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New Gods:

John Byrne Era (1997-1998)

John Byrne took over New Gods (with issue #12) when the title was floundering. Byrne, who had long shown affection for Jack Kirby’s work, was a nice fit for the material. To help attract new readers, DC priced his first issue at 99 cents. Over the course of his initial four-issue storyline, the companion titles Mister Miracle and Takion were cancelled, clearing the way for Byrne to control the entire Fourth World, not simply those elements traditionally associated with New Gods.

Reflecting this, New Gods was relaunched as Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, a title Byrne had reportedly chosen to show respect for Kirby’s work. The title incorporated Takion, as well as characters from Mister Miracle and Forever People. This made a great deal of sense. Kirby’s Fourth World titles had failed to last very long, through relaunch after relaunch. Perhaps combining them would improve this longevity. Also, the Fourth World had long been viewed as a single epic story, and a single title reflected this.

Beginning with issue #2 (Apr 1997), Jack Kirby’s Fourth World featured back-up stories telling tales set in the past, reminiscent of Kirby’s “Tales of Asgard” Thor stories (or how his classic “The Pact,” in New Gods Vol. 1 #7, was a full flashback issue). The back-ups in issues #9-11 and #13 were written and illustrated by Walter Simonson, who provided almost all of the covers for Byrne’s issues. Only issues #1, 12, and 20 didn’t feature a back-up story. These stories might not have been popular with American comics readers (who had long come to dislike back-ups and anthologies), but they were a smart addition to the series.

About halfway through Byrne’s two-year run (including his four issues of New Gods Vol. 4), DC offered the universe-wide crossover Genesis, written by Byrne and flowing out of his Jack Kirby’s Fourth World. Byrne had teased that the New Gods had some connection to Wonder Woman’s Greek gods ever since Action Comics Vol. 1 #600 (May 1988). He now revealed that the same force that was behind the creation of the New Gods and Earth’s various pantheons had also created Earth’s super-heroes. DC’s readers were unconvinced, however, and Genesis (published weekly over the course of a single month) is widely regarded as one of DC’s worst universe-wide crossovers.

In fact, the overall course of Byrne’s tenure pivoted around Genesis. His first year began with the combination of Apokolips and New Genesis into a single planet. This was undone during Genesis, during which both Darkseid and Highfather were apparently killed. Byrne’s second year was defined by the aftermath of Genesis, as both Apokolips and New Genesis struggled in the wake of their leaders’ deaths. During this, Mister Miracle returned to Earth, Takion briefly became the ruler of New Genesis, and questions were raised about whether Orion was really Darkseid’s son. By the end of Byrne’s tenure, both Darkseid and Highfather had returned — although the question of Orion’s parentage was never completely resolved.

This was done at the request of Walter Simonson, who was scheduled to relaunch the title as Orion. That successor series, however, would take some time to appear. Jack Kirby’s Fourth World was cancelled (with issue #20, Oct 1998) over a year and a half before Orion was launched (with issue #1, June 2000).

Early Issues

Jack Kirby’s Fourth World #1

“Born of Thunder, Born of Flame” -- 22 pages

  • written by John Byrne; art by John Byrne

first issue; cover by Walter Simonson; published by DC Comics; $1.95; cover-dated Mar 1997

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Jack Kirby’s Fourth World #2

“A Clash of Titans” -- 17 pages

  • written by John Byrne; art by John Byrne

“Apokolips Then” -- 5 pages

  • written by John Byrne; art by John Byrne
  • a flashback story starring Izaya / Highfather and Drax

cover by Walter Simonson; published by DC Comics; $1.95; cover-dated Apr 1997
Jack Kirby’s Fourth World #3

“Back to the Wall” -- 17 pages

  • written by John Byrne; art by John Byrne

“Mother & Sons” -- 5 pages

  • written by John Byrne; art by John Byrne
  • a flashback story featuring Heggra

cover by Walter Simonson; published by DC Comics; $1.95; cover-dated May 1997
Jack Kirby’s Fourth World #4

“Back from the Source” -- 17 pages

  • written by John Byrne; art by John Byrne

“Alpha and Omega” -- 5 pages

  • written by John Byrne; art by John Byrne
  • continues from past flashback tales

cover by Walter Simonson; published by DC Comics; $1.95; cover-dated June 1997
Jack Kirby’s Fourth World #5

