Jack Kirby’s Fourth World was the visionary’s debut creation for DC Comics after he departed Marvel Comics in the wake of creative disputes. The legendary creator, known for his works on Thor, Fantastic Four and X-Men brought a truly epic mythos to the DC Universe, beginning with his New Gods series. Here, readers were told of the fantastical struggle between the heroic champions of New Genesis in their war with the dark minions of Apokolips.

In 1970, Jack Kirby made his departure from Marvel Comics official, but had actually been in negotiations with DC behind the scenes for a couple of years. Once he was satisfied with a deal, he made his move to DC, and introduced his Fourth World meta series in 1971, later followed by other titles. Kirby’s saga spanned numerous titles and carried on for years, reeling in his loyal fan base who respected his story-telling style. The Fourth World managed to endure with fans and creators alike, with writers like Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns clearly enamored with his creations. For this reason, everyone from Darkseid and Kalibak to Orion and Mister Miracle continue to play vital roles within the DCU. The saga told a tale of an epic struggle between two factions of a race of New Gods in the wake of the death of the Old Gods, and DC continues to neglect its full potential.

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Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, Explained

Kirby kicked off his Fourth World with the release of New Gods and Forever People shortly after he started his Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen run. Though aspects of his upcoming world had been teased in his first DC title, New Gods set the stage for his epic. Kirby’s story began with the final battle of the Old Gods. This battle was actually based on a Ragnar?k story Kirby had planned for Marvel’s Thor title, in which he intended to kill off the vast pantheon of Norse deities. However, Marvel refused, and this was reworked into the opening salvo for New Gods. Following the destruction of these Old Gods, two new planets formed from the chaos; Apokolips and New Genesis. The two worlds were as distinct as can possibly be, with the gentle, peace-loving people of New Genesis standing against the war tyrants of Apokolips.

This seemingly endless war began when a scheming Darkseid orchestrated the murder of Izaya Highfather’s wife at the hands of his uncle, Steppenwolf. At that time, the villain was not yet Apokolips’ ruler, with that power falling to his mother. When the villain’s plans took effect, Highfather launched an attack on the hellish planet, claiming the life of Darkseid’s mother and, in the process, making him its new ruler. However, with the villain needing time to rebuild his world and Highfather seeking peace, the two rulers exchanged their sons; Orion was sent to New Genesis and Scott Free to Apokolips, where Darkseid predicted he’d one day escape and break the peace. After Free escaped, a newly-strengthened Darkseid restarted a war against his enemies of New Genesis – with his own son standing as its champion.

The battle between New Genesis and Apokolips plays out across the saga’s four main titles; Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, New Gods, Forever People and Mister Miracle. Each of these relates to the story differently, with the Jimmy Olsen stories having a more distant Darkseid and New Gods taking a more direct approach. Meanwhile, the Forever People was more a combination of 1960s rebellious youth culture with the super heroics of the younger heroes of New Genesis as they battled Darkseid’s forces. Together, the younger heroes could summon the Infinity-Man, a New Gods superhero, through their Mother Boxes. The main saga, however, took place in the core New Gods series, which often crossed over with the other characters.

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The Fourth World, namely through New Gods, more than earned the reputation awarded it by DC, who branded it “an epic for our times.” Though the series wasn’t Kirby’s most successful at DC at the time — Kamandi and The Demon became more popular — it proved his most enduring creation for the publisher after he left. Through Darkseid, Kirby had effectively given DC its Galactus and Thanos rolled into one, unstoppable and malevolent being. In Orion, the company had a tragic, almost Shakespearean hero, locked in an eternal battle with his megalomaniacal father as he defended his adoptive home world.

Kirby’s Fourth World satisfies almost every type of comic book, fantasy and science fiction fan there is through its unique characters. In Metron, there’s a neutral Spock-inspired scientific explorer, who takes readers on a tour through time and space. In Darkseid and Orion, there’s the story of good vs evil and freedom vs tyranny between a father and son. In Mister Miracle and Big Barda, there’s an almost slice-of-life spin on the superhero story, with the duo fighting evil while maintaining a strong relationship that blossomed into marriage. In the Forever People, younger readers saw characters who reflected their counter-culture attitudes while also being superheroes. Not to mention the endless homage to Norse mythology, ancient history and the legendary science fiction world-building that defines New Genesis’ war with Apokolips.

