Category Archives: Earth

Day 101: Miss Laura Conway!

Miss Laura Conway is Galaxy Broadcasting CEO Morgan Edge’s personal secretary and she formerly served as the enigmatic Dabney Donovan’s “most trusted employee,” a fact revealed during the “Transilvane” storyline, where she was a more active player in the storyline than previously.

Just before Inter-Gang orders Morgan Edge out of his office and to escape Metropolis because the Four-Armed Terror was about to set off a nuclear chain reaction that would destroy the city, we catch the executive in a mundane situation with his new secretary. Barking orders from his desk, Edge says, “I want three copies made of these letters, Miss Conway!” To which a young, slender and attractive woman replies, “Yes, sir!” As she closes his door, he adds, “Oh, Miss Conway! I’d appreciate it — if your typing ability would begin to catch up with your devastating charm!” Her retort: “I never intended to be anything but efficient, sir!” As he attends to his Inter-Gang communication, Morgan Edge thinks, “The little snip! She’s as good as fired!

Later, after Metropolis was not vaporized in an atomic explosion and Miss Conway was not relieved of her duties, Morgan Edge returns to his office. As he enters the door…

Morgan Edge: Well, everything seems just as it did before I left! Any messages, Miss Conway?

Miss Conway: Mister Edge! I didn’t expect you back so soon — you did leave rather hurriedly, sir!

Morgan Edge: Well, you see, I learned that Metropolis would suffer an atomic explosion!

Miss Conway: Oh, er — Clark Kent called! He said that Jimmy Olsen is back — and they both want to see you!

Morgan Edge: [Thinking] I’d have favored the atomic explosion! [Out loud] Miss Conway! If Kent or young Olsen calls again — tell them I’m still out! They can wait! I’ve got bigger fish to fry! How are we progressing on those contracts for Don Rickles?

Miss Conway: Oh, Mister Edge! I just hope Don signs with us! He’s such a funny man!

Morgan Edge: Never fear! I’ll reel him in!

Miss Conway: That’s wonderful! We’ll have two of them now! Don — and his “look-alike!”

Morgan Edge: Look-alike?

Miss Conway: Yes! Goody Rickels! He’s on our research staff — a sweet, lovable soul —

Later, Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen ask Miss Conway some questions. Says Clark, “Is Mister Edge back yet, Miss Conway? Jimmy and I must see him!” Jimmy leans on her desk with a warning, “And don’t con us, Miss Conway! Some of the staff have seen Edge return!” Miss Conway is unfazed. “Then those same busybodies should have told you he went out again! However — Mister Edge left this for you both!” She hands Clark a small piece of paper. Jimmy says, “That looks suspiciously like an assignment slip!” And the boys are sent off to check a possible U.F.O. landing in Cronin Park.

Next, Miss Conway interrupts her boss. “Yes, Miss Conway! What is it now?” The secretary responds, “Oh, Mister Edge! You have been busy! Don Rickles just phoned to say he’ll be here soon! It’s so exciting! Oh — er — there’s been no calls from Goody Rickels! I do hope he can be of some help on that UFO story!” Taking a drag off his ever-present cigarette, Morgan Edge says, “Miss Conway, I’m extremely confident that Goody Rickels will fare no better or worse than the others!

A short time later: “Meanwhile, in the sumptuous office of Morgan Edge, the chief executive of the Galaxy Broadcasting System…” Miss Conway bursts in on her boss. “He’s coming, Mister Edge! He’s on his way up in one of the elevators now!” Morgan Edge replies brusquely. “Contain yourself, Miss Conway! After all, this network does business with many stars!” But the woman continues to gush. “Oh, but Don Rickles is such a treat!! I just can’t wait to get insulted by him!” Lighting a smoke, Morgan Edge says, “Yes! I’m anticipating something like that myself!” Miss Conway adds, “Wouldn’t it be just immense if Goody Rickels would return from his assignment to confront Don!?”

After the real Don Rickles is mobbed in the Galaxy offices — Miss Conway laments, “OH! Poor Mister Rickles” she and her boss help the comedian into the executive’s office, “There, there, Mister Rickles! You’ll mend rapidly in here!” Don gives her a look. “Who’s this broad? What is she playing? — “Nursey-nursey”? Morgan Edge offers, “That’s Miss Conway, my secretary!” Then, in a classic panel, while the curvaceous young lady walks out of the room, the comedian’s eyes glued to her sash-shaying figure in a form-fitting dress, Don quips, “You’re great, honey! You’re wasted here! You deserve something better than a typewriter and this sneaky crumb! Get yourself a bikini and start a chain of heart attacks at a garden party!” Miss Conways beams and replies, “Will do, Mister Rickles! I’m so thrilled!” She leaves and Don tells Morgan Edge, “‘I’m so thrilled,’ she says! Working for a guy like you — Morgan ‘Watch the Small Print’ Edge!!”

The beginning of Jimmy Olsen #142 begins ominously. “Amid the strange sounds at midnight, this classic horror figure never fails to emerge and haunt our dreams with terrible effectiveness! So here he is again — But wait!!!! — Your writer advises you to expect something more than the same old routine from The Man from Transilvane!” A sinister looking fellow and his werewolf companion look into the moonlit night. “The night is the same on any world, eh, Lupek?!! Ahead lies the city — and the one we seek!!” Mouth agape, fangs are revealed, and eyes glowing with no pupils, the vampire is ravenous. “Ahh! I sense her! I’ve found her! I call her name!! Laura! Laura Conway!! — Even as you sleep — you can hear my call!”

Like some sinister instrument locked on its invisible target, the man from Transilvane stands rigid!! Then–!!

Rays emanating skyward from his eyes, the monster boasts, “From my eyes soars the power!! It will reach her — and create the mark which will make us — as one!!

The power knows no distance! It projects for miles — to the city! To a building — to a window!! And beyond the window is Laura Conway — sleeping — sleeping — as the mark appears on her neck — to change her body chemistry! What has been done — is now done!! The reults of it will rival the most awesome events ever recorded!! When Laura Conway takes up the threads of her life the next day, at the offices of Galaxy Broadcasting System, her transformation is not ignored by Jimmy Olsen and his super-sonic sidekick, Superman, seen here in his other identity — Clark Kent!

Laura Conway is staring intensely at her desk , phone in one hand, pencil in the other. The reporters are looking at her with concern. Clark says, “You look a bit peaked this morning, Miss Conway! So we’ll try to make it short! –“” Jimmy adds, “Yes! When do we get to see Morgan Edge? He’s put us off long enough! We’ve got to talk to him!” Laura says, “Boys — boys — give me a moment–!”

Jimmy is annoyed, telling the secretary, “If Morgan Edge is dodging us, I can tell you it’s for a darn good reason!” Adds Clark, “That’s true! We’ve got questions to ask him that could put Mister Edge in a very embarrassing position!” Looking demur, Miss Conway responds, “Perhaps that’s why he’s out! Oh, I don’t know! At any rate, he isn’t here!” Then, in a startling moment, Miss Conway gives an open-mouthed smile that reveals — gulp! — prominent fangs! “And that, boys, could mean minutes, hours, days — You name it! Mister Edge left no departing word!” Jimmy blurts out, “Miss Conway! Y-your face –! I-I mean — are you okay??” Clark brushes past his pal to take charge. “One side, diplomat! Don’t you see she needs help?!” Jimmy leans forward on her desk as the veteran Daily Planet reporter takes the woman in his arms. Jimmy says, “She needs sorcery prevention, if you ask me — did you see –??” Clark responds, “I saw! I saw! But I can’t believe it! Easy, Miss Conway –” and he picks her up, carrying her. “What do you make of it, Clark?” asks Jimmy. “This is no ‘put-on,’ Jimmy!! She’s doing the vampire bit — down to the very ‘marks on the neck’!!

And the power — when it has fully taken hold — controls the body chemistry — controls the very body atoms — so that a pattern is followed — a complete and total pattern!

