An Epic for Our Times!
There came a time when the Old Gods died! The brave died with the cunning! The noble perished, locked in battle with the unleashed evil! It was the last day for them! An ancient era was passing in fiery holocaust! The final moment came with the fatal release of the indescribable power — which tore the home of the Old Gods asunder — split it in great halves — and filled the universe with the blinding death-flash of its destruction! In the end there were two giant molten bodies, spinning slow and barren — clean of all that had gone before — adrift in the fading sounds of cosmic thunder... Silence closed upon what had happened — a long, deep silence — wrapped in massive darkness... it was this way for an age... THEN—THERE WAS NEW LIGHT!Jack Kirby
— The prologue at the beginning of the first issue of New Gods
's Magnum Opus
meta-series where he developed an entire cosmic mythology involving the New Gods of the utopia of New Genesis
and the dystopia of Apokolips
. Collectively, they were called The Fourth World
New Genesis and Apokolips were once one planet, but were split apart during the Old Gods' Ragnarok
. New Genesis is ruled by the benevolent Highfather
, while Apokolips is kept in the rocky fist of Darkseid
. Before the beginning of the series, there was "The Pact
," where to keep the peace between Apokolips and New Genesis, Highfather and Darkseid
trade sons. Darkseid's son, Orion (pictured right), grows up to wield the "Astro-Force" and know that it is destined that he kill Darkseid in battle. Darkseid, in turn, raises Scott Free, who rebels against him and becomes Mister Miracle (and ends up marrying Big Barda, one of Darkseid's reformed Female Furies).
Other characters on New Genesis include: Lightray, Orion's cheerful and optimistic friend; Forager, one of the evolved bug people of New Genesis; and the Forever People, essentially hippies FROM SPACE
Other characters on Apokolips include: Desaad, Darkseid's chief Torture Technician
and dirty old man; Granny Goodness, who specializes in brainwashing
people and having the evil Female Furies; Kalibak, Darkseid's other son and second-in-command
; and Parademons
Then there are Metron
, True Neutral
if there ever was one, and the Black Racer
, Death on skis.
Other concepts of note include the Source
, an ancient metaphysical energy-thingy
that's connected to the Source Wall; Mother Boxes, living magical computers
that some of the New Gods have; Boom Tubes, teleportation tunnels by which the New Gods travel through space
in a degree of minutes; and the Anti-Life Equation
, which Darkseid is forever seeking.
The original Fourth World books were:
It may be also important to note that the New Gods was abruptly canceled before Kirby could finish it, in part because only Mister Miracle caught on with readers (and even then got canceled several issues later). The New Gods and Mr Miracle were revived in the late '70s by DC minus Kirby's involvement and continued the original numbering but were cancelled in the "Great DC Implosion", with New Gods' last issues being published in "Adventure Comics" (as well as an arc on "Justice League of America" designed to bring Darkseid back).
Kirby was brought back to give his own official ending to the franchise, as part of a deluxe format reprinting of the eleven issues of New Gods that Kirby produced but the whole thing fell apart due to editorial interference
(Kirby was forbidden from killing Darkseid and Orion off). What ultimately came about was a new story called "Even Gods Must Die", which was a lead-in to the graphic novel "The Hunger Dogs", which suffered extensive executive meddling but offered a semi-decent ending to the series as Kirby (per DC's demands) ended his story with Darkseid overthrown by his slaves.
Later writers revived the characters and concepts, though with a great deal of decay in concept as only Darkseid and Mr. Miracle caught on with fans (with Orion and Big Barda tagging along). These stories included The Great Darkness Saga
, Rock of Ages
, ''Legends'', ''Cosmic Odyssey'', ''Genesis''
, Seven Soldiers
, The Death of the New Gods
, Countdown to Final Crisis
, and finally Final Crisis
, which slammed the door on the New Gods once and for all, while giving Darkseid a hell of a send-off as the Villain Decay
got shrugged off of him on his way out the door. However, after the New 52
, they were all (presumably) brought back to life thanks to Cosmic Retcon
Before that though, when Kenner
Toys had the Super Powers
toyline in the 1980s, they used a number of Kirby's New Gods
characters as action figures and Kirby finally got some sort of a direct payoff for his creativity.
Some of the characters (Orion, Scott Free, Big Barda) were brought in for the Kingdom Come story (as who wasn't).
Characters from the Fourth World have been featured in several DC adaptations; usually those involving Superman
This meta-series includes:
- A God Am I: Darkseid.
- Above Good and Evil: Metron's reason for not taking any side, though it doesn't stop him from aiding the good guys against Darkseid any chance he gets.
- The main reason he's considered neutral is because in the early days of the war, he helped Darkseid develop boom tube technology, in exchange for the raw materials he needed for his Moebius Chair. Since then, he's mainly been seen aiding the good guys (perhaps out of remorse?).
