Fourth World (comics)

"Fourth World" thematic stories

The New Gods #1 (March 1971) featuring Orion. Cover art by Jack Kirby and Don Heck.
Created by Jack Kirby
Publication information
Publisher DC Comics
Formats Multiple, thematically linked
Publication date 1970 1973
Number of issues 59
Main character(s) Apokolips
New Genesis
Creative team
Writer(s) Jack Kirby
Artist(s) Jack Kirby
Creator(s) Jack Kirby
Collected editions
Omnibus Volume 1 ISBN 1-4012-1344-8
Omnibus Volume 2 ISBN 140121357X
Omnibus Volume 3 ISBN 1401214851
Omnibus Volume 4 ISBN 1401215831

"Fourth World" is a storyline told through a metaseries of interconnecting comic book titles written and drawn by Jack Kirby, and published by DC Comics from 1970 to 1973. Although not marketed under this title until the August–September 1971 issues of New Gods and Forever People, the term Fourth World or Jack Kirby's Fourth World has gained usage in the years since.

Publication history

Initial 1970s comics

Published as the newsstand distribution system for comics began to break down, Jack Kirby foresaw a day when comics would need to find alternate, more legitimate venues for sale.[1] Toward this end, Kirby envisioned a finite series that would be serialized and collected in one tome after the series had concluded.[1] He began the "Fourth World" in Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #133 (Oct. 1970).[2] DC Comics had planned to introduce the "Fourth World" titles in the November 1970, issue of their preview omnibus title, Showcase. Jack Kirby reportedly objected to this, and Showcase was cancelled. This delayed the introduction of the "Fourth World" titles until the following year.[3] The three original titles comprising the "Fourth World" were The Forever People,[4] Mister Miracle,[5] and The New Gods.[6][7]

Unhappy with Marvel Comics at the time, as he had created or co-created a plethora of characters without having copyright or creative custody of them, he turned to rival publisher DC Comics, with his sketches and designs for a new group of heroes and villains.[1] As author Marc Flores, who writes under the pen name Ronin Ro,[8] described:

The idea of the New Gods had come to Jack years earlier, when he was plotting 90 percent of the "Tales of Asgard" stories in Thor. He wanted to have two planets at war and end with Ragnarok, the battle that would kill Thor's lucrative pantheon. Instead, he tried the idea in his Inhumans stories. Now he was presenting it in its original context. Though he wouldn't ever say it publicly, the New Gods books started right after the gods in Thor killed one another. The first page of Orion of the New Gods showed the same scenes from Thor — a planet torn in half and armored gods holding swords and dying on a fiery battleground.[9]
Mister Miracle #1 (April 1971). Cover art by Jack Kirby and Vince Colletta.

"The Fourth World" dealt with the battle between good and evil as represented by the worlds of New Genesis and Apokolips. Darkseid, the evil lord of Apokolips, seeks the Anti-Life Equation which will allow him to control the thoughts of all living beings. Opposing him is Orion, his son raised by Highfather and his enemies on New Genesis.[10] Other characters caught in the deadly battle included the Forever People, an extension of the kid gang concept from the 1940s with a group of adolescents adventuring without an adult supervisor;[11] Mister Miracle, a native of New Genesis raised on Apokolips who triumphed over a torturous childhood to become the world's greatest escape artist; and Lightray, the heroic warrior of New Genesis. Their adventures would take them to Earth where the war continued.

Comics historian Les Daniels observed in 1995 that "Kirby's mix of slang and myth, science fiction and the Bible, made for a heady brew, but the scope of his vision has endured."[12] In 2007, comics writer Grant Morrison commented "Kirby's dramas were staged across Jungian vistas of raw symbol and storm...The Fourth World saga crackles with the voltage of Jack Kirby's boundless imagination let loose onto paper."[13]

The Fourth World characters reappeared in various titles. In 1976, the New Gods were featured in the last issue of 1st Issue Special.[14] The New Gods series relaunched in July 1977, and with 1st Issue Special still a relatively recent publication, it picked up where the storyline of that issue left off. Although the title remained "The New Gods" in the indicia and retained its original numbering, launching with #12, the covers used the title "The Return of the New Gods".[15] Gerry Conway wrote the series and Don Newton drew it.[16] Mister Miracle teamed-up with Batman three times in The Brave and the Bold[17][18][19] and the Mister Miracle series was revived in September 1977 by Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers.[20][21] Steve Gerber[22] and Michael Golden produced three issues ending with #25 (Sept. 1978)[23] with several storylines unresolved.[24] Mister Miracle teamed with Superman in DC Comics Presents #12 (Aug. 1979)[25] and the New Gods met the Justice League of America and the Justice Society of America in Justice League of America #183–185 (Oct–Dec 1980).[26][27][28] "The Great Darkness Saga" storyline in Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 2 featured that team battling Darkseid.[29]

