Category Archives: Heroes

Day 48: The Death of the Old Gods!

Who but Jack Kirby would begin the masterwork of his life with an epilogue, and one that (metaphorically, at least) eliminates his prior legendary characters in a conflagration of death and inferno, closing the book on the myths he created for a certain House of Ideas. Look closely at the hammer-wielding warrior about halfway down and to the left on this page-one splash page of his New Gods #1 and you tell me that doesn’t resemble a God of Thunder. (You want more evidence? Check out the artifacts Lonar discovers, particularly the winged-helmet, in “The Young Gods of Supertown” back-up vignette in The Forever People #5, when he chances upon a city of the old gods.)

Yes, here we finally witness the End of It All: Ragnarok! Warring gods battling for pride and possession and resulting only in their mutual destruction! “An ancient era was passing in fiery holocaust!”

(Allow me a quick aside regarding Jack’s frequent use of the word “holocaust”: It needs to be understood that the term, as we know it today, pretty much singularly refers to Germany’s war against the Jews (and other folk despised by the Nazis). The U.S. Holocaust Museum, for instance, is devoted to the genocidal events on the 1930s and ’40s in Europe. Though frequently a term used to describe the attempted extermination, the connection between the word and the event wasn’t etched in stone until, of all things, the broadcast of a U.S. television mini-series, Holocaust, in 1978. (The American Heritage Dictionary defines the word as “Great or total destruction by fire.”) So please note, the former Jacob Kurtzberg, acutely aware of the Nazi atrocities against his people, the Shoah — as you will see in the allegories to follow — was not using the term lightly.)

Besides the ruins of an old city chanced upon by Lonar and The Source, all that survives the great destruction are the “living atoms of Balduur” and the evil “which was once a sorceress” (Karnilla, Balder’s lover in The Mighty Thor?), which respectively settle upon the two worlds of New Genesis and Apokolips, planets sprung from the split sphere of the dead celestials.

As in the real world, life follows death and the eternal cycle begins again, and so it is from the ashes of the Old Gods rise the New.

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.

Day 45: The Infinity Man!

“There is an awesome, indescribable crash of cosmic thunder! Then –”
“Those who summon the Infinity Man — summon justice!

When Mother Box levitates, and the young members of The Forever People place their hands on her and recite the mantra, “TAARU!” they disappear and in their place materializes The Infinity Man.

The conceptualization of The Forever People, that of being a basically non-violent group of young people, however fantastical, might have proven a slight quandary for Jack Kirby, the king of violent, bombastic comics, and it could be The Infinity Man was his clever solution. The character, who bides his time in another dimension until called forth by the super-kids, is obviously a warrior for justice. Sure, you could say, the FP/IM connection has an antecedent with the Captain Marvel/Billy Batson switcheroo, right down to the magic word (Shazam!). But so what? It’s a device that works.

Somewhat unfortunately, I think, The Infinity Man wasn’t used enough — or explained with much depth — as he had but few appearances in the mere 11 issues of The Forever People. A gorgeous pin-up page in #4 is captioned, “From the far reaches beyond space and time, where real and unreal have no meaning, emerges a champion whose powers are not governed by the laws of our universe!” He is a joy to behold, with golden skin (could he be “Him”?) and wonderfully Total Kirby Costume.

Still, why exactly do the kids have this changing-places “arrangement” with The Infinity Man, using a word Big Bear says in #1? Certainly, though they profess peaceful interaction, the group is plenty powerful given Big Bear’s ability to concentrate his atomic structure into almost invulnerable strength, Mark Moonrider’s “Megaton Touch,” Vykin the Black’s “Magna-Power,” and Serafin’s multi-purpose “Cosmic Cartridges.” (Beautiful Dreamer? Well, she can convey scary images…).

Anyway, for whatever reason, Jack omits The Infinity Man from the action in the majority of issues, #4-10, but his reappearance in the final issue (which sports a nifty “Infinity Man Returns!” blurb on the cover) contains a great, old-fashioned slugfest and, let’s just say, IM goes out in style…

His powers? Well, he gained them from “distant regions — where natural laws do not apply,” and they include: He can fly in our atmosphere and survive in space without mechanical assistance; pass through solid objects (a very cool moment in #3 has the character gliding through rock, telling us, “Earth and stone become as fluid as sea waters — and I move through them as does a swimmer in the blue deeps!” I mean, just imagine that ability!); cancel out detection beams; possesses super-strength; has powerful “Infini-Beams” emit from his hands; manipulates the atoms of objects to restructure them… yikes, what can’t this guy do?

