Day 43: The Mother Box!

It’s difficult to find the proper words to express my enduring admiration for this wonderfully resonant Kirby koncept, the Mother Box. She — never, never “it”! — is a living mechanism, a sentient computer, a machine with a soul who performs many, many tasks for her possessor, among them the abilities to sense danger, relieve torment, create protective barriers, sooth pain, transport her charges to another dimension, make friendships, scold sonically, navigate the cosmos, and being alive, she can be hurt, tortured and killed. But most of all she is capable of love, the power Darkseid fears the most.

In our story at hand, Mother Box is guardian of The Forever People; “The Mother Box protects us all,” are her protector Vykin the Black’s first words in the saga. In this incarnation she is a red rectangular cube, maybe 18-inches high, 10- or 12-inches wide per side, with a lens (or is it a screen?), a carrying handle and she emits sounds, “pings” in various tones, depending on her comfort or distress. (Apparently she can even apologize, or so says interpreter Vykin.)

Her main role in this premiere Forever People chapter is for Vykin to release her to levitation mode, as the Gravi-Guards are closing in, and for the boys to lay their hands on her for what Kirby might have called “The Great Interdimensional Swap!!!” (Oh, fear not, effendi! All will be revealed in the days to come!)

Back to the overarching Fourth World concept of Mother Box. She exists on both New Genesis and Apokolips, most prominently assisting these super-kids, Mister Miracle and Orion, the latter two who possess smaller “shoulder harness” versions, no less powerful or affectionate. (As I recall, I don’t think any version appears in the earthbound tales of Jimmy Olsen.)

Mother Box, we will discover, is the invention of Himon, scourge of Darkseid, roamer of the universe and mentor of Young Scott Free who created the device in the slums of Armagetto on Apokolips (and also, by the way, pioneered The Boom Tube). In the “Great Scott Free ‘Bust-Out'” issue of Mister Miracle, #9, the portly savior explains, in one of the most powerful single pages in the entire opus, that Mother Box is linked to The Source (a Great Good where resides the Meaning of It All). Simply put, Mother Box channels the good that is The Source into her user.

Himon says, “The Source! It lives! It burns! When we reach out and touch it — the core of us is magnified! And we tower as tall as Darkseid!” Scott Free, just beginning to see the supreme power that is love and now understanding his destiny, responds, “Then Darkseid fears us all! He fears what he can’t control!

There is nothing I can add to this magnificent and portentous moment in Jack Kirby’s chef d’oeuvre. The deeper and deeper one delves into The Fourth World, greater and greater rewards are unearthed. We can argue all day about whether his work is genius, perhaps, but we can’t deny he was a Good Soul, Jack was.

4 thoughts on “Day 43: The Mother Box!

  1. Richard Bensam

    I was about to say you must be mistaken, but sure enough — even when Lightray or other citizens of Supertown appear in JO, there are no references to the Mother Box. I never noticed that before, but it makes sense.

    The Mother Box is one of my favorite Kirby inventions too — that and the Boom Tube have always particularly fascinated me. And I hope one day soon we can see the permanent retirement of that whole “we have the Mother Box now, it’s called the iPod or PDA” misconception. It’s not that at all!

    1. JonBCooke Post author

      Trying to keep up, Richard!

      Hey, I do love my iPhone, with its pings ‘n’ things, but you are right. A Mother Box is a device that cares, has emotions, much more than the newfangled gadgets of today, which are more like combination tricorders/communicators out of Star Trek. I wish I could articulate better why she fascinates me so, just as much — more, probably — as when I was a kid. I was kinda old to fantasy game-play (not D&D; I mean run around in the woods pretending), but I did imagine I owned a Mother Box, my connection to a fantastic otherworld. Hell, I should be honest and say my brother and friends and I played “Planet of the Apes” and cops ‘n’ gangsters almost until I was old enough to drive!

  2. Gary Leach

    Not to get ahead of the narrative, but I think it’s worth reiterating that Mother Box does indeed exist on both Apokolips and New Genesis. This will be key to one of the most wrenching and revelatory sequences in New Gods, and indeed in the entire Fourth World saga.

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