“A Choice of Gods” -- 17 pages

  • written by John Byrne; art by John Byrne

“O, Deadly Darkseid” -- 5 pages

  • written by John Byrne; art by John Byrne
  • continues directly from “Alpha and Omega”
  • Uxas becomes Darkseid and discovers Tigra is pregnant

cover by Walter Simonson; published by DC Comics; $1.95; cover-dated July 1997
Jack Kirby’s Fourth World #6

“Schism” -- 17 pages

  • written by John Byrne; art by John Byrne

“Young Scott Free” -- 5 pages

  • written by John Byrne; art by John Byrne
  • takes place in England 1802

cover by Walter Simonson; published by DC Comics; $1.95; cover-dated Aug 1997
Jack Kirby’s Fourth World #7

“The Way of the Warrior” -- 18 pages

  • written by John Byrne; art by John Byrne
  • leads into Genesis #1

“Go West, Young God” -- 4 pages

  • written by John Byrne; art by John Byrne
  • continues from “Young Scott Free”
  • features Metron
  • takes place in England in 1856

cover by Walter Simonson; published by DC Comics; $1.95; cover-dated Sept 1997

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Genesis

Genesis #1

“Resonance” -- 22 pages

  • written by John Byrne; pencils by Ron Wagner; inks by Joe Rubenstein
  • super-heroes’ powers go crazy

first issue; cover by Alan Davis and Mark Farmer; published by DC Comics; $1.95; cover-dated Oct 1997

Genesis #2

“Edge of Destruction” -- 22 pages

  • written by John Byrne; pencils by Ron Wagner; inks by Joe Rubenstein
  • Highfather explains the Godwave

cover by Alan Davis and Mark Farmer; published by DC Comics; $1.95; cover-dated Oct 1997
Jack Kirby’s Fourth World #8

“Godhood’s End” -- 17 pages

  • written by John Byrne; art by John Byrne
  • Highfather dies

“Tumbleweeds” -- 5 pages

  • written by John Byrne; art by John Bryne
  • stars Scott Free and Metron in the old West

cover by Walter Simonson; published by DC Comics; $1.95; cover-dated Oct 1997
Genesis #3

“Event Horizon” -- 22 pages

  • written by John Byrne; pencils by Ron Wagner; inks by Joe Rubenstein
  • the Source dies, killing Takion and exploding the Source Wall

cover by Alan Davis and Mark Farmer; published by DC Comics; $1.95; cover-dated Oct 1997
Genesis #4

“Last God Standing” -- 22 pages

  • written by John Byrne; pencils by Ron Wagner; inks by Joe Rubenstein
  • the Source is saved, the Source Wall restored, Takion revived, and Apokolips and New Genesis are split apart once again
  • Darkseid and Highfather imprisoned in the Source Wall (though the story’s somewhat hard to follow)

final issue; cover by Alan Davis and Mark Farmer; published by DC Comics; $1.95; cover-dated Oct 1997

Later Issues

Jack Kirby’s Fourth World #9

“Sons of the Father” -- 17 pages

  • written by John Byrne; art by John Byrne
  • shows the aftermath of Genesis, in which Apokolips is straining now that it’s separated from New Genesis and now that Darkseid’s gone
  • ends with Tigra claiming that Orion is not Darkseid’s son

“School Days!” -- 5 pages

  • written by Walter Simonson; art by Walter Simonson

cover by Walter Simonson; published by DC Comics; $1.95; cover-dated Nov 1997
Jack Kirby’s Fourth World #10

“Aftermath” -- 17 pages

  • written by John Byrne; art by John Byrne
  • Tigra explains that she lied at the end of “O, Deadly Darkseid” and became impregnated by someone else to support her lie
  • Scott Free becomes ruler of New Genesis

“Lesson One” -- 5 pages

  • written by Walter Simonson; art by Walter Simonson
  • takes place in Italy in 1502

cover by Walter Simonson; published by DC Comics; $1.95; cover-dated Dec 1997

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Jack Kirby’s Fourth World #11

“Fire & Ice” -- 17 pages

  • written by John Byrne; art by John Byrne
  • ends with Scott Free announcing that he’s abdicating and wants Takion to take over ruling New Genesis

“Lesson Two” -- 5 pages

  • written by Walter Simonson; art by Walter Simonson

cover by Walter Simonson; published by DC Comics; $1.95; cover-dated Jan 1998
Jack Kirby’s Fourth World #12

