Day 46: Beautiful Dreamer!

Beautiful dreamer, wake unto me,
Starlight and dewdrops are waiting for thee;
Sounds of the rude world, heard in the day,
Lull’d by the moonlight have all pass’d away!
Stephen Foster

Though she appears to be the weakest and (aside from physical attractiveness) least envisaged character of The Forever People, Beautiful Dreamer is likely the most potentially powerful player in their battle against Darkseid. Jack immediately sets a stark and intriguing contrast when we first see them together. She, with her beguiling, prostrate form and alluring, serene face, compared to the cut of the Master of the Holocaust’s arrogant stance and butt-ugly countenance. And the pin-up in FP #4, too, hints at her importance with its stunning artistry and caption that reads, “Beautiful Dreamer versus Darkseid! Both hold the key to victory in the strangest war ever fought in comicdom’s history!”

One marvelous aspect of Jack Kirby is his obvious liking of the female gender, a contrast itself with the overall outlook of too many comics creators of his and later generations. Perhaps it stems partly from the necessity to focus almost exclusively on the feminine point of view during Jack’s considerable — and outstanding — work in romance comics (a genre he co-created with Joe Simon), and I also suspect his respect and affection for his devoted spouse, the indomitable Rosaline Kirby, and the fact he had two daughters, are parts of that equation. (I’ll betcha dollars to doughnuts, Jacob Kurtzberg was also a mama’s boy, to boot!)

If you combine, in his Fourth World mythos, Jack’s conceptualization of brutish and bodacious Big Barda, the Female Fury of Mister Miracle, one of the most vivacious and self-assured (hence, downright sexy) characters in the history of the form, with the latent cosmic war-ending power of girlish, apparently meek, most definitely lovely Beautiful Dreamer, there’s a delightful complexity here putting women front and center in this otherwise hyper-testosteronated masculine super-conflict. If you ask me, I reckon Jack Kirby was a feminist!

When first we meet Beautiful Dreamer, we find her unique consciousness (“one of the few whose mind can fathom the Anti-Life Equation! The ultimate weapon!” The Infinity Man tells Superman) is impervious to Darkseid’s probing, and the evil ruler surrenders her to her friends. We learn that Beautiful Dreamer’s power is to create telepathic connections with others to generate illusions, whether making a hallucination that they’re a harmless bunch of earth kids for old Uncle Willie, deceiving a Justifier into believing the gang is one of his kind, or appearing as a haggardly old dwarf to cut short a fashion shoot with Breckenridge the photographer.

(There’s a breathtaking juxtaposition of beauty and beast in Jack’s full-page depiction of a remarkably rendered Desaad, tenderly brushing her comatose figure with a riding crop, appreciating Beautiful Dreamer. “Ahhhh — My vision of beauty! — and a beauty of visions, too, I might add! A mind so sensitive that it makes illusion seem like reality! What my scrambling machine must huff and puff to produce — Beautiful Dreamer can do by a mere thought!” KAH-reepy!)

Despite the fact her physical attributes — buxom and curvaceous — are considerable, Beautiful Dreamer knows that the secret of being human isn’t just in the corporal world, as she explains, “After all, the body is merely a three-dimensional identification vehicle! It’s our ‘total’ selves that beautify us!” (Still, she’s not above having her zoftig form being objectified, whether as a swimsuit model or when Serifan, via a cosmic cartridge, atomically re-shifts an old-fashioned gown the girl is wearing into a oh-so-mod go-go, short-short mini-skirt — replacing the ragged dress she wore for eight issues prior.)

Beautiful Dreamer defines the team for Donnie the invalid in #2: “Of course we’re real! truth is real! Truth lives foreverWe’re the Forever People!” Which remains perhaps the best description for this most original group, said in the simplest and sweetest of terms.

I’ll admit, as a kid, I pretty much dismissed Beautiful Dreamer, thinking her more a burden to the group rather than an equal asset. But I now get a glimmering of Kirby’s intent with the character, something that is now obvious at the very start of The Forever People. That whatever the apparent triteness of her powers of deception, her abeyant abilities loom large in the saga: this woman is headed for some serious business which will take her to her place in the heart of the raging storm between New Genesis and Apokolips.

5 thoughts on “Day 46: Beautiful Dreamer!