Hold her curvy and unconscious body before the office mirror, Clark exclaims, “Oh, my God! The mirror! Jimmy! Look in that mirror and tell me if what I see — is so! I mean — tell me, if what I don’t see is so! No! I — mean –” Replies the cub reporter, “I know what you mean! Miss Conway casts no reflection! And you know what that means!” Clark places the unfortunate woman on a couch. “Shouldn’t we call a doctor or something, Clark?” asks Jimmy. “Of course! Only here, in Morgan Edge’s empty office, we can at least make her comfortable!” Jimmy is incredulous, “Make her comfortable? Make a real vampire comfortable? Clark, she’s liable to get up and bite us both on the neck!” Clark is searching for a pulse and dismisses his comrade. “Oh, quiet! Let’s get our bearings!”

The next caption reads, “And the total pattern must remain fixed!! And nothing that belongs to it must ever be excluded!” A small mammal suddenly flies through the room. “A bat!!” says a shocked Olsen. “Here in the city — in the office!! Don’t tell me what happens next!!” Clark is stoic, adding, “Yeah! I saw the movie, too! Keep your cool, Jim!” Reads the caption, “–Even into the final materialization!” A new voice: “Good afternoon, gentlemen!!” A new figure in the room: “Allow me to introduce myself! Count Dragorin of Transilvane!” (Jimmy mutters, “It figures!”) The caped, pale-faced intruder continues, “I regret the intrusion upon your many activities in this place!! However, I am pressed to carry out my own, you see!!” Retorts Clark, “If your business is with Miss Conway, I suggest that you talk to us about it!” Jimmy steps in to wag a forefinger at the Count. “I second Clark’s motion! Now, what’s this all about? How do you work this gimmick — and why?” The newcomer is momentarily bemused. “You do have a certain charm, young man! But you try Dragorin’s patience!” Jimmy is pugnacious: “Oh, yeah? Well, why don’t you drop the act and help Miss Conway? It was probably you who caused her illness!!” Clark resumes his diplomatic stance, “Er — All we’re trying to say, Count, is — that we’re concerned! We’re friends of Miss Conway!”

But the white-visaged creature is on a mission and, giving the boys a nasty glare, tells them, “I said that I’m pressed by urgent action! And so it must be!! Behold the Evil Eye, gentlemen! It’s not a myth! For in it is power! And in the power there is irresistible force!” His right eye increasingly radiates until a burst of energy explodes from his pupil and there’s a giant ZZAPP! and the fellows are knocked off their feet.

The next sequence in this episode is captioned: “And back in Morgan Edge’s office, the power of the Evil Eye has taken its toll!!” Jimmy and Clark are sprawled on the floor, and the Man of Steel’s alter ego ponders, “The Count’s strange power sure packs a potent punch! Jimmy is completely stunned! But I have more effective protection! It’s called Superman! Now to see what the Count is up to –” Dragorin is advancing towards the woman. “Laura! Laura Conway!” Clark is ready to spring, as the interloper raises his arms in the air in a classic vampire pose. “If he tries to harm that girl –” thinks the reporter. “Rise, Laura! You have — the power!” And Miss Laura Conway rises off the couch. The Count is ever so slowly enveloping the secretary into the folds of his cape. “It is I, Laura! Dragorin! I’ve come because you are ready! You and I, Laura — we share the same power!” Miss Conway agrees, “Yes, Dragorin! We share the power! We share every secret within us!”

And now, we finally begin to understand the vampire’s singular pursuit of the female, as Dragorin reveals, “All but one, Laura! Where is Dabney Donovan, Laura!? Where is he? Where?” The secretary replies, “I-I don’t know! nobody ever knows where Dabney Donovan is!!” His hot breath on her neck, the Count replies, “But you were once his personal secretary! His most trusted employee! I’m listening for your answer!” Clark sneaks up behind the pair, thinking, “She’s angering him! I think it’s time to act!” Dragorin is insistent: “Don’t defy me, Laura! Answer!” Miss Conway blurts out, “Science Research Center –”

A wave of relief washes over the vampire. “Of course! The NASA Science Research Center! Dabney must have left records, files — a trail!! Donovan is an evil, clever one! But I’ll hunt him down!” Miss Conway explains, “I worked there for Donovan! But knew him only as a voice — dictating note from a tape recorder!” Then Clark springs at the vampire, thinking, “Here goes! –” Dragorin turns to exclaim, “Demons! This man has withstood the power!! incredible!” Clark retorts, “I’ll tell you more about it, Dragorin! When I have you subdued!”

But Count Dragorin vanishes in a vaporous puff — as Clark Kent seizes a handful of air — and loses his balance!!

Gone!” says Clark. “That Dragorin is as slippery as the man he’s hunting!” Sudeenly, Miss Conway comes to her senses. “What’s happened? What am I doing here? I-I feel so — weak–” Jimmy is also coming to, telling her, “Exactly my thoughts, Miss Conway!” Clark thinks, “Miss Conway’s face! — It’s losing the vampire characteristics! Dragorin’s power over her is fading!

Subsequently we learn, as Jimmy and Clark drive to the research center, that Miss Conway “snugly relaxes for a few days at the clinic.” And, the last we hear of Morgan Edge’s erstwhile and loyal employee, she’s still stationed outside the CEO’s office, as the “smiling cobra” tells Jimmy to report to her for details on the Scotland trip. “See my secretary, Miss Conway, on your way out, Olsen! She’ll brief you on the details!”

Yeah, there’s a ridiculous amount written here on her albeit few appearances in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen, but there’s not a whole lot to actually say about the character herself. She’s pretty but relatively nondescript, seemingly lives alone and appears devoted to her job and her current boss (even if he confesses though he heard the city was going to be disintegrated, she apparently wasn’t worthy enough to be privy to that knowledge… that “Oh, er –” response from her is precious!). Her old boss? She sells him down the river to a blood-sucking vampire pretty quick, don’tcha think?

Day 100: Terry Dean, Disco Queen!

Terry Dean, proprietor of the Metropolis discotheque Cosmic Carousel and chum of Jimmy Olsen, is a friendly, vivacious and beautiful young lady who, for a brief spell, assists Superman and the D.N.Alien Dubbilex investigating the mystery of a underground tunnel beneath her dance club. In the Fourth World epic, we first meet the twenty-something woman (perpetually dressed in red blouses with black stripes of varying necklines) when Terry enters the newspaper environs of The Daily Planet, where she has been summoned by editor-in-chief Perry White. As she enters the legendary journalist’s office we hear him on the phone: “Stay on it! Follow up all leads! It’s an order!” Hanging up, Perry turns to the woman, who is taking a seat. “You’re Terry Dean!” says Perry, “I’m glad you answered my call! Sit down, honey!” She looks at him with a wary eye, replying, “So you’re Perry White!” Holding his ever-present cigar, the newspaperman nods. “Yes! The Daily Planet‘s body now belongs to Galaxy Broadcasting! But I still operate its soul!

Terry Dean: You’re a great editor! Jimmy Olsen told me all about you!

Perry White: Yeah — you two became real chummy during his assignment to the “slum” story! What else did Jimmy tell you? — Did he drop any hints about a new, exciting story?

Terry Dean: Well — he did mention a Mister Edge!Morgan Edge!

Perry White: Galaxy’s own “smiling cobra!” I was afraid of that! So he assigned Jimmy to drop out of sight! But why? Where?

Terry Dean: You look kinda worried, sir! Do you think Jimmy’s in trouble?

Perry White: I don’t know! But I do know that Edge is ruthless! And he’s not above gambling with human life!

