Authors: John Morrow with Jon B. Cooke
Publisher: TwoMorrows Publishing
Publication Year: 2021
Topic: Mythology, Early Marvel, Jack Kirby
WHAT IS IT?
Old Gods & New: A Companion to Jack Kirby’s Fourth World is the latest in a long line of Kirby-related publications from TwoMorrows Publishing. No one knows more about Kirby and his work than these folks, and in this astonishingly beautiful and overstuffed edition, John Morrow and Jon B. Cooke examine Kirby’s use of gods and myth throughout his career, with a primary focus on his New Gods work for DC.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Morrow and Cooke start with a brief sketch of Kirby’s early use of god imagery in 1940s superhero and fantasy comics, and then review his use of mythology during his initial time at Marvel. From there, they dive deep into the origins, publishing and cancelation of Kirby’s famous Fourth World books (New Gods, Forever People, Mister Miracle and, oddly enough, Jimmy Olsen). The narrative then returns to Marvel, veers off to Pacific, and completes back at DC where we are shown the torturous path that The Hunger Dogs took on its way to print.
This is an amazing book. Old Gods & New somehow fuses art, business, and mythmaking together into a satisfying journey through Jack Kirby’s ideas on gods and religion while also managing to detail his travails trying to maintain his creative control of his work. Better yet, the entire work is infused with Morrow and Cooke's expert analysis of the characters, stories and ideas that Kirby created.
There is something extremely gratifying about learning from people who deeply love and understand the topic they are speaking about. Morrow and company have been at this a long time, and they delve into Kirby’s work the way English professors study Hemingway. This book presents a wealth of interviews with the King, his inner circle, and other key comics figures, and manages to track through difficult and often contentious events in an even-handed and plausible way.
There are images everywhere. They are beautifully reproduced, and they are effectively marshaled in service of the text. Photos of people and events humanize the story, and whenever possible panels or pages are reproduced as they are referenced so that the reader can easily see for themselves what Morrow and Cooke are alluding to.
The analysis of what New Genesis represented, and what Darkseid represented, was fascinating and convincing. Better yet, I love that Old Gods & New does not just tell you what the authors believe that Kirby was intending. Instead, the book allows Kirby to tell you himself, through extensive interview selections, and then additional analysis helps to fill in the gaps by adding in backstory or context as needed.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
The design for this book is wild. It is stunning, but occasionally it is all just a bit overwhelming. Images are everywhere, and the text is in a relatively small font and often flows down the page like a winding, multicolor river. It all looks great, but it can take some getting used to.
WHY SHOULD YOU READ IT?
Old Gods and New is beautifully designed, filled with gorgeous Jack Kirby art, and is a blast to read. It's a great option for any Kirby or DC fan, as well as anyone interested in the inner workings of comic book publishing in the 1970s and 1980s. Morrow and Cooke help us to see the evolution of Orion, Darkseid and other Jack Kirby characters, and also let us better understand how time and economic considerations may have impacted the manner in which Kirby finished off the Fourth Worlds saga.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
For more from John Morrow: Kirby & Lee: Stuf' Said!
For more about Kirby: Jack Kirby: The Epic Life of the King of Comics by Tom Scioli
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
John Morrow has been researching and writing about comics since the 1990s. He is publisher and editor of The Jack Kirby Collector, and was nominated for an Eisner in 2020 for his work editing Jack Kirby’s Dingbat Love. He is on Twitter @Twomorrowspubs or you can find more of his work at the TwoMorrows website.
Jon B. Cooke also has a long history writing about comics, and has won multiple Eisner awards for his work writing and editing Comic Book Artist at TwoMorrows. Cooke has worked as a graphic designer and art director, created a documentary about Will Eisner, and has contributed to countless comic-related books and magazines.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
If you can, find a local bookstore, and buy there!
This book is ©2021 TwoMorrows Publishing. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED