Kirby's models: Glorious Godfrey and Billy Graham, Big Barda and Lainie Kazan, Funky Flashman and Stan Lee
In a previous post
I mentioned a hunch I had that Kirby’s character Glorious Godfrey, from the Forever People
series, might have been based on the Reverend Billy Graham.
As it turns out my guess has factual support. In the Jack Kirby Collector #32, there is an article by Mark Evanier, where the Kirby biographer discusses the real life models who inspired Kirby’s characters. And sure enough Graham was the model for Glorious Godfrey (the above photo is from Evanier’s article).
Godfrey is the smiling lackey of Darkseid. As Evanier noted on another occasion
, “the style and substance of [Darkseid] were based on just about every power-mad tyrant Kirby had ever met or observed, with a special emphasis on Richard Milhous Nixon.”
I think the Godfrey/Darkseid relationship is an example of Kirby’s ability to use the operatic form superhero comics to create allegories that mirrored, in however distorted or over-the-top form, genuine human issues. It’s hard to read transcripts of Nixon and Graham talking without thinking about Darkseid and Godfrey.
Here is an excerpt of a taped conversation
where Nixon and Graham are talking about Jewish-Americans, who both the President and the preacher hated (an especially pertinent conversation considering Kirby’s ethnic origins):
Graham: This stranglehold has got to be broken or the country’s going down the drain.
Nixon: You believe that?
Graham: Yes, sir.
Nixon: Oh, boy. So do I. I can’t ever say that, but I believe it.
Graham: No, but if you get elected a second time, then we might be able to do something.
Kirby knew evil when he saw it, and he used that insight in drawing his comics.