Terry Dean is actually a character first introduced in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen prior to Jack Kirby’s tenure as editor, in the “socially relevant” story “The Secret Slumlord of Metropolis” in #127, credited to Leo Dorfman, writer; Curt Swan, penciller; George Roussos, inker; Mort Weisinger and E. Nelson Bridwell, editors (, and while it’s tough to argue her personality was expanded much by Jack since this debut, Terry’s presence is sufficient enough, I reckon, to warrant a “Kirby version”… Though I must confess her red with black stripes shirt and white slacks ensemble was first seen in that March 1970 issue! (Perry’s emphasis on “slum” and a vague recollection of that story prompted me to check…)

This one-pager feels dropped-in, so to speak, included maybe at the request of the DC offices to remind us that Perry White is still in the series and to give us a regular female character in the series. Maybe, maybe not.

The young woman is much more involved in the plot when next she appears, JO #144, upon Superman and the Guardian traveling to “Suicide Slum” by invitation. “Imagine those kids!” says Superman, “Putting an ad in a newspaper — inviting us to their discotheque!” The Guardian responds, “If it’ll help their attendance, I don’t see the harm in going!” The pair arrive at the entrance to the dance club. “The ‘Cosmic Carousel!’” exclaims the Guardian. “These young people are as colorful with their language — as with their dress!” Superman replies, “With our costumes, we should blend in well with this crowd!”

But Superman forgets his public identity!! Both he and the Guardian are besieged by autograph seekers!

The pair sign autographs and answer questions when a beautiful face appears. Superman greets her with, “Terry Dean to the rescue, I presume!” The smiling young lady responds, “Oh, I’m so glad you came!! When Jimmy Olsen suggested I contact you, I never dreamed that you’d really respond!!” After the super-heroes check out the dance floor, a caption reads: “Terry Dean fusses excitedly over her guests!! She points out everything that might interest them!! That’s how the strangely garbed entertainers gain their attention!!” A group of odd-looking guys are playing bizarre instruments. “This is the San Diego Five String Mob!” says Terry to Superman and the Guardian, who are now seated in the nightclub. “They’re our very own discovery!!! They just showed up one day and offered to perform!!! Dig those weird instruments they play!! Each one has a freaky wound-up string! The sounds are new — but great!” Superman mutters, “I-I guess –” Terry then dives in for the kill. “Come on, Superman!” she urges, taking his hands in an attempt to drag him on the dance floor. “Don’t cop out on your reputation as an activist! Follow the music’s beat — and me!” The Man of Steel is reluctant. “Terry, I-I think I could do a better public relations job — just sitting here!!

Suddenly the general clamor fades to confused whispers, as a bizarre figure confronts and surprises Superman!!

Terry Dean: Hey! We’ve got a “U.F.O.” on the guest list! Far out! Who is he??

Superman: Galloping Krypton!! Dubbilex!!!

Bystander: Man! This guy is weirder than moon rocks!

Dubbilex, the Superman’s favorite D.N.Alien, has arrived and he informs Superman of a nearby mystery. “Train your X-ray vision on the floor at your feet!!! … Your X-ray vision will reveal how I got here, Superman!” Superman replies, “I see it, Dubbilex!” Terry is startled, telling them, “B-but that floor is solid! We have no basement!!” Superman corrects his new friend. “Not a basement, Terry!! — A tunnel! It’s been shored up! But it still exists!” The Sand Diego Five String Mob,” sensing their cover is blown, call forth their “sixth string,” Barriboy, and their instruments become weapons that make a shambles out of the Cosmic Carousel!

In the next issue, Terry and Superman cautiously walking down the secret tunnel. “Superman!!” exclaims Terry, “Do you see what I see??” Her friend concurs, “Yes, Terry!! I sure do!” Dubbilex has captured the San Diego Five String Mob, who are now levitating in the air. “Like wow, Mister Dubbilex!! How did you get them up there — and keep them up!??” Dubbilex answers, “Well, I-I don’t know — yet!! But it did give me a slight jolt!!” Superman thinks, “Terry doesn’t know Dubbilex is a D.N.Alien!” The horned friend suddenly frees the captives with a burst of telepathic energy, knocking Dubbilex to the floor. Helping him up, Terry notes (in an endearing exchange), “Mister Dubbilex!! You’re weird!!” Dubbilex responds, “It seems you’re correct, Miss Dean!” The Apokolips gang escape via Boom Tube which elicits this response from Terry: “Far out!! That big tube is fading! — and that rock group’s fading with it!!! Talk about wild doings!!!” Thinks Superman to himself, “I’d be as flabbergasted as Terry — if I hadn’t met the young Forever People — and learned about the Boom Tube — and the war with Apokolips!!!” A few moments later, Dubbliex asks, “Who — What — were those kids!!?” Terry shares the D.N.Alien’s puzzlement. “Yes, I’d like to know, too!! I hired them to play in my discotheque!” Superman replies, “That’s not important! I want to know why they came here!! And why they sought this tunnel beneath your club, Terry!”

When next we see the trio, Dubbliex is using his telekinetic powers to levitate Terry Dean in the air. “It’s amazing, Dubbilex!!” marvels Superman. “Your developing powers are beginning to actively manifest themselves!” Dubbilex answers, “With a beautiful volunteer like Miss Terry Dean — who knows what wonders I could perform?!” Terry is astonished, exclaiming, “I-I’m rising into the air — lifted by some unseen force!!” She is turned upside down and says, “Oh, wow!! This experience has some scary angles!” Dubbilex replies, “Be calm, Miss Dean!! I’ll let you down as easily as I can!!” Superman urges caution, saying, “Careful! Careful — Here she comes! good work, Dubbilex!! You’re able to control a most interesting faculty!!” Terry lands on her feat, gushing, “Gosh! That was exciting!! If I told my friends about it, they’d laugh me out of town!! Mister Dubbilex, you’re weird and wonderful!!!” But Dubbilex is concerned. ” “By your standards, Miss Dean!! But what are mine? What is emerging from this brain of mine??”

The final appearance of Terry Dean — and of The Guardian, for that matter — is in the panel where the resurrected Golden Age super-hero notes that the tunnel goes on for miles.”Gosh! Who built it?? Why??” We’ll learn that a Boom Tube frequents that tunnel and the Man of Steel is soon off to visit Supertown, leaving his new friends behind… forever…

Terry Dean is an eminently pleasant and attractive character in the series, and you can almost imagine a burgeoning relationship developing between her and Dubbilex given their mutual admiration society and the D.N.Alien’s comment — “who knows what wonders I could perform” on or with Terry — can be taken as a bit risque, don’tcha think? Whatever. She was a fun addition…

Day 99: The “Demon’s Organ”!

We’re not exactly privy as to how exactly the musical instrument influences those exposed to its sound, but The Infinity Man’s destruction of the “Demon’s Organ” confirms the device’s sinister intent! After basking in the sound of his hypnotized audience members at the start of “Life vs. Anti-Life,” Glorious Godfrey tells his flock, “I hear you, right thinkers! You’re shouting Anti-Life — the positive belief!” Behind him we see a fellow playing a high-tech organ bellowing out monstrous notes. “Listen,” the preacher beckons, “as the great organ catches your words and finds the wonderful music in them! And what am I, Glorious Godfrey, but another poor instrument that vibrates to your message? And I say, come to me! And I shall give you the power to wield death!

Later, when The Infinity Man infiltrates the next revival gathering in Godfrey’s big tent, the hero focuses on the musical device. As Godfrey berates him with “You fool! Do you think your spectacular gimmickry can stop this operation? The forces of Apokolips are many! — And mighty!” Replies The Infinity Man, “You secret is wind, Godfrey! An evil wind that rushes from your throat — and this Demon’s Organ! Which must be destroyed!” The amalgamated character’s hand begins a Kirby sizzle as the organist flees and Godfrey protests, “No! No! You can’t!” But, yes, yes, with a “ZZZOWWSSHHH,” he does and the musical instrument is destroyed, as IM tells us, “Its sonic chords will no longer stimulate the brute instincts that drive men into your service!”