- He's worked with Darkseid on occasion since, as well, despite Darkseid never making any secret of what fate he intends for Metron. It's partly that Metron's primary motivation is For Science!, and partly because Darkseid and Metron have few intellectual equals who can stand them for long.
- Always Chaotic Evil: Depending on the Writer,it seems the population of Apokolips is this inherently. There are exceptions though.
- Kirby's original comics suggested they were just that hopelessly brainwashed.
- Amazon Brigade: The Female Furies
- Amazonian Beauty: Most of the Female Furies qualify, but especially Big Barda.
- Anthropomorphic Personification: Among them, Mister Miracle is the Embodiment of Freedom. When he gets shot, it signals the Victory of Evil. Darkseid is himself the personification of Tyranny.
- Arguably, every New God is a personification. Orion is war, Forever People are the spirit of youth, Lightray is the embodiment of joy and charisma, etc. They are gods, after all.
- Confirmed in Final Crisis where Batman states that the New Gods are Platonic Ideals.
- Armed Legs: Stompa's anti-matter boots.
- Bad Ass Normal: Dan Turpin
- Beeping Computers: The Mother Box's "ping!"
- Big Bad: Darkseid. Not just for the New Gods, but the rest of the universe
- Big Good: The Highfather. After his death this position is taken over by Takion. And of course, the
Force Source is ultimate universe-creating good of the series.
- Bold Inflation: One of Kirby's trademarks.
- Especially interesting here because it comes off so well. These are Aliens Speaking English, and they're breaking it down for the foolish humans.
- Born in the Wrong Century: Sonny Sumo, aka that guy who had the Anti-Life equation in his head. Darkseid ironically rectifies this.
- Brown Note: The Anti-Life Equation turns out to be this crossed with The Virus.
- But Now I Must Go: This actually happened to Mister Miracle and Big Barda when the original Kirby series was cancelled.
- Cut Short: Kirby's original series; even Mister Miracle, which wasn't cancelled, still got a heavy Re Tool that divorced it from the New Gods mythos (until the final issue where The Bus Came Back).
- Darkest Hour: Final Crisis. Not only for the New Gods, but for all of the DCU.
- Depending on the Writer: So much. So much. Are New Genesis and Apokolips in 'our' universe or another dimension entirely? (This was lampshaded once in a Character Blog for the series Checkmate) What is the Anti-Life equation? Are the New Gods real gods or Sufficiently Advanced Aliens? Much of this is probably because a lot of the writers didn't keep up with canon or disliked certain concepts.
- Evil Matriarch: Granny Goodness is this, put in a blender with a hardcore dominatrix, and turned up to eleven.
- Enforced Cold War: The Pact. It doesn't really work.
- Executive Meddling: The Hunger Dogs. After being hired to give an end to the story of the New Gods but being forbidden to write the ending he had planned (with Orion and Darkseid dying, Kirby turned in a 24 page story called "On The Road To Armaghetto". The story (Orion goes to Apokolips to stop turncoat New God Esak from creating a new doomsday device for Darkseid) effectively gave no ending whatsoever to the storyline and was rejected). A deal was then struck to give Kirby a 64 page graphic novel to wrap up his story, but on top of the "No killing Orion and Darkseid" edict, DC also ordered Desaad, Kalibak, and Steppenwolf resurrected as they were to be included in the Super Powers toyline that was being released. Further complicating things was the decision by DC to make Kirby rework and incorporate the already finished pages of "On the Road To Armaghetto" into the graphic novel and then rearrange the page order, against Kirby's will.
- Some of this is disputed by Mark Evanier in his afterward to Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus Vol. 4. According to him, it was Kirby that didn't want to bring Darkseid and Orion Back for the Dead.
- The Force: The Source. In fact, rumor has it the Force from Star Wars was actually based on this.
- Five-Bad Band: The main evil Gods:
- Flanderization: Orion, Orion, Orion.
- Perhaps surprisingly, the same happened to Darkseid, who, in Kirby's take on the character, was rather more complex and well-rounded; in "the road to Armaghetto", the despot shows a somber, reflective side, wry humor and even restrained horror at the coming generation, which will be worse than he was. His 'evolution' into the most purely evil being in creation and designated villain for the universe seems degeneration into caricature.
- Fully Absorbed Finale: For the entire New Gods mythos (despite Kirby being denied his intended Kill 'em All ending). The final fates of the New Gods are revealed in Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers and in Final Crisis (and tentatively in its leadups and tie-ins).
- Gods Need Prayer Badly: In Walt Simonson's run on Orion, he had the title character deliver a Take That to the concept.
- Götterdämmerung: "There came a time when the Old Gods DIED!
