Category Archives: Weapons & Devices

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.”

Day 81: Serifan’s Cosmic Cartridges!

Okay, let’s see: Beautiful Dreamer has the power to create illusions, Big Bear can concentrate his high-density atoms to the point of being invulnerable, Vykin has Magna-Power, and Mark Moonrider boasts the “Megaton Touch.” Now, what exactly does Serifan have up his sleeve…? Oh right, the copy-cat cowboy’s secret weapon is actually in his hat… Serifan’s hat-band, that is, which has loops to hold his myriad “Cosmic Cartridges,” each one having a specific — and often fantastic — power!

We first learn about the Cosmic Cartridges while The Forever People are setting up house at Uncle Willie and Donnie’s place, #309, as Serifan is apparently shirking work as the others haul about furniture. The youngest Forever Person is fiddling with a teevee set. Mark Moonrider says, “Why, that broken, old television set — it’s a pure representation of early, post Atomic, middle class home visuals!” Adds Serifan, staring at the idiot box, “And it shows Westerns! They’re just too much!” But Donnie is puzzled. “But how can you receive a picture on that set, Serafin? [sic] It’s a mess inside!”

“Oh, I know that!” replies the blond Super-Kid. “The service parts are beyond repair! I’m using one of these things on my hat!!” (Apparently the repair job turns a black-&-white set into a color one, because, kids, no person of lesser means could afford a color teevee back in the day… I know!) Donnie observes, “They look like shiny, silver bullets! Where did you get them?” Taking what looks like a bullet from the loops in his hat band, Serifan replies, “Our point of origin — Supertown — a part of New Genesis — These are sensitizers, probes, — receivers and such — We call them Cosmic Cartridges! They’re sensitive to the universe — to its largest and smallest limits — Here — hold one!” (First one’s always free, kid… heh-heh…)

Donnie admits, “I’d rather hear more about Supertown and New Genesis! — But I’ll try this –!!” Taking a capsule in his hand, the object glows. “I-it feels warm — like it was alive! — Like it was me! — And I-I’m everywhere at once –” Suddenly the boy is having a mind-blowing experience, perceiving the infinite expanse of the universe. “I-I see — everything — and everything moves — and makes a kind of beautiful noise –” Serifan offers, “Harmony is the word, Donnie! — You’re listening to — All there is!

Now, that’s just about as close as mainstream comics ever got to depicting an LSD trip in 1971! (And a tripping pre-teen, no less!) Talk about far-out! So we got a cartridge that will make us one with all existence; how about the other Cosmic Cartridges? Let’s take a sprint through the books and see the different varieties (and note, of course, I’ve made up the names of said items):

    Stun Power Cartridge (which Serifan vainly attempts to use against Desaad’s guards in Happyland)

    Integration Substitution Cartridge (used to start the damaged Justifier Aero-Van during Serifan’s escape from Happyland — “One of my Cosmic Cartridges can do the job!!! It will attune itself to the principle that powers this vehicle! It will integrate with the damaged mechanism and substitute for its function!!”)

    Pattern Signal Cartridge (utilized to have Super-Cycle, which is in self-defense mode, recognize Serifan as a “friendly” — “I’ll have to count on my Cosmic Cartridges to spell out my individual pattern –!! Its signals will register on the cycle’s computer!!”)

    Atom-Shield Cartridge (serves to repel zealots during attack — “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!”)

    Mod Couturier Cartridge (creates a hip new ensemble for Beautiful Dreamer, leather fringe and all, by “atomically” re-shifting her original pagan dress get-up!)

    Life-Force Cartridge (reanimates life of the “Monster in the Morgue,” after Doc Gideon steals it and tapes the cartridge to his dead creation’s forehead, makes Miss Trixie’s dolls dance and given to Deadman, the super-poltergeist, for “it will be the heart and motion of your new form!” — “Of course, the cartridges are mostly functional! But this little-used blue has a strange link with the infinite! It transmits something I can only term as a ‘life-force!’ See how it animates those dolls! I’ve trapped this force! But I haven’t satisfactorily traced its origin!”)

    Solid State Energy Cartridge (able to cap a leaking gas-line — “This night is a busy one for my Cosmic Cartridges!”)

    Atom-Compactor Cartridge (makes Deadman, a ghost, fully visible — “This cartridge will compact the few atoms that still cling to you! For a fleeting moment — you will feel reality! We shall see you as you are!

    Glass Cutter Cartridge (able to cut through inches-thick steel-hard glass)

    Heat Induction Cartridge (thaws out a frozen Deadman)

    Heavy Gravity Cartridge (engaged to incapacitate Devilance the Pursuer — “A surge of heavy gravity energy leaps from the cartridge and envelopes Devilance! His weight increases tenfold and he topples forward!”)

    Shock Repelli-Field Cartridge (protects Serifan from exploding Thermo-Bolt Machine (and could be the same as the aforementioned Atom-Shield Cartridge) — “Don’t be alarmed, Big Bear! I’m encased in a shock-repelli-field!! The Shield has dissolved into free atoms!! It’s returned to the object in my hand! A Cosmic Cartridge, you big humbug!”)

It’s telling, I think, that Jack depicts Serifan handling his Cosmic Cartridges as if they were pistols on the cover of FP #7, seemingly ready to fire on the Justifiers attacking him! The kid would have loved to have seen such a heroic old Western pose as Jack drew… And adding up the number of cartridges here, that makes 12, enough for two six-shooters! So, Serifan is a rootin’-tootin’ six-Cosmic Cartridge shootin’ real cowboy, hombre! Cool beans!

Day 78: D.N.Aliens!

During Superman’s guided tour of The Project, the Man of Steel points out the three categories of clones being grown: Normals, Step-Ups and Aliens.

Normals, I guess it’s safe to assume, are the rank and file who work at The Project and have been reproduced from the DNA of living, “normal” people (i.e., regular folks of average intelligence and abilities), including the Jimmy Olsen guards at the Duplication Section and Communications Division Gabbys. It may also be proper to include in this category those in the “Miniature Replica Files,” such as the Scrapper-Troopers and the miniature Supermen, Jimmy Olsens and Newsboy Legion members (both those at The Project and grown at the Evil Factory from stolen cells). The Guardian likely fits with this grouping, as do the “beasts of burden” at the Evil Factory and Floyd “Bullets” Barstow’s clone.

Because the duplicates seem to be of the same age as the “originals,” there has to be some age acceleration taking place and, with the D.N.Aliens (which may pertain to all products of both facilities), such a development is hinted at in the “Strange Stories of the D.N.A. Project” vignette, “The Alien Thing!!!” (The presence of the daycare facility may indicate some Normals are allowed to age at the normal rate.)