I’m betting it’s safe to assume the translated sounds of the “Demon’s Organ” — the rantings of the converted are filtered in and some kind of controlling power comes out of the instrument — are what makes the Justifiers such zealots, though the recruits do appear predisposed to persecuting those they hate…

Day 98: S is for Scapegoat!

This entry is a slight departure in that rather than simply replicate Jack Kirby’s captions and dialogue on a given subject, I’d like to editorialize a bit and simply expound on what an innovative and daring aspect the Glorious Godfrey affair was to mainstream culture and perhaps why it’s concepts like this which sets the Fourth World apart from super-hero comics of that era and today. You might think this better included in the “Cooke Look” issue review, but I insist this is a bona fide Kirby concept and quite worthy of its own entry. So there.

For my 12-year-old mind, reading “Life vs. Anti-Life” was a combustive experience, igniting synapses throughout a tender brain and motivating me to start thinking about mainstream comics as containing concepts deeper, more resonate, vital even than usually seen. As a youth I certainly was familiar with the underpinnings of this particularly dark aspect of the Fourth World — the persecution of innocents en masse to serve the whims of a death-worshipping tyrant — as an extrapolation of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich and its war against the Jews and other “undesirables.” That, in itself, was nothing new in comics, where Fuhrer-esque villains and Nazi-like regimes abound, the savagery of World War Two reduced to pulpish melodrama (though the harsh reality of the Holocaust was rarely even hinted at other than depictions of victms being rounded up into concentration camps). But here, with the character of slick, handsome and vainglorious Godfrey, with all his oozing charm, and promotion of an elixir that will solve all of our discontents — Anti-Life, the “Happiness Package” — and the decidedly unpretty implementation of his flowery rhetoric… here Jack was talking about much deeper stuff, things that spoke to his own heritage, his own blood and his own experience.

And today, as a 52-year-old reader, poring over the story again and again, I derive even more nuance, much of it unintentional I’m sure. I note today’s discontent in the American electorate, a good portion being swayed by promises, homilies and affirmations of being told they are “special” and “deserving” — those folks afraid of change and fearful of an unknown fate — and how this story speaks to that contingent. And then there’s the prescient use of a suicide bomber, a fanatical scourge the world now deals with on a daily basis though virtually unknown in the early 1970s…

When we first view the Justifiers descending upon city rooftops, an Aero-Van pilot explains, “This is the part of town we want! The people we’ve chosen as targets live here!” The vehicle unloads its occupants, one ordering the troopers, “Move in swiftly! Before the swine realize what’s happening!” The pilot adds, “Seize as any as you can!” Another says, “Don’t bother to discriminate! The women and children are as hated as the men!” Surging down the building stairwell, one yells, “Break in the doors!” and still another, “Waste no time on mercy! Drag them out! Treat them rough!” Dragging a hapless victim from his apartment — who pleads, “Help! Help! Stop this!” — one armed thug boasts, “Listen to their cries! I’ve been waiting to do this for years!” And his comrade adds, “Get going! We’ll show what we do with your kind!”

Who are the people “chosen as targets” and “your kind”? They all apparently live in a specific neighborhood in the city and, given the women and children comment, seem to share more an ethnic or racial rather than an ideological distinction. As the unfortunates are loaded into the Aero-Vans (with one pleading, “Help! Where are you taking us?” and a Justifier replying, “Shut up! You’re nothing but animals! Get in that van! Stop shouting and get IN!”), we see a bad guy with clipboard and list telling his comrade, “We’ve got all on this list!” What is the common connection of those being rounded up? As the Aero-Van flies off to Happyland, a Justifier says, “Anti-Life works! We’re justified in ridding the city of this human trash! The city should thank us!” Certainly this indicates that a specific minority is being persecuted.

Then there’s the book-burning incident, when a flamethrower-wielding Justifier bursts into a library to order, “Put down those decadent books! Get out of the library! The nonsense stored in this place shall never pollute another mind! You need know no more than the proper things! Who but myself is justified in burning down this library!” Now, becoming a Justifier gives one that “Cosmic Hunting License,” so maybe this ignoramus is just acting on a personal vendetta against literature, but since it’s the second in a series of Justifier acts in the city focused on by Jack, I’m sure it’s an act sanctioned by Apokolips (albeit perhaps to mollify reactionaries in the ranks, which I suspect would be most of ’em!).

Especially mind-blowing is to see Glorious Godfrey, sitting in his hairdresser’s chair, being delicately attended to as the preacher, holding a hand mirror, watches a video screen showing his Justifiers wrecking havoc on city business establishments. “My little legion is doing well, too! There’s one of them defacing a store with an ‘S’ for scapegoat!” Weirdly un-ironic choice of nomenclature, given a scapegoat is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as: “2. A person or group bearing blame for others,” and if your intent is to blame a group, you’d hardly want to advertise the persecuted are stand-ins for the real culprits and themselves not guilty. But though slightly clumsy (and everyone in earshot could possibly be Apokolips denizens who are “in” on the whole scheme, so maybe I’m wrong), we do get Jack’s point and the startling direct allusion to a notorious evening in the late 1930s.

If people had any doubt about Nazi Germany’s intentions regarding the “Jewish Question” before World War Two, when, as cited in The Holocaust Chronicle (Louis Weber, publisher; 2002 Publications International, Ltd.):

November 9-10, 1938: Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) occurs across Germany and Austria. Ninety-one Jews are killed; others are beaten. Thirty thousand male Jews are sent to concentration camps, though most will be released in a few weeks. 267 synagogues are desecrated and destroyed (almost all of the synagogues of Germany and Austria). SS Security Service chief Reinhard Heydrich instructs security agencies to burn the synagogues unless German lives or property are endangered. Jewish businesses are looted and destroyed.

Painted on Jewish businesses were the Star of David and the word “JUD,” German for Jew. One estimate had Nazis and sympathizers shattering 7,500 storefronts — hence “crystal night,” for the glass shards littering the pavement — and we, indeed see a Justifier, breaking a window with a brick. Some 2,000 synagogues were damaged, many destroyed, in the “spontaneous” persecution, and yet it was a relatively mild precursor for the horrors perpetrated against the Jews which was to come…

There’s absolutely no doubt that Jack, himself of Jewish heritage, was making a not-so oblique reference to Kristallnacht with his “‘S’ is for Scapegoat” incident, astonishing for a mainstream comic book and an inclusion that still floors me.

Day 97: Aero-Vans!

The best way for Apokolips invaders to transport dozens of Earth prisoners quickly and under the radar of local authorities? Why, the flying Aero-Van, of course! Sporting a roomy, box-like interior for maximum people-packing and flanked on each side with jet propulsion engines, there’s also an exterior cockpit for the pilot’s maximum visibility of 360 degrees! Its hovercraft vertical take-off and landing capability and design to ride the Electron Stream make it perfect not only for transporting undesirables but for traveling dignitaries, as well! Even great Darkseid has used an Aero-Van during his visit to Happyland!

The Aero-Van is primarily used by Glorious Godfrey’s Justifiers and we first see its usage during the “targets round-up” in “Life vs. Anti-Life,” when, “swooping down upon the unsuspecting city –” an Aero-Van is landing on an apartment house rooftop. The pilot explains, “This is the part of town we want! The people we’ve chosen as targets live here!” Armed Justifiers, wielding Apokolips-made rifles, swarm out of the cabin doors, raid the dwellings and drag the victims into the vehicle to cart off to Desaad’s Happyland. A little later, the captured Forever People are also kidnapped via Aero-Van to suffer the attention of the Apokolips great tormentor.

Not long thereafter, “One of the strange hovercraft that service ‘Happyland’ arrives with a cargo of highest priority!” A visitor to the theme park tells his son, “Head’s up, Junior! There’s another one of those aircraft!” The boy says, “I can see the air-jets on the underside of it, Dad! See ’em?” The next caption reads “In a part of ‘Happyland’ reserved for the invisible ‘management,’ the hovercraft descends!!” As the Aero-Van vertically drops into an underground landing area, a controller radios the ship, “All clear for landing! The realm of Desaad hails our leader!” The pilot replies, “Message acknowledged! Stand by for the coming of Darkseid!

