Retelling my favorite comics the way I remember them.
On Jack Kirby’s 100th birthday, I will reveal the comic pages that altered my superheroic world view: The Forever People of Supertown. Written, drawn and edited back in 1971 by Jack “King” Kirby.
To understand you need to know who the Forever People were. This was a new title, looking to make a name for itself. The Forever People were “god hippies” from the world of New Genesis. Young, hip, rebellious, outrageously dressed, the Forever People were cosmic cool.
The people of New Genesis were a Kirby creation and they were beautiful and wise, living on a world beyond our reality called New Genesis. Born in this higher reality closer to the Source, a font of cosmic power, meant every citizen of Supertown was superhuman.
But sharing their terrible universe, was the scourge of time and space, monster, marauder, cultured and yet well-spoken, the fearsome, the enigmatic, the nearly-all powerful Darkseid reigns on his own private hellscape, Apokalips. Served by a cadre of vicious lieutenants Darkseid is always engaged in a machination to acquire Universal domination.
These two worlds have been at war for millennia with no end in sight. When a truce is finally established the Forever People, who seem to be a collection of much younger gods from New Genesis come to Earth to find one of their friends, Beautiful Dreamer, who has been kidnapped.
In their first issue, Superman appears on the cover, small and insignificant. He’s a guest star. Superman? He doesn’t guest star. He is the main attraction. Always.
I held this comic with awe and wonder. Who were these people that would dare to have Superman as a guest star? As if he were some hobo with a bow, like Green Arrow?
I opened the comic and dared them to impress me. And they did. The Forever People travel in style. Both between dimensions and once they arrive. They arrive by Boom Tube.
Back when that meant something. Back before they became as common as Pop-Tarts and about as interesting. An entire page was devoted to the opening of a Boom Tube.
Where has the respect gone for interdimensional travel between two Universes? Back then, it was treated with respect! The technology was as amazing as the feat itself. This was just one of many miracles presented by Jack in this story. Jack was creative and when he wanted to make something new, he pulled out all the stops.
The Forever People come out of the Boom-Tube on the Super Cycle. Yes, you Young Justice fans can say you know about the Super Cycle and I believe this vehicle and that one are one and the same.
They arrive with the standard mysterious background, we’re on a mission. A mission from God. No, a mission because we’re gods. The frame on the DC Universe just got bigger. I didn’t know how big yet.
They stand around looking epic. Yep, just like that. They rescue some hapless bystanders from an accident (they caused with the casual use of their super-technology) and proceed to tell their life story to complete strangers. Hey, that was how it was done back then.
Then we read a bunch of boring pages about the dull and predictable life of Clark Kent and his more exciting half, Superman.
Kent is handed some photos from the annoying cub reporter Jimmy Olsen and then some Superman rubs some handwavium into his eyes, when he looks into a photography and sees a high resolution image of Supertown. Hey Jimmy, where’d ya steal that camera from? The future?
With Jimmy’s twelve megapixel capture Supes learns there is more going on and the game was afoot.
Meanwhile our stylish Forever people with a mix of hippy kitsch and New Age speak, are under observation by shady types with beady eyes – shady types who are willing to shoot first and ask questions later.
Superman flies in and the Forever People think he is one of THEM. In my mind, I’m thinking. Damn. They think he’s one of them. What can they do, I wonder?
Then their exclamation after Superman has taken his time dodging sigma weapons (whatever they are – I guess they were out of omega guns that week) and hurling a tree through the helicopter. It as nice of him to wait until they were all leaping free with their parachutes.
Love that Superman, he is just so considerate.
The Forever People and Superman realize they are not kin. But before any real explanation can take place everyone is under attack.
Finally, my ten year old mind screams. Let’s see what they can do! They are impetuous and rush headlong into danger. Kids. Fortunately for them, Superman is there and able to help out.
Once he clears the air of whatever mystery gas prevented the Forever People from doing their thing is gone, we see Superman grappling with some new beastie.
Whatever. This fight will be over in seconds flat. He’s Superman.
No.They grab Superman and in a bombastic way let us know “Darkseid sent us. And we’re the best.” The Gravi-guard they call themselves. Cool name. You can stick gravity on the front of anything back then and it became a hundred percent more cool.