Step-Ups include The Hairies, the youthful and industrious technological geniuses of The Project (“They have evolved hair-triggered minds!” Superman tells Jimmy, “And they can come up with mechanical wonders like the Mountain of Judgment!“). The category may also include scientists, possibly Professor Packard, the surrogate father of Arin, the Armored Man. (I don’t recall any others being specifically referred to as a Step-Up…)

Aliens are actually a misnomer, as those in the category being discussed do come from people (or animals). Superman says, “The human cell has been subjected to a wide range of conditions — and has yielded some strange developments!”

There actually appear to be three different varieties of D.N.Aliens:

    • Original creations developed by manipulation of human DNA, such as the original Alien Thing, Dubbilex, the Four-Armed Terror, and Arin, the Armored Man

    • Mutated humans based on a specific individual’s DNA, including the Giant Jimmy Olsen

    • Those people and animals subjected to Regressive Gene Induction, about which Simyan tells us, “Each animal become[s] its remote ANCESTRAL image.” This bunch notably includes the Loch Trevor Beastie, Angry Charlie and Jimmy “Homo Disastrous” Olsen

Let’s have a closer look at those three groupings:

Original D.N.Aliens

In the “Strange Stories of the D.N.A. Project” two-pager called “The Alien Thing!!!” we learn about the very first “Original D.N.Alien,” and it’s worthy of replicating Jack’s story verbatim:

The first genetic structuring to run wild in the laboratory almost proved to be the last!!!

When it quickly evolved to adolescence, The D.N.A. Project found trouble on its hands!! The battle with it lasted a day!! It was the first ‘D.N.Alien’ The Project had produced!! It grew fast! — And hostile! Nothing seemed to stop it!! Tranquilizing gas seemed to slow down its movement — but not the maturing process!! Somehow, its metabolism was wildly accelerating!! — Emitting great bursts of bright, searing, damaging energy!!

The disruptive force affected thousands of circuits — and cut off communication between The Project and the outside world!! Great shocks followed!! And cracks appeared in places where subterranean waters broke through to cause critical emergencies! And on the Zoomway itself, large fissures opened and yawned! The low casualty rate was an incredible part of the strange events!!! Then in a last, terrifying burst of body energy, the alien caused an aurora effect that could be seen for miles!!! It proved to be the last of him! He had literally burned himself out!! — And with such devastating force that his powdery remains shocked witnesses into silence!!!

The D.N.Alien, however, didn’t die in vain!!! His brief life left vital clues on how to keep succeeding D.N.Aliens alive!!!

Dubbilex, as we found in the previous entry, serves as a researcher at The Project and is developing his latent telekinetic powers, aiding Superman in the Cosmic Carousel affair.

The Four-Armed Terror, and his multitudinous brethren called Homo Usurpus, was bred by the Evil Factory from samples stolen from The Project. Superman says, “Among the living human cells [the Evil Factory] stole from The ‘Project’ was a special batch which had been treated in a manner to simulate Atomic War conditions! He could be bred for surviving Atomic War!” Whether these were mutated by Mokkari and Simyan with their Beta Gas is open to question, but the Terrors are apparently different than The Project’s prototypes as they actually consume radioactivity.

Arin, the Armored Man, was developed for interplanetary travel without the need for life support or artificial environment as he can travel in deep space as if swimming. His singular mission is to go live on a distant asteroid and protect the contents of his back-pack: Superman’s cell tissue and genetic code.

Mutated D.N.Aliens

Unless those miniature clones I’ve listed as Normals should be classified as such, I can only find the Giant Jimmy Olsen to belong under this heading. It appears that Mokkari and Simyan pilfered Jimmy’s miniature DNA (so to speak):

Simyan: With our superior equipment, we have rapidly established a project to rival their own! Now, from living cells we can produce what they do — human beings!

Mokkari: Of course, we stole the first samples from the Earthmen — but now we can make our own! We shall breed them in all sizes — as small as we want them — and as large as their destinies demand!

It is interesting that the closing “next issue” blurb in JO #135 is phrased as follows, illustrating the Guardian clone emerging from his Life Chamber: “Don’t miss his clash with the renegade replica! These are not ordinary humans in combat! This is a new breed spawned by a new concept! The DNAliens!” Is Jack telling us the Jim Harper relica is actually a D.N.Alien…?

Regressed D.N.Aliens

Technically, I wonder if these even belong under a D.N.Alien heading, but chromosome manipulation is in play here, so I’m going to take the chance. First, I’d like to point out the raison d’etre of The Evil Factory was initially to steal research from The Project and replicate their successes in cloning life and manipulating DNA. As we know, Mokkari and Simyan run the facility for Darkseid:

Mokkari: It is what we came here to do! To replace the Earthmen’s project — with ours! The Earthmen experiment for progress. But we work for Darkseid, ruler of Apokolips!

Simyan: Our off-spring shall bring Apokolips to Earth! Chaos in place of order! And from that chaos will arise the new masters of Earth — with the great Darkseid as their exalted leader!

Again, the primary purpose of the Evil Factory is to eliminate and replace The Project, as Simyan says while he and his partner overlook a scale model of The Project, “Yet, all this we must destroy! It shall become again as it once was — Empty! Silent!” Adds Mokkari, “We shall do it with the proper creations of the life we have bred here!” While they fail in “The Big Boom” to wipe out the government complex, they do The Project one better by introducing a new process to the game: Regressive Gene Induction.

(You know, despite the fact their plans typically fall through and thus repeatedly face the wrath of angry Darkseid, for only two guys, Mokkari and Simyan have made remarkable improvements on the discoveries of The Project, a “Manhattan Project” type endeavor that must employ hundreds, if not thousands, of specialists. The duo manipulates miniature DNA to make any size humanoid they desire; they improve on the Atomic War “survivor,” as Superman says, “Our rivals at the Evil Factory have produced another ‘first!’ That thing is absorbing and feeding on radioactive energy!” Plus there’s this new development…)

Mokkari: Regressive genes have proven a delight, haven’t they, Simyan!!

Simyan: Yes, it’s been exciting to see each animal become its remote ancestral image!!

It appears the Evil Factory, which we find is located in the highlands of Scotland, is letting loose the results of their Regressive Gene Induction research. Mokkari and Simyan, y’see, are able to turn any animal into its evolutionary predecessor, and many into hitherto before considered to be mythological creatures! The Apokolips scientists turn out a “‘way out ‘Animal Farm!!” including the Loch Trevor Monster, Griffin, Chimera, Unicorn, some Basilisks, and (who is to become Gabby’s personal pet) Angry Charlie (the antecedent of, what, a flea?), plus other beasties that emerge at the conclusion of this storyline. Natch, Jimmy O. gets the treatment and becomes a caveman Olsen! Zapping sinister rays on our hero, the two cackle:

Mokkari: Millions of gene nuclei shot through his open pores!!