Later, when Happyland is devastated, “Air-van ‘shuttles,’ flown by Glorious Godfrey’s ‘Justifiers,’ take off in panic!! The prisoners they brought for Desaad will now set the law on their trail!!” Aero-Vans are flying en masse out of the aera, with one pilot hollering, “Let’s get out of here!”

But one of the “Justifiers” is delayed from leaving the secret landing strip!

Big Bear is restraining the Aero-Van from departing by his own power! “Hey! Cut that out!” orders the pilot, whose helmet has come off because of the Super-Kid’s action, “I’m trying to get this Aero-Van off the ground!!” But Big Bear implores the fellow to lend an ear. “Oh, please, sir!! I’m seeking transportation for myself and my friends! Please listen!” The pilot is outraged and powerless, “Mad-dog hippie!! You’re holding back this tonnage with your bare hands!! You must be stronger than a bull elephant!!” Big Bear is balancing the huge vehicle with a single hand and, with characteristic good manners, he replies, “My stars, sir!! Can it be that high density atoms flow through, and reinforce my own atomic structure?” Suddenly the pilot screams, “You moving mattress!! You’re from New Genesis!” and he pulls out a pistol and fires at point-blank range to the back of Big Bear’s head, who is startled but apparently uninjured as he replies, “Oops!! Well, Big Bear is the name, sir! — and power is my game!! That’s my bag, sir!!” explains Big Bear. “I store an excess of free atoms and send them where they’re needed!! Here, perhaps!!!” With that, Big Bear punches the underside of the exterior cockpit and the impact sends the pilot flying skyward.

After his fellow Forever People are consigned to different time zones courtesy of Darkseid’s Omega Effect, Serifan is bowed in the Aero-Van terminal when police officers arrive on the scene. The Super-Kid jumps into action, climbs into a damaged Aero-Van’s cockpit and applies one of his Cosmic Cartridges to “atune itself to the principle that powers this vehicle!!” Just as the cops burst in with guns drawn, Serifan is successful and the Aero-Van has a vertical lift-off! “Hold it! Come back or –” says one policeman. “We’ll stop him!! We’ve got helicopters in the area!” says another.

But no flying vehicle made on Earth can overtake an object that speeds in the Electron Stream! — Still undiscovered — and never traveled — here!!

Serifan’s flies toward the Super-Cycle, which takes defensive measures and the copycat cowboy leaps from the Aero-Van to join the Forever People vehicle.

In other Fourth World tales we see vehicles that are similar to the Aero-Van but not identical. Darkseid and Uncle Steppenwolf use a hovercraft, albeit one that travels between planets, for their fateful hunting trip to New Genesis in “The Pact.” The Magna-Lift is more like a helicopter, which we see dropping off a bunch of minions who are stalking Big Barda in “Doctor Vundabar and His Murder Machine.” We also see some AntigravShips in “The Apokolips Trap” and “Himon” used for transporting troops and Granny Goodness Finishing School recruits.

It appears that Aero-Vans are specifically constructed for Glorious Godfrey, as the Magna-Lifts are manufactured especially for Virman Vundabar and no doubt the entire Granny Goodness contingent. The ability to fly the “Electron Stream” certainly indicates Apokolips design but were they assembled here, on Earth? They surely look too big to be transported via Boom Tube (unless one can summon an inter-dimensional bridge of varying width!)…

Day 96: Justifiers!

The Justifiers are the zealots commanded by Glorious Godfrey and his lieutenants, crusading on our planet to do the ultimate bidding of Darkseid. They are recruited on Earth through Godfrey’s big tent revival meetings, mesmerized by the preacher’s rhetoric and hypnotized by the “Demon’s Organ,” the musical instrument which has some power over human minds. We first encounter Godfrey’s soldiers as attendants during a sermon — some holding up placards, others singing in the chorus, one playing the sinister organ, and another displaying the Justifier masks, telling the captivated audience, “Wield death! Wield oain! You can be justified — if you wear one of these!” The masks and accompanying Justifier costume have a medieval vibe to the fashion — think Boris Karloff’s Mord in Tower of London, only with revved-up Kirby panache — and they’re quite effective in conveying their fanaticism and executioner ambiance.

The recruits appear to be generally bitter, disaffected people who see themselves as victims and that others as taking what said “victims” deserve. Big Bear calls them discontents. Godfrey appeals to those who feel threatened by change and “outsiders.” Audience members appeal to the preacher: “Tell it, Godfrey! Tell us how our pride is being attacked and dragged in the dust!” And another: “It’s the others, Godfrey! Those who don’t think right!” And a third: “This is our world! Our world! They have no right to meddle with it!”

Who “they” are is not immediately recognizable, but Godfrey promises the sun and the moon to his converts — the right to kill any perceived enemy! “Yes, friends! Though Life is ever filled with those who threaten us, it is Anti-Life which gives us the power to eliminte them! The holocaust is coming! The day of Apokolips on Earth! The Day of Darkseid, who brings this power for only us to use! Yes, it is his gift to us, friends! The Cosmic Hunting LIcense! The right to point the finger or the gun!” Godfrey holds forth a Justifier accoutrement. “When we wear this helmet, we feel unified! Glorified! Justified! Step up, friends! Take your helmet! Be superior! Be fierce! Be a justifier!

One wonders if the helmet contains a device that keeps a Justifier on-mission as immediately after the sermon we are witness to the hell one of these zealots can unleash on any of us. In the middle of Uncle Willie and Donnie’s apartment stands a thuggish Justifier, his hands grabbing hold of the young cripple’s shirt.”Where are your friends, boy? Tell me, you little garbage! — Or I’ll kill you!” Holding the kid up in the air, the zealot demands, “Where are the Forever People, little swine? Tell me! Tell me!” Beautiful Dreamer creates the illusion all of her teammates are on Glorious Godfrey’s side. “Wha-? Who are you? Where did you get those Justifier helmets?” Suddenly the Super-Kids grab Donnie and bolt out of the apartment, with Big Bear explaining their panic: “If that Justifier was sent here to destroy us — there is only one way he can get us all in one stroke! He’s wired to explode! The Justifier is a human bomb!” Adds Serifan as they all run in the street, “Yes! He must die — in order to destroy all of us!” Beautiful Dream says, “There is no stopping a Justifier! He can justify his own death!” Mark Moonrider carries Donnie and says, “The Anti-Life principle is now part of him!”

Coming outside, through the apartment window, is the zealot. “You tricky, young dogs! You won’t get far! When I jerk this igniter you die! The bomb I carry was not made on Earth! What is conceived on Apokolips can eliminate those from New Genesis! Die!” With that, the Justifier pulls his ignitor chord and sacrifices his life for Glorious Godfrey’s nefarious plan… The kids survive and Mark comments, “The Justifier died willingly — but in vain!” Vykin recognizes the touch of one of Darkseid’s elite: “And the one who sent the Justifier to kill us — can only be — Glorious Godfrey!” The Forever People prepare to engage Godfrey with their sentient computer as navigator: “Wherever Glorious Godfrey and his Justifiers are — Mother Box will reach out and find them!” says Beautiful Dreamer.

As the team travels the Electron Road, Aero-Vans descend on the city rooftops. “This is the part of town we want! The people we’ve chosen as targets live here!” says the pilot. Landing on an apartment roof, the back door of the transport opens to reveal armed Justifiers. Barks a leader, “Move in swiftly! Before the swine realize what’s happening!” The pilot instructs, “Seize as many as you can!” Another Justifier adds, “Don’t bother to discriminate! The women and children are as hated as the men!” The Justifiers flood down the stairwell, smashing into apartments. “Break in the doors!” scream one. Another, “Waste no time on mercy! Drag them out! Treat them rough!” Dragging occupants out of their homes, one Justifier gloats, “Listen to their cries! I’ve been waiting to do this for years!” As a victim pleads, “Help! Help! Stop this!” his capture yells, “Get going! We’ll show what we do with your kind!”

