[Andy Bentley continues his issue by issue look at Jack Kirby's New Gods. I make a brief comment below, that spoils the end of Final Crisis (I don't think I need spoiler warnings if the thing has gone to graphic novel, right?)]
“The Death Wish of Terrible Turpin!”
The struggle between my preexisting knowledge of the animated New Gods and the original Fourth World comics comes to a head with this, Dan Turpin’s swan song. There was no way to read this comic without the feelings resurfacing from watching Apokolips...Now!, The two part season finale of Superman: The Animated Series. For those who are unaware, Dan Turpin is featured throughout the second season of the cartoon as a Detective of the Metropolis Police Department. He’s also modeled to resemble King Kirby himself and has a sacrifice in these episodes which mirrors the one in this issue. The real life Kirby died right around the time of the episodes so the whole thing becomes a very poignant emotional event for comic book fans. This issue has some strong character moments, but they don’t have the emotional resonance that Bruce Timm and his crew provided on the small screen.
The premise to this issue is not a new one to comic book readers. Villain (Kalibak) cuts a path of destruction through the city (Metropolis) in order to bring out the hero (Orion) to do battle. Orion heads this call, with his partner Light Ray at his side. Again, I’m enjoying the dynamic between the two of them as it doesn’t fall into cliche bickering like, for instance, the DC characters Hawk and Dove. Light Ray is the answer to Orion’s mercurial temper, asking Orion to be cautious or to think things through. However Light Ray also realizes they’re at war and does not cross Orions path during this crucial battle.
Kalibak’s motivations are simple hatred towards all of New Genesis, however in the Superman animated series, they added jealousy for Darkseid’s attention. Orion still fights for New Genesis, but the glee he takes in hurting Kaliback is as apparent as it was taking down Slig in issue 5. During the battle, Orion loses his helmet and Light Ray retrieves it for him. Ashamed of his visage, Orion keeps his head pointed away from Light Ray and yells “You saw my true face!”. Of course Orion had revealed his “true face” long before the Helmet came off.
Kalibak is defeated by then end of the issue, however it takes the intervention of the mortal Dan Turpin to do so. Turpin has been keeping track of the Fourth World invasion of his city/planet and is determined to put an end to it. Like most humans, Turpin is unnerved by the otherworldly or alien, and must make the supernatural fit into his world view. His refrain throughout the issue is that he’s going to put all of the New Gods behind bars, as if a human prison could hold any of them. Despite his officers pleas, Turin continues to jump into the battle with Kaliback, firing weapons and launching grenades while his body endures a tremendous amount of damage. Fighting towards victory without concern for one’s life is something Kirby saw a lot of during wartime. He might have drawn inspiration from wild cowboys and cutthroat soldiers from the movies as well. I also saw the battle as a meta struggle between the early “cops and robbers” comics Kirby started on and the superhero comics of the Silver Age. A guy in a fedora and a gun couldn’t compete with Spiderman or the Fantastic Four with young males in this era. Yet those older comics are where Kirby got his start, so he holds them in high regard. Why else would he bring back characters like Turpin and the Newsboy Legion? I doubt this was a conscious decision on Kirby’s part, but it’s something I saw from my point of view.
It takes the full electrical output from the city to knock out Kalbak - a moment to reinforce the power of humanity. Turpin appears to survive the experience, which is something his animated counterpart does not. Because of this discrepancy, I assumed Turpin would die by the end of the comic. This doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the issue, but it does make me realize that my objectivity for this project is ultimately compromised by the interpretation of these characters in other media.
-So Orion is in Metropolis, then? Maybe that’s the reason for all the traveling in the Jimmy Olsen title. I’m hoping for an Orion/Superman team-up down the road.
-Under Kirby’s pencil, people that have been beaten up take on a rocky, cragged look to their faces - not unlike The Thing from the Fantastic Four
-As pointed out in the forward, Kalibak has been on that building, doing his best King Kong impression, since New Gods #5. Not a big error in my book
-There’s some ambiguity in Orion and Kalibak’s shared past. Orion says the two fought when they were young, however Kalibak constantly refers to him as a New Genesis being and seems shocked at the reveal of Orion’s face. Hopefully we’re in for another flashback ala The Pact!
[Dan Turpin takes on a very strange role in Morrison's Final Crisis: he becomes the unwilling human host for Darkseid and dies when he dies (i think) -- from Batman's Bullet or Superman's singing or something. It is a strange fate to give him, especially when you remember that a lot of people thought he was a stand in for Kirby. The human trying to stand against the New Gods, BECOMES the worst of them; Kirby is figured as his most horrible and despotic creation? This reading does not really work for me -- there must be a better way to read Turpin in Final Crisis: who's got it?]
[I have also been thinking about the "Modernization" of Darkseid in post-Kirby appearances and I guess the things that don't ring right with me are just the fact that more than once Darkseid appears wearing a mask, which seems beneath his Satanic grandeur, and the fact that he comes from somewhere, that he was young at some point. Morrison writes him as a cosmic force of nature (Darkseid IS), and I like that. I bet there is a great argument that Darkseid is weaker in Morrison's hands, and I am totally open to hearing it.]