Jack Kirby’s The New Gods, along with its sister title The Forever People, came to an abrupt end at a fevered pitch with issue 11–cover dated October-November 1972 and published in August. In dramatic Kirby fashion, the final issue had Orion of peaceful New Genesis (but born of hostile Apokolips) recognize that he and the savage Kalibak were half-brothers, and that Darkseid was his true father.
After a stirring battle between the siblings in which Orion emerged triumphant, Kalibak was claimed by the Black Racer–a kind of Grim Reaper on flying skis. Orion stood ready to meet his father in final confrontation. However, instead of a next issue previews box there was an announcement for the first issue of Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth. The great battle between the malevolent, scheming Darkseid and his troubled, warrior son never transpired–at least not in the original series.
Kirby would, for the most part, leave his Fourth World saga behind and take Mister Miracle (the remaining title) in new a direction. He also explored new themes in The Demon and Kamandi.
Orion and the rest of the New Gods of New Genesis next appeared in Mister Miracle #18 (February-March, 1974) to attend the wedding of Scott (Mister Miracle) Free and Big Barda. Then they vanished from Earth.
However, the series returned as the appropriately titled “Return of the New Gods” in First Issue Special #13 in January of 1976 (cover dated April 1976). By that time, Kirby had returned to Marvel Comics, so the difficult creative shoes to fill were worn by plotter (and editor) Gerry Conway, scripter Denny O’Neil, and illustrator Mike Vosburg.
In that story, Darkseid resumed his search for the Anti-Life Equation after several months of nervous peace between the planets New Genesis and Apokolips. He also attuned his heartbeat to the rhythms of Earth’s sun. If Darkseid died, the sun would explode, destroying our solar system. Thus, Orion’s attempt to assassinate Darkseid was halted by Metron and Highfather. With the confrontation ended in a stalemate, the stage had been set for a dramatic rematch.
Several key Fourth World players, including Darkseid, then appeared in Secret Society of Super-Villains #2-5 (1976), with Orion nowhere in sight. In the Spring of 1977, as part of DC’s new science fiction line, the New Gods were revived in Return of the New Gods (#12, July, 1977) written by Gerry Conway and illustrated by Don Newton and Dan Adkins.
In that new series that picked up the numbering of Kirby’s series, it was revealed that Kalibak had survived his encounter with the Black Racer–but with no real explanation as to how. There was also no mention of the sun’s existence being dependent on Darkseid’s heart continually beating. That daunting plot device was either resolved, dismissed, forgotten, or yet to be put into play.
Kirby’s powerful, über-bombastic style of narrative, dialogue, and art had been replaced by Conway’s melodramatic angst–which I did not find bad (and still don’t), but I can understand why so many fans of the New Gods felt that Conway was ill-suited for a revival of the characters (although Newton and Adkins excelled). Be that as it may, Return of the New Gods appeared to be selling well.
However, it was abruptly canceled with issue #19–just short of the DC Implosion in June of 1978. The somewhat forced conclusion to the New Gods saga, which did not climax with a confrontation between Orion and Darkseid at all, was allowed to play out in the pages of Adventure Comics #459-460 (published during the summer of 1978), which was highlighted by a cameo appearance by then U.S. President Jimmy Carter, and closed out with Darkseid seemingly obliterated (no, Earth’s sun did not blow up) and Orion looking grim as ever.
With that, there would be no more returns of the New Gods in the 1970s.