“Wednesday’s Child” -- 22 pages

  • written by John Byrne; art by John Byrne
  • Scott Free returns to Earth, replacing Shilo Norman as Mister Miracle

cover by John Byrne; published by DC Comics; $1.95; cover-dated Feb 1998
Darkseid (Villains) #1

“Shadows in a Greater Darkness” -- 22 pages

  • written by John Byrne; pencils by Keron Grant; breakdowns by Sal Buscema; inks by Ray Kryssing
  • Apokolips continues its civil war

cover by Jason Pearson; published by DC Comics; cover-dated Feb 1998
Jack Kirby’s Fourth World #13

untitled -- 16 pages

  • written by John Byrne; art by John Byrne

“Final Exam” -- 6 pages

  • written by Walter Simonson; art by Walter Simonson
  • concludes the Kanto story begun with “School Days!”

cover by Walter Simonson; published by DC Comics; $1.95; cover-dated Mar 1998
Jack Kirby’s Fourth World #14

“What Dreams May Come” -- 17 pages

  • written by John Byrne; art by John Byrne

“The Bargain” -- 5 pages

  • written by John Byrne; pencils by Ron Wagner; inks by Ray Kryssing
  • Darkseid and Metron strike a deal

cover by Walter Simonson; published by DC Comics; $1.95; cover-dated Apr 1998
Jack Kirby’s Fourth World #15

“Even the Least Among Us” -- 17 pages

  • written by John Byrne; art by John Byrne

“Payment” -- 5 pages

  • written by John Byrne; pencils by Ron Wagner; inks by Ray Kryssing
  • continues from “The Bargain”

cover by Walter Simonson; published by DC Comics; $1.95; cover-dated May 1998
Jack Kirby’s Fourth World #16

“Power Play” -- 16 pages

  • written by John Byrne; art by John Byrne

“Sacrifices” -- 6 pages

  • written by John Byrne; pencils by Ron Wagner; inks by Ray Kryssing
  • concludes the story begun with “The Bargain”

cover by Walter Simonson; published by DC Comics; $1.95; cover-dated June 1998
Jack Kirby’s Fourth World #17

“Blood War” -- 19 pages

  • written by John Byrne; art by John Byrne
  • Orion battles Kalibak

“Beyond Infinity” -- 3 pages

  • written by John Byrne; art by John Byrne
  • a sequel to “O, Deadly Darkseid” showing Drax’s survival after that story

cover by Walter Simonson; published by DC Comics; $1.95; cover-dated July 1998
Jack Kirby’s Fourth World #18

“O Deadly Darkseid” -- 18 pages

  • written by John Byrne; art by John Byrne
  • Darkseid returns

“The Guardian of Infinity” -- 4 pages

  • written by John Byrne; art by John Byrne
  • continues from “Beyond Infinity”

cover by Walter Simonson; published by DC Comics; $1.95; cover-dated Aug 1998
Jack Kirby’s Fourth World #19

“Genesis Rising” -- 17 pages

  • written by John Byrne; art by John Byrne
  • Highfather returns

“Five Times Infinity” -- 5 pages

  • written by John Byrne; art by John Byrne
  • continues from “The Guardian of Infinity”
  • features the Forever People

cover by Walter Simonson; published by DC Comics; $1.95; cover-dated Sept 1998
Jack Kirby’s Fourth World #20

“The Gods Themselves” -- 22 pages

  • written by John Byrne; art by John Byrne
  • features Superman

final issue; the cover is an homage to John Byrne’s covers for Man of Steel; cover by Walter Simonson; published by DC Comics; $1.95; cover-dated Oct 1998

New Gods Secret Files #1

“Learn… and Live!” -- 22 pages

  • written by Karl Kesel; pencils by Sal Velluto; inks by Bob Layton

“The Beginning of the End…” -- 3 pages

  • written by Walter Simonson; art by Walter Simonson

“Orion and Big Barda join the JLA” -- 2 pages

  • written by Grant Morrison; pencils by N. Steven Harris; inks by Anibal Rodriguez

profiles -- 10 pages

  • pages for New Genesis, Orion, Highfather, Darkseid, Mister Miracle and Big Barda, Metron, Takion, Darkseid’s Elite, Mortalla (planned for introduction in Walter Simonson’s coming run), Apokolips

“New Gods Timeline” -- 2 pages

  • written by John Byrne

only issue; cover by Walter Simonson; published by DC Comics; $4.95; cover-dated Sept 1998


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