The unfortunate souls are being herded into the Justifier Aero-Van. Screams a woman, “Help! Where are you taking us?” A Justifier responds, “Shut up! You’re nothing but animals! Get in that van! Stop shouting and get in!” A Justifier with a clipboard confers with a comrade, saying, “”We’ve got all on this list! Now, take off, before the police interfere!” The Aero-Van takes to the skies and we hear an interesting comment: “Anti-Life works! We’re jsutified in ridding the city of this human trash! The city should thank us!” Up to now we are lead to believe Justifiers are humans doing tasks for Darkseid, but this comment may indicate that at least some are originally from non-human Apokolips.

Then a Justifier, wielding a weapon, enters a library. “Put down those decadent books! Get out of this library! The nonsense stored in this place shall never pollute another mind!” Suddenly we realize his device is a flamethrower, which the zealot ignites and fires into the stacks. “You need know no more than the proper things! Who but myself is justified in burning down this library?” A bystander exclaims, “Call the police! This guy is a dangerous nut!”

Glorious Godfrey, receiving a trimming, is viewing the goings-on via video screen. “My little legion is doing well, too! There’s one of them defacing a store with an ‘S’ for scapegoat!” One of his underlings says, “Anti-Life is a heady, exhilarating experience, Godfrey! They’re in ecstasy.” Glorious Godfrey replies, “Yes, they no longer think! They revel in emotion! They will do anything I say — in order to feed their emotion! They are now no more than zombies in my control!” Godfrey then learns the suicide bomber has failed to eliminate The Forever People, who swap places with The Infinity Man and advance into Godfrey’s revival meeting. (The caption reads: “The grim, silent crowd, ever seeking the answers to its discontent, enters the giant tent of Glorious Godfrey! — And so does The Infinity Man!” But after the defeat of The Infinity Man and the Super-Kids, Justifiers load the unconscious new-agers onto an Aero-Van. “Open those doors!” says one. “Load these enemies of Apokolips aboard one of our departing Aero-Vans! No need to treat them gently!” Another explains, “We’re taking them where we took the others! To the Camp of the Damned!” The pilot says, “It is not the first of its kind seen on Earth! But Desaad is the master of this one! Even as Justifiers make a mockery of life — Desaad plays with death as if it were a fine art!” The Justifier carrying Mark Moonrider (one-handed!) says, “I wonder what sort of masterpieces he’ll make of these brats!”

Next comes the Justifiers tussle with the Super-Cycle. At the onset of “The Omega Effect,” a Justifier security patrol, flying courtesy of their “Flight-Shoes,” happens upon the parked Forever People transport. “It’s the vehicle left behind by those New Genesis brats we captured!” Orders another, “Destroy it! Where they are — they won’t need it anymore!!” The hapless Justifier assigned to attend to the Super-Cycle whines, “Huh! I get all the ridiculous chores!!” while the others fly down to Godfrey’s encampment. “Turn down the noise on your ‘Flight-Shoes!‘ Glorious Godfrey is still receiving recruits in his great tent!” The lone sentry wields a threatening device, telling us, “This Apokolips weapon should do a thorough wrecking job on that thing!!!” But the Super-Cycle start to make unusual noises. “Strange! The darn thing is makin’ sounds — like it was alive!! Wha-?! It’s moving!!Changing!! — The handle-bars — The cabs — The wheels –!” And then the Super-Cycles fires upon the Justifier, paralyzing him! The security patrol returns to investigate. “That spooky vehicle — it’s turned into some kind of weapon!!” Another says, “Careful! It’s already scored!

The caption reads: “Then — more shots — more stiffened, falling figures!!! All in full view of Glorious Godfrey down below!!!” Godfrey orders his Justifiers to “Destroy that abomination!!” and a crew of newbies steps forward. “We’ll volunteer for the job, Glorious Godfrey!! Give us the chance to serve you!!” Godfrey asks his first lieutenant, “These are new recruits!! Can they do it??” The officer is enthusiastic, “Zealots will do anything!! Just point them in the proper direction, Godfrey!” The leader turns and raises his arms above the fresh soldiers as if in benediction. “You Earthmen are the shining embodiment of ‘Anti-Life!’ You leap at the throat of death — because you’re transformed!!” Volunteers one, “Belief in Anti-Life makes all Justifiable! Belief in you, Glorious Godfrey, makes us — ‘Justifiers!’” A jubilant Godfrey sends them off. “Then, ‘To arms!!’ Get to your weapons and instructions!! — And finish that job!!!” The Justifiers are ecstatic, one yapping, “Yahooo! We’ll blast that thing into twisted junk!!!” Godfrey’s number one gushes, “They’re really eager to destroy! What’s the secret, Godfrey? The helmet? The uniform? The creed?”” Godfrey beams and answers, “Earthmen are given all those things at birth!! I merely justify their readiness to use them!! That’s why they love me!!!”

Next we see a zillion — or thereabouts — Justifiers swarming up the incline to lay final siege on Serifan and the Super-Cycle. Godfrey says, “My followers are ready! My Justifiers champ at the bit!! — In one moment they’ll surge over that hill! — Weapons blazing!! — Shouting with the joy that comes in the release of destruction!! Kill, men, kill!! Darkseid absolves you of all guilt!!” But the Super-Cycle riddles the Justifiers with its paralyzer gun, yet the fanatics keep up the onslaught despite their losses. “They’re still coming!” Serifan thinks, “Like all zealots, Justifiers never give up! The Super-Cycle is defending itself magnificently!! But some attackers are bound to break through!!” Choosing a capsule from his headwear, the cowboy muses, “It’s best that I choose the correct Cosmic Cartridge from my hat-band — and hold it in readiness for instant activation!!” A Justifier rushes the youngest Forever Person, screaming, “Die!! — You New Genesis whelp!!” and fires his weapon. The following caption reads: “Even as the Justifier’s weapon fires, the Cosmic Cartridge generates a shield of atoms — strong enough to repel the shot and cause it to rebound on the attacker!” Serifan is determined to hold out until death takes him. Godfrey is happy to comply and says to a minion, “I’ve wasted enough zealots!! Use the Induction Rifle!!” Its wielder says, “It’ll pressurize the ground above the brat — and bring the cliff down on him!” Is this the end of Serifan and the Super-Cycle? We’ll see, but we do know this is the finale of the Justifiers, who depart after this scene!

Day 90: Follower!

The Follower is an artificial humanoid used to mimic the precise movements of whoever is (apparently) in its proximity. In the beginning of Mister Miracle #2, when Scott Free and his assistant, Oberon, are being observed by Overlord, they are taking inside packages, containing Follower components, for Scott to assemble. Oberon notes that the “factory people came through on time!” indicating, I would assume, it was manufactured to Scott’s specifications. Dressed in a Mister Miracle costume, it looks to be made of metal and, if I interpret Scott’s statement correctly, is of Apokolips design: “My people refer to this kind of unit as a ‘Follower!‘ — a sort of test-figure!” As Scott finishes the assembly, Oberon responds, “Your people, whoever they are, play with strange toys!” Demonstrating the Follower — Scott swings his arm and the Follower copies him exactly — Mister Miracle tells his small friend, “A ‘Follower’ is not a toy! He is in truth — an extension of yourself! Like a mirror-image — he does exactly what you do! I need the ‘Follower’ in this experiment! We’re working with a volatile explosive!”

Scott jumps on a platform and the Follower does the same, and then they are both suited up in straitjackets. “By duplicating my movements, the follower will tell me how well I’m doing!” Oberon gingerly brings over the explosive just as the Overlord strikes! Luckily, the Follower, mistaken for the real Scott Free, takes the brunt of the attack and the super escape artist says over its broken figure, “The Follower seems beyond hope.”