  1. J.A. Fludd

    I must confess I never cared for Beautiful Dreamer’s original “costume,” if such it can be called. I always found it an unusually lackluster bit of design on Jack’s part, and not really worthy of the character. I much preferred the magenta-colored, fringe-trimmed design that Serifan created for her in [FP] #9, which you mentioned, and was always sorry that it was so relatively little used. For that matter, I feel a huge swell of loss every time I think of how Beautiful Dreamer was supposed to have the power to “interpret” the Anti-Life Equation, implying that if Darkseid had both her and the mortal he was seeking in his clutches, there went the universe. You’re right about the power and importance that Jack attached to this young goddess, and it’s just about tragic that we’ll never get to see this saga played out as Jack initially imagined it! Just the thought of two of Jack’s most opposite characters, Orion and Beautiful Dreamer, possibly having to make a last stand against Darkseid, gives me a tingle.

  2. patrick ford


    A very interesting post, and topic. Myself, I loved the barefoot in rag dress Beautiful Dreamer. She could pull off any kind of attire with her grace and air of joy, but the cavewoman one-piece seemed like the real Dreamer.

    Interesting that Jack paired her with Mark Moonrider, whose gruff exterior was more deep seated than just friendly banter between him and Big Bear.

    You have to love it when he says to Superman (FP #1, pg. 16), “Now what, clown? Is this a new act?”

    Kirby later paired Scott (care)Free with the powerful (in every way) Barda.

    In The Hunger Dogs, we find Orion love a woman who is much like Beautiful Dreamer, the sweet and loving Bekka (Himon’s daughter).

    Kirby commented: “The women are just as important as anybody else in the stories. In The Hunger Dogs, the women are going to be the big surprise. Women are important to my work.” (Amazing Heroes #47)

  3. JonBCooke Post author

    I’m with Patrick in digging Beautiful Dreamer’s non-mod, bedraggled dress costume. I see allusions to the Greek god Pan myself (the head band clinches it for me), or at least a pagan type of clothing of one devoted to nature… happy, carefree, connected to nature… I think B.D. would cheerfully be a nudist if given the chance. No false modesty with her!

    The FP letter col in #5 indicates how responsive Jack could be to reader complaints: “Daniel Gheno of Santa Barbara, Calif. suggests that Beautiful Dreamer’s costume be changed and his suggestion will probably be instituted in an upcoming issue. We aim to please…”

  4. John S.

    Hi, Jon,

    I’ve often wondered how Kirby came up with the name Beautiful Dreamer. Was it just something he “dreamed” up, finding it suitably hippyish? Or was it a name that he referenced from some outside “source”? (Sorry for the bad puns.)

    I’m not familiar with that Stephen Foster poem you quoted (although it’s certainly appropriate), but I am aware of one pop-culture usage of the name that may have given Jack the idea.

    On Oct. 21 and Oct. 28, 1966 (if my research is correct), a two-part episode of my all-time favorite TV show, The Green Hornet–starring Van Williams and Bruce Lee–was aired, entitled “Beautiful Dreamer.” The story centered around a corrupt young entrepreneur who ran a women’s beauty spa whose main method of “treatment” for the wealthy female clientele was a form of subliminal hypnosis that made them unknowingly commit crimes which provided an exceptionally lucrative income for the salon’s duplicitous proprietor.

    It’s interesting in this context not only for the title of the two-part episode, but also for the fact that it involved a theme of hypnosis or “mental illusions” — somewhat along the lines of the powers that Jack gave to his Beautiful Dreamer character.

    It’s also noteworthy because, as I’m sure you’re aware, Kirby himself was a Lee fan who, at one point in the late ’70s, was even planning to do a Bruce Lee comic (the few completed pages of which eventually saw print in Image’s Phantom Force mag in the ’90s, albeit in a slightly altered form). Not only that, but anyone who examines the artistic and life philosophies of both Lee (and I don’t mean Stan!) and Kirby will find that they had views which were remarkably similar. And considering how media-savvy and forward-thinking Jack was, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to conceive of the possibility that he could have been introduced to Bruce through the Green Hornet TV show, seen the “Beautiful Dreamer” episodes, and used the name a short time later for his female Forever People character.

    Or maybe I’m way off, and it was all just a coincidence…!

    Oh well, either way, I have to agree with you and Patrick about her one-piece rag dress: I loved it — very hot.


    1. JonBCooke Post author

      “Beautiful Dreamer” is an American standard popular song, quite (ahem) beautifully performed by the late, great Roy Orbison here:

      It was published in 1864, the year of Stephen Foster’s death:

      Me, I look at the antecedent of the character more in fairy tales, particularly with “Sleeping Beauty,” but with a modernist Kirby twist. There’s a pagan aspect in there as well, perhaps inspired by the hippy’s “back-to-nature” movement…

      Green Hornet was a fun show, I agree. Ernest and solemn to the point these characters were walking men of stone but that’s part of the appeal; a flipside to the Batman camp approach…

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