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Comic Book Legends Revealed #454

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Welcome to the four hundred and fifty-fourth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous four hundred and fifty-three. This week is a special theme week! All of the legends involve Jack Kirby’s Fourth World! Did Kirby originally intend to conclude his Fourth World saga with the deaths of Darkseid and Orion? How did DC manage to find a way to give Kirby royalties for his Fourth World work? And did Jack Kirby’s Fourth World influence acclaimed musician Jon Hassell?

Let’s begin!

NOTE: The column is on three pages, a page for each legend. There’s a little “next” button on the top of the page and the bottom of the page to take you to the next page (and you can navigate between each page by just clicking on the little 1, 2 and 3 on the top and the bottom, as well).

COMIC LEGEND: Jack Kirby intended to finish his Fourth World epic with both Darkseid and Orion killed.

STATUS: I’m Going With True

The Hunger Dogs was the conclusion to Jack Kirby’s Fourth World saga.

hungerdogs

However, what we eventually saw as the Hunger Dogs was not what Jack Kirby originally intended.

Originally, Kirby was brought in by DC to do a conclusion to his Fourth World epic in a series of books reprinting his original comics with a new ending

newgods1

and then a graphic novel to wrap things up (this also served to give Kirby new money as the books would be reprinting his older work).

The last issue of the reprint series would have what would ostensibly be New Gods #12 (as Kirby’s original series ended with #11).

newgods6

Kirby and Mike Royer began work on this final issue, dubbed “On the Road to Armagetto”…

armagetto1

but DC ended up squelching it, while later then turning the pages that Kirby and Royer DID complete into parts of what became Hunger Dogs.

For instance, check out this spread from early in their original story…

armagetto2

It was later used in a different part of Hunger Dogs…

armagetto3

Now WHY did DC squelch Kirby and Royer’s plans for the original story? As Royer recalls, it was because Kirby intended to end the story with both Orion AND Darkseid killed (and other New Gods characters dead, as well)! And since DC had just decided to use Darkseid heavily in their Super Powers toy collection (as well as the cartoon series), they wouldn’t let Kirby kill off the characters, so instead they re-purposed the Kirby/Royer pages with new pages that Kirby wrote and drew and turned into Hunger Dogs and then Kirby wrote and drew a brand-new story for New Gods #6 (a NEW “#12″) that would lead into Hunger Dogs.

Now, to be clear, Kirby never actually wrote/drew the deaths of Orion and Darkseid. That would have occurred in the original plans for Hunger Dogs. DC said no before they even GOT to that point. What happened was that Kirby/Royer’s #12 would lead into Hunger Dogs, which was going to end with Orion and Darkseid dying. Here is Kirby/Royer’s original final page from The Road to Armagetto, which specifically notes that the story will continue in the Hunger Dogs…

armagetto4

It was just a matter of when DC decided to no longer let Kirby finish the series the way he wanted, they no longer wanted the Kirby/Royer story as the lead-in to it, so they instead re-purposed the Kirby/Royer story as PART of the new version of Hunger Dogs (which ends with neither Orion nor Darkseid dead) and then Kirby just wrote a new #12 leading into his re-written Hunger Dogs.

Mark Evanier has also written that Kirby intended to kill off Orion and Darkseid and DC said no.

Thanks to Mike Royer and Mark Evanier for the info!
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Check out some Entertainment Urban Legends Revealed!

Was The Crystals’ Hit “He’s a Rebel” Not Actually Performed by the Crystals?

Was a Character on Seinfeld Named After a Smallville Producer?

How Did Charles Schulz Owning a Ford Indirectly Lead to A Charlie Brown Christmas?

Did Paul Anka Get the Publisher’s Rights for “My Way” for Free?
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On the next page, how did DC find a way to pay Kirby for his Fourth World characters?

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42 Comments

I’ve often suspected that the finish of Hunger Dogs was a later add on rather than the original ending to the series (though I suppose what he did in the reprint series might not have been what he’d originally planned for the seventies book either). I had no idea that was the story behind it. But if Darkseid and Orion were going to wrap up before Hunger Dogs, what did Kirby have in mind for the graphic novel?

Of course given how often DC has dipped into that well, I imagine they’d have been resurrected somehow just the same.

I’ve often suspected that the finish of Hunger Dogs was a later add on rather than the original ending to the series (though I suppose what he did in the reprint series might not have been what he’d originally planned for the seventies book either). I had no idea that was the story behind it. But if Darkseid and Orion were going to wrap up before Hunger Dogs, what did Kirby have in mind for the graphic novel?

