Who Thinks This?


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Kirby’s Fourth World = Star Wars? I know all the arguments, but I’ve only heard them from die-hards. Here in Pittsburgh I’ve learned  that the theory is alive and well. So, really, who thinks this? Does this mean something to you people out there? Frank says: “Darkseid? The Dark Side? The Source? The Force? Just sayin…” Tom Scioli and Bill Boichel agree. Thoughts?


Confused in Pittsburgh

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36 Responses to “Who Thinks This?”
  1. Chris D. says:

    Don’t forget Mark Moonrider, or whatever his name is. Total rip off, but is it any surprise? Star Wars is slow, plodding, no finesse. Purely taken from Kirby, Joseph Campbell/Carl Jung. George Lucas is good at making money, but that’s about it.

  2. T. Hodler says:

    Yes, finally another edition of Dapper Dan’s SuperMovies column!

  3. patrick ford says:

    Since I’m uninterested in the movie, I have little interest in the topic, but I did find this information awhile back.
    The Ronin Ro book Tales To Astonish contains several pages on the Lucas/Kirby connection. It first points out that at the time of Kirby’s 70’s Black Panther there were people who thought it was old fashioned or worse. The book then points out some of the close similarities in the basic premise of Jack’s Black Panther book and the Indiana Jones character which appeared a few years later. Boiled down this would be a hero who engages in adventures generated by a search for archaeological treasures.
    The book also describes a dinner between Ed Summer owner of Supersnipe, his silent partner at Supersnipe George Lucas, and Roy Thomas. Lucas tried to pitch the idea of a Marvel comic book based on Star Wars (remember the comic book preceded the movie) without success to Thomas. Thomas is quoted as saying he wasn’t interested in Star Wars, but came away from the dinner believing that Lucas had been reading Kirby comics, “I don’t know if George Lucas ever quite admitted it, but I got the impression that there was a little influence there.”
    The book then moves on to quote Mike Thibodeaux recalling Jack’s own feelings that a number of things had been borrowed ( Moonrider/Skywalker, Older mentor:Himon/Obi-Wan Ken-obi, Dark Side/Darkseid, Light saber/Mega-Rods, and quite a few more.) Kirby is quoted as saying he didn’t think the resemblances were great enough that he felt he was owed anything other than an acknowledgment from Lucas.

    • Scott Rowland says:

      Ronin Ro’s book is pretty sloppy with easily checked facts, so take anything it says with a huge grain of salt.

      I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Lucas read Kirby comics, but I don’t see any “smoking gun” for any of the concepts that could only have come from Kirby. I mean, when the major aspects people point to are a disfigured villain, a son fighting his father, and a mysterious mystic power — those aren’t exactly uncommon story elements.

  4. mike hill says:

    I believe the Fourth World was one of many sources for Lucas. Jack acknowledged the influence in a late issue of Black Panther (#9?) with a movie shoot in the desert.

  5. Jon Hastings says:

    Also: how Kirby handles the reveal of Orion’s parentage and the idea that he’s always tempted by his dark side.

  6. Lane Milburn says:

    A much more significant source was Dune, or is this too obvious to mention? I read somewhere that Herbert and Asimov were members of some “society of scifi writers against Star Wars”.

  7. Rob Clough says:

    The plot of Star Wars comes from Kurosawa’s “The Hidden Fortress”, of course. R2D2 and C3P0 were directy borrows from that film as well.

    The Source/Force, Darkseid/Darth Vader, heroic son having a villainous father thing are all pretty obvious tips to the Fourth World.

    As for Indy Jones, the visuals of that film were lifts from old adventure serials, though I guess the rollicking adventure stuff was similar to what T’Challa and company were doing at the time.

  8. Jeet Heer says:

    This is a rich topic, one I’m thinking of doing a post on. But for now, I’ll make this point: Lucas’s debt to Kirby existed on many levels. The most obvious level would be the parallels that Dan and Pat Ford point to (“Moonrider/Skywalker, Older mentor:Himon/Obi-Wan Ken-obi, Dark Side/Darkseid, Light saber/Mega-Rods” etc., etc.).

    But there is something deeper at work as well. Kirby was one of the great syncretic artists in pop culture. Because he worked in so many genres in his early career (superhero, war, romance, westerns, etc.) he learned to mix and match different genre tropes, creating in effect a new genre: the superhero sci-fi epic (or to be even more concise, Kirby himself became a genre). I think that’s the main lesson Lucas learned from reading the Kirby/Lee comics of the 1960 and the Kirby comics of the 1970s: that you can be creative by mashing together different genre tropes. That’s what Kirby did in the New Gods saga (which was superheroes plus sci-fi speculation plus the apocalpse plus gangster stories plus so much more). And that’s what Lukas did with Star Wars (which was Kirby plus the Aurthurian Romance plus a buddy comedy plus a World War II flying ace story plus Dune plus much more).

    Kirby liberated Lucas to throw everything into the blender. That’s much hunch, anyways.

  9. Jeet Heer says:

    At least one major scene from the Indiana Jones saga (the one with Indy running towards the camera as a giant rolling rock comes hurtling down) came from a Carl Barks duck story. I seem to recall that either Lucas or Spielberg said as much.

