Fascism In The Fourth World:
An examination of the Third Reich's similarities to the conflict of the gods
by and © Jerry Boyd
Kirby Collector #22
Fascism In The Fourth World
An examination of the Third Reich's similarities to the conflict of the gods,
by Jerry Boyd
So much can be read into Jack Kirby's Fourth World opus that subsequent readings
over time only add to the genius of this unfinished, yet endlessly entertaining
masterpiece. The beautifully-orchestrated interplay of technology, intrigue,
spirituality, biological engineering, etc. can all be commented on in depth,
but one of the most fascinating aspects to me in all of this was Kirby's take
on Nazi history as it was presented in the world of Apokolips.
Kirby had been a soldier in WWII serving in General George Patton's Third Army
which became world-renowned for its crushing breakthroughs on the German defenses
after D-Day. Like any other infantryman, he witnessed firsthand the horrors
of war, and had seen or learned afterwards the terrors the S.S. had kept hidden:
The extermination camps.
The Nazis had threatened a world, and for a time had seemed unbeatable. Their
philosophies, use of technology, new approaches to warfare and ethnicity, etc.
seduced a significant part of their nation, and sadly, continue to inspire new
worshippers to this day. Years after Hitler's "thousand-year Reich"
fell in May 1945, comics creators would create fictional would-be world conquerors
like the Yellow Claw, Magneto, and Doctor Doom. Older characters like Fu Manchu
and Dr. Mabuse would be revamped for a post nuclear-age movie crowd and a cruel,
calculating scientist/despot named Dr. No would calmly tell super-spy James
Bond how he planned to plunge the world into WWIII in the first of the Ian Fleming-based
film adventures. Kirby had spent the better part of the '50s co-plotting and
drawing monsters and madmen who ate, slept, and breathed tyranny; but just as
the world couldn't (and shouldn't) forget the Big One, neither could he.
The Darkseid drawing is a concept drawing for the Super Powers toy line.
Art © Jack Kirby.
Hitler & Darkseid
Hitler, the ultimate villain of the 20th century, is mirrored somewhat in Darkseid,
the "ultimate" - period. In writings on and recollections of the Fuehrer,
his desire for war is apparent. In his book Mein Kampf, the young Hitler expresses
his desire for a large Germanic living space - Lebensraum - which would take
place not in colonial possessions overseas, but in Europe. What if the Europeans
(the present possessors) object? "Then the law of self-preservation goes
into effect; and what is refused to amicable methods, it is up to the fist to
take." He goes on to write: "Mankind has grown great in eternal struggle,
and only in eternal peace does it perish..."
Darkseid is the archenemy of peace. "Wielder of holocaust! Disciple of
power and death!" Orion describes him as he stands before the demon's statue
in New Gods #1. Kirby makes Darkseid's worldview less complicated (and wisely
so) and gives him three main objectives:
1) The acquisition of power (leadership of Apokolips) - New Gods #7
2) War with New Genesis (the entire tetralogy)
3) The attainment of the Anti-Life Equation (one attempt thwarted in Forever
Like Hitler, Darkseid is cruel, manipulative, charismatic, and aloof. It has
been said about Hitler that he had no "real" friends, only cronies,
hangers-on, and worshippers who sought to curry his favor for personal reasons.
Hitler had a good intuitive sense about his associates, and after releasing
the barbaric nature of his followers, sat back in the position of leader/warlord
in efforts to twist the world into fitting his monstrous vision. Hitler took
the undercurrent of anti-semitism, ethnic prejudices (against Slavs and Gypsies),
political mistrusts (against Communists and outsider democracies), and gave
those frustrated, impoverished, brutal, and sometimes perverted members of his
Nationalist Socialist Party a slow, but steady reign of terror which ended in
the Nazification of Germany.
In Kirby's writing, Darkseid's agenda needs no great amount of time. The "power
beings" of Apokolips are inherently evil, their planet having been "saturated
with the cunning and evil which was once a sorceress." Evil is manifested
in many types: Desaad and Kalibak are tormentors, Kanto's an assassin, Granny
Goodness and Wonderful Willik are lesser tyrants, and even Mantis desires a
"share of the booty here (Earth)." Like Hitler, Darkseid gives free
rein to the evil in his cohorts in order to facilitate his gaining of "the
ability to control all free will!"