1984 reprint series

In 1984, DC Comics reprinted Jack Kirby's original 11 issues of The New Gods in a six-issue limited series. The first five issues each reprinted two consecutive issues of the original series.[30] The mini-series' final issue was originally intended to include a reprint of New Gods vol. 1 #11 and a new 24-page story which would conclude the series and end with both Darkseid and Orion dead. DC editors prevented Kirby from using his original intended ending.[31] Kirby instead turned in a one-off story called "On the Road to Armagetto" which was rejected as well, due to the fact that it did not contain a definitive ending to the series.[31] A 48-page new story called "Even Gods Must Die" was published in the sixth issue of the reprint series instead, which in turn served as a prologue for the upcoming The Hunger Dogs graphic novel, which DC editors greenlighted in order to conclude the series.[31]

The Hunger Dogs was designed to give an ending to the story of the New Gods, while fulfilling editorial mandates that the New Gods would be kept alive in order to ensure future use of the characters by later writers.[32] It incorporated several pages from the unpublished "On the Road to Armagetto" story and brought Kirby's New Gods series to a close as the final battle between Orion and Darkseid is averted when the "hunger dogs", the tortured citizens of Apokolips, finally overthrow Darkseid and his regime, forcing Darkseid and his allies into exile.[33][34] [35]

Later revivals

Concurrent with DC's New Gods reprint series in 1984, Kirby worked on two Super Powers comic book limited series for DC Comics in which he continued the Fourth World characters and mythology.

A Forever People miniseries was published in 1988.[36] Mister Miracle was featured in Justice League International by J. M. DeMatteis and Keith Giffen and was featured in a series of his own written by DeMatteis.[37] The Fourth World characters were prominently featured in Cosmic Odyssey,[38] which led to a third New Gods series (February 1989 – August 1991) which was written by Mark Evanier[39] and which fleshed out details about the history of many New Gods most notably introducing Darkseid's father Yuga Khan. A fourth New Gods series was launched in October 1995[40] and third Mister Miracle series in April 1996.[41] Both of these were replaced in March 1997 by the Jack Kirby's Fourth World series written and drawn by John Byrne.[42] Walt Simonson wrote and drew an Orion solo series from June 2000 to June 2002.[43]

Writer Grant Morrison used some of the Fourth World mythology in various titles he worked on, including his run on JLA, with Orion and Big Barda becoming members and more recently in the Seven Soldiers metaseries, in which the New Gods, especially Mister Miracle,[44] played a major role. They are seen creating Aurakles, the first superhero.[45]

The Death of the New Gods limited series (October 2007 – April 2008) was written and drawn by Jim Starlin.[46][47] Final Crisis brought the Fourth World to an end and brought about the dawn of the Fifth as Darkseid was forevermore destroyed and the heroic new Gods (sans Scott Free and Orion) are reborn and made guardians of Earth-51, home of Kamandi and the Great Disaster.

With the reboot of the DC Universe following Flashpoint, the deaths of the New Gods and Darkseid have been removed from canon and the characters are still active. In particular, Darkseid and his uncle Steppenwolf and their attacks on the main DC Universe and Earth 2 play a major role in the rise of the superheroes: the Earth 2 versions of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman die fighting Steppenwolf [48] while the Earth 1 Justice League forms specifically to fight Darkseid and thwart his invasion of Earth.

A New 52 version of the Forever People debuted in the Infinity Man and the Forever People series.[49] Serifan is now Serafina, Vykin's sister, and Beautiful Dreamer has been renamed Dreamer Beautiful.[50]

The Fifth World

In December 2007, DC Executive Editor Dan DiDio was discussing the aftermath of Death of the New Gods and said, "It’s the advent of the Fifth World... I think we’ve telegraphed so much that the New Gods are coming upon a rebirth, and the story that we’re telling with them now is a continuation of the story that was established when Kirby first conceived the concept. Talk about death — Kirby blew up worlds at the start of the series. The story started with, 'The Old Gods Died!' which made room for the New Gods — we’re picking up that thread and launching the DCU into the future."[51]