  10. Alan Choate says:

    Have you been reading about this guy? George Lucas’ collaborator and producer for the first two Star Wars movies… emphasis, the first two. He’s also very knowledgeable about comics. I found the interview very absorbing.



  11. Tom Scioli says:

    I’ve gone back and forth on this topic a number of times in the past decade. When I read Dune I thought “Lucas ripped off Dune.” When I read the Fourth World I thought “Lucas ripped off Kirby” When I read Le Mort D’Arthur (D’arth!!!) I thought “Lucas ripped off Malory.” Eventually I realized, how much of a rip-off could it be? If you rip-off one thing it’s a rip-off. If you capture the essence of a bunch of different things, it’s not a rip-off, it’s synthesis. It requires skill, imagination and vision. Lucas cops to the samurai movies and the Arthur stuff . He’s never once mentioned Kirby. So I figured Kirby is part of the stew Lucas brewed, a part he doesn’t mention (for whatever reason).

    However…………I’ve recently gotten to the point where I even question that. The thing that did it was when I read the various rough drafts that led up to the final Star Wars script. You see Lucas’s story slowly emerge, he follows different blind alleys, revises and combines characters. You see the final story emerge organically. I really do think that Lucas honestly and coincidentally arrived at a work that is very similar to The Fourth World.

    Whether it’s true or not, whether it’s a rip-off, part of a melange of influences, conscious or unconscious, Jungian synchronicity or pure coincidence it’s an endlessly fascinating subject, for me at least.


      “Whether it’s true or not, whether it’s a rip-off, part of a melange of influences”

      is there an off-hand dune-pun happening here???

  12. patrick ford says:

    When it comes to source material I always say it can all be traced back to Neanderthal campfires.
    It really is of no concern to me if Kirby influenced Lucas.
    Star Wars owes the same debt to Hidden Fortress as Leone owes to Yojimbo, but Yojimbo is a dead rip from Red Harvest.
    None of that matters; it’s the man in the suit, who is the man, not the suit.
    I saw Star Wars once, and wanted to crawl out of the theater so no one could see me.
    Kirby’s Fourth World is as good as something could possibly be.

  13. Tom Scioli says:

    Quick rundown of the Fourth World/Star Wars similarities, for anyone unfamiliar with the argument:

    Living computers that speak in electronic pinging noises rather than speech, and the characters understand what they’re saying. Mother box helps Mister Miracle and Oberon out of the X-Pit the same way R2 helps the Star Warriors out of the trash compactor pit.

    The Source/Force

    Compare the Emperor’s goading of Luke from his throne in ROTJedi with Darkseid’s goading of Orion in NG#2. Both climax with the hero being attacked with electrical energy bolts.

    Seagrin and Vader’s funerals.

    The banter between the FP before launching into hyperspace with the banter aboard the Millenium Falcon before doing the same. When piloting their vehicle Mark Moonrider and Big Bear relate to each other in much the same way that Han Solo and Chewbacca relate to each other.

    I am your father!

    Both were referred to as a Saga, a trilogy (in lettercols 4W was sometimes referred to as a trilogy, sometimes as a tetralogy)

    Hero needs to learn to control his anger before he can triumph.

    Darkseid/Dark Side

    Death Star/ Apokolips

    The planet Coruscant in the prequels resembles Apokolips even more closely.

    Compare Darth Maul’s face make-up with Mokarri’s in Olsen.

    Clone factories.

    An army of fascistic armored soldiers, Stormtroopers, Justifiers, the Dog Soldiers of Apokolips, Granny’s troopers.

    The floating city.

    The Wagnerian feel that both had.

    Learning to tap into the Source and learning to tap into the Force.

    Star Wars has so much of the feel of The Pact and Himon.

    The scene at the end of Himon where Darkseid tries to tempt MM into joining him. Let me destroy and recreate you in my image. The echo between this scene and Luke and Vader’s confrontation in ROTJ is really strong. And both end with the hero screaming his defiance before throwing himself into a hissing vortex.

    The chase through an asteroid field in New Gods #3 and the one in Empire strikes back.

    The villain with a code of honor: Darkseid, Kanto, Darth Vader.

    Palace intrigue and familial connections between the heroes and villains.

    The combat code.

    Galactic bounty hunters: Devilance and Boba Fett.

    The combination of sci-fi and hippy-era mysticism.

    Ewok village and the Hairies’ treehouse.

    The Himon-Metron-Darkseid trinity at the end of MM#9 and the Yoda-Kenobi-Aniken trinity at the end of ROTJedi.

    Kenobi seems like a combo of Highfather and Metron.

    Kenobi tells Luke there’s a greater teacher than himself, Yoda. We find out in MM #9 that there is a greater mind than Metron, the true innovator Himon.

    Infinity Man frozen in a block of ice. Han Solo frozen in carbonite.

    Going back into the backstory of the characters in later installments of the series. Kirby did a better job of it, because his prequels contained genuine surprises and revelations about the characters.

    Every background character in Darkseid’s retinue looks like they’d fit right in with Lucas’s universe.