While the Fuehrer and the ruler of the shadow planet inspire respect (and terror)
from their accomplices, true love eludes them. Hitler's great love was his niece,
Geli Raubal, who committed suicide in 1931, after quarreling with her lover/uncle.
To the Nazi princes Adolf confessed forever afterward that she was the only
woman he ever loved. The core of Hitler grew ever colder after her death.
Darkseid was denied an early love in his life. Suli died mysteriously as a
result of court intrigue. She is mentioned briefly in New Gods #11, but without
affection by her paramour. Her death may have hardened the heart of the ruler
of the dark world. Tigra and Darkseid are placed together briefly in New Gods
#7, but "irreconcilable differences" are shown between them, and Darkseid
has her whisked away in continued exile after announcing his plans for Orion.
Darkseid's two sons are extensions of his plans: Orion, part of a political
pact, and Kalibak as a brutal warrior/enforcer. He is not warm or friendly to
either. Hitler was friendly, playful, but not warm toward the children he knew.
He saw children as an extension of the "state," and the state's future
would be manifested in tall, athletic, blond barbarian/soldiers that would dominate
the world. The egos of the two leaders would not permit a real heir to the positions
of power that they had mapped out for themselves.
Creatures Of Conflict
Aside from the Hitler/Darkseid similarities, two other characters stand out
in comparison. Dr. Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Germany's Minister of Propaganda, was
one of the Fuehrer's most trusted henchmen and an important personage in the
brainwashing of the German and Austrian peoples. Goebbels staged Nazi Party
rallies, art exhibits, oversaw film productions, made speeches, and generally
oversaw the "selling" of National Socialist ideology to the masses.
Later, when the war would go badly, the "bloodthirsty noncombatant"
would call for German deserters to be shot.
In short, he sold Hitler's brand of "Anti-Life." Glorious Godfrey,
Darkseid's pompous preacher, is his counterpart. Godfrey (Forever People #3)
sends out the "Justifiers," suicidal human bombs who strike out at
those resistant to their philosophy. Godfrey whips people into a frenzy with
his sweeping oratory (like Goebbels) and then sits back to view the carnage.
Kirby even began Forever People #3 with a quote from - Adolf Hitler.
In Amazing Heroes #47 (May '84), Kirby compared Metron, "the academic
god," to Edward Teller, who developed the hydrogen bomb. "He had to
create the bomb; that was his capability, and he followed his capability."
Jack's contention is that a person has to follow his drives, his ambitions and
capabilities - and oftentimes, without thinking what it might do to the people
or world around him. Metron sets in motion some of the technology used in the
war of the gods, but he is emotionally and morally unattached. His own great
powers keep him outside of the intrigue/ turmoil/destruction of the war, and
so he simply continues on his quest to gain even more knowledge.
Jack's creation of Metron is brilliant but he may have been hitting into another
true-life characterization he was not aware of. Hitler's Minister of Armaments
and War Production, Albert Speer, was a man with similarities to Metron. Briefly,
Speer began as a young architect but received a powerful patron in Hitler (a
frustrated architect) and was given free rein to design buildings, stadiums,
museums, etc. in glory to the Reich. During the war, he was thrust into war
production and became a genius at it, frustrating the allied bombers by continuing
to keep up arms production and experimenting with new "wonder weapons."
Speer was never a "true Nazi," many claimed, just a deluded man caught
up in his job. Jack would rightly say Speer followed his capabilities. Speer
would say in his memoirs that he never stopped to ask about the extermination
camps or ponder what a Hitlerian world would be like.
Jack Kirby's assessment of Nazi Socialist ideology is clearly reflected in
the manner of life on Apokolips. Young Scott Free grows up as a cadet on the
dark planet and is constantly bombarded with platitudes of "You're not
a beast - if you kill for Darkseid!" and the like (Mister Miracle #6).
