their fight is ended. “Then it’s time for me to confront Kalibak… I’ll put an end to that ‘demon’s bond‘ that forever binds Kalibak and myself in a pact of destruction! This blind hatred ends — now!!

But this time Orion’s half-brother is engorged with vastly increased powers, able now to emit “white-hot blast[s] of crackling energy” from his hands and strong enough to tear an entire apartment building onto Orion the Fierce. But Darkseid receives evidence that the fight is rigged, that Desaad has strengthened Kalibak as much as tenfold! Fearing his long-ago abandoned son may be dying at Kalibak’s hand, Darkseid disintegrates the sadist with the dreaded Omega Beams, the Total Wipeout, and the added power of Kalibak vanishes.

Orion recovers to a fair fight and he realizes their shared bloodline. “We must be brothers, you and I! — Different sides of the same coin! True sons of Darkseid — the essence of his creed of total violence!” Rushing his half-brother, Orion screams, “Die, Kalibak! If we fight as sons of Darkseid — only one may live!” The New Genesis god beats the tar out of the Terror from Apokolips and then arrives The Black Racer, the harbinger of death, who takes Kalibak to whatever Valhalla awaits for new gods…

But Kalibak’s demise has an epilogue, as in the penultimate New Gods tale, “When Gods Must Die!” the Tormentor is resurrected in Darkseid’s Re-orientation Chamber, or at least the shell of Darkseid’s elder son. Yet we learn his mind is mush, singularly obsessed with killing and not even aware of his own name, never mind the fact he is heir to the throne of Apokolips. “Were I on New Genesis, sire,” riskfully speculates Darkseid’s technician, “I would believe that the original ‘personalities’ now reside with that ‘mystery,’ the Source.”

Day 62: Mass-Director Unit!

After Orion tangles with Apokolips para-demons, henchmen and dog calvary, the new god suddenly finds himself alone. “Darkseid himself dwells this way!” Orion ponders as he runs down a corridor, past great windows looking out at the flames of a mammoth fire-pit adjacent. “But the great halls are empty — devoid of Darkseid’s elite warriors!”

Empty! They are all gone! Is this what I came for?” frets the New Genesis warrior, still itching for a fight. “Has the ‘Source‘ written for me a fool’s destiny?”

Then Orion the Mighty discovers the enormous, imposing device that is the keeper of the peace on the malevolent globe: “A Mass-Director Unit! It has been activated to transmit Darkseid’s orders! This is what now rules all Apokolips!

While details are not revealed, the Mass-Director Unit seemingly controls the minions and lowlies of Apokolips by an electronic surveillance beam that monitors dissent and other threats to the regime. Whether there is a punishment component, while likely, is not confirmed. (I believe this is the only issue in the Fourth World epic that features this device, though when Kalibak reaches Earth and searches for Dave Lincoln’s apartment, he speaks of what might be the self-same contraption: “The Mass-Directing Mechanism had given me a rough estimate [where Orion’s police officer ally resides] before I left on this foray.”)

Yes, Darkseid and his cadre of colorful noblesse have temporarily abandoned their home planet to ignite the Super-War about to engulf Earth, busily seeking the Anti-Life Equation, the singular goal of the evil ruler. We will soon learn, via Metron, that “Darkseid’s minions are busily at work on a Mass-Director Unit that will monitor the mind of every [Earth] human!”

We realize why the Master of the Holocaust needs to keep pressure on his own subjects, through fear, intimidation and apparently this machine — revolt might happened when the Lowlies miss their morning “brain-drain” breakfast! But why set one up on our world? And what is this so-called Anti-Life Equation anyway?

Suddenly Orion hears a familiar, maybe a faintly familial voice. It sounds like not all of Darkseid’s elite have left the nightmare sphere. And, brother, this might be a showdown…

(While we don’t see it in this particular illustration, the panel previous in the story gives us a full-view of the Astro-Harness component Orion has adhered to his belt, I think the only instance in the saga he retains the part… The vapor emissions floating out of the circular device indicate, to me at least, this item likely fires Astro-Force blasts. Makes sense, given Orion has put aside the Astro-Harness and, well, who would want to be striding the halls of Apokolips without a weapon ready, huh? I wonder, too, if Jack abandoned the idea because of the awkward stance Orion would have to use if indeed it blasted out Astro-Beams…)

Day 61: Darkseid’s Dog Calvary!

Imagine an armed force atop huge, ferocious canines pursuing you through the hellacious avenues of sinister Apokolips, snapping and snarling at your heels, threatening to rip the very flesh from your bones with razor-sharp fangs set in impossibly muscled jaws… If you can picture that, you’ve got a good idea of the Demon Dog Cavalry of mighty Darkseid.

Having battled the Para-Demon sentries in the smoke-filled skies over that dread and dismal world, and shaken off an armed horde on the ground, Orion suddenly faces Darkseid’s mounted troops riding… ummm… dogback against the arrival from New Genesis. Firing their radian blasters, the dragoons charge toward their adversary, who exclaims, “Darkseid’s Dog calvary! It is suicidal to run from them! My one chance to live — is to attack!

Orion dives to the ground, tripping dog and rider (the latter seem knocked senseless), but the mastiffs are tenacious, hungry for the blood of a new god. “These hounds of Hades are swift to regain their feet!” thinks Orion, and “Marshaling his colossal strength loosens a nearby stone pillar!” The column’s collapse spooks the mutts and they flee…

It’s apparent that the elite of Apokolips venerate canines twice the size of earthly Great Danes, as we see Granny Goodness walking her huge “darling demon-dogs” in a “Young Scott Free” vignette and there’s a trio of oversized hounds (doubtless used for hunting) among the poaching interlopers that begin “The Pact.” Mostly though, they seem, like every other life form on Apokolips, bred for war.

Baskerville Hall has nothing on these beasts when next we see them in “The Pact,” as “Raid upon raid is made everywhere on New Genesis!! From one such threshold leaps a snapping unit of dog calvary!! — Led by Steppenwolf!!” The creatures look like giant, ferocious rats in Jack’s depiction, and “When Steppenwolf leads, the carnage mounts until the battleground whines beneath the weight and agony of mass death!!! Nothing lives in his path!” One can only shudder at such butchery…

In “Himon,” the epic’s other “background story,” we see young Scott Free being chased briefly by the dog calvary but, of course, the lad escapes…

As one who was scared of big mongrels as a kid, I can attest Jack’s dog cavalry was an inspired nightmare vision, perfectly apropos to kennel in his nightmare world of Apokolips. Hounds of Hell, indeed…

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.


• 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 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…