“What kind of world is it,” Jack Kirby asks, “that spawns gods of evil and lesser beings with horribly hostile hang-ups!!!??” The name of that planet is Apokolips and it is home to the undisputed ruler, the great Darkseid, seeker of the Anti-Life Equation and Master of the Holocaust. As Orion notes on his foray there during this adventure, “If the other side of good is evil, then surely Apokolips is the other side! Even its giant energy pits feed on the world itself, to gain its power and light!”
The New Gods #2 opens with a vivid description of the creation of Apokolips and her sibling New Genesis :
“It came to pass — that the holocaust which destroyed the old gods and split their ancient world asunder — and created in its place two separate and distinct homes for the new forces to rise and grow and achieve powers to move the universe in new ways…
“Now there is Apokolips — forever orbiting in shadow — its surface marked by mammoth fire pits — which illuminate its stark and functional temples — in which creatures of fury worship a creed of destruction!!
“And moving with majestic serenity, in eternal partnership with this seething giant, is its sunlit sister world, New Genesis!“
Apokolips is a planet perpetually preparing for war, war against itself, war against New Genesis and war against Earth. “Living beings serve their guards!! The guards serve the war machines!! And their power serves — Darkseid!!!” All must be in eternal service to the “spearhead of pure elemental force,” because “Darkseid never rests! His shadow falls everywhere!”
“It is,” Orion observes, “a dismal, unclean place of great, ugly houses sheltering uglier machines… Apokolips is an armed camp where those who live with weapons rule the wretches who build them! All that New Genesis stands for is reversed on Apokolips! Life is the evil here! And death, the great goal!”
The introductory paragraph to “Himon” reveals some distinct features of the nightmare planet: “The heart of Apokolips lies beyond Greyborders — across the darkening road to Longshadow! — Through the clanking horrors of Night-Time! — and rises white hot — at the raging, hissing infernos of the planetary fire-pits! The raw and dirty edge from which great Darkseid draws mammoth power!”
The world appears to be completely urbanized, devoted to the training of warriors, the building of weapons, and the amusements of the elites. All is powered by the mammoth fire pits and the will of Darkseid. Some distinct areas, mentioned above, are laid out in the saga:
• Night-Time: Location of the notorious orphanage run by Granny Goodness, “one of many institutions where the young of Apokolips are raised and trained to develop their inherent powers!!”
• Long-Shadow: Jurisdiction of Kanto, Darkseid’s personal assassin, found “on the road to Night-Time”
• Armagetto: Next to the gigantic fire pits, the living area for the working dregs of society: “Here, in the harsh light of the giant flames that burn before endless gods, are the jammed masses of ‘lowlies‘ who labor and sweat and glory in the greatest of them all! Darkseid! Who will allow belief in nothing but himself!!” And, we will learn, Armagetto is prophesied to be the staging for the final showdown between Darkseid and Orion
A few specific structures are also featured:
• The aforementioned orphanage (and warrior school), “Happiness Home,” where young Scott Free is raised, and where “the inhuman condition is mother, father and guiding light” to its residents
• Section Zero, a “house of horrors” devoted to The Lump and prison of the “mystery prisoner,” Orion’s mother Tigra)
• Barracks of Female Fury Battalion Special Powers Force, where trained Big Barda and her Female Furies
Much of society is devoted to the training of warriors for Darkseid’s perpetual conflict, and while military service appears to be one of the few places of advancement, Himon tells Scott the reality of life as a soldier: “You’re a nothing! You’re an object! Your body is a weapon! — And your mind is its trigger! You’re given a world of conflict to test and
improve your ability to kill! And you kill! — For Darkseid! — It’s the driving purpose of Apokolips!!”
Malevolent Granny Goodness on a life in the army: “You’ll become a rat! Then a wolf! And who can tell? — You may get to be one of Granny’s fine young tigers! Won’t that be a glorious day!! All praise to Darkseid!!”
The skies of Apokolips are patrolled by Darkseid’s Para-Demons, devilish airborne creatures ever vigilant for interlopers from their sister world, and the surface is defended by Apokolips’s Dog Cavalary, demonically giant hellhounds ridden by the Master of the Holocaust’s well-armed elite soldier corps.
While New Genesis is generally populated by celestial beings, such as Orion, Lightray and The Forever People, Apokolips has a mixed bag of citizens: “The new gods are power beings — But on Apokolips their power is maintained by lesser entities! And from these emerge interesting personalities!!”
Included in the Apokoliptian “rogues gallery,” many of whom are now stationed on planet Earth:
Mokkari, Simyan, Kalibak, Mantis, Doctor Bedlam, Desaad, Granny Goodness, Glorious Godfrey, Virman Vundabar, The Female Furies (Mad Harriet, Stompa, Lashina, Bernadeth and Gilotina), Kanto, Hoogin, Steppenwolf, The Deep Six (Slig, Jaffar, Gole, Shaligo, Trok and Pyron), Wonderful Willik…
Indeed, Apokolips is, as advertised, “A world without mercy! A jungle of the super-strong!! The creation of evil gods whose code is shape up — or die!!!” And, in the end, it is an entire planet completely devoted to the whims of one being: “The grim and dismal world of Darkseid! — Where life is subservient to conflict and death!!”