Indeed, the entire culture of Apokolips is on a war/death fixation and because
of this, all citizens are linked to the mindset and ambitions of its ruthless,
In 1934, Adolf Hitler exacted a sacred oath of allegiance from all officers
and men of the armed forces - to himself. In doing this, the Fuehrer became
Germany and Germany became Hitler. This bind to the highest legitimate authority
in the land took from the man his individuality, personal responsibilities,
and for many, decisions made by conscience. After a time, the war effort would
dominate all aspects of life within the Reich and millions of Germans would
share the final fate of their leader.
The New Gods are mysteriously linked to the prophesying Source (the closest
thing to an omnipotent spirit in their system). Even Metron is in awe of its
secrets and power. The Source is connected to the Mother Box, an invaluable
instrument to the "ultimates," giving them protection, comfort, travel
coordinates, and more. Izaya the Inheritor, at a low point in his life, accepts
the Source as an alternative to war and with it, begins a new era of peace and
contentment in the world of New Genesis. Though the Supertowners have no great
understanding of the magnificent, fiery hand which appears to them at times,
they know that the Source is wise, good, and merciful.
On the shadow world, the Source is rarely acknowledged. In New Gods #6 (1984),
a scientist observes, "Were I on New Genesis, sire, I would believe that
the original personalities now reside with that mystery, the Source!"
"Careful! You tread on subversive ground," Darkseid answers. The
master of the holocaust will abide no outside power (spirituality) in his realm.
In 1941, Martin Bormann, party secretary to Hitler, said publicly, ''National
Socialism and Christianity are irreconcilable." Eight years prior to that
statement, the Nazi princes had slowly and deliberately jailed, killed, and
persecuted into silence Christian leaders and clergymen in a program to invent
a religion of the state - a religion based on culture, race, and blood. The
Christian Cross was to be removed in existing churches and superseded by the
O' Deadly Darkseid
"The face they saw was granite-hard - and the eyes in it were fixed on
the limitless! In this face was the challenge to gods and men. He was the ultimate
test for anything that lived!"
Mister Miracle #18
The above description of Darkseid says it all! Darkseid is relentless, ever-present
evil and his lifestyle reflects the worst qualities in men. Betrayal, spousal
abuse, child abandonment, assassination, destructiveness, and more are all displayed
with aristocratic elegance by the dread lord of Apokolips. The Omega Effect,
his unstoppable disintegrating eyebeams, are a logical extension to his creed
of total power. Yet, all of this malevolence is tempered masterfully by Jack.
The writer/artist keeps the real horrors off-panel, yet all the time he lets
you know this evil god and his minions are far worse than Marvel's Loki, whose
only goals are the destruction of Thor and friends and the throne of Asgard.
Darkseid wants it all.
Darkseid is complex and even majestic in his own way. He disdains destroying
the Forever People (in #8), explaining to Desaad, "Greatness does not come
from killing the young." Admonishing Desaad again (in New Gods #2), he
serves up a moment of grudging admiration for Orion, his sworn enemy.
Even Darkseid needs a companion. In New Gods #6 (1984), he sadly confides,
"I could use a friend. Desaad, perhaps." Other instances like this
show the dark lord's vulnerability or humanity, not the least of which are two
sequences in which he is finally shaken by the powers of automation (New Gods
#6, 1984) and Micro-Mark (The Hunger Dogs). The machines have outstripped the
makers and Darkseid is dismayed to be in the presence of a power more destructive
than himself. He is astute enough to know that he cannot rule the universe if
his weapons of war have destroyed it.
But, while Adolf Hitler and Darkseid sound notes of oppression and destruction,
Kirby's happy optimism is met in New Genesis. That planet is the utopian hope
of peaceful, happy, brotherly co-existence realized. Just as the allies defeated
Nazism, Darkseid too, can be defeated - if one considers his/her own heart.
The triumph of Izaya/ Highfather is echoed in his son's triumph/escape from
Apokolips and Orion's victory over his own natural impulses. Big Barda leaves
her home world (hell) for Scott Free, falls in love with him, and with love
in her heart, goes with him to New Genesis (paradise).
The Hitlers (and Darkseids) of the world must be faced, but if one overcomes,
the promise of heaven and happiness is within each person's reach, and the totalitarian
regimes of the dictator can never be completely realized.
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