Simyan: They develop like wildfire! Olsen will change rapidly!! Becoming what the gene dictates!! Sad to say — these are regressive and powerful!!

But, as always seems to happen, the hapless Evil Factory proprietors lose control of their creation but this time there’s no handy matter transmitter to get rid of the culprit, Jimmy “Homo Disastrous” Olsen! This Neanderthal Jimmy is fantastically powered and in perpetual rage, beating the crap out of an enormous saber-tooth tiger and short-circuiting the electric fencing that sets free an entire menagerie of monsters, including dinosaurs, huge sloths, wholly mammoths, gigantic rhinos, and innumerable other prehistoric creatures, all creations of Regressive Gene Induction…

Back when he was a mere homo sapien, Jimmy wondered about the implications of all this genetic engineering, “Superman! Do you realize what weird, and perhaps dangerous, channels are being probed here?” You said it, chum.

Day 76: The D.N.A. Project!

In the pages of Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen, the role of The Project, that capacious subterranean high-tech complex staffed by military personnel, government scientists and some strange-looking folk, is exclusively assigned to the agency called the DNA Project. Now, whether the entire Project is devoted to cloning human beings — and other humanoids — is open to question. I say this because, as you can imagine, if the Fourth World had run its intended course, The Project had great potential to be a catch-all organization for all sorts of activity, thus rife with story possibilities. But, much as I’d love to extrapolate on what could have been, let’s focus on the fertile material actually presented in the published comic series, rich stuff indeed!

Upon arriving at the Project Zone via the tunneled Zoomway and passing Checkpoint 10, the Whiz Wagon is parked and Jimmy, Superman and the Newsboy Legion enter Admittance Section 22 of The Project. An armed guard (one of many), machine gun trained on the visitors, directs the Man of Steel to the Cell Duplication and Replica Refining Section, where the boys attend a surprise meeting with their fathers. Meanwhile, as they stroll through high-tech, heavily secured corridors, the red-headed Daily Planet reporter demands some answers from Superman about the place. “This project is a vast underground complex!” says his friend. “The Hairies were grown and raised here!” Jimmy gives a double-take, “Did you say grown here? What do you mean?” Superman replies, “I mean, the genetic code has been broken, Jimmy! The DNA molecule has given up its secret! — The secret of life itself!” The young man is flummoxed. “What? You mean — ? You mean — ?” The Man of Steel nods and says, “I mean that human beings like yourself can now be produced from an individual cell! That the human gene can be manipulated and controlled to fit a desired pattern!” Jimmy remains aghast, retorting, “I don’t believe it! — I-it’s just too fantastic!” And, as the super-hero adds, “What’s more, The Project can make replicas of any living man!” they encounter a living clone of James Bartholomew Olsen, the sentry labeled Jimmy Olsen No. 43, who tells the “original,” “We Jimmy Olsens are a popular category in the duplication section!”

During this initial tour of The Project, Jimmy learns tissue samples were previously taken from himself and the Newsboy Legion (without consent) at the Daily Planet Dispensary. (Interestingly, Superman willingly donated his DNA to the effort; more on that soon…) Looking into a Magno-Microscope, Jimmy exclaims, “Good Lord!” as he views tiny versions of himself! In short time, he then learns “a good captain of detectives,” also deceased, has been cloned and is witness to Micro-Paratroopers, tiny duplicates also known as Scrapper-Troopers, parachuting all around him.

Jimmy marvels at the extraordinary compound as Superman renews the guided tour. “It certainly is big!” Jimmy says. “The corridors seem endless, Superman! And so do the personnel!” His companion replies, “They belong here, Jimmy! The Project grows its own!” Observing full-size clones of Gabby, Jimmy says, “Yeah! It’s never-ending surprises!” The reporter then turns to face his pal and says, “I can’t get over it! You knew about ‘The Project’ all this time!” “From its very inception!” responds Superman. “My cell tissues were the first grown when the genetic code was broken and deciphered!

(The Man of Tomorrow ends by saying, “But that’s another story! ‘The Project’ is the big one!” Great Krypton! What a way to dismiss such a huge bombshell and ya gotta wonder just what amazing tales could have sprung from that chestnut in Jack Kirby’s seemingly-infinite imagination! Talk about super-soldiers! (Fear not, those in the know: We’ll talk about Arin, The Armored Man, soon enough!) Another story, indeed…)

The pair stop at a console and Superman pushes a view button, revealing giant metal cylinders amid pink Kirby krackles. “Here life is grown in special tanks! Life planned for specific tasks! This is where The Project acquires its personnel!” Pressing the button again, we see a caregiver playing ball with little children. “Here is one of the nurseries, Jimmy, where the young Normals are carefully raised and tutored.” His pal asks, “Did you say ‘Normals,’ Superman? Do you mean…?”

“Well,” Superman answers, “the human cell is still a pliable mystery! Experiments have produced the ‘Step-Ups!'” Just then a three-wheeled vehicle passes them as the old bearded driver, driving two younger passengers, beckons to Superman, “Hi, Superman! Don’t forget our Friday Night ‘Sing In’! Bring your friend!” “Thanks! We’ll be there!” replies the Man of Steel. “Say!” says Jimmy, “These kids look like the ‘Hairies’ who live in that mountain-sized van that runs on the Zoomway!” Superman concurs, “The ‘Hairies’ came from this group! These are our ‘Step-Ups!’ They have evolved hair-trigger minds! And they come up with mechanical wonders like the Mountain of Judgment!” Jimmy exclaims, “Wow! And it all began with reading a little DNA molecule!” Superman goes through a doorway and says, “Yes, there are rooms of charts explaining it all!”

Inviting Jimmy to view the complex diagrams, Superman explains, “In these charts, Jimmy, lies the essence of ‘The Project!’ The Secret of LIfe, long hidden in the ‘DNA molecule,’ has been extracted and is now being used for mankind’s benefit!” As they enter another room, he continues, “There is constant research going on all the time! As it expands, new problems arise!” Turning to wall signs, the top two reading “Normals” and “Step-Ups,” Jimmy points to the last one. “I’ll bet! Look at that bottom category! Aliens!

