Via the Boom Tube, riding the Super-Cycle, come the kids from Supertown (minus the female member), The Forever People, arriving for their debut adventure on planet Earth. The flower-power young people of New Genesis consist of [from left] Vykin the Black, Big Bear, Serifan, and Mark Moonrider… we’ll meet up with Beautiful Dreamer later in this story, as well as with two other integral “characters” very closely associated with the quintet.
The Forever People is Jack Kirby’s statement about his hope that the young people of his day, the hippies, would deliver the rest of us from a violent, selfish world. It’s remarkable, really, that Mr. Kirby, a middle-class workaday guy with a work ethic that would exhaust the puritans and other zealots, one saddled with a mortgage, home-making spouse, four kids and intensely demanding job, had such obvious affection for the Baby Boomer generation, by 1970 well into their twenties. Hippies were a huge demographic in the U.S., who (to wildly generalize) were virtually united against the Vietnam War, demanded the voting age be reduced to 18, heavily into drug use (particularly pot and LSD) and advocated free love. They also professed non-violence as a creed (though an active minority did engage in radical politics, some preaching the violent overthrow of government) and a curiosity for other world cultures. Nowhere was the hippy movement bigger than in the Golden State, where Jack and his family had recently moved.
Hippies also embraced one trapping of their younger years and seized it as their own: the comic book. Underground comix, originating out of the very heart of hippydom, the Haight-Asbury district of San Francisco, had huge distribution and astonishingly frank and explicit work was being published. And the mainstream work of Stan, Steve & Jack’s Marvel Comics was firmly entrenched in hippy culture, alongside the alternative funnybooks of R. Crumb, Gilbert Shelton and Rick Griffin. This, the Woodstock Generation, was receptive to Jack and vice versa…
It needs to be said, Jack also personally encountered any number of young people with increasing frequency. His street address and phone number were in the directory and The King (and Queen Roz) would welcome into their kitchen an endless parade of youthful pilgrims seeking an audience with the creator. Plus the fact the San Diego Comic Convention and other shows were being held so, perhaps for the first time, Jack had regular — and ever-growing — larger scale dealings with the longhairs…
Back to our subject: The Forever People may be the first super-hero group who is primarily non-violent (now, I’m not counting a certain infinite personage here, so settle down!). Their mission is to beat Darkseid to the discovery of the Anti-Life Equation and to end the Super-War between Apokolips and New Genesis. Their creed, as is all of Supertown, is “Life!!” and they live to protect and help others. We’ll discuss them as an entity in the days and weeks to come, but suffice to say they are an utterly original grouping in mainstream American comic books and, again, they are testament to Jack’s open-mindedness and empathy for the younger generation.
Mark Evanier has a particularly fine description of the kids in his Kirby: King of Comics biography:
“The Forever People featured the teenage gods, patterned after the youths that Kirby was observing all around him. In the midst of the Vietnam era, Jack was wholly on the side of those opposing Richard Nixon and the ongoing military action. He saw idealism, passion and a better future in them and sought to infuse his Forever People with the same hopes, the same sense of responsibility at inheriting a world made dangerous.”
I’ll be dealing with each character in the entries to come, so I’m going to feature an eloquent letter of comment regarding this issue, the first of The Forever People run, that appeared in #3:
Just to add a few words to the already awesome mound of praise (one might term it a “mountain of judgment,” had one a way with clever nomenclature) surely deluging you, my compliments on the first issue of Jack Kirby’s The Forever People. In recent memory only Deadman, Enemy Ace and Bat Lash seem to match this strip for innovation and success. Which probably means — if we are use as yardstick, the commercial failures of these high-water marks of quality continuity — The Forever People is too good for the average comic audience.
Its power and inventiveness display the Kirby charisma at its peak. Every panel is a stunner. Potentially, it appears to be the richest vein of story material National has unearthed in years. One hopes Kirby will be given total free rein, that he will be allowed to ride his dreams wherever they take him, for the journey is a special one, and we get visionaries like Kirby only once in a generation, if we’re terribly lucky. To constrain him, force him to fetter himself with the rules and rags of previous comics experience, would be to dull the edge of his imagination.
After the many false starts of National efforts in the past five years, at last it seems you’ve struck the main route. That it should be Kirby — at the top of his form — that worked point-scout, is not surprising. He has long been master of the form, and in The Forever People, it seems he’s found his metier.
Best wishes and prayers for a long, long life for The Forever People. Till now, all the flack bushwack about this being the Golden Age of Comics has fallen tinnily on us; but with Kirby in the saddle and The Forever People casting its wondrous glow, you now have leave to bang the drums.
— Harlan Ellison
Sherman Oaks, Calif.