But later, as Oberon is sweeping up the debris, the Follower suddenly rises. “Yipe! Preserve me! It’s that weird, crawly ‘Follower’ thing! I-it’s come to life — trying to rise –” And, yet again, Apokolips agents believe the Follower to be the real Scott Free and they seize it and Oberon to deliver to the matron of Happiness Home of lovely Apokolips, Granny Goodness herself. But the witch immediately recognizes the fakery. “What!” the harpy screams. “You mindless fools! What have you returned with!!?? Didn’t you notice the dead eyes? This is a ‘Follower!’ not Scott Free!” The last we see of this particular model, it is being thrown across the room by mean ol’ Granny.

But the another version of a Follower arises in the penultimate ish of The Forever People, in “The Scavengers,” when Mark Moonrider and Serifan create a model for the spectral form of Boston “Deadman” Brand to inhabit. The Director of an international heist group (that’s his name: the Director) called The Scavengers is watching a surveillance film secretly shot while the Super-Kids are inspecting their Follower, the spitting image of Deadman. Mark says, “The ‘Follower’ is almost ready, Serifan! It will make a fine vehicle for our friend!” The copy-cat cowboy concurs. As he demonstrates the Follower’s ability to copy movements, he tells Mark, “The ‘Follower’ works smoothly, indeed, Moonrider! He has strength and a good response! Using the body of the ‘Follower,’ our friend will be able to pursue his destined purpose on a physical plane!”

The Director henchmen named Operator Twenty-Four tells his boss: “This ‘Follower’ thing should be studied! These Wonder-Kids blabbed that it can be grown from anything organic! — And re-shaped atomically!” (Interesting shift here though maybe the New Genesis model is organically grown; the Apokolips version manufactured as machine.) The Director, who may or may not have been involved in Boston’s assassination, croaks, “Boston Brand is a ‘Deadman!’ Now — this ‘Follower’ is built — ‘to house a friend!’ Your next job is to steal that ‘Follower!’”

Deadman is grateful for Mark and Serifan’s efforts and looks forward to “possessing” the replica. “And in the body of the ‘Follower,'” Boston vows, “I’ll track [my killer] down! — And bring him to justice!” But, wouldn’tja know it, one of The Scavengers has broken into Trixie Magruder’s basement — in the house where the Forever People are staying — and has run off with the Follower (by having the artificial person copy his every move, so there must be a delay option on the mimicry, huh?) The silent, masked intruder notes, “There’s the ‘Follower’ — unguarded — and ripe for the taking! Uncanny! It’s like a zombie — with reflexes!!”

(Interesting that Jack describes the Follower at this point to be “cooperative and meek,” and on the next page, to quote Mark Moonrider, “The ‘Follower’ is active and strong!”)

The Follower is taken for inspection in the Scavengers’ hidden lair, where a brute wearing a steel glove attempts to “test his hide,” but when the thug throws a punch at the thing, the Follower hits him square in the jaw, knocking him cold. The Director’s henchmen then orders the faux Deadman to stop and says to his boss, “He reacts like a mirror-image! Only — with the power to floor an elephant!” The Director is paranoid about the Follower being made in the late Boston Brand’s image. “– I get the feeling that this thing is a — shell! — A shell — waiting for — ‘something’ to possess it!” And, on cue, the restless spirit of the former circus aerialist takes possession of the Follower and a donnybrook ensues. Deadman — or the Follower he inhabits, to be exact — is struck frozen by a “Frost Beam” while The Forever People deal with the Scavengers attack. After being defrosted by one of Serifan’s Cosmic Cartridges, Boston exclaims, “I-I feel nothing! I’m not the Follower! — Just its tenant! Fantastic! I’m a Deadman — moving an organic machine that looks like — myself!” Boston then swings into action — “This sure beats operating in spirit form!” — and uses his acrobatic skills to get the better of the remaining gang, only after being taking six bullets at point blank range. Seizing the gun from the culprit, Deadman is triumphant before the incredulous assailant: “Don’t look surprised, you rat! You can’t kill a Deadman! The Follower’s body has the self-sealing faculty to absorb and close these nasty bullet-holes!”

The adventure concluded, the resurrected hero turns to the team and says, “I want to thank you for this physical body! — With which I can get the job done!” Serifan then retrieves a capsule from his hat belt and hands it to Deadman, telling him, “And this will help you remain in it! — The Blue Cartridge! It’ll link your spirit atoms permanently with the Follower’s form!”

Thus a dead super-hero is given new life, now inhabiting a Follower, one created by the Super-Kids of New Genesis… Leave it to Kirby!

Day 89: Solar-Phone!

Ahhh, everything starts out nice and trippy for the gang — Jimmy O., Superman and “that resurrected rat-pack of rollicking rowdies,” the Newsboy Legion — when they attend the Hairies’ Friday night “sing in” at The Project! Unbeknownst to our heroes, Homo Usurpus, the Four-Armed Terror, is about to make a rampaging entry into the vast underground government complex! But, let’s enjoy the Solar-Phone party while things are temporarily nice ’n’ friendly!

The mind-bending episode begins with typical Kirby hyperbole, with the caption reading: “Wild Area! Zoomway! Habitat! Outsiders! Strange names in a strange world which has evolved in a great natural cavern beneath modern America! This is the world of The ‘Project’ — where the secret of the century has been kept! The harnessing of the DNA molecule!!!! The breaking of the genetic code!! Man experimenting with life!! Jimmy Olsen is there! And so is his pal Superman. They’re alive and well among the wondrous DNA denizens! But who can say for how long? — For a mighty, living juggernaut is fast approaching!”

Jimmy is seated and at the controls of a strange device, part keyboard, part image transmitter — and all-Kirby in design! — and he’s sporting a wide grin. “Wow! When the Hairies invited us to their dance, I never imagined they’d let me officiate like this, Superman!” The Man of Steel, standing behind the young reporter, is wearing what appears to be oversize earphones with a type of visual attachment. “The Solar-Phone is their latest invention, Jimmy!”

The there’s this caption: “Among the variety of living species produced in The ‘Project,’ the ‘Hairies’ are amazingly productive! They are mechanical geniuses! — And the Solar-Phone is new evidence of their strange life-style! It gathers the radio-signals from the stars and converts them into mental musical images!” Sitting on the floor before Jimmy and Superman is a horde of hippy-like Hairies, the Newsboy Legion among them, each wearing the same head device as the Last Son of Krypton, most holding hands and eyes closed, ready to embark on a journey into the mindscape! One girl says, “Our minds receive! The ‘dance‘ begins!” A hirsute fellow adds, “We are all together — we hear as one! We see as one! We soar as one!” Then the scuba-crazed Legionnaire chimes in: “Man! This is cool! It’s like a movie musical — and everybody’s in it! Includin’ me, Flippa-Dippa!” Superman tells his friend, “Keep playing, Jimmy!” You can’t do anything wrong! The Solar-Phone arranges all incoming signals into patterns of harmony!”

And then, in three full pages of krazy Kirby kollages, we understand what all the excitement is about! “What the dancers see is a new and wondrous universe of shifting, kaleidoscopic geometric forms!” The group seem to be experiencing what most of us would call a mass hallucinogenic acid trip, perceiving themselves as floating past fantastic images. Gabby is ecstatic, sharing with his fellow travelers, “Wow! This is great! It’s like we’re floatin’ free in Wonderland!” Scrapper is similarly delighted: “It’s a nutty Hollywood set wit’ symphony music all around us!” But Big Words hears something different, telling his pals, “That’s not the music I hear!” Explains an opulently tressed young lady, “Each of us hears the music in the way it pleases him most!” Jimmy puts it best, gushing, “Groovy! This is a real gas!” The Superman looks ahead and observes, “The scene is changing! What lies ahead?”

