Welcome to the four hundred and forty-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 forty-three. This week, it is almost a shame that it is a Thor-themed week as the numbering of this week sure would go well with Fantastic Four legends! However, with the debut of Thor's new movie here in the United States, we're doing all Thor legends this week! Were Jack Kirby's New Gods originally intended to be Thor characters? Did we nearly have a Superman/Thor crossover? And what exactly is the “Saga of the Vengeance of Thor”?
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's New Gods characters were originally intended as Thor characters.
STATUS: Basically True
Looking back at Jack Kirby's career in the 1960s and 1970s, the turning point seems to be his work on the Tales of Asgard back-ups in the pages of Journey Into Mystery and then later Thor. These excellent back-ups, which spotlighted the fascinating world of Thor, were more or less "given" to Kirby by Stan Lee to develop on his own. Lee would still script these back-ups, but Kirby was given a great deal more freedom in developing the series of back-ups on his own. Ultimately, this would lead to Kirby wanting to do projects where he would both plot AND script comics.
It was during his time on Tales of Asgard that Kirby first began to develop the characters that would eventually become the New Gods. The concept came to Kirby while developing the Tales of Asgard version of Ragnarok (the death of the Norse Gods) in Thor #127 and 128.
Check out Thor #128...
As you can see, the idea of New Gods taking over for the "old" Gods was a concept Kirby had all the way back in 1966. Soon after he worked on this story, Kirby began developing these new gods. Marv Wolfman later recalled that he saw some of these designs by Kirby before Kirby moved to California in 1968, so the beginning of Kirby's development of these characters came some time between 1966 and 1968.
Unlike other characters Kirby would create for Marvel, he was not planning on just giving these new characters to Marvel as part of his regular gig. Instead, Kirby held these characters back, with the intent of eventually working out a deal with Marvel where he could share in the profits of these new characters.
When Kirby was given the assignment of writing and drawing the Inhumans, he again planned on addressing the idea of the new gods replacing the old ones, but he soon saw his promised Inhumans ongoing series turn into just a feature in a double feature title in 1970, Amazing Adventures...
Soon afterwards, Kirby finalized his plans to leave Marvel for DC Comics. He brought along his new characters, although very few of them were direct translations to the New Gods. The CONCEPT was more what he brought over. Most of the main characters in the Fourth World comics at DC were developed by Kirby once he decided to make the move (Metron is a notable exception).
However, it seems clear that Kirby still remembered the Ragnarok story from Thor #128, as New Gods #1 opens with...
It is effectively continuing his earlier Tales of Asgard story about Ragnarok.
Making it even clearer is a later Kirby story in Forever People #5 where the Young God Lonar examines the home of the "old gods"...
Check out the helmet on the next page...
Come on, the chances of that being just a coincidence by Kirby are extremely slim.
Essentially, the New Gods are the successors to Thor and the Asgardians, which is pretty darn awesome when you think about it.
Thanks to John Modica for his scholarship on this topic in the Jack Kirby Collector.
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On the next page, discover the secrets behind The Saga of the Vengeance of Thor!