Day 43: The Mother Box!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 37: Serifan!

ser·aph (sĕr´əf) n., pl. -aphs or aphim (-əfĭm) or aphin (-əfĭn). 1. A celestial being having three pairs of wings. Isaiah 6:2. 2. One of the nine orders of angels. See angel. [Back formation from plural seraphim, from Middle English seraphin, Old English seraphin, from Late Latin seraphim, seraphin, from Hebrew Sərāphīm, plural of sārāph.] —se·raph´ic (sī-rāf´ik), se·raph´i·cal·raph´i·cal·ly adv.
American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language

In 1950, Harvey Comics published the third issue of Boys’ Ranch, Simon & Kirby’s legendary Western comic book, a kind of continuing John Ford movie in four-color newsprint, which featured the exploits of adult Clay Duncan and three adolescent cowboys. Therein contained what Jack later called one of his favorite stories, an episode titled “Mother Delilah.”

“Mother Delilah” certainly is a remarkable tale, focusing on the most original member of the group, golden-locked, ornery orphan Angel, who boasts an angelic visage with long blond hair and itchy, lethal trigger-fingers. (Think the face of Kamandi.) The gun-totin’ melodrama is about saloon “girl” Delilah, who has a crush on Clay, who in turn has no time for fraternizing with lady folk — “Helping the boys run the ranch is a full time job, Del!”

Piqued by Clay’s rejection — there is an intimation that they may have been, umm, initmate at one time; though unspoken in this kids comic, Delilah is obviously a “soiled dove,” a prostitute of the prairie — Del schemes to get back at the rugged cow-puncher by appealing to Angel’s need for a mother figure.

Angel is one angry youngster, described as “that lead-slingin’ imp of Satan,” bitter and unhappy and quick to spew rage, but he does feel a kinship to his fellow Boys’ Ranchers and the kid’s loyalty to Clay is unending. But Del cracks Angel’s tough veneer and, for a time, whore and orphan play their respective roles as loving mother and devoted son (“I’m your maw… You’re my boy,” Del coos, Angel’s upturned jaw in her palm). For a brief spell, Angel experiences a maternal tenderness, a feminine kindness he always yearned for but never experienced…

Angel’s long golden hair is his trademark, a Samson-like source of strength, but Delilah charms the lad, “lulling Angel’s fears with motherly persuasion — using the mother love for all it is worth — knowing it is the one thing that can bend the boy to her will,” and the boy submits to the shears of the “daughter of sin.” In a shocking, wordless panel, jaw open, eyes wide Angel views the haircut’s damage in a hand mirror: a hack-job, cowlicks sticking out every which way. Then Delilah cackles in triumph, having emasculated Angel (and, by proxy, Clay Duncan), laughing manically as the sobbing boy, consumed with shame and hurt, bolts out the door.

Gunplay ensues with badmen, Angel’s hair grows at an unusually fast rate with his marksmanship skill recovering in pace, and, one fateful day at the Last Chance Saloon, Del, in a redemptive final moment, rushes to protect Clay, and (alas) is struck down by a dirty, lowdown sidewinder’s bullet. It is the final, lyrical panels that make the story a classic:

Holding the departed Del in his arms, Angel weeps over her corpse, as the town Virgil (named Virgil), recites: “And, thus it ends. But ever to repeat again and again in reality and rhyme — Love’s ever new — as morning’s dew — and hate is as old as time.”

Okay, so what the heck does a tearful, resonant 1950 cowpoke story with Old Testament allusions have to do with the shortest member of The Forever People? Well, I’m convinced that Serifan is really the Angel of New Genesis.

Jack describes Serifan as a “Sensitive” in the first issue, one who “turns on with fantasies” and drops into an open-eyed coma when making telepathic contact with Beautiful Dreamer. While he doesn’t possess the cowboy’s bitterness or predisposition to kill people — these are the peace-loving Forever People, after all — Serifan does share a similar forlornness and angst with the Old West youngster. While the character certainly has moments of levity, I detect a perpetual sadness about the Super-Kid, one that was never fully explained.

Another clue to the Angel connection is certainly Serifan’s Western garb and predilection for cowboy-and-Indians teevee shows (and use of the word “pardner”). But the New Genesis Kid’s gambler hat is decidedly different from Angel’s in that its hat band contains “cosmic cartridges”… we’ll get into the specifics of those metallic beauties under their proper entry to come, but sufficient to mention, them little pills can lead to mind-blowing experiences!

One final observation: When Darkseid zaps Serifan’s fellow group members with “Omega Effect finder beams,” but reprieves the cowboy copy-cat (out of atypical sympathy?), we see the sobbing boy from the back, as he laments “the fast fading vestige of all that was dear to him!” It is a visual echo of the final panel of “Mother Delilah,” where we observe the back of Angel as he kneels before the still figure of his “mother.”