I think they still would have died in Hunger Dogs proper, but it was more a matter of the original Kirby/Royer #12 story leading into the story in Hunger Dogs where they would die. When DC said, “No, you can’t kill them,” then suddenly the story leading INTO Hunger Dogs was now also useless. So they then took the story that they had done leading into Hunger Dogs and re-purposed it AS Hunger Dogs (with pages added to make it make sense) and then had Kirby write/draw the new lead-in.

In other words, I don’t believe Kirby and Royer ever actually got to the point where they physically drew the death of Darkseid and Orion. Royer just recalls the plot for the original story that he never got a chance to actually ink (also, Royer left the project when #12 was squelched).

I’ll edit the piece to make that clearer.

Anyone read Kirby’s Super Powers series? It feels like he wrote it right after he was told that he could not kill off Orion and Darksied. Check it out. It is strangely gripping, especially the last story, which really really really feels like something that should’ve went into Hunger Dogs.

Instead of letting Kirby kill Orion and Darkseid, they waited several decades and killed them and the other New Gods in multiple ways in Countdown, Final Crisis, and Death of the New Gods under the pretense that they were no longer of any use, only to bring them back a year or so later after the launch of the new 52…

So here’s a question: Was the Captain Victory story “Victory Is Sacrifice” similar to what Kirby intended?

“DC used this trick [...] Very cool move by DC Comics.”

It’s — to put it mildly — not obvious that “DC” deserves the moral credit here. “DC”, after all, could have just changed their own royalty policy directly and retroactively — not going to argue the moral merits or likelihood of this, just saying that if “DC” “wanted” to pay Kirby royalties, “they” could have just, you know, paid Kirby royalties.

What appears to have happened is that Khan and Levitz realised “DC” wasn’t going to give Kirby another red cent, and figured out a work-around — and good for them. But if “DC” gets the credit for that, then you could just as well say “DC tricked another company into paying DC’s own artists”.

I remember reading that Kirby changed the Hunger Dogs due to Return of the Jedi having similar elements.

Jones, if DC was at the time a publicly-traded company, then it couldn’t simply “give” Kirby additional money for prior work. That would be a breach of its duties to its shareholders. It sounds like they found a way to satisfy that duty while also trying to do right by Jack.

About the Fourth World name, I think Kirby was using similar logic to that of Mr. Hassell. Back in the late 60′s/early 70′s the term Third World was in use a lot in the newspapers, magazines and TV. The First World was the Old World, i.e. Europe and such, the Second World being the New World of the Americas, the Third World being modern but undeveloped countries around the globe. It does not take a huge leap to start thinking about a Fourth World, as interpreted by two very different artists. Kirby often had the TV or radio on as he worked, so it’s quite likely he had the term percolating in his mind as he drew his fantastic tales. Never heard Reagan use the term Fourth World, though Jack had already made his mark with the term by then!

Brian – can you please correct the Masters of the Universe entry – the character’s name is Zodac (and later iterations had a brother Zodak), not Zodiac. If nothing else, it would help searches.

Just leaving a comment because, while I usually never comment, I just had to say that this is by far my favorite column on CBR and it is consistently some of the most fun stuff I’ve read on the internet. Please continue the great work.

Thanks.

Craig, it would be easy to justify if they wanted. PR for instance–DC Honors a Living Legend and Writes a Wrong! Just as companies can invariably justify bonuses to CEOs who do a lousy job (“It was the best he could do in the current economy.”) or pretty much anything.
And legally, corporate execs have a fiduciary duty to the corporation, I believe, not to the shareholders (should there be a difference).
Brian, that does make sense.

This is both nitpicking and off-topic, but Regan actually was using the phrase “fourth world” correctly to mean “third world economic conditions within a first world nation”. This is a commonly used phrase in economics study (most often used to refer to detroit) that Hassell apparently thinks he knows more about than he actually does.

interesting for always heard hunger dogs was done so Kirby could finish his saga after the dc implosion caused the new gods to be canceled too plus also knew kirby redesigned the new god characters for the super powers line as a way to make money did not know dc themselves okayed the idea for always thought it was those at kenner being fans of the king

It’s funny how the “redesign” of characters like Darkseid or DeSaad are hardly noticeable at all, while characters like Mantis or the Parademons are completely different creatures. I wonder if he was mandated to because Shakespearian dressed action figures wouldn’t sell, or he saw it as an opportunity to improve, or at least give a different take, to some characters, while others there really wasn’t anything to improve on. (Though that wouldn’t explain Orion, other than the need for a spinning head.)

Don’t forget that Mirage’s artists were paid a but load of money for designing Ninja Turtles toys.

