The Great American
                Novel Act 1:
                the danger Act 2: rising action Act 3: the ball Act 4: crisis Act 5: triumph the Franklinverse part 2, act 1:
                the new danger


The epic of gods and men, 1941 to 1984

1941: the first Avenger

The Kirbyverse began in the first issue of Captain America, back in 1941, in a backup story about mankind's prehistoric past. The boy called Tuk was the first Avenger. He was in search of Attilan, home of the gods. Later Kirby would introduce us to other Avengers, and Attilan would be developed within the pages of the Fantastic Four and then Thor.


Attilan 2

Like Thor, Tuk thought he was an ordinary person until later he learned he was a man-god all along. This can be seen as the theme of Kirby's epic: the links between gods and men.

Atlantis and the Kree-tee

Attilan is beyond the city of Atlantis, which is itself beyond the city of Crete: all three locations feature in the same story.


Let us look closer: Attilan, meaning "home of the gods" could be a variant pronunciation of Atlant, meaning "bearer of the heavens" (hence the Greek name Atlas, and Atlantis meaning daughter of Atlas). The historical Atlantis was probably the island of Crete. The ancient Greeks traced their culture to Minoan Crete, but it was destroyed by a tidal wave caused by a volcanic eruption. This gave rise to the legend of Atlantis sinking below the waves. In Greek, Crete is spelled with a "k". Its inhabitants were called the Kree-tee. Kirby later referred to the space gods as the Kree. The first Kree representative, the Sentry, was on an island which was then destroyed, reminding us of ancient Crete.

1958: Challengers of the Unknown

Throughout his life, Kirby created stories about men seeking for the unknown, and challenging the gods. Perhaps the best known example is "Challengers of the Unknown". Created for DC comics, it features a team of four adventurers who risked their lives to discover "what's out there?"


When Kirby left DC he continued his Challengers stories with Marvel, and just changed names and minor details. This is from a legal deposition by his son, Neil Kirby:   

Q What information, if any, do you have concerning the creation of The Fantastic Four?

A In discussions with my father The Fantastic Four basically was a derivative of the, from what he told me, basically he came up with the idea just as a derivative from the Challengers of the Unknown that he had done several years earlier.

This is obvious when we compare the two titles: both concern a team of four adventurers in purple flying suits (see FF issue 1) with a similar origin, similar adventures, similar opponents, similar powers, etc. Except this time Kirby added a woman, Sue Storm, who could be one of the women we see on the first page of the first Challengers story.

Sue in Challengers


1962: Thor

Through the Fantastic Four we meet Attilan, and then Galactus. These stories continue in the pages of Thor. In Thor, Kirby focused in more detail on the gods, by retelling the old Norse legends.

Tales of Asgard

Thor was a character Kirby featured many times, in different variations. Captain America 1, which introduced Tuk, also featured "Hurricane, son of Thor". Other Kirby Thors featured in his stories "The Magic Hammer" and an episode of the Sandman. Most of the elements in the 1960s Thor are present in these earlier versions.

1967: men become gods

In 1967, Kirby wrote a story about scientists creating their own citadel, their own version of Attilan, in order to create their own gods:


The scientists were heroes. The story was not about good versus bad, but about mankind's yearning for something greater. But Stan Lee, Kirby's editor at the time, changed the dialog so it became a simple "bad guy scientists" story. From that point, Kirby held back his best ideas from Marvel, and looked for a chance to continue his stories elsewhere. He had the FF retire, and wound up his Thor stories with Ragnarök, the death of the gods. Of course Kirby still had to make a living, so in the comics they immediately came back, but the stories from that point were simpler and less impressive.

1971: The New Gods

In 1971, Kirby left for DC again. Here he continued his Thor stories with what happened after Ragnarök: the death of the old gods led to the rise of new gods.

New Gods

Of course for legal reasons he had to change the names, but just compare the stories: it is clear that one leads directly into the other. This is how the Marvel story ends:


This is how the DC story begins:

New gods

And in case there is any doubt, we have this little scene. When sifting through the wreckage of the old gods, in Forever People 5, they find the unmistakable helmet of Thor.

Forever People

1976: The Eternals

Kirby was prevented from finishing his New Gods as planned: Kirby wanted a definite ending, then the story could move forward, but DC wanted them to carry on unchanged forever. This and other frustrations caused him to return to Marvel, where he created The Eternals. Here we get the history of gods and men, and we clearly see the higher gods for the first time, returning to judge the Earth, much as the Sentry expected his own masters to return.

Sentry - gods return

The same year that the Eternals came out, 1976, Kirby began writing the next stage in the saga, Captain Victory. But he didn't add the art and finishing touches until 1984.

1984: Captain Victory

Captain Victory

The origin story in issues 11-13 reveals that Captain Victory is the son of Orion, and hence grandson of Darkseid. Here we see the captain on Orion's iconic transport:

like Orion

Captain Victory is a story about the nature of immortality. It finally brings the epic to a close: man seeks the gods, man fights the gods, man becomes the gods. And in the final issue, man is only happy being man, play-fighting with his friends.

Captain Victory

That final issue plays with a classic novel, recalling the epic nature of Kirby's own work, and his earliest work adapting classics before he hit the big time with Captain America 1. Thus the story comes full circle.

And what is Kirby's vision of the long term?The eventual future of mankind? After writing New Gods, Kirby produced Kamandi, about the world after a future disaster, where animals once more rule. Kamandi is like Tuk once more: again, we have come full circle. Although told to make Kamandi like Planet of the Apes, a movie Kirby never saw, it is closer to Kirby's earlier story, pre Apes, called "The Last Enemy!"

the last enemy
This story featured many of Kirby's favourite tropes: the urge to grow and build, wars of total destruction, tiger men, underground tunnels, etc.. Its title that comes from 1 Corinthians 15:25: the last enemy to be destroyed is death. The story features dogs, the one race to understand that pack life, cooperation, is better than being enemies. Ant his, a hope for an end to the cycle of killing. The story ends with dogs being given the atom bomb in an effort to achieve final peace. As to what happens next, the story leaves it for the reader to decide.


Kirby wrote many kinds of stories, but his epic of gods and men is a single story. Tuk, the first Avenger, sought for Attilan. The Challengers became the Fantastic Four and they found Attilan. This merged with Thor, which led to New Gods, which led to Captain Victory. Men sought the gods, found the gods, became gods, and learned in the end that the nature of men is to be men.

The Great American Novel