And what is Darkseid’s will today? “My elite and I bring Apokolips to Earth…” to search for the Anti-Life Equation, presently residing in the unsuspecting brain of an Earthling or two…
I’m really enjoying your weblog. Great job! I’m not posting too much 4W material for the next year or so, but here are links to a couple great Kirby4W two-page spreads showing the original art and the published work.
Thank you, Rob! Nice blog you got, as well. Thanks for the great links. Superb!
It’s slowly dawning on me what a huge effort you’re putting into this blog. Of course, it’s mindboggling to imagine how Jack Kirby could create so complex a mythology in so few books at the early stage of the Fourth World. I wonder how much of it all he worked out in advance versus slowly expanding the mythology as he did each new book, in a stream of consciousness sort of way.
Then there is the work you’ve put into cataloging everything so when you tackle each day’s blog, you’re presented a well-researched and thorough examination of each concept.
My one suggestion would be at the beginning of each blog where you list the day of the blog, it would also be helpful if you listed the number and title of the book that is being referenced so we know where we are chronologically.
Many thanks — I am in awe of the whole project.
Well, golly, Bruce! Thanks so much for the generous comments!
The more I research the more I believe he thought out quite a bit beforehand and rifling through all the issues as I am constantly doing, especially with these particularly dense and rich initial New Gods entries, it increasingly strikes me how rapidly the stories flow, almost always moving at a breathless clip.
I mean, for instance, The Deep Six saga spans three issues (well, the end of #4, but completely #5 and 6) and that’s six months of comic books, a quarter of the run’s history. I recall waiting, endlessly waiting for the comics to hit the newsstand, but reading through them as a body of work is like WHOOSH!
The 11 issues of New Gods is Orion comes to Earth, tussles with Inter-Gang, has a showdown with The Deep Six, grapples with Kalibak, and swats some bugs. In a nutshell, that’s it (besides the “tapesty ish” of “The Pact”). Granted a LOT happens and I am grossly oversimplifying, but as comics it’s a raging juggernaut of storytelling, and yet it is so bloody satisfying!
I’m of the school that believes he pondered the storyline for years and that effort was a component of his terrible disappointment over the cancellation. I initially thought that he did make it up as he went along but serious study does not support that. For instance, Eve Donner, the playwright, whose apartment balcony is used by Orion and Lightray for respite — she is NOT a throwaway character; I’m convinced Jack had plans for her, that she WOULD be there at the end, at the grudge match to end ’em all between Darkseid and Orion… for me there’s no other way to interpret Eve’s presence and her prominence in that sequence. So many of the puzzle pieces fit nicely and there’s so much promise to concepts just emerging, like Forager…
I’m rambling. But thanks again for your reply, Bruce. It’s nice of you to speak so kindly. I can only say the work warrants a closer and closer look. I notice my tone is changing… less jokey and punny, and I’ve little interest in using nicknames for Mr. Kirby now… no more “The King,” for me. He’s a author, a profoundly great one, I think, and he deserves my respect…
That said, if I can get myself over to The Project and have myself cloned, I’d like to rewrite a good chunk of the first 50 entries to take out my stupidly snarky attempts at humor (and leave that jocularity to the reply section)… Cripes, maybe I’ll need more than one duplicate: my TJKC article is due in a few weeks!
The title and issue reference actually is at the END of each day’s entry, B.Z., among the category listings. It’s kinda small and in gray, but you can find it… If you look to the right at top, you’ll see all the different categories and listings for the issues already covered. That should help with ascertaining chronology, at least those of us in the know (and what other kind of person would be here anyway…). I’ll consider your suggestion — I’ll try it and ponder the addition — but I’m inclined to leave it things the way they currently are. No offense.
(Oh, and I just realized, if you’re suggesting I put it next to the date atop each entry, as far as I know, that’s a WordPress component that I cannot edit. I will ask Rand Hoppe though, as that’s not a bad idea a’tall!)
I wouldn’t worry about your jokey tone in the beginning. We were so glad you were doing this, I’m sure no one noticed, especially since the work itself is so awe-inspiring. And always, it was clear how reverential you were to Mr. Kirby.
As you opined about the whether the body of work was improvised or deliberated, I decided that he was probably cooking it all up during the last several years at Marvel. Since he made a decision to no longer invent new concepts on FF and Thor, but simply recycle old characters and storylines, I imagine a mind such as his was still in creation mode, just not for Marvel during that time. He must have been laying the foundations of the Fourth World. I just don’t believe he would have spent the time in sort of a shutdown mode entirely — I’m sure his brain was always on fire and it demanded some sort of an outlet, if not on his current assignment, then on a future endeavor.
Yeah, I think so, too — that Jack was filing away the “good stuff” when it came to new characters and concepts as he served out his contract at Marvel. But my question is, did he literally take notes on these ideas or (as I suspect) did he simply mentally shelve them for later use? Imagine the bombshell if we were to find out there are conceptual notations in his papers…!
One last thought: I was never clear on whether Jack wrote out a script or outline for each story he did. I always figured that he was so familiar with the comic medium that he could have an idea in his head for a story and then just pencil it out. Often, conflicts were resolved on the final page relying on a Deus Ex Machina sort of resolution which made me think he was freestyling it as he went.
Do you know how he worked it out?
I recall hearing how Jack would start a story by penciling in the top left hand corner of a page and cascade down and across from there. I believe it was all in his head and flowed out his hand. If Jack had taken notes, I like to think there would be evidence, but maybe he wasn’t a packrat… I will ask John Morrow when I speak with him next…