M-Wolverine, I’ve done some work with companies producing toys and games, and it’s a very complicated process of trying to please a lot of stakeholders. If Kenner’s marketing managers had decided that the hero had to have a certain look or gimmick, that would have to be incorporated. I could see them deciding that Orion in the packaging had to look handsome, for example.

Mr. Cronin, an excellent column as always.

I’d always heard that ‘First World’ referred to the rich Western democracies and that ‘Second World’ referred to the Soviet-led communist countries. And that ‘Third World’ originally meant the new post-colonial non-aligned countries, such as India and Indonesia, but then the term got expanded to poor countries in general.

David Gerrold used the term ‘Fourth World’ a lot in the first couple of books in the Chtorr series, but as far as I can tell, he just used it as a new name for undeveloped countries.

Well, anonymous one thing is certain. You don’t know how to spell Reagan! LOL

And then Grant Morrison got his hands on the New Gods and…. ugh.

Batman. Gun. Bullet. Darkseid. Turpin. Superman singing.

@Mary Warner, Mary, it’s always been my understanding that what you refer to as “First World” and “Second World” are more commonly referred to as “Old World” (Europe/Asia) and “New World” (The Americas), with “Third World” being the countries who were exploited by the colonial powers. Anyone have a different take?

Super Powers Orion there was the precursor to Man-E-Faces it seems

@Jason: Actually, Man-E-Faces came first. Every SUPER POWERS toy had to have some sort of “power action” feature, so Orion’s was having his face change from good to bad, which is why they gave him that awkward-looking helmet. I actually liked the re-designs of Steppenwolf, Mantis, and the Para-Demons (and appreciated Mattel using those designs in addition to the original Kirby designs for their DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS line), but Orion was a disappointment.

Orion had a power action punch, plus the face change. His dad had two power actions, too.

@DL: First World was America and it’s allies, Second World was the Soviet bloc and other communist nations, and Third World referred to countries like India and Egypt that had their own spheres of influence and operated without definite alignment with either power bloc.
@Ganky: I’m fairly certain that The Fourth World in Kirby’s conception was based on the Mayan calendar. The cycle that ended to absolutely zero significance was known as the Fourth Age or Fourth World. Brian, maybe you can do this for a legend sometime so we can be sure?

You can easily tell which pages in Hunger Games were originally done for the comic because they have a different page size and Kirby just filled in the extra space with doodles. It’s really distracting.

It’s a damn shame that DC didn’t let Jack do his planned ending in the 80s. They could have just resurrected the characters from the dead a month later. They’re GODS, people. Coming back to life is WHAT THEY DO.

From a cold war perspective:

First World = USA, UK, France, West Germany, Japan, Canada, other NATO, South Korea, Australia, etc.

Second World = USSR, China, Cuba, Vietnam, East Germany, North Korea, Ethiopia, etc.

Third World = Nations not taking sides, i.e. India, Indonesia, Mexico, Iran, Saudi Arabia, most of South America and Africa

Fourth World = Super Town, Scott Free, Anti-Life Equation, “Jimmy Olson’s our leader! HE gives the orders!”

Has there been a CBLR detailing whether or not George Lucas was influenced by Jack Kirby when he was writing Star Wars? In the Fantastic Four, Reed and Ben could be substituted for Han and Chewie, and the parrallel with Johnny and Sue is obvious to Luke and Leia. And of course Orion and Darkseid would be Luke and Vader. Apololips could be the Death Star, and even names like Mark Moonrider (from Forever People) sounds like Luke (Lucas) Skywalker. I know this kind of stuff has been touched on before in other blogs, but I’d like to hear from George Lucas himself if Star Wars was “only” influenced by the Flash Gordon serials, as he’s always claimed. We know Lucas was a comic book reader in his youth and I don’t doubt he may have been reading the Fourth World books back then.

I think the New Gods showed how far ahead of the curve Jack Kirby was. As a kid, I didn’t appreciate it but now I recognize it as just so many awesome characters and concepts!

I do not buy that Lucas was influenced by Kirby. Force rhyming with Source is a pretty weak argument, and they serve very different roles. From what I have heard Vader and Luke being related was a detail put in just before filming or during filming, and was not an idea that Lucas himself originated. Luke and Leia being brother and sister seems to be an idea just thrown into Return of the Jedi (I think if it had been planed in Empire, they might not have had that kiss).

Lawrence Fechtenberger

January 18, 2014 at 7:39 am

Timothy Markin: The simple statement “Lucas was a comic book reader in his youth” explains less than you may suppose. He was seventeen when “Fantastic Four” debuted. He was in his twenties when most of the concepts you cite were introduced. You are therefore positing not merely that he read comics as a child, as most boys did then, but that he kept following them into adulthood.

