Happy Birthday Jack Kirby!

Happy Birthday to Jack Kirby! The King would have been 97 years old were he alive today. Hard to believe it was twenty years ago that he left us. In honor of the occasion, I present my own personal reading order for his “Fourth World” epic (originally posted to the Jack Kirby fan page on Facebook some months ago):

Here’s how I put this together: After scouring the internet and not finding a truly good source for putting Kirby’s Fourth World saga into a proper reading order (or at least not any order I liked or agreed with), I decided to take on the task myself. (Note that I do not own the Fourth World omnibus editions, but based on the descriptions I’ve read on Amazon and elsewhere, I don’t believe they’re placed in the best possible order. I could be wrong.) I tried tackling the project in the most logical manner I could devise.

First I took all the issues and put them in chronological order by pub date. I then went through them and started connecting the various story arcs so you could read them all complete with no “hard” cliffhangers. For example, Forever People #3 ends with the Forever People (spoilers) captured by Darkseid and Desaad, but there still seemed to be elbow room between this issue and the next. (So I guess you could call the ending a “soft” cliffhanger.) Similarly, the sixth issue picks almost immediately after the end of #5, but the ending of #5 feels like a soft cliffhanger as well—Darkseid orders the destruction of the Forever People, but the threat is not immediate, so I felt it okay to break away at that point and pick up with #6 later. If I were more strict about keeping story arcs together, I probably would have had five issues of Forever People in a row (issues 3 through 7) early on here and the saga would not feel equitably spaced out between the four main titles. (As it is, there are two blocks of Jimmy Olsen that are four and five issues long!) In any case, all “hard” cliffhanger continuations got bumped back to connect with their preceding chapters; after which I went on to the next chronological story (by pub date).

In some cases there were other reasons for the sequencing. For example, I bumped up Lois Lane #119 because there’s a footnote in it that states the story takes place before events in a particular issue of Jimmy Olsen. I likewise flipped the ninth and tenth issues of Mister Miracle because “Himon” was supposed to be issue #10 originally; Kirby bumped it up to #9 when he got word that New Gods and Forever People were cancelled—the idea being that he wanted to get all his Fourth World material out before the two aforementioned titles disappeared from the stands (and “Himon” did indeed have a much deeper connection to the larger Fourth World arc than “The Mister Miracle to Be,” the original story slated for the ninth issue). I find it works/reads better if the two issues in question are put back in the order Kirby originally intended, so that’s what I did.

I think I caught everything, but if anyone comes upon any discrepancies, please do let me know. Here’s what I ended up with:

  1. Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen 133 (Oct)
  2. Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen 134 (Dec)
  3. Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen 135 (Jan)
  4. Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen 136 (Mar)
  5. Forever People 1 (Feb-Mar)
  6. New Gods 1 (Feb-Mar)
  7. Mister Miracle 1 (Mar-Apr)
  8. Forever People 2 (Apr-May)
  9. New Gods 2 (Apr-May)
  10. Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen 137 (Apr)
  11. Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen 138 (Jun)
  12. Mister Miracle 2 (May-Jun)
  13. Forever People 3 (Jun-Jul)
  14. New Gods 3 (Jun-Jul)
  15. Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen 139 (Jul)
  16. Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen 141 (Sep)
  17. Mister Miracle 3 (Jul-Aug)
  18. Mister Miracle 4 (Sep-Oct)
  19. Forever People 4 (Aug-Sep)
  20. Forever People 5 (Oct-Nov)
  21. New Gods 4 (Aug-Sep)
  22. New Gods 5 (Oct-Nov)
  23. New Gods 6 (Dec-Jan)
  24. Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane 115 (Oct)
  25. Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen 142 (Oct)
  26. Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen 143 (Nov)
  27. Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane 116 (Nov)
  28. Mister Miracle 5 (Nov-Dec)
  29. Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane 119 (Feb)
  30. Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen 144 (Dec)
  31. Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen 145 (Jan)
  32. Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen 146 (Feb)
  33. Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen 147 (Mar)
  34. Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen 148 (Apr)
  35. Forever People 6 (Dec-Jan)
  36. Forever People 7 (Feb-Mar)
  37. Mister Miracle 6 (Jan-Feb)
  38. New Gods 7 (Feb-Mar)
  39. Mister Miracle 7 (Mar-Apr)
  40. Mister Miracle 8 (May-Jun)
  41. Forever People 8 (Apr-May)
  42. New Gods 8 (Apr-May)
  43. Forever People 9 (Jun-Jul)
  44. Forever People 10 (Aug-Sep)
  45. New Gods 9 (Jun-Jul)
  46. Mister Miracle 10 (Sep-Oct)
  47. New Gods 10 (Aug-Sep)
  48. Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen 152 (Sep)
  49. Mister Miracle 9 (Jul-Aug)
  50. Forever People 11 (Oct-Nov)
  51. New Gods 11 (Oct-Nov)
  52. Mister Miracle 11 (Nov-Dec)
  53. Mister Miracle 12 (Jan-Feb)
  54. Mister Miracle 13 (Mar-Apr)
  55. Mister Miracle 14 (Jun-Jul)
  56. Mister Miracle 15 (Aug-Sep)
  57. Mister Miracle 16 (Oct-Nov)
  58. Mister Miracle 17 (Dec-Jan)
  59. Mister Miracle 18 (Feb-Mar)
  60. New Gods 12 (unpublished; originally created for the New Gods reprint series and later expanded for the Hunger Dogs graphic novel)

Notes/Further Explanations:

I included the Lois Lane issues just for the sake of completeness for any and all continuity nuts out there. If you want to read every issue with any kind of Fourth World connection that was published at the time, it’s here. For those of us more concerned strictly with Kirby’s own artistic vision, all the issues of Lois Lane here can be thrown out, as they have nothing to do with Kirby and are not part of his vision. Jimmy Olsen #152 can be tossed as well for this same reason.

Forever People #’s 9 & 10 can also be omitted if you like, as these issues feature the Deadman appearances that DC pushed onto Jack.

Want to keep cutting? Well, if you want to be a hardass-orthodox Fourth Worlder, you can probably toss all of the Jimmy Olsen issues, as none of the stories are really that intimately connected to the Apokolips-New Genesis conflict that is really the heart of the Fourth World saga. You can even eliminate many (if not all) of the Forever People as well, although this could mean throwing away the first appearances of Mantis, Desaad, and Glorious Godfrey. There are also several issues of Mister Miracle (11-17 to be exact) where the stories are really disconnected from the Fourth World saga. Still, it’s tough to disconnect the adventures of (spoiler alert) Highfather’s son from the larger story, even if the issues in question aren’t very connected to the Apokolips-New Genesis war.

Thanks again for everything, Jack. Anyone interested in learning more about the King should visit the Jack Kirby Museum online here.


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