Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Wednesday Comics: The Fourth World Reread Week 4

The story in New Gods #7 reveals the pact that had maintained a truce between New Genesis and Apokolips and the origins of Orion and Scott Free, infants exchanged to be raised on worlds not their own. Orion became a warrior for good, albeit one constantly challenged by his nature. Scott Free was given over to Granny Goodness to be trained to conformity, perhaps to become another cog in the Apokolips machine, except that his nature wins out and he escapes. Mister Miracle #7 (1971) has Scott and Barda return to Apokolips to face the horrors of their upbringing and its architect.

The social order of Apokolips is a little hard to fathom. On one hand, we are shown Granny's fascist training camp orphan where conformity and submersion of individuality is all important. On the other hand, the villains from Apokolips bedeviling the heroes of the Fourth World titles are a diverse, even eccentric, lot. It's unclear how many of the villains we see are a product of Granny's tutelage, but certainly Virmin Vundabar and at least some of the Female Furies seem to be.

I suspect some of the Apokolipsians (Doctor Bedlam, Desaad, Kanto) are products of the older, aristocratic society of Steppenwolf and Heggra that Darkseid has transformed into a fascist state. The others are probably the most "successful" graduates of Granny's schooling. These strong-willed enough to retain some individuality, while still being conditioned for Darkseid's service. This presumably is the outcome Darkseid intended for Scott Free. Unless the irony of the son of High Father being merely a faceless grunt in his army appealed to him. This seems unlikely to me, because Darkseid seems more calculating than pointlessly cruel.

Mister Miracle #7 gives us our most extended look yet at the hell that is Apokolips. It's an armed camp emblazoned with grim, fascistic slogans. Workers are dressed something like a combination of Medieval serfs and German work camp prisoners. Here, they're attacked by Kanto, an assassin who looks like he grabbed his style from the Italian Rennaissance. He's a man of honor after a fashion. He let's Free and Barda go out of respect. His sort of evil is out of place in the more mechanized, modern Apokolips.


Jason Galterio (Legionair) said...

I was about to say... "Don't forget that Mister Miracle was Jack Kirby and Barda was Jack Kirby's wife." but something about that sounded wrong. So I checked Wikipedia and I was half right.

The Mister Miracle character was modeled after Jim Steranko, which makes perfect sense. Barda was modeled after Kirby's wife. For some reason I thought Kirby had dabbled in being escape artist, but obviously I was mistaken.

I think your right on with your interpretation of Apokolips. There is a pretty obvious World War II influence to it, but with a "this is what would happen if a dictator won" sort of vibe.

As to the actual mechanics of the society, I always took it to be that the vast population were down trodden masses that were kept under constant pressure to conform and produce.

Anyone who didn't fall in line were tossed into places like Granny's orphanage. The non-conformers being viewed as raw material worthy of molding. The parody being that the naming of such things implied good things, when the reality was otherwise.

Anyone who then survived that would either be elevated up the ranks, tossed into the elite hounds, or potentially be turned into a parademon.

The other stand out characters would be "graduates" of this program or similar programs in other "orphanges." As I imagine Granny's is just an example of one, not the only one.

The curious part is that New Genesis somewhat mirrors this arrangement too. The Bugs living down below on the planet side, ignored by the New Gods for example.

Jason Galterio (Legionair) said...

One more thought... Don't discount the input that Kirby's whimsy had in the overall New Gods stories.

For the first time he pretty much had free reign to do anything he liked. Any idea that came to him he was free to indulge.

He wanted to make a super escape artist. No problem. He wanted a character to look like his wife and another like Maude Adams. Sure thing. A parody of Stan Lee. An inverse of the Silver Surfer. World War II cautions. Religious overtones. A group of teenage hippies. A gestalt character. A character dressed from the Italian Renaissance.

I think he went wild with the freedom he suddenly had. Writing and creating things that no one would have approved previously.

The genius is... Somehow he made the patchwork of ideas make sense.