We’ll leave the tour for today, as there will be a discussion covering that bottom category very soon indeed, so let’s mosey over to some Jimmy Olsen back-up tales and look at a few other aspects of The D.N.A. Project:

(Background comment: Mokkari, looking over a scale model of The Project and its Wild Area environs, in the ish of JO we’re currently covering, explains why the location was selected: “Thus we have it — the vast American underground preserve, in which ‘The Project’ was built. This was originally a mammoth cavern!“)

In “The Torn Photograph” segment of “Strange Stories of The D.N.A. Project” (JO #144) the opening caption reads, “Even greater than the mystery that shrouds the activities within the top secret project, there is the untold saga of the clearing of the mammoth cavern in which it’s based!” The tale explains, “In the early days of The Project, spelunking teams of cave explorers were sent into the bowels of the Earth on survey missions!!!” A team called Probe Six finds a prehistoric forest of vegetation, swamps and wild — apparently very wild — life, which leads to demise of the exploratory team, despite efforts with dynamite and weapons. All that is left of their travails and that “Lost World” is a torn photo (must have been a Polaroid) of an apish creature advancing on the camera with stone axe ready to descend…

The “Tales of the DNA Project” two-pager in JO #148 has this intro: “During the routine physical examination of a maturing ‘DNA-Human,’ the subject, who represents a special experiment, suddenly became violent and attacked a security guard present in the room!! Had he proved the theory that crime was transferrable [sic] through the human cell? Was there such a thing as the… Genetic Criminal” Model Four, a beefy, tough-looking fellow, pounds the tar out of his adversary, who calls him a “second-rate human!!” But we learn Model Four’s foe is a foreign agent and he is seized by security personnel. We learn: “Many DNA subjects acquire a sharp sense of ESP!” — That’s extra-sensory perception, a sixth sense, kids! — and that he was “grown from the cell tissue of Floyd ‘Bullets’ Barstow!! — A gangster executed for murder!!

Please allow a little question or two of the big developments going on… Just what in the name of Sam Hill is the government up to here? The U.S. of A. is surreptitiously stealing the D.N.A. of its unwitting citizens and harvesting clones to remain in (perpetual?) servitude of their vast underground complex? The clones are being gestated in giant tanks and then live in a subterranean world, rarely (if ever) seeing the light of day? And why no mention of the accelerated growth process these replicants are assuredly subject? Obviously, our encounters with the clones of the Guardian, Scrapper, Gabby and Jimmy all reveal relatively intelligent, level-headed humans… so what’s the secret of getting them so mature so fast? And the “Bullets” Barstow vignette: Scientists are growing humans to settle their nature versus nurture theories? What would have they done with Model Four if criminality was a genetic trait? Lordy, lordy, these questions boggle my wee mind!

(Please don’t get me wrong here with my ponderous asides: I’m not intending to criticize Jack’s storytelling or concepts here, more marveling at the apparent implications within and the seemingly endless, infinite story possibilities that could have been built on this fantastic foundation. It is so much fun just contemplating the marvelous implications of it all… so you’ll please forgive me, yes?)

Day 73: The Big Trap!

Yeah, I know: Previously in this debut issue of Mister Miracle, the “Big Trap” referred to is Thaddeus Brown’s act to escape the huge metal sphere barreling down to destroy the former “Great Thaddeus” bound to a tree, but nemesis Steel Hand’s idea is even a bigger threat. After the gangster renders the “Robo-Arm Wrestler” into scrap metal, Scott Free in the guise of Mister Miracle jumps through the Inter-Gang crime boss’s window and accosts Stuka, grabbing the henchman’s pistol out of his holster. Steel Hand yelps, “You! I-I don’t believe it! Y-you’re dead — dead!” Scott quips, “The Age of Miracles isn’t over yet, Steel Hand! Look again!

Thinking Scott Free is the late, great Thaddeus Brown, Steel Hand is incredulous. “But it isn’t possible! I saw you put down for the long count! I was there!” Scott, pointing Stuka’s handgun at the kingpin, replies, “I’ll bet you were!” (And clever wagering-themed retorts aside, Steel Hand was at the tragic event when the original Mister Miracle is struck down by a sniper’s bullet by direct order of the gangster!) “Get wise, Mister Miracle! Forget about our bet!” says Steel Hand, at which Scott replies, “Not a chance! It isn’t the money I want to win now — If I can get out of a trap you set, I claim your written confession to the shooting!”

(In the middle of Scott’s last statement, in a great bit, our hero cavalierly tosses Stuka’s weapon over his shoulder, which (intentional or not on Jack’s part) is a nice commentary on the super-hero’s development from presentation to actual comic book. Y’see, if you look at Jack’s concept drawing at the bottom of our “Day 70: Mister Miracle!” entry, you’ll see that the creator envisioned the character as sporting a futuristic pistol and holster, and this chucking away the handgun in issue one works for me as a “Who needs a gun when I have my wits?” type statement… Well, I dig it anyway…!)

Steel Hand summons his goons, who are astonished to see a walking, talking Mister Miracle (“The guy’s a hoodoo!!” yammers one), and they render Scott unconscious with a whack to the head with a rifle butt. “Good work!” Steel Hand tells his boys. “I’ll take over now!” Apparently anticipating the boss’s next move, a minion asks, “Why don’t you use your steel hand on him? He’ll never live through that!” The head honcho has another idea. “No! It’s time he gets what he asked for — an escape-proof trap!” (In hindsight, if only the big guy had listened to the underling, eh?)

This was the trap I was preparing before I soured on the wager…,” explains Steel Hand, who then picks up a telephone and asks (from the Inter-Gang switchboard, I reckon!), “Hello! Get me the secret Inter-Gang missile site!” Apparently the launch pad can be reserved on short notice, as within minimal time, gang members are at the controls of an imposing rocket, one thug noting that Steel Hand has ordered an immediate launch. Mister Miracle is then bound to the missile’s cone by captors who say, “Hurry, men! The rocket nose has been specially constructed with anchors for the chains!” and “Tie him tight! Make sure he can’t move! He’s coming to — Clear the launch area! Countdown has started!

Scott gains consciousness as the countdown ensues, thinking, “So! This is the ‘Big Trap!’ — clever — There’s no return from space –!” Then, somehow, seconds before liftoff, Scott is able to manipulate his still-chained hands together — which were stretched out to his left and right, respectively, when we see him chained by the baddies — and generate a crackling electrical charge by touching his index fingers together… (see, Scott Free is a man of miracles!).

