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The Fourth World

"The Fourth World" is the popular name given to a number of interconnecting comic book titles produced by Jack Kirby and published by DC Comics from 1970 to 1973. Originally intended to form a finite epic story, the books were cancelled for reasons that remain controversial and unclear.

The three original titles comprising the Fourth World were The Forever People, Mister Miracle, and New Gods; the pre-existing title Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen was also adopted into the series.

Published during the waning days of newsstand distribution system, Kirby foresaw a day when comics would need to find alternate, more legitimate venues for sale. Towards this end Kirby envisioned the finite series which would be serialized and collected in one tome later.

Unhappy with Marvel comics at the time as he had created or co-created a plethora of characters only to lose both copyright and creative custody of them, he turned to rival publisher DC comics. There he produced what is inarguably his most personal work in the "Fourth World" titles. Though a thirty-year vetran of the comic industry at the time, Kirby had primarily worked in collaboration with other creators until that time. Kirby's operatic dialogue style and grandiose pagentary of heroes and villains surprised and disappointed some fans who were expecting work similar to that which he had produced with scripter Stan Lee at Marvel. Other fans were intrigued by the modern day mythology of the titles.

The Fourth World titles deal 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 fabled Anti-Life Equation which will allow him galactic dominion. Opposing him is Orion, his son raised by 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 40s with a group of adolescents adventuring without an adult supervisor; Mister Miracle, the native of New Genesis raised on Apokolips who triumphed over a torturous childhood to become the world's greatest escape artist; and Lightray, the gaily flamboyant warrior of New Genesis.

The Fourth World was never completed. Cancelled abruptly by DC, the story was never finished, despite an attempt by Kirby to create a final story a number of years later in a graphic novel entitled The Hunger Dogs. In the early 2000s Kirby's Fourth World comics were re-published by DC as graphic novels, though comic book fans were disappointed by the fact that the reprint was in black-and-white rather than in color.

However, the characters created have appeared in various series under different talents, becoming fully established in the DC Comics superhero universe. This is especially true of Darkseid who has become one of the major DC villains in general.