“And it came to pass afterward, that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. And the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and said unto her, Entice him, and see wherein his great strength lieth, and by what means we may prevail against him, that we may bind him to afflict him: and we will give thee every one of us eleven hundred pieces of silver. And Delilah said to Samson, Tell me, I pray thee, wherein thy great strength lieth, and wherewith thou mightest be bound to afflict thee.” — The Bible, King James version, Judges 16:5-7

Day 36: Big Bear!

Many a Kirby group has a tough macho and/or intimidatingly big man, either a Rocky from The Challengers of the Unknown or the Howling Commandos‘ Dum-Dum Dugan, but none are quite like the jovial, happy, rock-em sock-em, red-headed giant of The Forever People, Big Bear. Think Alan Hale (junior, senior — doesn’t matter) only without a whiff of grouchiness and you’ve got the group’s Super-Cycle pilot to a tee. Picture a good-looking Thing but always in a good mood and never in self-pity mode.

I know, I know: I said the group is non-violent, a statement seemingly at odds when we see Big Bear taking on a Justifier, cordially telling the hapless villain, “Big Bear is my name, sir! — and power is my game!! That’s my bag, sir!! I store an excess of free atoms and send them where they’re needed!!” (Yup, he can concentrate his atoms to any area of his body, giving him, for all practical purposes, super-powers.)

Still, he does fret over his rough behavior, lamenting Highfather’s words of “Violence breeds violence,” and, moments later, telling his fellow Forever Peeps, “Well! I thought you’d never get here!! I’m getting involved in all kinds of violence!!”

Big Bear’s head device, framed by a lion’s mane-like flaming red hair, is equipped with head gear, with what appears to be a paper-thin glass mask and ear circuits capable of “instantaneous translation,” which aids in his time-traveling trip to ancient Briton, where the self-described history buff helps a future King Arthur begin his legendary deeds. Cheerful throughout his visit, he later tells the kids, “Darkseid sent me to a place of violence but I had a nice time!!”

One of the most memorable moments of the series is when Darkseid calls the group to attention, berating them as would a drill sergeant, and in a classic scene, tweaks Big Bear’s nose while urging the “baboon” and “clown” to learn discipline. It remains one of Jack’s most humorous panels.

Finally, I just gotta mention Big Bear’s manner of speech, which, at times, is downright incomprehensible. Take this opening dialogue line in FP #2, when the team is looking over an inner-city neighborhood: “”Dig this place! It’s got the ingredients of the cake — but it needs more baking!”

Pray tell, anyone got “instantaneous translation” for that pearl???

Day 35: Vykin the Black!

Vykin, somber member of The Forever People, is a “Finder,” one who “has the power to trace and reconstruct atomic patterns,” meaning, I reckon, the guy can sense where things have previously been and is able to detect such earlier presences by zapping beams out of his eyes which create a trace image. Like Mark Moonrider, Vykin also has a latent ability that doesn’t appear until late in the series: Magna-Power, which he uses without so much as a howdy-do against a gunman: it’s a kind of reverse-magnetism force field that repels metal and those that wield same… akin to Magneto, I guess.

Most of all though, Vykin is the loyal protector of the team’s beloved Mother Box (we’ll get to her), a kind of sentient computer that exhibits emotions (via pings) and endowed with the ability to call into this dimension a wonderful, spectacular, immensely powerful being… Fear not, friend, soon you will learn all…

Vykin is also a language major and possesses in his helmet an indicator connected to Mother Box, saying his “mind is so attuned to her waves,” but Vykin can also hear her without the helmet (which also, by the way, contains probing circuits that can detect gold).

The name description: Is Jack really being that blatant, relaying the obvious — Vykin has black skin — or might it be more subtle wordplay off the character’s name, an apparent derivation of “Viking”? I mean, like there’s Erik the Red, Thorstein the Red, The Red Viking (or did I make up that last one as my own comic book character?)… I imagine there’s not too many “…the Blacks” in Norse myth or history…

“Token” black characters were appearing all over network teevee at the time: Bill Cosby in I Spy, Nichelle Nichols’ “Uhura” in Star Trek, The Mod Squad‘s Linc Hayes, a nod by Hollywood towards the civil rights movement, with their otherwise lily-white fantasy world. So, why not comics?

But it’s important to note Jack created the first mainstream black comic book super-hero in this country — The Black Panther in the pages of The Fantastic Four — and he’d go on, in the very pages of The Forever People, to debut the first U.S. Asian super-hero, Sonny Sumo.