The rocket takes off skyward and suddenly explodes, and Steel Hand, for the second time, is confident his enemy is finally dead… The relieved crime boss opens his office door to — urk! — find Mister Miracle sitting in Steel Hand’s chair! In a rage, the villain completely obliterates his own digs as he tries to karate-chop the dodging super escape artist. “Now, Mister Miracle,” says the bad guy, “You’ve just about ‘had it!‘ I don’t know how you got free of that missile — But –” Scott interrupts and responds, “I can show you how I might have done it, Steel Hand — I might have hidden Hyper-Sound Intensifiers in my gloves to break the metal chains,” and with a ZZAAAK he touches his fingers together and replicates the effect, only this time zapping his nemesis’s metal appendage! “See what sound waves do to your steel hand!” gloats Scott.

And, as is his wont, Mister Miracle continues to describe how he “might have” accomplished his escape from The Big Trap: “Perhaps I used miniature retro-jets to blast free of the missile!” And, yes, Scott gives an example, using the propulsion to fly across the room and, after socking Steel Hand in the jaw, continues to give away trade secrets by whipping out a small, cube-like device that is instantaneously pumping out lengths of synthetic fabric: “And a Compact Cocoon Spinner — which turns out yards of plastic material at fantastic speeds — it may have made a chute for me — but it will wrap you up in a package — for the law!

Our long-winded hero then pushes a couple of buttons on his midrift which emit air bursts, bragging, “As for beating you to your office — like a lowly squid — I might have used air jets — to shoot myself across the city –” (Well, truth be told, if the ill-appreciated aquatic cephalopod lived in the atmosphere; otherwise it uses water jets, but I’m just being a nudge, huh?) With that, Steel Hand, completely wrapped in the sheets and propelled to the door where law enforcement and Oberon are arriving, Steel Hand is finished and our story just about complete.

(There’s an endearing quality to Scott coyly revealing how he “might have” escaped the perils in a good number of issues, typically at the end of each story in the first handful of adventures. Jack was developing a nice formula to the story round-ups, for Oberon and for the readers, all dying to learn how Scott defied death yet another time. Fun stuff!)

In closing, the pair watch the cops gather up an incapacitated Steel Hand. “You’ve got a great act, Scott!” Oberon says (oblivious to revealing the masked hero’s true identity in front of the police). “I’d be proud to assist you!”

The new Mister Miracle (who is apparently not facing charges of breaking and entering) replies, “Done, Oberon! From now on, we’re both part of Mister Miracle — Super Escape Artist!

Day 72: “Robo-Arm Wrestler”!

Having ordered and witnessed the assassination of The Great Thaddeus (because the crime boss doesn’t want to be seen by peers and underlings as a welsher or is it as a small-time bettor? I’m not precisely sure the root of the villain’s lethal insecurity), Steel Hand looks for some recreation time by exercising his super-powerful hand. His main henchman, Stuka, apparently an inventor as well as assistant, has created a nameless robot for arm-wrestling bouts with his boss. “Well, Stuka!” says Steel Hand, “I see you’ve built a new toy!”

Looking like a life-size Rockem Sockem Robot — a very imposing sight from across the table, no doubt — is Stuka’s creation, an automaton (albeit rather shortlived!) with right hand significantly larger than the kingpin’s.

“Just for you, chief!” replies Stuka, holding a small device. “He was expensive — but he may be a match for you!”

Yeah, I see what’cha mean! I can use a work-out for the steel hand!” says the Inter-Gang regional chief. (It’s an interesting visual here as Steel Hand is either putting on a glove or taking one off. In both the original comic and the Omnibus reprint, the hand is colored as skin and the glove white (or silver), begging the question is the transplanted appendage organic flesh — a human hand — that was mutated to possess super-strength, or is it a chrome-plated mechanical hand? I always assumed the latter, but this panel hints at another possibility. Or was he just wearing a glove to protect (or disguise) a prosthetic extremity and the scene is simply miscolored?)

After Stuka says, “He’s not made out of tin cans, boss… He can punch holes in a battleship,” and as Steel Hand snaps back a reply — “So can I!” — the head gangster orders the robot activated. Naturally, an arm wrestling bout ensues, and both man and machine battle for dominance. “Not bad, Not bad! He’s powerful, all right!” observes Steel Hand. Stuka suggests, as he is manipulating the “remote control gismo,” “Shall I ‘up’ the pressure?” Steel Hand replies, “Yeah! That’s it! I wouldn’t be surprised if he could crush a building! But my steel hand is something else again! Nothing can match its strength — No power on Earth!”

Then, with a “KRAK,” “CLINK” and “PLONK,” Steel Hand renders the “Robo-Arm Wrestler” utterly useless, its hand completely shattered into metal shards. “My steel hand has made me a giant, see?” says the Edward G. Robinson wannabe as he stokes up a cigar, “This was just child’s play!” Stuka, observing the remnants of his invention, sucks up to his employer, “No one but you could have done this, boss! This metal hand is a wreck!”

Then, with the final word on Steel Hand’s defeated mechanized adversary, the crime lord says, “Well, he was good for a laugh! You can junk him now!” What an ignominious fate for Stuka’s expensive device!

Just then, leaping through the window is a figure from beyond the grave arriving to haunt Steel Hand once again…

Day 65: The Anti-Life Equation!

The great MacGuffin of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World is the Anti-Life Equation, the nebulous object of Darkseid’s intense desire, the power that will give him control over every living being in the universe. But the secret of the Equation is locked inside of the mind of human or humans unknown and a great deal of the Master of the Holocaust’s energy in the first half of Jack Kirby’s magnum opus is devoted to the pursuit of this, the ultimate power.

Chronologically, we first encounter the concept when Superman meets The Infinity Man in The Forever People#1. After the allies beat back a pack of Gravi-Guards, The Infinity Man alludes to the ruler of Apokolips. “This great peril couldn’t be named — Darkseid — could it!” asks Superman. His new friend responds, “Holocaust and death is what he serves! That is why he abducted the girl — she is one of the few whose mind can fathom the Anti-Life Equation! The ultimate weapon!

We quickly learn “the girl” is Beautiful Dreamer and Darkseid makes an appearance before the heroes to confess, “The girl’s mind is unique! It will not interpret the Equation! … There are others who can solve the Equation! One of them shall yield to me! — And when the secret is mine, I shall test it here! — Snuff out all life on Earth — with a word!”

And Darkseid’s threat weighs on Superman’s mind, even as he travels the Boom Tube to be with people of similiar abilities as he in a place called Supertown. “Does the answer really lie ahead of me?” the Man of Steel asks himself, beginning to doubt his selfish action. “Darkseid and his hidden terrors — The Anti-Life Equation — The danger to mankind — Am I going the wrong way? Is Earth the battle ground for some strange Super-War? It could be as real as the Boom Tube! — And I may be deserting mankind when it needs me most!” Needless to say, Superman returns to Earth.

