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.

12 thoughts on “Day 20: The Mini-Clones!

  1. John S.

    Ah yes, “Apokoliptian”… I like it. Has a nice ring to it! (lol)

    What doesn’t have a nice ring — or look — are Vinnie Colletta’s inks on that splash page. I hate to sound like just another Colletta-basher, but honestly, Vince, WHAT THE ****!!?

    And for a look at a similar opening-page composition, check out the splash to Jack’s phenomenal story, “Mother!” in Eternals #10.

    1. JonBCooke Post author

      Nice catch!

      Gawd, I almost love Mad Mike’s logo work and lettering as much as I do his inks on Jack’s pencils… so cartoony and appropriate!

  2. patrick ford

    Royer was the only inker who got Kirby right, because he inked the blueprint like pencils Kirby produced starting around 1966 with almost complete fidelity. Personally, I’d much rather have seen Joe Sinnott inking his own pencils than Kirby’s, and that would go for Wally Wood as well.

    Funny the one time young Mike strayed from the straight and narrow, it supplied us with a chance to see Kirby ink Big Barda’s face. In Mister Miracle #5, Kirby pasted new faces he’d inked himself over Mike’s wanderings. See page nine, panel three for a good look at the real deal.

  3. R Drew

    One of the things that struck me as I began re-reading this series yesterday, was just how creepy it all is. A secret underground Government Project that has covertly sampled peoples DNA for the purpose of building an army of clones? That’s a paranoid’s nightmare! The benign manner in which it is all portrayed seems really out of step with the times these days, harking back to a time when people had more faith in their Government’s motivations, as I’m sure those of Jack’s generation must have had. Later we find out The Project has brought back the dead Guardian, and created an alien species in the form of Dubbilex! And, in the last panel of page 21, Superman worries about the “Hidden Enemy,” and what He might be doing with the stolen human cells. A bit hypocritical if you ask me, and creepy. A lot of creepy.

  4. Mike Hill

    Love the little costumes… it seems The Project and The Evil Factory mastered the ability to “grow” the clothing according to the size of the host; or maybe Jack was just thinking of the Code. The origins of the process can be seen in Simon & Kirby’s “The Cadmus Seed,” from Alarming Tales (visible at Pappy’s Golden Age, among other places).

  5. patrick ford

    The Project is certainly creepy, but as I mentioned in a previous comment, it doesn’t strike me that Kirby is endorsing The Project.

    Superman compares The Project to the Manhattan Project in Olsen #135, and Jimmy Olsen expresses his well-founded concerns in JO #136, on page 21. It’s quite obvious from the start that things aren’t going exactly as planned with The Project as is born out by The Evil Factory, resulting in a DNA-based arms race.

    Superman might be every bit as expected to step in and eliminate the Earth’s stockpile of nuclear weapons as he would be expected to halt the government sanctioned Project.

    Kirby’s attitude toward the military and government was nuanced.

    His son, Neal Kirby, described Kirby’s attitude toward the draft in a TJKC interview.

    Neal Kirby: Oh absolutely. One thing I remember when Cesar Chavez was leading the grape boycotts in California. My mother came home with some grapes in a shopping bag, and he goes, “You can’t have those,” and he picks them up and throws them out the kitchen window.

    You’d classify him as a liberal Democrat. During Vietnam he was very much against the whole thing, right from the start.

    It was no mystery to anyone in the family how he felt about it. I had some friends over, and we were all watching the draft lottery on TV. He told me, “Listen, if you draw a low number, and want to finish school in Canada, we’ll support you 100%.” He didn’t want me to go at all.