Interesting. Always wondered why the 4th World figures didn’t look exactly like their comic book counterpoints.

I’m surprised that you didn’t mention that the Kirby/Super Powers deal came about while the King was engaged in his very messy and public disagreement with Marvel over returning his artwork. My understanding of the story is that Levitz and Kahn came up with this idea in part as a way to help him out financially during that very turbulent time, and also simply out of the collective guilt many in the industry felt over the way Kirby was being treated by Marvel. They couldn’t really just “give him a bonus”, as others have suggested, because the fact of the matter is that Jack Kirby is really a very minor part of DC Comics history, and how would you justify giving such a bonus to Kirby and not Infantino, Kane, Kubert, Fox, and numerous others that had built the foundation of DC? Not to mention, of course, JERRY SIEGEL AND JOE SHUSTER. So this was a clever way for the DC higher-ups to help out someone that had been integral to COMICS, if not DC itself.

On the subject of DC not letting Kirby not kill Orion and Darkseid, could that have had anything to do with Gerry Conway having killed the big guy off when he was writing the New Gods, and resurrecting him in JLA? I know we tend to ignore those stories now, but at the time they were still in continuity and relevant. DC may have simply not wanted him to repeat a story element they’d already used.

While Star Wars is not a total ripoff of Kirby, the resemblance is much more than a coincidence. Okay, maybe “source” and “force” alone could be a coincidence, but coupled with “the dark side”? I don’t think so.

And even Mark Hamill couldn’t help but notice this:

MARK: I also went out to [Jack's] house once in Thousand Oaks. [Jack] was a very self-effacing guy. You’d never know from his demeanor how important he really was. We were joking, and I said that when I first saw Darth Vader, I thought, “Oh, it’s Doctor Doom.” (laughter) He certainly didn’t say, “Oh, he took my ideas,” or any of that kind of stuff. He was content with who he was and his abilities.

Ken, when they did those New Gods reprints the Conway material was out of continuity. In one of the text pages the editor explained that when they decided to do a definitive reprint, they asked around if that should mean just the Kirby stuff, and even the writers who’d used the characters said yes, just Kirby. So at that point, everything Conway did (and I liked a lot of what he did) became out-of-continuity.

Captain Haddock

January 18, 2014 at 5:32 pm

Very cool move by Levitz and co. to make sure Jack got a piece of the royalties, kudos where it is doue.

Baron Karza debuted (as a Micronaut toy) about 6 months before Vader appeared.

For those interested in Lucas’s influences in developing Star Wars, I recommend The Secret History of Star Wars as well as the Making of books that have just been rereleased as ebooks with multimedia. From my reading of the books, it’s clear that Lucas was influenced by numerous sources including Flash Gordon and other serials of the time, John Carter of Mars, the Lensman novels, Dune, and Kirosawa movies.

Did Lucas read comics as an adult? Most definitely. He even owned a comic book art store in New York at the release of Star Wars. There’s a good chance that Lucas was hip to Kirby but I haven’t seen any direct evidence. The Force as a concept could just as well been taking from the Lensman series especially when considering the kyber crystal concept that was part of early scripts. The design of Darth Vader was driven by the artist McQuarrie and the influence was more Nazi meets samurai. I think any resemblance to Doctor Doom is coincidental.

While I love the designs of the New Gods, I don’t think any creator, including Kirby, was really able to do anything compelling with them until Morrison’s work. Darkseid, in particular, was just a bit of a two-dimensional villain until Grant got his hands on him and made him into something much more.

Darkseid was much more than a 2-dimensional villain in the Kirby stories, but that’s how the character has been by almost everyone else since. The current version is about as bad as its ever been and Morrison’s take in his JLA run wasn’t much better, or different, really. His FC Darkseid was more interesting, though not up to Kirby’s standard.

The Eternals are the parallel case at Marvel. The best thing for all these characters would be if Kirby had been allowed to write and finish his story without having to do it at either DC or Marvel. The best thing that could happen now would be for those character to become public domain – maybe someone would eventually do something worthwhile with them if they weren’t bound by editorial constraint and the expectations of superhero fans.

Brian, coming in a little late because somehow I missed this entry when it first came out! Thanks a lot for featuring my suggestion, and even more for contacting Mr. Hassell directly, I agree that he gave a beautiful answer! I admire both artists, and imagine, if your inquiry leads to Mr. Hassell discovering and enjoying Jack’s work, I’ll feel really fortunate to have a small role in that process! Thanks a lot again, this made my day!

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