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?
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.
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
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).
Kirby and Mike Royer began work on this final issue, dubbed “On the Road to Armagetto”…
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…
It was later used in a different part of Hunger Dogs…
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…
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!
Check out some Entertainment Urban Legends Revealed!
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COMIC LEGEND: DC came up with a clever way of paying Jack Kirby royalties for his Fourth World characters.
When Jack Kirby went to go work for DC in the early 1970s, he got a better deal than what he had at Marvel, but only because DC gave him the freedom that he wanted to write and draw his own comics. From a financial standpoint, the deal was not really all THAT different from his Marvel days, in the sense that Kirby did not actually own any of the characters that he introduced for DC. Darkseid, Orion, Mister Miracle, Demon, Kamandi – they were all created under work for hire principles.
However, years later, DC executives Jenette Kahn and Paul Levitz (and I presume Dick Giordano) came up with a clever way to essentially give Kirby royalties for those older stories.
First off, as I noted above, they reprinted the New Gods stories and paid Kirby royalties for them. Plus, they hired him to do Hunger Dogs. Plus they hired him to do a new mini-series tying in with their DC Super Powers line of action figures.
But here’s the really clever bit – they had Kirby re-design his Fourth World characters for the DC Super Powers line of action figures. This way, Kirby would be paid out of the Kenner toy fund and as a result, Kirby made a whole lot more money re-designing his own characters for toy purposes that he did for making them in the first place!
DC used this trick to help get extra money for their current artists, as well, as George Perez and Ed Hannigan also were paid for their character designs for Super Powers toys based on Cyborg, Lex Luthor and Brainiac.
Very cool move by DC Comics.
Thanks to reader Anthony for suggesting that I do this one.
Check out the latest edition of my weekly Movie/TV Legends Revealed Column at Spinoff Online: Was Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny, allergic to carrots?
COMIC LEGEND: Jack Kirby’s Fourth World stories influenced the musician Jon Hassell.
Reader Guido R. wrote in with a fascinating suggestion a while back:
Avant-Garde musician Jon Hassell released a couple of albums in 1980 and 1981: Fourth World, Vol. 1: Possible Musics, in collaboration with Brian Eno
and Fourth World, Vol. 2: Dream Theory in Malaya, this one billed only to himself.
Of course, the first thing I wondered upon discovering this, was if Hassell was a Kirby fan. I did a bit of Google research and, not finding any info about it, I figured it could have been a coincidence.
However, I recently discovered that, in his 1995 album Maarifa Street…
Hassell includes a track called New Gods! This would make it much more of a coincidence if there was no relation. So, is there evidence anywhere of Hassell being a Kirby, and/or Fourth World fan?
I asked Mr. Hassell, and he gave me a wonderful reply:
That’s all interesting. I’m inclined to say ‘yes’ in tribute to Jack anyway (I’ll check his work out later) despite the fact that these titles were (to me) original (to the extent that any brain is not a composite of all that’s come in). As for fourth world – that was an inevitable permutation (Reagan used it to mean “more poor than third world.”) I thought I was giving it a chance for a new life by the metaphor of 3rd (tradition) + 1st (technology)= future which I think still works pretty well but hey, these days…reinvention, restating, – all essential to not be met with the numbness of familiarity. Thanks so much for the heads-up.
Isn’t than an awesome answer?
Thanks to Guido for the suggestion and thanks to Jon Hassell for the great reply!
Check out some classic Comic Book Legends Revealed involving Jack Kirby’s Fourth World!
Was Zodiac of the Masters of the Universe originally intended to be connected to Metron of the Fourth World?
Okay, that’s it for this week!
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