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Master Villains

In 1971, Jack Kirby was writing and drawing a new creation, The Forever People, for DC Comics.  As is not uncommon among writers, Jack based just about everything he did on either people and events in his own life or those he saw on the news.  At times, the connections were obvious.  At other times, his reference points were so disguised that, even when he told me what he thought he was writing about, I could see no trace of it in the finished product.  He also did composites.  The master villain of Forever People (and its allied titles, New Gods, Mister Miracle and, for a time, Jimmy Olsen) was Darkseid — who was not based on then-President Nixon but a number of Nixon's traits, speeches and actions did inform the character.

A lesser villain who toiled in the service of Darkseid was inspired more directly by evangelist Billy Graham, who was then rather difficult to avoid on TV.  Kirby was appalled at some of Graham's apocalyptic sermons which — to Jack — were more calculated to instill fear than faith, and to stampede people into service of Graham's causes.  Jack called the foe Glorious Godfrey, the name being a Kirbyesque pun.  The comic book evangelist was "god-free" and also had some of the traits of TV pitchman Arthur Godfrey, though the main reference and the visual came from Billy Graham.  Not evident in on the pages he drew was Jack's belief — which he expressed on several occasions — that Graham and the president he counseled were both virulent anti-Semites.

A year or two ago in some interview or article, I mentioned that Jack based Glorious Godfrey on Billy Graham, and I mentioned it over in our Jack F.A.Q. section, as well.  This disclosure prompted a number of e-mails and letters from folks who said they had great respect for Rev. Graham and were shocked that Jack Kirby did not.  I explained to them that Graham's current style is quite different from the fire-and-brimstone doomsday preaching he did in the early seventies…and that while Jack might appreciate how the act has been toned down, I believe he would stand by his opinion of Billy Graham, circa 1971.

I was therefore fascinated — though perhaps unsurprised — at recent revelations from the fabled Nixon tapes.  As you can read here, Graham can be heard on several newly-released recordings from the first six months of 1972.  In them, he and Nixon are discussing their mutual distrust of Jews in high places, especially in the media.  It is exactly the kind of thing Kirby believed of the two men.  His view of them was, like his view of just about everyone and everything, right on target.

By the way: I've never quite understood the claim that the Jews control the media.  I'm Jewish and I can just barely control my TiVo.