The Forever People #1

Cooke Look: “In Search of a Dream!”

“They’re from a place that men have sought, but never found — we’ve seen their like before — in different ages — in different guise — but never like this — Yet, always like this — when man’s civilization faces destruction…”

Thus Jack Kirby introduces his ’70s version of a modern-day kids gang. Coming on the heels of his initial three issues of Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen, Jack gives us his first true edited-drawn-and-written comic book in that era, and it’s an audacious debut. Again, as he did in JO, Jack presents a flurry of new characters and concepts — The Boom Tube, Forever People, Super-Cycle, Mother Box, Supertown, Infinity Man, etc. — with nare a chance for the reader to stop for air.

And this, the “official” starting point of what we would come to call his Fourth World opus, is a breathless beginning and Jack is expert in adapting DC’s longest-running super-hero to the mythos, as Superman fits in perfectly with the overall scheme of the creator’s immensely ambitious plan. It’s a connection that is still only being periodically recognized by the publishing house, but Jack often thought in such grandiose terms, so it is hard for us mere mortals to comprehend, at times, a glimmering of his overall intent.

I’ve read this comic book at least a few dozen times in my life but only now is it becoming apparent that (despite the presence of The Infinity Man) Jack did indeed have finite plans for this and his other Fourth World titles. In this very first issue, we are given a foreshadowing of the (no doubt cataclysmic) conclusion, of a final showdown that would take place between Darkseid, the Master of the Holocaust and Seeker of the Anti-Life Equation, and timid, loving Beautiful Dreamer, as “Both hold the key to victory in the strangest war ever fought in comicdom’s history!” (or so says the exquisite Darkseid/Beautiful Dreamer pin-up in #4). Ahh, the gorgeous irony…!

Predestination and sacrifice are written all over these kids if we contrast their innocent exuberance and boundless optimism with the savage conflict only just now unfolding. These are the end of their salad days, with the group’s devotion to love and peace about to be cruelly tested, as Darkseid and his “Secretary of Torture,” Desaad, will take special pleasure in attending to The Forever People.

I suspect that while some characters would have tenaciously held on to their certainty of the Good in Man, others might have changed considerably as the saga ran its course. But, alas, this can only remain a suspicion as the gang had a mere two years of life in this title…

There was criticism that The Forever People is an off-key, corny and wonky depiction of super-hippies — they are so goldarned cheerful in those days of Vietnam and social unrest! But Jack is a masterful storyteller, completely self-assured, and I’ll bet you he had plans to incrementally change the tone and characterizations of the team before bringing them to a bombastic finale. After all, he was trying something dramatically new in comics: series with beginnings, middles and endings.

And, if I may, this was one hell of a beginning!