Superman was losing. The Gravi-guards manipulate the forces of gravity. He draws his superhuman strength from his interactions with gravity. Now he’s weaker, more vulnerable.
Nooooooo! It’s like they knew his weakness and for a change it didn’t glow or come with a magic wand. Thanks again, Jack!
Gravity could be a weapon and just like that, my ten year old brain was blown.
Superman was down and getting thrashed. He was indeed only a guest-star. Okay, Forever People, what are you going to do? Cause that’s Superman over there.
You better not let anything happen to him. I’m gonna need him back just the way he was when you found him. He’s got other comics to get to.
The Forever People gather around something new. Something I didn’t know about then. In fact, this was her debut appearance!
The Forever People had been talking about something called a Mother Box this entire time and we had no idea what they were referencing. Vyking the Black (uh, we could have figured that part out) had been carrying it around but we still didn’t know what it was capable of.
This is when I learned my first New Genesis math: 1 Mother-Box plus four Forever People equals the Infinity Man.
My cosmic awareness awakens.
Where Superman struggled with just one Gravi-guard, the Infinity-Man handily dispatches of two by nullifying their force of gravity with an even greater interaction of anti-gravity.
The Infinity-Man isn’t just powerful. He’s precise. He uses only the force necessary to get the job done.
Poor Superman, he’s now being pushed into the ground, chest high and the Gravi-guard remarks that even though Superman is losing, he isn’t giving up.
That’s right Supes. When he buries you up to your neck, then you give up.
The Infinity-Man rescues Superman. With ease.
The two of them confront Darkseid. This is before Darkseid became the punching, hands-on villain he is today. Back then, Darkseid was amenable to conversation, realized he had been thwarted, let Beautiful Dreamer go, and disappeared right before Superman and the Infinity-Man could do anything to stop him.
That crafty Darkseid.
He didn’t disappear without giving them a gift. A table with a pressure bomb. Superman is given the opportunity to feel needed by flying both Beautiful Dreamer and Infinity-Man beyond the reach of the explosion at super-speed.
Honestly, I think the Infinity-Man could have saved all of them without even moving but let Superman salvage some pride after that Gravi-Guard beat down.
He even thanked Superman for using his lightning-powers. I am assuming the Infinity-Man was talking about Supes use of superspeed, but you know those god-hippies, nobody understands them.
Superman, feeling super again, places Beautiful Dreamer on the ground and prepares to interrogate the Infinity-Man who disappears and the Forever People return, talking about an arrangement with the Infinity-Man – an arrangement about which we still know as little today as I did back then.
Superman gets to close out the issue in doubt as the Forever People leave and he considers following them to Supertown. A moment of indecision (a trademark Kirby thing) and doubt and Superman is returned to Earth, worried about what might happen next when a threat capable of turning him into a mudpie returns to Earth.
Doesn’t matter. My ten year old mind was all over the room. I was picking brain off the walls for weeks.
The Forever People. Darkseid. Super-Town. Boom-tubes. Mother-Box. Super-Cycle.
And Superman, a guest-star, as helpless as a kitten without its mother nearby.
Thank you, Jack Kirby. This comic rewrote the code for what was cool in a comic back then. Superman lost a little shine but he’s a big blue boy scout so he took it on the chin, sat around for a bit, and then went right back to saving the day. Humbled.
It’s not every day you see the most powerful hero in your comic universe getting owned with relative ease by enigmatic aliens who disappeared into a place our hero can’t reach.
I’m sure Superman and Green Arrow commiserated about being upstaged by heroes with cosmic powers. Finally, Superman can relate.
The Infinity Man remains one of my favorite Kirby creations and modern depictions of the character are still just as awe-inspiring. Until next time, gentle readers when I recount another Ten-Year-Old’s Memory Lane comic reading adventure.
Thaddeus Howze is an award-winning writer, editor, podcaster and activist creating speculative fiction, scientific, political and cultural commentary from his office in Hayward, California.
Thaddeus’ speculative fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals. He has published two books, ‘Hayward’s Reach’ (2011), a collection of short stories and ‘Broken Glass’ (2013) an urban fantasy novella starring his favorite paranormal investigator, Clifford Engram.