"Fourth World" thematic stories
New Gods 1971 1.jpg
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
Genre Science fiction, superhero
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 originally, the term Fourth World or Jack Kirby's Fourth World is a retronym that has gained usage in the years since.

Publication history

Initial 1970s comics

Published as the newsstand distribution system for comics began to break down, 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]

The three original titles comprising the "Fourth World" were The Forever People, Mister Miracle and The New Gods.[2] The pre-existing title Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen was used by Kirby to introduce the Fourth World concept and characters.

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,[3] 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.[4]

Mister miracle (1971) 1

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. 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; 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.

Kirby was writer and editor on each of the series. After learning that the books were going to be canceled, Kirby attempted to tie up the storylines in the final issues of each series.

The Fourth World characters reappeared in various titles and were fully integrated into the DC Universe. The 1982 "The Great Darkness Saga" storyline in Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 2 is an early example of the characters being used in other DC titles.

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. Issue six was originally to have included the final issue of The New Gods and a new 24-page story by Kirby intended to bring the saga to a close. However, Kirby clashed with DC editors who refused to publish Kirby's original planned ending to the series, in which Darkseid and Orion would die in a fiery battle in the streets of Armagetto. Kirby responded by producing a one-off story called "On the Road to Armagetto", which DC also rejected since it failed to bring closure to the series.

Ultimately, a 48-page story, "Even Gods Must Die", was published in New Gods vol. 2, #6, which served as a lead-in to the 1985 graphic novel The Hunger Dogs. 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. It incorporated several pages from the unpublished "On the Road to Armagetto" story, 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.[5]

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 appeared in 1988. Mister Miracle and Jack Kirby's Fourth World series (the latter by John Byrne) were launched in the 1990s, and Orion had a solo series with art and story by Walt Simonson from 2000 to 2003. Mister Miracle was featured in the Giffen-DeMatteis incarnation of the Justice League. Giffen had been involved previously in the use of Fourth World elements in "The Great Darkness Saga", a Legion of Super-Heroes story appearing in 1982. The characters were promenently featured in Cosmic Odyssey, which led to a new New Gods series which was written by Mark Evanier and which fleshed out details about the history of many New Gods (most notably introducing Darkseid's father Yugo Sothern).

Writer Grant Morrison also 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,[6] played a major role. They are also seen creating Aurakles, the first superhero.[7]

The Death of the New Gods limited series (October 2007 – April 2008) was written and drawn by Jim Starlin. 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, however, the deaths of the New Gods and Darkseid have been removed from canon and the New Gods 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 super-heroes: the Earth 2 versions of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman die fighting Steppenwolf while the Justice League of America form specifically to fight Darkseid and thwart his invasion of Earth.

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."[8]

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."[9] 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."[10] 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.[11]

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."[12]

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.

  • Mister Miracle:
    • Jack Kirby's Mister Miracle: Super Escape Artist (collects Mister Miracle #1-10), 256 pages, January 1999, ISBN 1-56389-457-2[14]
    • Jack Kirby's Fourth World: Featuring Mister Miracle (collects Mister Miracle #11-18), 187 pages, July 2001, ISBN 1-56389-723-7[15]
  • Jack Kirby's The Forever People (collects Forever People #1-11), 288 pages, October 1999, ISBN 1-56389-510-2[16]
  • Jimmy Olsen: Adventures by Jack Kirby:


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.[19][20] 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 and the unpublished 24-page cut of The Hunger Dogs titled "On the Road to Armagetto!"[21][22] The series was reprinted in paperback starting in late 2011.

  • Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus:
    • Volume 1 (collects Forever People #1-3, Mister Miracle #1-3, The New Gods #1-3, Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #133-139), 396 pages, July 2007, ISBN 1-4012-1344-8[23]
    • Volume 2 (collects Forever People #4-6, Mister Miracle #4-6, The New Gods #4-6, Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #141-145), 396 pages, September 2007, ISBN 1-4012-1357-X[24]
    • Volume 3 (collects Forever People #7-10, Mister Miracle #7-9, The New Gods #7-10, Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #146-148), 396 pages, November 2007, ISBN 1-4012-1485-1[25]
    • Volume 4 (collects Forever People #11; Mister Miracle #10-18; The New Gods #11; "Even Gods Must Die" from The New Gods vol. 2, #6; DC Graphic Novel #4: "The Hunger Dogs"; "On the Road to Armagetto!" [previously unpublished]), 424 pages, March 2008, ISBN 1-4012-1583-1[22]


The original metaseries won Jack Kirby a Shazam Award for "Special Achievement by an Individual" in 1971.[26]

In 1998, Jack Kirby's New Gods by Jack Kirby, edited by Bob Kahan, won both the Harvey Award for "Best Domestic Reprint Project"[27] and the Eisner Award for "Best Archival Collection/Project".[28]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus, Vol. 1. Afterword by Mark Evanier.
  2. McAvennie, Michael; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1970s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. 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." 
  3. Ives, Nat (January 31, 2005). "MediaTalk; Who Deserves The Credit (and Cash) For Dreaming Up Those Superheroes?". The New York Times. 
  4. Ro, Ronin (July 2004). Tales to Astonish: Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, and the American Comic Book Revolution. Bloomsbury. p. 148. ISBN 1-58234-345-4. 
  5. "Exhibits: Cartoonisiada". October 2, 2004. Retrieved 2010-10-01. 
  6. Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle #1-4 (November 2005 – May 2006)
  7. Seven Soldiers of Victory #1 (December 2006)
  8. "Talking to Dan DiDio 2007, Part Two". Newsarama. December 21, 2007. Archived from the original on Feb 3, 2009. 
  9. "Dan DiDio: 20 Answers, 1 Question - Batman and More". Newsarama. December 10, 2008. 
  10. "Grant Morrison on Final Crisis #1". Newsarama. June 9, 2008. 
  11. JLA #15 (February 1998)
  12. JLA #40 (April 2000)
  13. "Jack Kirby's New Gods details". DC 
  14. "Jack Kirby's Mister Miracle: Super Escape Artist details". DC 
  15. "Jack Kirby's Fourth World: Featuring Mister Miracle details". DC 
  16. "Jack Kirby's the Forever People details". DC 
  17. "Jimmy Olsen: Adventures by Jack Kirby: Volume 1 details". DC 
  18. "Jimmy Olsen: Adventures by Jack Kirby: Volume 2 details". DC 
  19. "DC Announces New Collections; Black Dossier Delay". Newsarama. September 11, 2006. 
  20. "King-Sized King: Georg Brewer on the Fourth World Omnibuses". Newsarama. May 6, 2007. 
  21. "DC Restores Hunger Dogs Art for Kirby Omnibus v4". Newsarama. October 10, 2007. 
  22. 22.0 22.1 "Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus, Vol. 4 details". DC Retrieved 2010-10-01. 
  23. "Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus, Vol. 1 details". DC 
  24. "Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus, Vol. 2 details". DC 
  25. "Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus, Vol. 3 details". DC 
  26. "1971 Academy of Comic Book Arts Awards". Retrieved 2010-10-01. 
  27. "1998 Harvey Award Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2010-10-01. 
  28. "1998 Will Eisner Comic Industry Award Nominees". Retrieved 2010-10-01. 

External links

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