But in the revealed history of the News Gods mythology, we learn that that Darkseid’s desire for the Anti-Life Equation predates the breaking of the pact between New Genesis and Apokolips which had brought an era of peace between the rival worlds. When Scott Free finally escapes the hellish world of perpetual shadow, Himon and Metron share some words with Darkseid, who had urged (however disingenuously) Scott Free to remain on his planet. As the Boom Tube to Earth fades, Himon says, “He’s gone, Darkseid! You’ll have your war with New Genesis, now!” Metron adds, “If you win the Anti-Life Equation, you will rule our minds with all the others!” And, shaking the rafters with a booming voice, Darkseid responds, “…And in the end, I will ‘Shut down’ this universe to all life!! — Except the will of Darkseid!

Back to the chronology, during our episode being covered presently, Metron has detained Kalibak from attacking Orion and he explains the stakes of this unfolding conflict to his New Genesis ally. For Darkseid has broken another sacred vow to Highfather. “He and his power elite are now on Earth — creating a tube network beneath its great cities!” Metron explains. “Soon they will be able to reach any spot on that globe! Darkseid’s minions are busily at work on a Mass-Director Unit that will monitor the mind of every human! One of those minds holds the secret of the Anti-Life Equation!

“There is no force to stay Darkseid’s thirst for absolute power over all living things!” So tells us The Forever People, the title most devoted to this intriguing concept, but the Super-Kids sure try their darndest. We learn in “Super-War” that while Apokoliptian super-villain Mantis yearns to take over our world, Darkseid wants a bigger reward: “Fool! Take Earth! Enslave all of mankind!” berates Darkseid. “But do not challenge my power here! For I seek another prize — meant for myself alone!”

And Mantis, in his destructive attack on the city, is lauded by Darkseid, as Desaad evidently works his Fear Machine (which might be able to detect a possessor of the Anti-Life Equation), as Darkseid states, “Mantis is inspiring great results! He’ll shake every mind in that city to its very roots! Especially the mind we seek to contact — the one that must be made to yield its secret — the Anti-Life Equation!” But The Infinity Man defeats Mantis and the Forever People ponder, “Mantis wants only the ego power of the conqueror!” [Beautiful Dreamer]… “But it’s Darkseid the universe must truly fear!” [Big Bear]… “He wants the ultimate power! And it is here — on Earth — in the mind of someone nameless — the ability to solve — and put into action — the Anti-Life Equation!” [Mark Moonrider].

The dreaded Fear Machine, created by Apokolips chief torturer Desaad (made from “the blueprint of the weird,” according to a cover blurb), just might be able to ferret out the secret from Metropolis citizens in New Gods #2. “Emotional turmoil breaks the dikes of the mind,” Darkseid tells his old friend, “and releases the flood in which we must fish, Desaad! Perhaps in this very city is the mind which will yield the Anti-Life Equation! The ability to control all free will!” But the Fear Machine fails Darkseid and so he turns to another within his powerful elite.

This seemingly ambiguous notion, the Anti-Life Equation, begins to gel quite substantially in the Forever People “Happyland” story arc that includes a superb villain, one apparently based on televangelists who preach to persuade, get attention and gain reward. Glorious Godfrey, however, has an entirely new gospel to promote: “It’s Darkseid’s gift of Anti-Life,” crows the pulpitarian. “It’s the ‘happiness package!‘”

“Life vs. Anti-Life” opens with a quote by Adolf Hitler and a visual depicting a crowd of zombified folks singing the praises of their preacher, shredding any allusions whether the Anti-Life Equation has no precedent on Earth. Goebbels-inspired placards surround a double-page spread of the beautiful, white-clothed Glorious Godrey, which trumpet: “LIFE HAS PITFALLS! ANTI-LIFE IS PROTECTION”; “LIFE WILL MAKE YOU DOUBT! ANTI-LIFE WILL MAKE YOU RIGHT!”; “YOU CAN JUSTIFY ANYTHING WITH ANTI-LIFE”; and “JUDGE OTHERS! ENSLAVE OTHERS! KILL OTHERS! ANTI-LIFE WILL GIVE YOU THE RIGHT!”

And, of course, it is Godfrey’s sermon that brings it all home: “Though Life is ever filled with those who threaten us, it is Anti-Life which gives us the power to eliminate them! The holocaust is coming! The day of Apokolips on Earth! The day of Darkseid, who brings this power only for us to use! Yes, it is his gift to us, friends! The cosmic hunting license! The right to point the finger or the gun!

Glorious Godfrey is seeking recruits to become Justifiers, zealot soldiers who are capable of mass kidnapping, singling out people for oppression, and even suicide bombing. (Mark Moonrider notes of the suicide bomber: “The Anti-Life principle is now part of him!”) As the head caption on the title page states, “Thus, Apokolips makes contact with Earth! Thus, the harbingers of holocaust link up with the human minds and hearts that wait to act in chaos! Like the ancient witchdoctors of old, Glorious Godfrey sounds the clarion call and begins the dance of death in modern times! The message of Anti-Life is powerful!”

As Justifiers commit acts similar to the Nazis atrocities against the Jews — rounding up entire neighborhoods to be held in concentration camps, targeting certain folks in a fashion not unlike “Kristalnacht” (the painting of the letter “S” for “scapegoat” on storefronts), and burning entire libraries because the books are “decadent” and mind-polluting — His lieutenant notes, “Anti-Life is a heady, exhilarating experience, Godfrey! They’re in ecstasy!” To which, Godfrey replies, “Yes, they no longer think! They revel in violent emotion! They will do anything I say — in order to feed their emotion! They are now no more than zombies in my control!”

It seems Godfrey’s mesmerizing power of persuasion is linked to the “demon’s organ” played at his revivals and, naturally, The Infinity Man arrives to destroy it (though at great cost as the amalgamated Forever People character is exiled by Darkseid for doing so until appearing again in the very last issue of the series).

Desaad is given another chance to help in the Apokolips ruler’s quest by setting up a special “camp,” where the possessor of the Anti-Life Equation just might show up. “I trust this camp of yours is serving the purpose that overrides all others, Desaad!” ponders Darkseid. “If the mind you seek to contact is among those at my camp,” replies Desaad, “it shall soon give up its secret, great Darkseid!”

A chagrined Godfrey audaciously chimes in: “But surely you can’t mean — Surely not even the great Darkseid believes in the existence of the Anti-Life Equation! Why, if one could master such an equation — he could control the minds of all living things with a mere word! I-I believe in Anti-Life, great Darkseid — but it can only be induced in others by the means of inventive selling!