- Grand Finale: Final Crisis, which restores much of the characters to Kirby's original vision of them, then slams the door on them for good.
- The Hunger Dogs was also intended to be this. It didn't work out, for a number of reasons.
- The Grim Reaper: The Black Racer. Interestingly enough, he had a human form of a paraplegic Vietnam vet.
- I Was Quite a Looker: Granny Goodness.
- Kirby Dots: Of course.
- Kryptonite Factor: New Gods are only vulnerable to "Radion", a specific radiation. Darkseid eventually kills Orion with a time-traveling radion bullet in Final Crisis, and Darkseid is shot with that same bullet by Batman.
- Luke, I Am Your Father: Subverted; Orion already knows he's Darkseid's son. He does have trouble resisting his inner violence though.
- Legacy Character: In the original comics, the Black Racer and Mister Miracle, although their predecessors only appeared for the issue where they gave up said legacy. Later comics revealed that Infinity-Man was also a Legacy Character, and that Mister Miracle would get an Affirmative Action Legacy with Shiloh Norman.
- The Newsboy Legion and the Golden Guardian were more traditional Legacies; the Newsboys were sons of the original Golden Age versions, and the Guardian was a clone. (A later Retcon would render the Newsboys clones, as well.)
- Magic Powered Pseudo Science: The alternative to the Sufficiently Advanced Alien view.
- Magitek: Another alternative interpretation, embraced by Grant Morrison and (arguably) Kirby himself.
- Meaningful Name: Everyone?
- Omnicidal Maniac: Darkseid wants to enslave the universe or, if he can't, destroy it.
- Orcus on His Throne: Darkseid, usually. When he's not, well... that's bad.
- Order Versus Chaos: With Apokolips representing Order and New Genesis Chaos.
- Physical God: See Depending on the Writer.
- Polluted Wasteland: Apokolips consists of "fire pits" continually fueled by slaves.
- Poorly Disguised Pilot: The New Gods started appearing in Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen. It was the best thing that ever happened to the title.
- Purple Prose: In spades. Check the Page Quote for a sampler.
- Put on a Bus: Happened to the Forever People at the end of Kirby's series. Also happened to Mister Miracle and Big Barda, but they at least got to go to New Genesis. (Neither stuck)
- Sidekick: Mister Miracle's manager, Oberon.
- Ligthray to Orion, as well.
- Reality Subtext: Mister Miracle and Big Barda's relationship is based on the one Kirby had with his own wife. Some have suggested that the entirety of the New Gods were a metaphor for the Cold War and the Vietnam War.
- The Forever People are of course, hippie culture.
- The Cold War metaphor is ironic though, when you consider that Kirby based Darkseid on Richard Nixon.
- Scenery Porn: It was drawn by Jack Kirby, after all.
- Science Fantasy: Probably the best description of the series's genre.
- Sky Surfing: Mister Miracle and his disc thingies.
- The Black Racer as well, what with the skis and all.
- Splash Panel: Kirby loved using these.
- Statuesque Stunner: Big Barda.
- Status Quo Is God: The reason DC wouldn't let Kirby kill off the New Gods (or even let Darkseid die). (Though there are some sources who say Kirby didn't want to kill them either when he wrote "The Hunger Dogs")
- Also the reason that Death Of The New Gods is a pretty misleading title.
- Sufficiently Advanced Alien: See Depending on the Writer, above. They still have aspects of this regardless.
- Take Over All Creation: Darkseid's ultimate goal.
- Take That: Kirby's original New Gods had several "Take That!" disses against Marvel:
- The Third World is clearly supposed to be Marvel's version of Asgard
- Funky Flashman, the toady conman who works for Darkseid and his manservant Houseroy were proxies of Stan Lee and Roy Thomas.
- In the Legends crossover, Glorious Godfrey used the alias "G. Gordon Godfrey", a parody of Watergate participant (and later radio demagogue) G. Gordon Liddy.
- Urban Legend: "The Road to Armaghetto"; for years it was believed that the original version of the story did indeed feature Orion and Darkseid fighting to the death. It didn't (Esak is the only one who actually dies in the issue).
- Warrior Poet: In the original comics several characters have elements of this, mostly because of the way it's written, but Orion and even Darkseid are known to have talked to themselves about philosophical concepts.
- World of Ham: Just read the quote on the top of the page.
- Villains Out Shopping: Getting mugged and just analyzing the experience, or working the register at Burger Fool... Darkseid had a lot of free time.
- In the original comics, he tours an amusement park. Granted, it was one controlled by Apokolips but he seems genuinely amused when a pair of people mistake him for a guy in costume. And then there was that time Darkseid wore a costume...of course, that was part of a plan to get close to a human whose mind contained the Anti-Life Equation.