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What The Fourth World Means In DC

Jack Kirby’s DC creations have each endured in their own way throughout DC. While the likes of Kamandi and the Forever People have become more obscure, Darkseid basically became the big bad of villainy in the universe, a symbol of pure, unrestrained evil. Characters like Orion, Mister Miracle and Big Barda became Justice Leaguers in various stories, while also having their own solo books. Some of the universe’s biggest stories, like The Darkseid War, Final Crisis and Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths all involved the New Gods in some capacity. However, these have rarely let the New Gods stand on their own two feet, instead making their story a centerpiece in a Justice League or Green Lantern story. These characters work best with some independence from the core DC Universe.

The Fourth World has increasingly become simply the New Gods story, namely the struggle between Orion and Darkseid. The Forever People have made very few appearances beyond their original titles, and Mister Miracle has seen success in being defined as a separate part of the New Gods saga, though still involved. In fact, people are as likely to know Mister Miracle from his crossovers with Batman or time on the Justice League International as they are to see him in a New Gods story. Nonetheless, even he and Barda, when used in New Gods stories, typically find themselves at the heart of a Darkseid story.

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The New Gods’ Untapped Potential

Modern pop culture has shown the new and unexpected resurgence of the very dark fantasy on which Kirby’s Fourth World thrives. Through multimedia projects like Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon, Dark Knights of Steel, the enduring popularity of Dungeons and Dragons and more, fantastical world-building is as strong as ever. Not to mention how some of the very themes and tropes used in New Gods also exist in even Star Wars, most notably the revelation that the respective world’s villain was the hero’s father. The epic clash of cultures, the melding of science fiction and classic mythology and a war of Biblical proportions has given the Fourth World a timeless nature. In the Fourth World, there’s a hero everyone can relate to if they look in the right place. Even the success of the MCU’s Thor is a testament to what fans could get with a Fourth World franchise.

The Fourth World almost received a film in the old DCEU before it was reworked into the DCU under James Gunn’s direction. It’s still a viable project, however, and audiences are primed for this exact style of science fiction epic meets fantastical world-building. The use of familiar imagery, like the Odin-inspired Highfather and Superman-style Lightray all make for a world that audiences would easily invest in and relate to. Through the Forever People, there’s a fun attachment to youth culture. Through Mister Miracle, there’s a more traditionally superheroic figure. Combined, it all comes together to bring fans a truly epic saga that could rival the best fantasy and science fiction projects.

Under the right management, the Fourth World could become the greatest saga in whichever medium it’s told, and could handily borrow from elements of Star Wars. After all, it’s hard not to look at Darkseid as an amalgamation of both Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine, or the powers of the New Gods as similar to those of the Jedi and Sith. When combined with all the elements of classic religious and mythological stories, the saga has a way of transcending genre and audiences. Even looking back at the DCAU, it’s hard to not see how vast a shadow was cast over the franchise by the New Gods. When handled right, the armored, superhuman gods and monsters form a story that drags Earth into the heart of the universe’s greatest battle.

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New Gods & The Fourth World Could Be DC Powerhouses

The saga of the New Gods in Kirby’s Fourth World has more than enough potential to become a major force within DC Comics. Key to this is highlighting the relationship between Orion and Darkseid, exploring the two respective worlds and their characters and honoring Kirby’s vision. Whether its in comics, animation or live action, there are few stories with as rich potential for deep world-building as the tale of the New Gods. It appeals to all types of comic book and fantasy fan, it’s just waiting for the right creator to come along and make it a staple of 21st century comic book media.

The Fourth World should be DC’s answer to Star Wars, Game of Thrones and traditional superheroes all rolled into one, with all the hallmarks of a great dark fantasy story. There are many non-comic formats the story could work well in, but a TV series with a strong budget could do it the most justice. Following the original title’s idea of heroes defending Earth from Darkseid’s pursuit of the Anti-Life Equation would be the best way to introduce a new fandom to the classic mythos. The Fourth World was the crowning achievement of Jack Kirby’s post-Marvel career, and it deserves to live up to its full potential for DC.

 DC Comics prioritizes Earth-based characters, but Darkseid, Orion, and the New Gods of the Fourth World hold so much untapped potential.  Read More