That series led into Final Crisis and DiDio clarified things further, saying "the Fourth World is over. The battle between the forces of Darkseid and those of Highfather is over, and a new direction is in place for the characters in what will be deemed the Fifth World."[52] The series' writer, Grant Morrison, added, "In Jack Kirby’s Fourth World books... it’s pretty clear that the New Gods have known about Earth for a long time and in JLA ten years ago, I suggested that part of their interest in us was rooted in the fact that Earth was destined to become the cradle of a new race of 'Fifth World' super-divinities — an eventuality Darkseid is eager to prevent from occurring."[53] It was during that run on JLA that Morrison had Metron deliver a speech outlining the general principles:

How like little children you appear to me. How small is your comprehension and yet... there is a seed in you... The Old Gods died and gave birth to the New. These New Gods, even such as I, must also pass, in our turn. Our search was long and our war continues, but we found the planetary cradle of the Gods to Come. ... you are only forerunners.[54]

Later, in the JLA storyline "World War III", Metron's dialog is more specific: "As New Genesis is to the Fourth World, Earth shall be to the Fifth that is to come."[55]

Collected editions

Trade paperbacks

The Kirby-produced "Fourth World" titles were reprinted by DC in trade paperback format in the early 2000s in black-and-white rather than in color, although the Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen preludes were reprinted in color.


On September 11, 2006, DC announced that it would reprint the entire Fourth World saga in publishing order in a four book hardcover collection entitled Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus.[61][62] The volumes collect the New Gods, Forever People, and Mister Miracle series along with Kirby's run on Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen. In addition, the fourth Omnibus included the remaining issues of Mister Miracle, Forever People, and New Gods, the Fourth World character entries written for Who's Who, the 48-page "Even Gods Must Die!" story published in the last issue of the 1984 Baxter reprint series, The Hunger Dogs graphic novel.[63] The series was reprinted in paperback starting in late 2011.[64]


Jack Kirby received a Shazam Award for the original metaseries in the category "Special Achievement by an Individual" in 1971.[71]