    1. JonBCooke Post author

      I was reading “Glory Boat” today, while my poor honey was recovering from a medical procedure (she’s okay), and I was struck with Jack’s depiction of Farley Sheridan, capitalist with a hardhat political bent, and fellow World War II veteran (“Well, at least I fought,” he snarls to his pacifist son. “When my outfit hit the beach at Normandy, I walked into that rain of bullets with the rest of them!!”). This reactionary bore was a contemporary of Jack, so to speak, who fought on the same continent, on the same side, probably the same age… and Jack pegged him cold! Obviously The King identified more with son Richard, the conscientious objector, as a real hero…

  6. R Drew

    Interesting take, Patrick. For my own part, I believe Superman is heartily endorsing The Project as he conducts his tour. The comparison to The Manhattan Project was an apt one, inasmuch as scientific advances like atomic bombs were regarded as a good/safe thing, as long as they remained in the right hands. Namely ours, and Jimmy seems to take the news he has been cloned without his knowledge remarkably well, considering. Despite the fact that Kirby, like many Americans, was against the war in Vietnam, I still believe that he, like many of his contemporaries, believed The Government, and Scientific Community to be of a benevolent nature. Forty years later, with cloning a reality, and conspiracy theories abounding, this scenario reads a lot darker. Kirby’s work often seemed prescient, and I can’t help but wonder, if somewhere out there, something like The Project might exist. Any day now, we could be attacked by giant green Jimmy Olsens, and four-armed freaks!

  7. patrick ford

    Kirby returned again to the dangers of genetic manipulation in Silver Star.

    In Amazing Heroes #47, Kirby commented on the pitfalls of technology given his realistic view of power, and those who wield it.

    “You talk to your boss, you talk to a politician, and you will find that you are in a certain category in their eyes.

    We’re always searching for things, and inventing things. Edward Teller is a scientist of great repute, and probably a very nice guy. Yet he’s done something that can wipe out the human race.

    Metron must keep searching for knowledge regardless of the consequences, and regardless of the fact Darkseid can use his discoveries for evil, as he has with the Boom Tube.”

    This is the same attitude described by Kirby in his comment on the Jupiter Plaque.

    Kirby’s feeling is the odds are those with the ambition to seek out new worlds, will likely be predators.

  8. JonBCooke Post author

    Metron is perhaps the most fascinating character in the Fourth World mythos. As a kid, I couldn’t wrap my head around him — he was too ill-defined for my taste, neither good nor evil, too ambivalent, too complex… But I never dismissed him; just thought he was beyond me.

    Now, I am even more captivated. The apple in the Garden of Eden: It was knowledge, right? Knowledge (and hence culture), that’s what got us expelled from the Garden, correct?

    Yes, there’s amazing, stupendous technology in Supertown, the city that floats above New Genesis, but the planet itself is a veritable Garden of Eden. Is, ultimately, Supertown a threat to New Genesis?

    Jack was really digging deeply into the Essential Questions.

    1. patrick ford


      Not to belabor the point, but I think it’s an important one.

      If we turn over a couple calender pages to Jimmy Olsen #142, we find Kirby expounding again on his realistic view of man and government.

      Jimmy Olsen questions Superman about his involvement in another super secret government project.

      JO: “And you, Superman. What’s your stake in all this? Why are you here?”

      Superman: “Anything that involves the safety of man — involves me. The underground DNA Project, though a closely kept secret — was no secret to me.”

      Superman presents the same serious, almost grim attitude he displayed when explaining the DNA to Jimmy Olsen on page 11 of JO #135.

      Kirby’s Superman is not going to act as the Government’s policeman, he’s more of a fireman.

      Kirby’s own attitude as narrator is (I think) fairly explicit.

      Note these lines from JO #143 with Kirby speaking as narrator.

      “In this new age of remote experimentation and enlarged bureaucracy turn the page, and see what the taxpayers money can pay for — in the day of the trillion dollar national product…
      Scientists are human beings. And it’s when they play “god” — that human beings make their worst mistakes.”

      1. JonBCooke Post author

        I think Jack was, like so many Americans of his age who rose out of the Great Depression with help from the New Deal, was in transition about his feelings about government, but I do suspect he was more realistic than most regarding power and the corruption of same. The late ’60s and early ’70s were full of contradictions: Take, for instance, national pride about the Apollo moon missions and converse lack of faith in the U.S. war effort in Vietnam. Watergate and the fall of Saigon started (or continued) a schism that is reverberating very strongly today (particularly in the upcoming November elections, I suspect!).

        Jack often didn’t think well of man, but he thought very kindly of humanity, if that makes sense.

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