Kirby krackles crackling behind him, replies Darkseid: “The Anti-Life Equation exists! Locked in the mind of someone here on Earth! — And only I dare reach for it! I shall create chaos here! Shake up the planet — Shake up the mind!”

The camp of Desaad’s making? The outside world calls it Happyland and believes it a giant amusement park devoted to public entertainment. Those behind the scenes call it the Kingdom of the Damned and know it is a massive torture chamber dedicated to cruelty… and the discovery of the Anti-Life Equation. Desaad says, “Among them is hidden the mind which can solve the Anti-Life Equation! With an answer to that –” Darkseid interrupts, “I shall control every living creature in this universe with a mere word!

It is during this adventure when we finally discover someone who, in conjunction with a Forever People ally, has the power of Anti-Life. When Mother Box is being “murdered” by Desaad and his minion, she escapes and materializes before professional sumo wrestler Sonny Sumo, who himself has a mystical power called “wound rejection,” which heals bruises received during his bouts. Together they save The Forever People and destroy Happyland. Mark Moonrider tells Sonny, “In union with your mind, Mother Box can create waves of titanic power!” Big Bear adds, “Mother Box sought out and found the man with the power!! This man knows the Anti-Life Equation! This man can control all living beings!”

But Sonny is baffled, “I don’t know what you’re talking about! What’s Anti-Life!?

Serifan answers, “Why, the very opposite of living! If someone possesses absolute control over you — you’re not really alive!”

“Without independent will — you may just as well be a robot!” says Mark. “Yes, you know the Equation! But it’s hidden — deep with your mind! Mother Box helped bring it to the surface!”

Mark says, a few moments later, “Aw, where we come from the Anti-Life Equation is one of many others — almost as awesome!! But they merely exist!!

Vykin chimes in, “Don’t you see? It’s we who live!! Why not just live, Sonny? Your way!!”

Big Bear declares, “That’s our only objective! To stop the forces that won’t let us do just that!

Ironically, Sonny uses his power to oppose Desaad and company: “But Anti-Life can be used against its disciples!!! The combined force of a Mother Box and the wondrous mind of Sonny Sumo have miraculously brought into being the awesome, dreaded power known as the Anti-Life Equation!!” Mark Moonrider ominously says, “True Anti-Life!! Right now, as wielder of the power, Sonny Sumo is even greater than Darkseid himself!!”

But Desaad is aware Sonny is only one part of the equation: “Sumo, without mind stimulation from the Mother Box, can’t use the Anti-Life Equation!!” the torturer tells his master. Thus Darkseid, angered at The Forever People and doubtless fearful of Sonny, sends the team (except Serifan) and Sonny Sumo, into different historical eras via the “Total Wipeout” — The Omega Effect. While The Forever People are eventually reunited, Sonny Sumo and Mother Box are sent hundreds of years into Japan’s past, when Sonny becomes a “wise man, athlete, farmer,” and the Mother Box is returned to the Super-Kids, after centuries in the custody of Buddhist monks.

The last great Forever People adventure centered around the Anti-Life Equation is “The Power,” which features the “priceless brain” of the reprehensible Billion-Dollar Bates, which possesses the Equation and whose user had exploited the mysterious ability for monetary gain and power. “After years of generating the ‘power’ in secrecy,” Bates yells, “building it to its full and fearsome potency — I establish it, this night, as world regency!!!” But the “Sect,” allegedly a cult of Satan worshippers, has other plans. Upon crowning Bates with a “Stimulus Hat,” the ruthless capitalist is intentionally rendered comatose: “Perfect! He’s in shock! — But still alive! — And the Anti-Life Equation lies ready to be plucked from from that living brain!” And we learn the Sect is actually Darkseid, Desaad and their Apokolips agents. But, due to the trickery of The Forever People, Bates is killed, leaving Darkseid to ponder the latest possessor of his coveted prize: “Billion-Dollar Bates!! To think that destiny would store the ultimate power in a yapping jackal’s hide!! — While Darkseid — the spearhead of pure elemental force — must thirst for that knowledge!”

Unfortunately, except for brief mentions in “Even Gods Must Die” and The Hunger Dogs — mostly lamentations that the “New Age” of the Micro-Mark has supplanted Darkseid’s great “hunt” — this is basically the last we see of the Anti-Life Equation, but assuredly it was a fantastic concept while it was in play.

(Mister Miracle, which did not much involve the Anti-Life Equation, does have a notable comment in “The Apokolips Trap,” which deals with whether the formula exists on Darkseid’s world: “Beyond Grayborders — toward Night-Time, the real evil of Apokolips becomes evident!! Anti-Life is real here!! Living beings serve their guards!! The guards serve the war machines!! And their power serves — Darkseid!!! But this is Anti-Life manufactured by slogans, threats, despair and acceptance — it’s not the Equation itself — but proof to Darkseid that the Anti-Life Equation exists!!!” Darkseid’s failure to get the secret from Beautiful Dreamer’s cranium also seems to indicate his appetite cannot be sated on his home planet or on New Genesis.)

In the final analysis, the Anti-Life Equation just begs the question: If Darkseid had finally achieved his quarry, to finally subjugate an entire universe to his will, to gain dominion over every single life form in existence… what word would he have used?

Day 64: Kalibak’s Beta-Club!

Terror from Apokolips! And it can have no greater force than in the arrival of Kalibak the Cruel!”

And when the eldest son of Darkseid and half-brother of Orion comes on the scene, you can bet your Mother Box that Kalibak will be wielding his dreaded Beta-Club, with its agonizing Nerve Beam capability!

It’s a weapon we see when Orion first encounters his sibling in this adventure and, a little bit later, as the Tormentor aims it at the fierce new god. “How high is your threshold of pain, Orion!” barks the troll-like beast. “This Nerve Beam from my Beta-Club will test you!”

The next caption states: “Turned on to full power, the Nerve Beam can cause an army to writhe in agony! But quick use of the Astro-Force smothers its total effect!

Though Orion absorbs a portion of the impact, still “My body is afire as if with a mortal wound,” thinks our hero. Needless to say, Kalibak’s half-brother survives.

As Orion and his new Earth allies depart Apokolips via Boom Tube, Kalibak hurls his Beta-Club at the retreating guests, but the weapon falls just short of connecting and the Tube dissipates.

We next see the club briefly in “Spawn” and then, in spectacular fashion, during “The Death Wish of Terrible Turpin,” from the cover and splash page inward, where Jack calls it a “Blast-Club.”