Gratuitous? Maybe. I’m more inclined to give J.K. the benefit of the doubt and believe the allusion of color with Vykin the Black is less due to skin pigmentation and more that he was a subterranean dweller on New Genesis before joining the team, from a black world, so to speak. But then, I’m a Kirbyhead, so whaddaya want!

Day 34: Mark Moonrider!

We’ll start off with the roster rundown the (unofficial?) leader of The Forever People, All-American Doug Flutie lookalike Mark Moonrider, whose expertise seems to be to… ummm… lead! (Surnamed for then-Kirby assistant and now J.K. biographer, Mark Evanier? You are the judge!)

Moonrider appears to be Beautiful Dreamer’s default boyfriend (as indicated when Darkseid kindly zapped them together with his Omega Effect finder beams for a night at the theater on April 14, 1865, while other teammates were transported to other dates by their lonesome). He also sits in the foremost seat of their vehicle, barking orders and insults to Super-Cycle pilot Big Bear.

Mark, being head of a nonviolent group, is surprisingly adept at using destructive hand weapons, given his marksman ship destroying Happyland with a “few well placed shots”! He also possesses the “Megaton Touch,” which emanates from his fingertips, an ability with a range that can either cause severe shock or liquefy rock as needed (why Mark doesn’t call on this power in a slew of situations, who knows! And did I miss something or does M.M. suddenly get the Megaton Touch pretty late in the run, with no explanation?).

Mark Moonrider is the calm center of the group, consistently on-task in their quest to beat Darkseid to the Anti-Life Equation, and spokesman regarding their mission of peace. When handicapped boy Donnie laments their leaving, Mark has a lovely bit of advice:

“Donnie — Life is good! Live it for others — not against them! In that way, you will always be close to us!”

Day 32: The Forever People!

Via the Boom Tube, riding the Super-Cycle, come the kids from Supertown (minus the female member), The Forever People, arriving for their debut adventure on planet Earth. The flower-power young people of New Genesis consist of [from left] Vykin the Black, Big Bear, Serifan, and Mark Moonrider… we’ll meet up with Beautiful Dreamer later in this story, as well as with two other integral “characters” very closely associated with the quintet.

The Forever People is Jack Kirby’s statement about his hope that the young people of his day, the hippies, would deliver the rest of us from a violent, selfish world. It’s remarkable, really, that Mr. Kirby, a middle-class workaday guy with a work ethic that would exhaust the puritans and other zealots, one saddled with a mortgage, home-making spouse, four kids and intensely demanding job, had such obvious affection for the Baby Boomer generation, by 1970 well into their twenties. Hippies were a huge demographic in the U.S., who (to wildly generalize) were virtually united against the Vietnam War, demanded the voting age be reduced to 18, heavily into drug use (particularly pot and LSD) and advocated free love. They also professed non-violence as a creed (though an active minority did engage in radical politics, some preaching the violent overthrow of government) and a curiosity for other world cultures. Nowhere was the hippy movement bigger than in the Golden State, where Jack and his family had recently moved.

Hippies also embraced one trapping of their younger years and seized it as their own: the comic book. Underground comix, originating out of the very heart of hippydom, the Haight-Asbury district of San Francisco, had huge distribution and astonishingly frank and explicit work was being published. And the mainstream work of Stan, Steve & Jack’s Marvel Comics was firmly entrenched in hippy culture, alongside the alternative funnybooks of R. Crumb, Gilbert Shelton and Rick Griffin. This, the Woodstock Generation, was receptive to Jack and vice versa…

It needs to be said, Jack also personally encountered any number of young people with increasing frequency. His street address and phone number were in the directory and The King (and Queen Roz) would welcome into their kitchen an endless parade of youthful pilgrims seeking an audience with the creator. Plus the fact the San Diego Comic Convention and other shows were being held so, perhaps for the first time, Jack had regular — and ever-growing — larger scale dealings with the longhairs…

Back to our subject: The Forever People may be the first super-hero group who is primarily non-violent (now, I’m not counting a certain infinite personage here, so settle down!). Their mission is to beat Darkseid to the discovery of the Anti-Life Equation and to end the Super-War between Apokolips and New Genesis. Their creed, as is all of Supertown, is “Life!!” and they live to protect and help others. We’ll discuss them as an entity in the days and weeks to come, but suffice to say they are an utterly original grouping in mainstream American comic books and, again, they are testament to Jack’s open-mindedness and empathy for the younger generation.

