Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A long time ago...

Mind if I tell you a story?  Well, tell you about it, is more like it.  It's not my story, but I love it none the less.  It's not diminished by re-telling.  At the end of this post, I'll give you more specifics about it.  But don't peek ahead!  :-)

This story was first given to the public in the 1970s, the brain child of a fiercely independent creator.  Since then it's lived on and been fleshed out by many other creators -- some say unnecessarily so.

This story is a bright and colorful blend of science fiction, fantasy, and mythology.  (The mythology part is inserted a bit ham-fistedly, but let's just chalk that up to the naive dreams and obsessions of the creator.)  It takes place on multiple worlds.  There are floating cities, alien jungles, and hellish volcanic pits.  There are evil overlords and brave rebellions.

Early on in the first story, we are introduced to two male protagonists.  One is young, idealistic, and dressed in the white of innocence.  His name evokes sunbeams zipping through the bright sky.  The other is older and a bit more cynical and world-weary -- and he yells a bit when he gets angry -- but he's no less a hero than his friend.

The two dudes are advised by an old man with a gray beard and flowing robes.  The old mentor wields a mystical power that fills the universe and can guide one's actions if one listens to its counsel.  This power has a name that rhymes with the phrase "The Horse."

Good cannot exist without evil, and boy is there evil in this world.  The biggest of the bad guys is a tall, imposing figure with a dark, mask-like face.  The mask is connected to what looks like a rounded helmet that is cut off and flat at the bottom.  He is a master of the same mystical power that the gray-bearded man uses, but in the dark one's hands its opposite sense is used to do dark, nasty things.  Have I used the phrase "dark" enough?  Maybe not enough, since the "dark" side is embedded in his very name.

Spoiler alert:  We eventually find out that the dark bad guy is actually the father of one of the two male protagonists.  There's a whole backstory of collaboration and conflict with the gray-bearded mentor, who has been keeping the whole fatherhood thing a secret for years.

There were so many other memorable characters.  The dark bad guy is assisted by an shorter and older, almost skeletal colleague, who is a master of twisted tactics and torture.  The good guys have many companions, too.  Some of them are comic relief, and their indignities are often played for a laugh -- though sometimes they are the victim of what looks like racial discrimination.

As the story progresses, whole planets get destroyed.  Father and son confront one another (more than once).  Ultimately, good wins out over evil, but there is always another fantastic story to tell.

- - - - - - -

You're familiar with this classic tale?  Ah, yes, I'm a fan of Jack Kirby's NEW GODS comics, too...

Click to epic-size...
Lightray, Darkseid, and Highfather

True origin of the Schwartz

You see what I did there, but I should really clarify.  I do earnestly love the original Star Wars trilogy.  George Lucas took bits and pieces from dozens of different sources and melted them all together into something new.  Although I used some careful trickery above to make it sound like Star Wars (1977) came straight from Kirby's New Gods (1971), this particular, um, Source of inspiration doesn't merit much more than a few paragraphs in Michael Kaminski's wonderfully exhaustive tome The Secret History of Star Wars.  If you want to talk about Lucas' major influences and sources, go see the original Flash Gordon serials and Kurosawa's Hidden Fortress.

There's a lot more on my love of Kirby here, and a favorite quote about Star Wars here.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, but certainly not original. I made this connection when rereading the Kirby comics back in the 80s, but so did hundreds of others! I resisted doing too much Googling about this prior to writing my piece. :-)

  2. I was about to go off and be all, 'Um, what about the female protagonist?!?' until I got to your unveiling. Clever, indeed.

    1. Yeah, there weren't any strong female leads in the flagship New Gods title (except maybe in brief flashbacks to the "Padme" analog). But in Kirby's other related comic Mister Miracle, there was "Big Barda." Not exactly the most flattering name, but sort of his answer to Wonder Woman.

  3. Reading/Seeing very seldom Science Fiction (but a lot of fiction), I proudly thought: "Ha, that's easy - even I know.." But as a smart crime fiction viewer/reader I thought: Must be a Red Herring! Then the denouement: so it was :-)

    1. "The Mystery of the Misleading Blogger..." Poirot would be on that case! :-)

  4. Very clever. Never made these obvious connections myself (because the approaches are different even while they're exactly the same). I've wanted to read the complete Kirby New Gods for years (although there's a contradiction in that Kirby never got to finish his saga except in truncated Hunger Dogs form).

    1. Hunger Dogs was interesting... the dialogue and plot were even more incoherent than in the 1970s stuff, but part of that (I think) was due to DC's interference. It's by no means a "conclusion." Still, there were poignant moments.

      You could easily skip it, though, and cruise right to Starlin's 1988 Cosmic Odyssey instead. It's not Kirby, but it's got some of his weird spirit. (That's where the racial discrimination stuff against the "bugs" is more of a theme, btw.)