[Andy Bentley continues his issue by issue look at Jack Kirby's New Gods. For more in the series, see the labels at the bottom or the toolbar on the right. I ask a brief question about superhero comics and humor at the bottom.]
“The Guardian Fights Again!”
2. The space-time continuum
3. Don Rickles!?
All of these things are in this comic book. Well not specifically #3. Don Rickles, the infamous insult comic known as Mr. Warmth is merely referred to. More specifically, his body double Goody Rickles, a researcher at the Daily Planet..... *sigh* I suppose we better start at the beginning.
With the DNAlien debacle behind them, the guests of the Life project decide it’s time to return to Metropolis to investigate Morgan Edge, their number one suspect behind the Evil Factory. The cloned Guardian’s request to visit Metropolis is granted despite an abnormality found in his brain however the junior newsboys are ordered to remain at the project after one of them has developed cold-like symptoms. Possible crippling brain tumor versus a case of the sniffles? You be the judge. So Superman, Jimmy and The Guardian speed past the now abandoned wild area and arrive in Metropolis. Superman takes an alternative route to discretely transform into Clark Kent so he may feign excitement upon Jimmy’s return.
Edge has just returned from his planned escape of last issue's intended nuclear explosion and his secretary brings him up to speed. She explains Jimmy and Clark are demanding a meeting to which Edge denies. Edge then asks how the contract negotiations are going with Don Rickles. The Secretary shares her affection for the real life comic and explains that if Rickles signs there will be 2 Rickles at the broadcasting company. Edge seemingly doesn’t remember that they have a man who works in their research department that shares a face and last name with a famous comedian they are trying to sign. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, doing back-end, armageddon level deals with the leader of Apokolips probably takes up most of his time. As if on cue, Goody Rickles enters, stage left.
The appearance of this Don Rickles doppelgänger is quite a bizarre distraction. He’s clad in the most traditional superhero tights and cape which he was conned into by his fellow coworkers. It’s apparent that the true reason is to give the Rickles analog proper adventuring attire. His disposition is a lighter version of the comedian’s act and his primary motive seems to be to usurp Clark Kent as a Planet reporter. But he’s too close to the real Rickles and the insertion of a real life character into this “DC comics-via-Kirby” world ruins the fantasy. Also I’m at a loss as to why Kirby didn’t use the real Rickles. That’d at least be a cheesy cameo on the level of the Avengers being on Letterman. This just defies all logic unless Rickles was cloned at the Life Project. I used to assume an explanation was forthcoming but after several wide coincidences and unexplained origins, I’m less optimistic.
Edge realizes there’s a way to take care of all his meddling Planet employees and sends them all to investigate a reported UFO landing. This UFO is of course from Apokolips and is triggered to trap it’s passengers between dimensions. Rickles is the first to arrive and becomes incensed when his supposed competition arrives. Clark goes in the UFO to investigate and Rickles mistakenly traps him within and the UFO vanishes into the void. Back on earth, unnamed Apokoliptian goons descend upon Jimmy, The Guardian and Goody. Despite their efforts and some unintended brawling by Goody, the three are captured when Bruno “ugly” Mannheim gets the jump on Olsen. Instead of offing the three as Edge ordered, Mannheim forces a sit down dinner between the four of them. The dinner quickly heads south as Mannheim ignites the table and explains the three have ingested pyro-granulate which will eventually burn them up from the inside. This sequence is an appropriate finish to this bizarre issue. The panel of flames and Mannheim's distorted face looks crude and decidedly not Kirby. It would be more appropriate in an early golden age book. There’s also the last panel which reveals the faux-dinner the three were having was actually taking place in a futuristic winnebago which we’re to assume is Apokoliptean.
Some research yielded the origin of the Rickles appearance: Mark Evanier and Steve Sherman were fiends of Kirby and all three enjoyed the comedy stylings of Don Rickles. Mark and Steve pitched the idea to Kirby that Don Rickles would make a three-panel cameo where he would deliver a trademark comedic insult to the Man of Tomorrow, Superman. However the results were decidedly different. The cameo is indulgent, but Kirby is the King and had nearly free reign on all his titles. This leads to the larger question if increased editorial direction or a collaborator on the level of Stan Lee might have helped improved the Fourth World titles. However that’s a question I cannot answer at this juncture. This issue merely confirms my opinion that the Olsen title is the least focused of the four books and the Rickles appearance ads to it’s bizarre, “throw it on the wall and see what sticks” attitude.
“Kirby’s Fourth World of...” has been added to the title on the cover.
The story’s title, “The Guardian Fights Again!” is quite misleading
Will Kirby come back to the abnormality in the Guardian’s head?
Retraction from my last Jimmy Olsen review, Mannheim is his own character which is represented in Superman: The Animated Series
The less of the Newsboy Legion, the better
pyro-granulate appears to be a piece of fiction
Sending Superman into an unknown piece of time and space is a pretty good tactic. Take note, villains of Metropolis
This is basically my only exposure to Don Rickles other than Letterman appearances
[Wordsworth and Milton were major poets that both lacked a sense of humor. Superhero Comics are a weird place to get jokes off, partly because the genre demands we take somewhat seriously very silly things, including guys flying around in their underwear with the loosest of scientific explanations. The introduction to Final Crisis, for example, describes how hilarious the opening narration is, but that is a kind of self-aware bombast that is very different from trying to put a comedian in your story. (As a side note, a friend of mind pointed out that reviewers sometimes complain about the lack of humor in Watchmen -- but Alan Moore killed a character called The Comedian right there at the opening, so there you go). Warren Ellis's Next Wave is broad comedy, and Matt Fraction is very tongue in cheek -- what are good examples of funny superhero comics?]