Mark Evanier has a particularly fine description of the kids in his Kirby: King of Comics biography:

The Forever People featured the teenage gods, patterned after the youths that Kirby was observing all around him. In the midst of the Vietnam era, Jack was wholly on the side of those opposing Richard Nixon and the ongoing military action. He saw idealism, passion and a better future in them and sought to infuse his Forever People with the same hopes, the same sense of responsibility at inheriting a world made dangerous.”

I’ll be dealing with each character in the entries to come, so I’m going to feature an eloquent letter of comment regarding this issue, the first of The Forever People run, that appeared in #3:

Dear Editor:

Just to add a few words to the already awesome mound of praise (one might term it a “mountain of judgment,” had one a way with clever nomenclature) surely deluging you, my compliments on the first issue of Jack Kirby’s The Forever People. In recent memory only Deadman, Enemy Ace and Bat Lash seem to match this strip for innovation and success. Which probably means — if we are use as yardstick, the commercial failures of these high-water marks of quality continuity — The Forever People is too good for the average comic audience.

Its power and inventiveness display the Kirby charisma at its peak. Every panel is a stunner. Potentially, it appears to be the richest vein of story material National has unearthed in years. One hopes Kirby will be given total free rein, that he will be allowed to ride his dreams wherever they take him, for the journey is a special one, and we get visionaries like Kirby only once in a generation, if we’re terribly lucky. To constrain him, force him to fetter himself with the rules and rags of previous comics experience, would be to dull the edge of his imagination.

After the many false starts of National efforts in the past five years, at last it seems you’ve struck the main route. That it should be Kirby — at the top of his form — that worked point-scout, is not surprising. He has long been master of the form, and in The Forever People, it seems he’s found his metier.

Best wishes and prayers for a long, long life for The Forever People. Till now, all the flack bushwack about this being the Golden Age of Comics has fallen tinnily on us; but with Kirby in the saddle and The Forever People casting its wondrous glow, you now have leave to bang the drums.

Harlan Ellison
Sherman Oaks, Calif.

Day 30: The Golden Guardian!

Talk about an in-your-face ending to this ish! Here, comin’ rightacha, is the return of one of Jack and Joe Simon’s great 1940s super-hero creations (the last costumed hero the pair initiated for DC during the WWII era), The Guardian! Originated as a guardian angel of a group of paperboys, in 1942’s Star Spangled Comics, the adventurer is actually Suicide Slum beat cop Jim Harper, who apparently can justify his nightime vigilantism. The group headlined SSC until their disappearance after the war.

To be frank, The Guardian was a bald-faced swipe of S&K’s greatest creation, Captain America, right down to the shield (though the DC character’s accessory was in the shape of a police badge), only without the “Old Glory” color scheme and Harper didn’t have just one kid sidekick — the rookie-by-day had four: Scrappy, Gabby, Tommy and Big Words!

Admittedly, The Guardian, with his great cyan-&-gold ensemble (was the helmet gold-leafed?), served as permanent guest-star within the breathless exploits headlined by The Newsboy Legion, but the audacity of S&K of virtually transplanting Timely’s “Sentinel of Liberty” and making a home for him at their new publisher, The House of Superman, was exhilarating and apropos of the creative team’s tenacity and chutzpah. (The duo suspected they were being cheated out of royalties by Timely publisher — hence their move — and they only produced ten issues of Captain America Comics… but, boy oh boy, what star-making issues they were!). Here was a S&K action hero smashing, punching, flying, exploding from the page… Yowza!

I’ll confess, too, that though I had zero prior knowledge of the character, upon first seeing this very same final page of Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #135, The Guardian instantly became one of my favorite super-heroes (a very short list). Why he’s never caught on in the “DC Universe” to much of a degree is a shame; maybe because he’s a Cap rip-off? But that’s one of the main reasons I dig the hero — it’s S&K stealing from… S&K!!!

But, wait, this isn’t the original Guardian. This one has been grown from the dead cop’s DNA in The Project from a test tube by Harper’s former wards. And, there is something even more different about Guardian 2.0… The clone complains of feeling out-of-sorts… Doc Big Words worries that the resurrected Harper has “some strange unidentifiable activity in the brain area,” and later agrees that though, “He’s physically perfect and well-adjusted mentally! But in his brain is something common to all of the living products of our genetic labs! Something still elusive!”

Alas, Jack never expanded on these tantalizing hints of storylines to come, and while the hero only guest-starred in a small handful of JO stories during the Kirby run, The Guardian of Metropolis was a joy to behold!

Coming Soon: After tomorrow’s JO #135 round-up, we finally advance to the second title in Jack’s Fourth World opus, The Forever People, so grab your Mother Boxes, buckos, cuz the Super-War heats up Big Time! (Remember, we’re dissecting the 4W chronologically, looking at each issue in the order they were published.)