    The youthful sci-fi cowboys of the Forever People compared with the youthful sci-fi cowboys of Star Wars.

    Mark Moonrider rescues Beautiful Dreamer from Darkseid (in a very Darth-Vadery outfit, complete with cape). Luke Skywalker rescues Princess Leia from Darth Vader.

    Some non-4W Kirby similarities:

    Darth Vader/Doc Doom

    There’s no getting around that dinner table scene. It’s almost identical to the one in the Fantastic Four “The Prisoner” issues.

    Tode from The Eternals and Jabba the Hutt.

    Tracking Site from Kamandi and the Death Star.

    The sequence where the colonizers freeze Thor in a crytal block and push him through the hallway, compared to the sequence in Empire where they push the frozen Han Solo through a hallway.

  14. […] 27, 2010 at 1:16 am (Uncategorized) Vaguely interesting comics comics post shed this gem of an interview. Gary Kuntz, the producer and sound editor behind American Graffiti, […]

  15. James says:

    Didn’t Kirby suffer enoungh being ripped off by Marvel?…now you want to blame him for the Star Wars movies too. The first one was fun and silly…. but the succeeding ones became less and less so. What a terrible idea to build up to the origin of the villian. The last ones were absolutely miserable, and worse, boring. Zzzzz.

  16. brad mackay says:

    If I remember correctly, Lucas has openly admitted his many influences — including that fact that Kirby played a big role. But I think Darth Vader was inspired by Dr. Doom — not Darkseid. You know — the whole helmet thing.

  17. Tom Scioli says:

    Lucas has acknowledged every influence except Kirby. Darth Vader has Doom’s looks, but he’s got Darkseid’s mojo. He’s the hero’s dad for starters.

  18. patrick ford says:

    Yeah, Lucas seems more interested in describing what he might see as status influences, like Kurosawa, and Joseph Campbell than he does in crediting a lowly comic book artist.
    Really wouldn’t mind seeing Kirby (now his estate) getting some kind of financial compensation, but I actually cringe at the idea of people associating Kirby with the current versions of the characters he created or any of the movies.

  19. James says:

    If we must, there’s the one with the Ewoks (forgot which film), wherein Vader’s forces use flying chairs in a furious scene in the forest, quite like those of the Red Skull’s troops in an excellent Kirby sequence in Captain America #10? (sorry, don’t have it to hand) , you know, vehicles designed so the unlucky rider crashes into trees nuts-first.

  20. Tom Scioli says:

    Captain America #102 page 13.

  21. DaveBradbury says:

    I remember someone years ago explaining why Lucas kept on about old movie serials and never Kirby was because he was avoiding possible litigation.

  22. Ronin Ro says:

    My Book isn’t “sloppy.” It’s factual. Deal with it. Thanks.

  23. Jeet Heer says:

    Hey Ronin Ro: now that you’re here could you respond at greater length to the critique of your book that’s been made (i.e. that it doesn’t give its sources). I’m very interested in Kirby. I bought your book but haven’t read it yet and have had mixed reports on it, so it would be good to hear your side of this story at greater length.

  24. patrick ford says:

    The book is not really sloppy, but it isn’t necessarily factual either.
    An author can accurately report what he is told, but what he is told may not be factual.
    Take an example based on the subject here.
    I had read that around 1976 Magazine Management came very close to shuttering it’s
    comic book publishing division (Marvel), and that the Star Wars comic book “saved” Marvel. Jim Shooter said that in an online interview, and Roy Thomas said the same thing in a print interview.
    So it looks like there is corroboration, BUT.
    Recently I had the chance to ask Roy about this, and he said he had no idea, he was just repeating what he’d heard Shooter say. So it turned out what looked like two people who would know saying the same thing turns out to be one person.
    This kind of thing happens all the time in comics (and everywhere else) journalism.
    Another example is Martin Goodman playing golf with Jack Liebowitz, and asking Stan Lee to create a super-team based on what Liebowitz told him about the success of the Justice League comic book.
    As it turns out there is no record of Goodman ever telling that story, but Jack Liebowitz when interviewed specifically denied it, saying he never socialized with Goodman, and had never played golf with him, yet the story is so entrenched you still see it being repeated today.

  25. patrick ford says:

    BTW, The book does give it’s sources in the stream of the text, they are quoted.
    What it lacks is an index, footnotes, appendix, and full bibliography.
    All that tends to greatly limit it’s value. At a minimum the book needs an index.

  26. Ronin Ro says:

    I interviewed most of the people I wrote about (even Eisner, Evanier, Theakston, and Schwartz). As for no index: I had a tight deadline… and spent my time working to expand the book… and offer readers more for their money… sensed this would be the only time a book like this would be published…. and I was right. Hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much I did reporting this story.

  27. Scott Rowland says:

    I stnad by my characterization of Ronin Ro’s book as sloppy. I don’t have my copy handy, but some of the examples of sloppiness are noted in the reviews at Amazon.com. Many are easily checked facts. If those are wrong, it raises questions as to what else is incorrect. A good fact checker and editor would have improved the book immensely.

  28. Scott Rowland says:

    I also “stnad” by my own sloppiness and lack of proofreading before posting.

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