Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Forever People 9: This is it---Atomically Re-shifted!

This is the most conventional issue of The Forever People, with its "Murder, She Wrote" tone and guest-appearance by Deadman. Yet I still find this and the next issue very interesting because Kirby, without explicitly stating anything, reveals the origins of The Forever People.

We begin in that grimmest and least personal of places, the morgue. If nothing else, a morgue represents the institutionalization of a lack of spirituality, where corpses and their organs are treated like paperwork, efficiently filed and stacked in drawers. And in this place, we find another dehumanized-by-the-establishment sort, "Doc" Gideon, a name meaning "feller of trees"…perhaps referring to how his experiments are meant to topple the concept of the Tree of Life. He’s a thin, nervous, Boris Karloff-type, trying to vitalize a patchwork of corpses. He fails, yet his experiment summons the spirit of Deadman, who’s convinced that his mission (to bring his own killers to justice) has not yet been fulfilled.

The story shifts to The Forever People preventing the savings of an old women (who happens to be both Gideon’s landlady, and a former Circus fortuneteller who witnessed Deadman’s slaying) from being stolen. Here, the teens are introduced to the concept of human-level values (both the value of the liberties that the theives not only infringe upon but also risk for themselves, and the value of money).
Gideon has noticed this scene, and tried to avoid it so he won’t have to talk to his landlady. With Deadman following him, he goes to his room to see that The Forever People have moved in next door to him. Here, Kirby gives us two tidbits about The Forever People’s origins. First, when told by the landlady that she should be wearing finer clothes, Beautiful Dreamer wonders why she should bother, saying that her "body is merely a three-dimensional identification vehicle. It’s our ‘total-selves’ that beautify us." To the landlady, this sounds like New Age horse shit…but to these Gods, it might be a literal truth where the body is simply a corporeal instrument of a higher being. Then Serifan, after using a Cosmic Cartridge to reinvent Beautiful Dreamer’s dress, explains that one specific blue cartridge "has a strange link with the infinite" and that "it transmits…a ‘life-force.’" He uses it to animate toys on a shelf. As it’s described, this cartridge seems to have properties similar to Mother Box, yet without the soul to make it communicate. I’ll have more to say on its importance later. Gideon has observed this and devises a plan to steal the blue Cosmic Cartridge to animate his monster.

Trixie, the landlady, performs a séance for the teens and Deadman appears, causing enough of a distraction for Gideon to swipe the cartridge. In the same way that Gideon misused science to bring forth Deadman, Trixie misuses what she sees as a parlor trick to summon Deadman to her. Gideon rushes to the morgue and attaches the Cosmic Cartridge, animating the corpse.

The reanimated monster breaks out of the morgue and toddles through the streets, walking past a movie theater showing The Ghouls (perhaps a mislabeled version of the 1933 movie The Ghoul, starring Boris Karloff as a disfigured Egyptologist who has risen from the grave to find who stole a cursed jewel) and Castle of Frankenstein (which could be a stand-in for House of Frankenstein, wherein Karloff plays a doctor who, in addition to reviving Frankenstein and the Wolfman, finds Dracula at a Circus). The monster’s face is bandaged and stitches appear on the rest of his massive body, giving him a half mummy, half Frankenstein’s monster appearance.

After fighting the Forever People, the creature heads underground where he tears open pipes. Perhaps in a parody of the myth of Prometheus, the monster tries to bring fire to man in the form of an exploding gas main…but the Gods stop him, and he’s crushed under rubble. Deadman takes over the functions of the dying body and tells the teens that he has to find the man who killed him. Serifan makes him visible with a Cosmic Cartridge, and they promise to find him a body and find his killer.

It is Deadman’s new body, introduced in the next issue, that I think is the key to Infinity Man.
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