The names Gog and Magog spring up time and again in the writing of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Whether they are people, nations, or monsters isn’t entirely clear and shifts from case to case. That hasn’t stopped people claiming them as the ancestors of the Goths, Irish, Finns, or a host of other ethnic groups. There are also English stories that claim the British Isles were settled by survivors of the Trojan Wars led by Brutus of Troy. Brutus had to pacify the giants that already lived on the islands and a particularly gnarly one called Gogmagog. Two wooden giants called Gog and Magog have been part of the parade of the Lord Mayor City of London for over six hundred years.
The name Magog was adopted by Mark Waid and Alex Ross for one of the protagonists in their Kingdom Come series. According to the Kingdom Come Companion the golden armour worn by Magog was designed to resemble the golden calf that the Israelites worshipped whilst Moses’ back was turned. Their Magog became the false god that a younger generation turned to during Superman’s absence. It is telling that Ross used same the person as the figure model for both Superman and Magog – the Christ and Anti-Christ figures.
When I came up with the design for Magog, I was only parodying Rob Liefeld and his design for Cable, and it wound up being a strangely attractive design despite my efforts to make it as ugly as possible. It felt like there was an element of Kirby in it, even thought it was this gross distortion of the history of superhero design.
Alex Ross, Kingdom Come Companion, page 243
The identity of Magog and the unseen Gog was not revealed in Kingdom Come. Magog was a cypher figure, a plot device that served to force Superman into retirement and then to bring him back again.
This is what a post-Liefeld Cable drawn by Leifeld looked like:
The resemblance between Cable and Magog now becomes quite obvious. However, Magog wasn’t even mentioned in Alex Ross’s original proposal for the Heroic Age (the project that became Kingdom Come). Ross told CBR that Magog was originally Mark Waid’s idea:
Now, wasn’t Magog a character created as a response to all those characters that were popping up in the early ’90s?
Yeah. That’s a character that Mark Waid invented that was really just put to me like come up with the most God awful, Rob Liefeld sort of design that you can. What I was stealing from was – really only two key designs of Rob’s – the design of Cable. I hated it. I felt like it looked like they just threw up everything on the character – the scars, the thing going on with his eye, the arm, and what’s with all the guns? But the thing is, when I put those elements together with the helmet of Shatterstar — I think that was his name — well, the ram horns and the gold, suddenly it held together as one of the designs that I felt happiest with in the entire series.
Yeah. I don’t think it ended up looking like a buffoonish character. In a way, that gold rams head affect took it to a new level of almost biblical metaphor that had a nice little touch to it. It’s the kind of thing I should have been striving, but it was much more accidental.
Waid’s Gog Vs Ross’s Gog
During the 90s a Kingdom Come spin-off series was planned called the Kingdom. It would have been set in the present day, but the ongoing series fell through leaving Waid and Ross with their own versions of Magog and Gog. Waid got to tell his version of the story first with a one-shot called New Years Evil: Gog #1. It introduced a mentally unstable survivor of the Kansas tragedy who was elevated to near godhood by a group of cosmic beings. This Gog came to see Superman as the anti-Christ and sought to turn the world against him.
Mark Waid described this Gog’s connection to Superman:
It [the first issue of the aborted Kindgom series] was the story of how Magog came to be, the story of how Gog showed up in the present-day DC Universe and transformed a young man – who was, as we would learn, the sidekick that Superman had for about six months during his first couple of years as a defender of truth, justice and the American way – the untold, forgotten story of a kid who used to be under Superman’s wing and was adopted by Gog.
Mark Waid, Kingdom Come Companion, page 226
However, the Kingdom became something different and they never got to the Magog part. Waid’s Gog later appeared a couple of times as a Superman villain.
Meanwhile, Alex Ross has meditated on his own vision of who Gog was. Even before Waid’s Kingdom mini-series was published Ross has a solid idea of connecting Magog back to the Kirby influence he had felt come through in his design. The battles in Kingdom Come have a parallel with the war of the Old Gods in Jack Kirby’s Fourth World mythology so Ross’s idea was that Gog was one of the Old Gods, a survivor of the world that split in two to become New Genesis and Apokolips.
