Monday, August 24, 2009

"Nonsense! I'm superbly fit to rule the earth! I have the means to carry out this dream--and smash all who stand in my way!"

The source of today's Fourth World Panel, Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #148, mercifully ends Kirby's tenure on the title; one suspects he was ready to move on, since this story is another one like that thing about the tiny monster planet that doesn't really have anything to do with the New Gods. But it's still pretty enjoyable though, especially in the depiction of the villainous Victor Volcanum and his crazy old-school getup:

There's also plenty of nifty Kirbytech, and some cool, smashy action. I especially like this depiction of Superman being blasted by some robots (and his verbal response):

And the way he takes them out is amusing, if kind of dumbly staged:

What, were they all standing in single file?

But this story lacks the spark of the New Gods stories, that cosmic drive and attitude of incomprehension at the scale of events. It's just a "Superman vs. mad scientist" tale, albeit one with Kirby style. He does seem to take this opportunity to offer his take on Superman's attitude though, and it's interesting, if kind of easy compared to the lame, suicidal response:

I dunno, maybe Superman just wasn't much fun for Kirby when he had his godly, space-faring playground to work with elsewhere. It's still fun to watch him blow shit up though.

Next: The Battle of the Id! Awesome!


  1. As far as Kirby fans can tell, what's going on behind the scenes here is that when DC recruited Kirby, they believed he would be generating Marvel-level sales on his DC books instantly, and that just wasn't happening. Kirby was getting the editorial message "This just isn't working out, Jack. Let's move on and try some other things." So it may not be so much that Kirby's own enthusiasm was flagging on this book, but that he went into this final two-parter not wanting to give them a really special adversary or situation that he'd never be able to develop further; it just called for a throwaway villain who could be disposed of easily.

    (Come to think of it, there may even have been some meta-commentary here: "You don't want a grand sweeping saga of cosmic passions, you just want mustache-twirling baddies? I'll give you exactly the hokum you want, a guy who's stuck in the past just like you...")

    Also note that Kirby finally let Superman reach Supertown in the previous issue, which was the payoff he had been holding back and building up to since the start of the Fourth World saga -- knowing that if he didn't do it then, he'd never get another chance. But from everything I've ever heard, he still thought Superman was one of the greatest characters ever, full of unused potential.

  2. Ah, those are some good points. Interesting. I did notice the plot about Superman reaching Supertown, which was teased back in the first issue of Forever People, so it makes sense that he would get to it while he could. It's also interesting that he did like Superman; it must have been very disappointing to have the character redrawn every time he drew him then. I'm sure that could have soured him on the book as well.