In 1998, Jack Kirby's New Gods by Jack Kirby, edited by Bob Kahan, won both the Harvey Award for "Best Domestic Reprint Project"[72] and the Eisner Award for "Best Archival Collection/Project".[73]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 Evanier, Mark (2007). "Afterword". Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus Volume One. New York, New York: DC Comics. pp. 388–396. ISBN 978-1401213442.
  2. Levitz, Paul (2010). "The Bronze Age 1970–1984". 75 Years of DC Comics The Art of Modern Mythmaking. Cologne, Germany: Taschen. p. 447. ISBN 9783836519816. Kirby began introducing new elements to the DC Universe, building toward the introduction of a trio of new titles based on a complex mythology he called the Fourth World.
  3. Kimball, Kirk (2007). "The Blurbs of Jack Kirby". Dial B For Blog. Archived from the original on September 10, 2015. Mark Evanier explains, 'Jack objected to this. He felt that readers would not commit to an 'epic' that was being offered to them on a trial basis, so DC cancelled Showcase and a book called New Gods appeared on the schedule in its place.'
  4. Markstein, Don (2008). "The Forever People". Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on July 4, 2014.
  5. Markstein, Don (2008). "Mister Miracle". Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on July 5, 2014.
  6. Markstein, Don (2008). "New Gods". Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on July 4, 2014.
  7. McAvennie, Michael; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1970s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. London, United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. p. 145. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9. As the writer, artist, and editor of the Fourth World family of interlocking titles, each of which possessed its own distinct tone and theme, Jack Kirby cemented his legacy as a pioneer of grand-scale storytelling.
  8. Ives, Nat (January 31, 2005). "MediaTalk; Who Deserves The Credit (and Cash) For Dreaming Up Those Superheroes?". The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 2, 2014.
  9. Ro, Ronin (July 2004). Tales to Astonish: Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, and the American Comic Book Revolution. London, United Kingdom: Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 148. ISBN 1-58234-345-4.
  10. Hodgman, Jim (June 1, 2008). "Comics". The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 2, 2014.
  11. Hatfield, Charles (July 1995). "Kirby's Fourth World: An Appreciation". The Jack Kirby Collector. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing (6). Archived from the original on April 9, 2014. While innovative in structure, the lineup allowed Kirby to revisit familiar genres: Jimmy Olsen and especially Forever People revived the Simon & Kirby kid gang formula.
  12. Daniels, Les (1995). "The Fourth World: New Gods on Newsprint". DC Comics: Sixty Years of the World's Favorite Comic Book Heroes. New York, New York: Bulfinch Press. p. 165. ISBN 0821220764.
  13. Morrison, Grant (2007). "Introduction". Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus Volume One. New York, New York: DC Comics. pp. 7–8. ISBN 978-1401213442.
  14. Abramowitz, Jack (April 2014). "1st Issue Special It Was No Showcase (But It Was Never Meant To Be)". Back Issue!. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing (71): 45–47.
  15. New Gods (revival) at the Grand Comics Database
  16. McAvennie "1970s" in Dolan, p. 173: "The New Gods series and its original numbering was revived after a five-year break, with a story written by Gerry Conway and drawn by Don Newton."
  17. Haney, Bob (w), Aparo, Jim (p), Aparo, Jim (i). "The Impossible Escape" The Brave and the Bold 112 (April–May 1974)
  18. Haney, Bob (w), Aparo, Jim (p), Aparo, Jim (i). "Death by the Ounce" The Brave and the Bold 128 (July 1976)
  19. Haney, Bob (w), Aparo, Jim (p), Aparo, Jim (i). "Mile High Tombstone" The Brave and the Bold 138 (November 1977)
  20. McAvennie "1970s" in Dolan, p. 175: "Writer Steve Englehart and artist Marshall Rogers, having garnered acclaim for Detective Comics, picked up Mister Miracle where the series had ended three years before."
  21. Englehart, Steve (n.d.). "Mister Miracle 19–22". Archived from the original on April 8, 2013.
  22. Kingman, Jim (December 2008). "The Miracle Messiah: Steve Gerber's Short-Lived Take on Mister Miracle". Back Issue!. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing (31): 57–59.
  23. Mister Miracle at the Grand Comics Database
  24. Nolen-Weathington, Eric (2007). Modern Masters Volume 12: Michael Golden. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing. pp. 13–16. ISBN 978-1893905740.
  25. Englehart, Steve (w), Buckler, Rich (p), Giordano, Dick (i). "Winner Take Metropolis" DC Comics Presents 12 (August 1979)
  26. Conway, Gerry (w), Dillin, Dick (p), McLaughlin, Frank (i). "Crisis on New Genesis or "Where Have All the New Gods Gone?"" Justice League of America 183 (October 1980)
  27. Conway, Gerry (w), Pérez, George (p), McLaughlin, Frank (i). ""Crisis Between Two Earths" or Apokolips Now!" Justice League of America 184 (November 1980)
  28. Conway, Gerry (w), Pérez, George (p), McLaughlin, Frank (i). "Crisis on Apokolips or Darkseid Rising!" Justice League of America 185 (December 1980)
  29. Manning, Matthew K. "1980s" in Dolan p. 198 "When [Paul Levitz] wrote 'The Great Darkness Saga', a five-issue epic that pitted the Legion against one of the most notorious villains of DC's long history, he and artist Keith Giffen crafted the most famous Legion story of all time and became fast fan favorites."
  30. New Gods vol. 2 at the Grand Comics Database
  31. 1 2 3 Evanier, Mark (2008). "Afterword". Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus Volume 4. New York, New York: DC Comics. pp. 373–380. ISBN 978-1401215835.
  32. Evanier, Mark (2008). Kirby: King of Comics. New York, New York: Abrams Books. p. 200. ISBN 978-0810994478.
  33. Evanier, Mark (February 23, 2001). "Miracle Man". News From ME. Archived from the original on July 2, 2014.
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  36. Forever People vol. 2 at the Grand Comics Database
  37. Mister Miracle vol. 2 at the Grand Comics Database
  38. Manning "1980s" in Dolan, p. 235: "Writer Jim Starlin and artist Mike Mignola teamed up for a sci-fi miniseries that spanned the [DC Universe]."
  39. New Gods vol. 3 at the Grand Comics Database
  40. New Gods vol. 4 at the Grand Comics Database
  41. Mister Miracle vol. 3 at the Grand Comics Database
  42. Jack Kirby's Fourth World at the Grand Comics Database
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  44. Morrison, Grant (w), Ferry, Pasqual (p), Ferry, Pasqual (i). "New Godz" Seven Soldiers: Mr. Miracle 1 (November 2005)
  45. Morrison, Grant (w), Williams III, J. H. (p), Williams III, J. H. (i). "The Miser's Coat" Seven Soldiers 1 (December 2006)
  46. Cowsill "2000s" in Dolan, p. 331: "Writer and artist Jim Starlin helmed this eight-part series as a mysterious force brought destruction to the inhabitants of the Fourth World."
  47. Death of the New Gods at the Grand Comics Database
  48. Robinson, James (w), Scott, Nicola (p), Scott, Trevor (i). "The Price of Victory" Earth 2 1 (July 2012)
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