The panorama switches to an even more fantastical sight — “Soon, the dancers are whirling and soaring past strangely bizarre and beautiful worlds…” Giant flowers, massive planets, Buddhaheads, stone carvings abound. Notes Scrapper, “Dese flowers smell for real — like dey wuz from Kelly’s Funeral Parlor!” Even Superman is impressed, exclaiming, “Fantastic! The Solar-Phone communicates all this!

Then — BWOM! POW! — “Suddenly, the enchanting dance is brought to a jarring halt!” The walls are quaking. “The shocks that bring the dancers back to harsh reality continue with fearful intensity!” Yup, the Four-Armed Terror is knockin’ on the front door! But that’s another episode…

No doubt about it, the always prescient Jack Kirby envisions virtual reality here, right down to the headphones and goggles, mixed with the Merry Pranksters’ Kool-Aid Acid Test to keep it contemporary. Sure, it’s a diversionary moment, maybe even throw-away, but wondrous awe works superbly well with the pacing and the caption stating the Solar-Phone “gathers in the radio-signals from the stars” certainly opens the doors for some story possibilities down the road.

I love this kind of stuff from Jack because it represents the joyful side of imagination when contemplating future technology. Sheer wonder!

Day 86: Super War!

In contrast to the “Great Clash” of an era past, the ongoing conflict between the two worlds of New Genesis and Apokolips is now an inter-dimensional struggle as it involves our very planet. First dubbed a Super War by Earth’s guardian, Superman, when he harbors doubts while traveling through the Boom Tube on his aborted trip to Supertown. Mused the Man of Steel, “Is Earth the battleground for some strange Super-War?” The introductory caption to The Forever People #2 states, “Although their background is shrouded in mystery, they are already embattled on Earth against emerging forces of awesome and terrifying nature! And are we in this, too? We may be friend or foe of the Forever People! — Bystanders or participants in an ominous and perhaps final Super War!

Certainly this setting of a war as backdrop for Jack Kirby’s Fourth World opus is what sets it apart from other interconnected super-hero titles. Marvel’s common connection is the tales are primarily based in New York City — or on Earth — and the characters have some interaction with one another, sometimes joining up as teams, usually to thwart an enemy, who would change from issue to issue. But generally no matter the threat to our planet, conflicts are resolved and everything goes back to normal, all nicely wrapped-up, by the story’s end.

Jack’s vision was decidedly different and innovative. The Fourth World has as backdrop a huge, multifaceted fight of intergalactic proportions, with dozens of characters — those of the “good” worlds of New Genesis and Earth — in battle with a single enemy, Darkseid, and his minions of the “bad” world of Apokolips. And though we’re all aware the overall series was aborted very early in its intended run, readers all knew everything was careening to an ultimate climax — an ending — something quite unheard of in comic book “universes.”

And the enemy and his goal was also startlingly inventive and resonate. Unlike the usual funnybook bad guys who simply want money or power or revenge, Darkseid, the all-powerful and unquestioned ruler of Apokolips, seeks the Anti-Life Equation which would give him the ability to snuff out all life in the entire universe with a single word! This takes villainy to an entirely new level! Why he wants this ultimate lethal force, we’re never made privy, but it’s likely something simple that motivates this malevolent creature… the sin of pride. (And to think Darkseid’s search is no secret to his servitors! They hardily and enthusiastically strive to do his bidding, which is to exterminate all life everywhere! These are some very not-nice people!)

We see in the superb “flashback” story, “The Pact,” how the “Great Conflict” — that previous war between the two planets — completely engulfed New Genesis and Apokolips to horrific degrees, rendering both worlds to ruins in a general, all-out war. But the Super War, using Earth as the battleground, is so far a less conventional process, as Darkseid and his agents have established underground network of tunnels, covertly working in shadows, under our radar so to speak.

Thus, to convince his Earth allies — Victor Lanza, Claudia Shane, Harvey Lockman and Dave Lincoln — of the threat posed by sinister Apokolips, Orion employs the assist of his special device, upon which they all lay a hand. “Mother Box will help you see through my eyes — to see the images my words evoke!” Suddenly horrendous visions are transmitted. First a hunched-over, cloaked figure stands in a city park as a Boom Tube appears. “Now,” Orion says, “see for yourselves the invasion of Earth by the fierce creatures of Apokolips! That circle of flaming energy signals the coming of — The Boom Tube — the dimensional bridge from which Darkseid’s subjects pour!” We hear the hooded welcomer bark to strange creatures emerging from the portal, “Hurry! You have your appointed tasks!” And then the foursome listens to Orion as they view some very scary characters, “Now they roam Earth to fulfill Darkseid’s objective! Some are servitors — others are beings of frightful power!” The scene shifts to underwater monsters, humanoid but scaled and ferocious. “They thrive in every element — witness the new arrivals to Earth’s waters — those known on Apokolips as — The Deep Six!

The visual, in a nod to ongoing events in The Forever People, changes to Mantis, the “awesome digger,” who rants, “I shall take my share of booty here! Let mankind serve the victor!” And, the virtual reality tour winding down, there’s a glimpse of the goings-on over in the Jimmy Olsen book, with a full-page scene of Outsiders dancing in a procession through Habitat: “These monsters prowl and seek in Darkseid’s cause, not only in the known domains — but also in stranger places — like the Wild Area — where a bizarre dropout society may hold the secret which Darkseid yearns to possess!”

(One captivating aspect that endeared many a reader to the Marvel Comics Group was the use of captions to reference past issues and current titles (and it was smart marketing, to boot!), and it’s something I fear Jack didn’t use enough of in his interlocking titles, though he obviously did in this case. Mark Evanier and Steve Sherman, in the “To and From the Source” essay in this same issue of The New Gods strongly urged readers to keep an eye on all of the titles — “Other new characters have yet to be introduced — which is why we stress the importance of following the entire continuity of the series. Important elements appear in all of the books and with The New Gods, The Forever People and Mr. [sic] Miracle scheduled to be released three weeks apart; it’s almost like having one long novel, with one-and-a-half chapters per month on the average.” — and the addition of “The Fourth World of…” onto the fourth issue covers of his titles (and Jimmy O #139) helped clue readers in that a larger tapestry was being woven here…)

Day 84: The Tele-Ray!

Now, I’m not sure the precise details regarding how the gods of New Genesis and Apokolips call forth the Boom Tube, the mode of transportation, a temporary interdimensional bridge, linking the two worlds together and each to Earth. Orion simply says, “It stems from the waves of the mind!” Going between the planets in instantaneous fashion, there’s also the pre-Boom Tube “Matter Threshold” and “Dimension Threshold,” and Big Barda’s “Mega-Rod” (“It’s the latest from ordnance!! Better than the Boom Tube!“).

But it seems those X-Element fueled modes of instantaneous transport aren’t used to get from one place to another on our home planet. But Star Trek-like teleportation on Earth can be achieved via phasing circuits sewn into clothing (as so with the Female Furies in “Funky Flashman”) or phasing with The Forever People’s Super-Cycle or when the Super-Kids use Mother Box, as they did in the last issue of their title. There’s also the little-used method of the Tele-Ray, a mode only seen in this second issue of The New Gods, I believe.

After Darkseid and Brola break into Dave Lincoln’s apartment and their unsuccessful confrontation with Orion, the two Apokolips denizens suddenly vanish, Brola in mid-air over a Metropolis street! Surveying the avenue below through a huge gaping hole now aerating the Lincoln abode, Orion says, “Darkseid moves as no one on Earth does! His machines are legion and infinitely precise! It is evident that Brola never completed that fall — that Darkseid snatched him by Tele-Ray!”

And the second — and final — reference to the Tele-Ray in the series is when, with a ZZZTTT, Darkseid and his “fighting arm,” Brola, appear by Tele-Ray in “one of the secret bases established beneath the city.”