And there will be a god, one of the old gods from that planet, who survived. He will be here on Earth, and he will be called Gog. [...] He winds up looking like this giant Kirbyesque character who has big, gold horns and a metallic body, and he in effect is this very large character who somewhat looks like the ancient ancestor of both Highfather and Darkseid mixed into one. He’s going to be foreshadowing, by his actions, the future of Kingdom Come, and Magog will be this young guy, a parody of a Rob Liefeld young superhero wanna-be, who somehow gets linked up with Gog. Gog would have been, as we were discussing when Mark and I finally got into conference over this, martyred to a degree by Magog; Magog would be driven to the point of killing him. We didn’t have a reason for why this happened, but we were taking every single thing that we could think of from Kingdom Come and trying to throw it into this to make it work.
Alex Ross, Kingdom Come Companion, page 243
That quote from Alex Ross was published in 1998 and is really close to the story that eventually showed up in Justice Society of America. The JSA title was relaunched after the Infinite Crisis and Alex Ross came on board as a cover artist and occasional co-plotter with Geoff Johns. An accident propelled the Kingdom Come Superman into the normal DC Universe where he was an observer of, and commenter on, events that led to the creation of this universe’s Magog.
The Magog Series
Johns’s JSA supplied the context of Gog’s arrival that had been missing in Ross’s original plotline. A long JSA arc dealt with the introduction of a list of new characters including Lance Corporal David Reid. Reid was the metahuman great-grandson of President Roosevelt. He was to be the “young superhero wanna-be” which Gog turned into his herald Magog.
The introduction of such an already well-known character to the DC Universe prompted DC to launch Magog in his own ongoing series written by Keith Giffen and with art by Howard Porter. Giffen told Newsarama on its launch that:
Like most comic fans, I had limited access to the character. I knew his role in Kingdom Come and the Gog story that Geoff told. But what struck me was that, underlying all the glitz and the armor and all, this guy is still a soldier. He’s David Reid, lance corporal. So I thought about how I could apply a real hardcore military mindset to a superhero and get into his head. Most, if not all, of the captions in the book are Magog’s narration, so you can really get into his head. And dealing with a hero whose moral parameters are much wider than, say, Superman’s kind of became fun.
It’s nice to play around with a hero who’s more protagonist than most heroes, maybe even antagonist. And he’s willing to do what needs to be done to get the job done. He’s not exactly Jack Bauer, and he doesn’t have that faux toughness that comes with Wolverine, but he’s definitely somebody who gets things done in his own unique and sometimes incredibly violent way. And I’ve been having a ball. I love this character. And honestly? No one is more surprised than I.
Unfortunately Magog’s series only lasted twelve issues. The series was to have been taken over by Scott Kollins with issue #10, but his multi-part arc entitled “Blown to Kingdom Come” had to be truncated to two-parts. Nevertheless, Kollins told CBR what he thought was Magog’s vital character:
I am a big fan of the “Kingdom Come” series. I felt very much the same way as the main characters and it was a great topic to put in a heroic story. I also think there were some basic concepts in that series that made Magog such an interesting character. It made him a character that we are still trying to tell stories about all these years later, similar to the recent story arc of Magog getting kicked out of the Justice Society of America. Magog works best if rubbing people the wrong way. It’s just his nature. Or his fate?
Even before Magog’s series had launched DC had been playing with the notion that he would eventually go bad and would need to be stopped. Brave and the Bold #23 featured a confrontation between Booster Gold and Magog which made the time travelling Booster aware that something about Magog’s future wasn’t right. Even his appearances in the Justice Society were bout foreshadowing how the main DC Universe was or was not diverging from the Kingdom Come possible future.
This approach was something that dated back to the original Kindgom series. In 1998 Alex Ross commented:
Truth be told, I was actually trying to lead the Kingdom storyline to the point where it actually nullified the future possibility of Kindgom Come; we’d see a glimpse of it and then we’d actually find out that it’s going to get circumvented so that it doesn’t happen.
Alex Ross, Kingdom Come Companion, page 243
That possibility has been picked up in Justice League: Generation Lost where it appears that Maxwell Lord is fated to kill Magog in order to prevent him from causing the war foreseen by Kingdom Come.