Kalibak uses his weapon to smash into Dave Lincoln’s apartment and splinter the cop’s furniture. Then the Beta-Club blasts Metropolis police officers, including Detective Sergeant Daniel Turpin, who brazenly takes on Kalibak, only to get beaten to a pulp. Orion flies in with Lightray to save “Terrible” Turpin, who is being flung about like a rag doll by Kalibak.

Then, in a great Kirby panel of elemental ferocity, Kalibak smashes his club upside Orion’s head and, in the next, square down atop his helmet. Brutal! Kalibak turns on Lightray and is about to bludgeon the young new god when Orion grasps his half-brother’s truncheon and, with “overwheming” fierceness, the foster son of Highfather twists the Beta-Club from the beast-man’s grasp.

Then, in a classic Kirby page, Orion begins to incurvate the Beta-Club with his bare hands. “Now, by what I do, you many well get a glimpse of inner fires that burn with forces unmatched by your fire-pits!”

Kalibak is dumbfounded, sputtering, “My club — I-it’s beginning to –”

“To bend! To crack!” says Orion. “To break loose from the sinister energies that bind its atoms as one unit!”

The club strains until… “KRAAK!

No! No!” screams Kalibak, “Impossible! It can’t be happening!

But it is. Orion tears apart the weapon, shards flying. “It would take all the might of Darkseid himself to do that!!” Kalibak stammers. “You’re a monster, Orion!!”

Grim Orion responds, “Behold a more painful truth! — The broken fragments of your club!!”


Then, a piece of the disabled weapon in each hand, Orion jams them into the sides of Kalibak’s head, and, well, let’s just say a world-class Super-War donnybrook ensues! That unprecedented “Death of a Weapon” sequence is, of course, the last we see of Kalibak’s Beta-Club!


Day 62: Mass-Director Unit!

After Orion tangles with Apokolips para-demons, henchmen and dog calvary, the new god suddenly finds himself alone. “Darkseid himself dwells this way!” Orion ponders as he runs down a corridor, past great windows looking out at the flames of a mammoth fire-pit adjacent. “But the great halls are empty — devoid of Darkseid’s elite warriors!”

Empty! They are all gone! Is this what I came for?” frets the New Genesis warrior, still itching for a fight. “Has the ‘Source‘ written for me a fool’s destiny?”

Then Orion the Mighty discovers the enormous, imposing device that is the keeper of the peace on the malevolent globe: “A Mass-Director Unit! It has been activated to transmit Darkseid’s orders! This is what now rules all Apokolips!

While details are not revealed, the Mass-Director Unit seemingly controls the minions and lowlies of Apokolips by an electronic surveillance beam that monitors dissent and other threats to the regime. Whether there is a punishment component, while likely, is not confirmed. (I believe this is the only issue in the Fourth World epic that features this device, though when Kalibak reaches Earth and searches for Dave Lincoln’s apartment, he speaks of what might be the self-same contraption: “The Mass-Directing Mechanism had given me a rough estimate [where Orion’s police officer ally resides] before I left on this foray.”)

Yes, Darkseid and his cadre of colorful noblesse have temporarily abandoned their home planet to ignite the Super-War about to engulf Earth, busily seeking the Anti-Life Equation, the singular goal of the evil ruler. We will soon learn, via Metron, that “Darkseid’s minions are busily at work on a Mass-Director Unit that will monitor the mind of every [Earth] human!”

We realize why the Master of the Holocaust needs to keep pressure on his own subjects, through fear, intimidation and apparently this machine — revolt might happened when the Lowlies miss their morning “brain-drain” breakfast! But why set one up on our world? And what is this so-called Anti-Life Equation anyway?

Suddenly Orion hears a familiar, maybe a faintly familial voice. It sounds like not all of Darkseid’s elite have left the nightmare sphere. And, brother, this might be a showdown…

(While we don’t see it in this particular illustration, the panel previous in the story gives us a full-view of the Astro-Harness component Orion has adhered to his belt, I think the only instance in the saga he retains the part… The vapor emissions floating out of the circular device indicate, to me at least, this item likely fires Astro-Force blasts. Makes sense, given Orion has put aside the Astro-Harness and, well, who would want to be striding the halls of Apokolips without a weapon ready, huh? I wonder, too, if Jack abandoned the idea because of the awkward stance Orion would have to use if indeed it blasted out Astro-Beams…)

Day 61: Darkseid’s Dog Calvary!

Imagine an armed force atop huge, ferocious canines pursuing you through the hellacious avenues of sinister Apokolips, snapping and snarling at your heels, threatening to rip the very flesh from your bones with razor-sharp fangs set in impossibly muscled jaws… If you can picture that, you’ve got a good idea of the Demon Dog Cavalry of mighty Darkseid.

Having battled the Para-Demon sentries in the smoke-filled skies over that dread and dismal world, and shaken off an armed horde on the ground, Orion suddenly faces Darkseid’s mounted troops riding… ummm… dogback against the arrival from New Genesis. Firing their radian blasters, the dragoons charge toward their adversary, who exclaims, “Darkseid’s Dog calvary! It is suicidal to run from them! My one chance to live — is to attack!

Orion dives to the ground, tripping dog and rider (the latter seem knocked senseless), but the mastiffs are tenacious, hungry for the blood of a new god. “These hounds of Hades are swift to regain their feet!” thinks Orion, and “Marshaling his colossal strength loosens a nearby stone pillar!” The column’s collapse spooks the mutts and they flee…

It’s apparent that the elite of Apokolips venerate canines twice the size of earthly Great Danes, as we see Granny Goodness walking her huge “darling demon-dogs” in a “Young Scott Free” vignette and there’s a trio of oversized hounds (doubtless used for hunting) among the poaching interlopers that begin “The Pact.” Mostly though, they seem, like every other life form on Apokolips, bred for war.

Baskerville Hall has nothing on these beasts when next we see them in “The Pact,” as “Raid upon raid is made everywhere on New Genesis!! From one such threshold leaps a snapping unit of dog calvary!! — Led by Steppenwolf!!” The creatures look like giant, ferocious rats in Jack’s depiction, and “When Steppenwolf leads, the carnage mounts until the battleground whines beneath the weight and agony of mass death!!! Nothing lives in his path!” One can only shudder at such butchery…

In “Himon,” the epic’s other “background story,” we see young Scott Free being chased briefly by the dog calvary but, of course, the lad escapes…

As one who was scared of big mongrels as a kid, I can attest Jack’s dog cavalry was an inspired nightmare vision, perfectly apropos to kennel in his nightmare world of Apokolips. Hounds of Hell, indeed…