Thursday, August 30, 2007

Refusing to go to the Darkseid... er Dark Side!

Originally uploaded by Heidi Meeley
Confession time.

I am not a big fan of the New Gods. I know that it is blasphemy to not appreciate the characters that Jack Kirby was so instrumental in shaping, but Darkseid and his ilk have never been my cup of tea.

I don't know if it is that I haven't read the right back issues or because of a certain event. I appreciated the nuances that the New Gods added to the JLA/JSA crossover back in the day. Scott Free and Big Barda's presence in the Justice League was a wonderful thing. When Barda was in the JLA under Grant Morrison's watch, I was giddy. She kicks ass! Otherwise, I just haven't felt a lot of passion one way or another. The characters haven't compelled me enough to read a series specifically about them.

As far as villains go, I have always gravitated towards Lex Luthor, Cheetah as portrayed by George Perez, Black Adam, Joker, Ras Al Ghul, Mirror Master, Mr. Freeze, and the more traditional costumed characters. The villainous Darkseid has had his moments with me, but he has never been a favorite. Desaad and Granny Goodness are interestingly evil. I just have never gravitated towards a book about the New Gods.

Since the residents of Apokolips and New Genesis seem to be so prevalent in the upcoming Final Crisis, I would like to find out more about them so that they become more interesting to me. Can you tell me what the best reading material is to do so? I don't want to be ignorant on purpose and would like to learn more making a definitive decision.

Any suggestions?


Ragtime said...

I am having the same reaction. I just read the first Omnibus volume. Eh.

Same with the Man of Steel volume with Darkseid, and the Wonder Woman Second Genesis. Enjoyable, but really despite the Fourth World stuff.

Honestly, I think my top recommendation would be Cosmic Odyssey. Unlike some other stuff which is good DESPITE the Fourth World, Cosmic Odyssey is very flawed in many ways, but pulls off the Fourth World stuff very well. If the goal is to end up liking the characterizations of Darkseid, Orion, and Highfather, that's the way to go.

Nick said...

Metron = Blue Beetle in a green chair and is as inteliigent as Brainiac 5

AND....that's all I know, lol. I don't think your alone in your "meh"ness over the New Gods. Short of three: Darkside/Big Barda/Miracle Man , I think most people don't know or care all that much about the New Gods, they more seem like the throw-aways in the DC universe.

Kudos for trying to learn about them, you have more initiative then most, lol.

Yes I said kudos....what? I never get to use it anymore!

Anonymous said...

"I know that it is blasphemy to not appreciate the characters that Jack Kirby was so instrumental in shaping, but Darkseid and his ilk have never been my cup of tea."

You're definitely not alone, Heidi. While I worship nearly everything Kirby did with Stan Lee for Marvel during the 1960's, Kirby's DC stuff is almost entirely lost upon me, as well as his 1970's and 80's solo stuff.

As awesome as Kirby's imagination was, he needed someone who could actually write and edit his stuff into a coherent whole. Without those two collaborative inputs, Kirby was quite a loose cannon..and his New Gods stuff perfectly demonstrates it.

The plots that went nowhere, the laughably horrible dialogue, and Darkside's "campy cabaret" of henchmen (like Vermin Vundabar and Granny Goodness)'s all just a little too much.

I've occasionally liked the characters in other hands, such as the excellent "Great Darkness Saga" by Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen (in the early 80's Legion of Superheroes title), Bruce Timm's handling of the New Gods on the 1990's Superman animated series (although Granny Goodness was still a major turn-off...even moreso when I learned Ed Asner did her voice), or your aforementioned JLA-JSA-New Gods crossover from the early 80's.

But overall, as odd as the New Gods were, they're an even odder fit with the "mainstream" DC Universe. If the upcoming "Death of the New Gods" by Jim Starlin actually IS the end of their story, then I say: Good Riddance.

Carl said...

The problem is, originally, like many of Kirby's creations, The New Gods were not at first not part of the mainstream DCU. Maybe they were on the edge of it, but like The Forever People and even Marvel's Eternals, they were outside the superheroes and not incorporated until a while later. I found I liked them better when I read a bunch of graphic novels with them and the Orion series, they fit a lot better after I read those. I don't know, they don't bother me as much as say, The Inhumans. I know so many Marvel Zombies that act like they are the best thing in comics since Red Sonja's metal armor bikini and I can't stand them. And one of my fave stories of all time is Superman: The Dark Side. That had to be one of the coolest uses of The New Gods I had ever seen. And all the Superman/JLA cartoons made good use of them too with Michael Ironside being the voice of Darkseid, oh so good. Hmmmm, now that I think about it being the twilight of The New Gods, I might just have to buy Final Crisis...

Ragnell said...

I learned about them through Byrne's WW run, where he made hefty use of Kirby creations, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. Byrne's WW run is fairly awful yet strangely addictive, a deadly combination.

There has to be an old SF&O on the New Gods, but in lieu of that I second the nomination of Dini and Timm's animated treatment (I think the episode is called "Apokolips Now") or the original Kirby stuff if you can find it.

Swinebread said...

Oh, Sorry Ragtime, I gotta disagree on Cosmic Odyssey, It’s awful. It doesn’t matter if you learn something about the New Gods or not. It is not worth the slog to read it.

As for the New Gods themselves when I think of them in terms of them really being Gods in the manner of say the Greek and Egyptian mythologies, they make much more sense. They have that classic thread that runs through them. I mean, Zeus gave birth to one of his kids by having her pop out his head and Thoth and all those guys are sometimes half animal. I don’t think the New Gods are any weirder than real mythology. The thing is they are both modern and ancient, a very tough thing to pull off in any kind of storytelling let alone comics. The concepts are very cool but sadly Kirby wasn’t much of a writer. If he had worked with a good writer his stories would have been much better. But the only way to really understand the New Gods is to read Kirby’s stuff. It was meant to bee a finite story anyway and it got cancelled. So that could be part to the problem why they don’t seem to fit well with the rest of DC. I think we’d need a Gaiman or a Moore to really be able to tackle these characters now.

That said I liked the Orion series by Walt Simonson. It’s a little esoteric but well done. Walt understood Thor, he understands the New Gods. Strangely I would also suggest the X-men/Teen Titans x-over. Darkseid and Dark Phoenix are the villains. Juxtaposing him against the marvel characters made me reevaluate Darkseid.

inkdestroyedmybrush said...

There are certainly many flaws in Kirby's work, and I never warmed to the New Gods the way that some people did. I think, perhaps, it is that the ideas are better than the presentation, and they re the part that really captivates people. We pretty much all know that Kirby was at his best with a collaborator, even if he was the lead idea man, so we all tend to view the early New Gods stories against the backdrop of him working with the early '70's zeitgeist, which was pretty conservative.

Marvel, which was a little looser, a lot looser, gave us cosmic with more pot and acid. I've always said that Thanos was Darkseid done with greater freedom.

I like cosmic odyssey a lot, actually, and would recommend it.

The Kirby omnibus gives us the early 4th world stuff in the pure stream of ideas from kirby's brain, and an untidy place it is. Forever people are a horribly dated concept and best forgotten. Mister miracle was solid, but kirby spent the least ideas on his adventures. New Gods was where the big battle raged with Orion and lightray. I would read the New Gods first.

Heidi Meeley said...

Thank you all so much for the suggestions! I am going to try and go to Borders this week. If I can't find what I am looking for, I think I will try

You are all wonderful to give me these suggestions!