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Sunday, January 30, 2005

Silver Star #2 - Darius Drumm

The "Visual Novel" continues this issue, where the main focus is on the villain, Darius Drumm. But first we catch up with Morgan Miller, ten years later, and how his powers of atomic manipuation have developed. They're then attacked by projections of Drumm, who also attacks Silver Star's government minder in his car.

This issue gives us the origin of Drumm, the first born of those with the genetic gifts from Bradford Miller's experiments. Kind of creepy, as we find he was talking and evil at birth, his father was head of some cult, the "Foundation for Self-Denial", until Darius turned the cult on him. Drumm attacks the Miller home again, and we find out that Tracy Coleman has been in "stasis" for the last ten years, and there are others among the Homo Geneticus that Drumm fears.

Still a lot of set-up, but Drumm is an effective character, if a bit over the top, and his story is among the creepiest things Kirby ever wrote.

Mike Royer inks the 20-page story, while Mike Thibodeaux inks the cover. Back-up story has the Mocker by Ditko.

Published 1983

Saturday, January 29, 2005

3 Publishers, 3 Covers (Two-Gun, Secrets, Love)

A trio of 1950s Kirby covers

I LOVE YOU #7, 1955. Published by Charlton, another of the remnants of Mainline's collapse (I don't think Kirby ever worked for Charlton directly, unless the humour stories in FROM HERE TO INSANITY and CRAZY, MAN, CRAZY were done for them. I suspect even those might have done for a Mainline humour book which never launched). This series took over the numbering from IN LOVE. Very strong cover, hinting at an interesting story, but really, you two, do you want to get caught?

HOUSE OF SECRETS #11, 1958. This looks like it might have been intended as a Challengers of the Unknown cover or splash at some point, and for some reason used as a cover here instead. Or perhaps not. Anyway, it's one of the few DC books of the era he just did the cover for, and I think is a Kirby inked cover. Great image, I especially like the collapsing bridge.

TWO-GUN KID #48, 1959. Kirby's first cover for the series, long before the re-design of the character. Nice drawings, although the vignettes look keeps it from having the strong central image, and the design is a bit blurb-happy.

--Link-- 1966 Marvel Article

Fred Hembeck has been sharing various bits of 1960s newspaper articles about comics from an old scrapbook, and has just posted the 1966 Herald-Tribune article that Kirby felt minimized his contributions to Marvel. I think the article was also reprinted in TJKC a while back, but don't remember the issue. However, look towards the bottom of this Romita interview for Kirby's reaction to the article.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Golden Age of Marvel #2

Six 1940s Kirby reprints, a total of 52 pages, among the stories in this volume, a few never otherwise reprinted.

First up is the first Vision story, from MARVEL MYSTERY COMICS #13 (1940). I'm not sure if there ever was a coherent origin or explanation for the Vision, but he was apparently an extra-dimensional being who pursues justice. In this story he comes to Earth, apparently as the result of a scientist's experiment, and takes care of a mobster who was planning some revenge against scientists for laughing at his stupidity back in school.

A trio of stories from CAPTAIN AMERICA #1 (1941) follow, beginning with "Meet Captain America", the classic and oft-reprint origin of Cap.

More interesting, "Murder Ltd.", featuring Hurricane. I'm not sure if I've ever heard an explanation for exactly why Mercury from RED RAVEN #1 became Hurricane in CAPTAIN AMERICA, but it led to some odd mix of mythologies, as you have Hurricane, son of Thor, yet called a Greek immortals, fighting Pluto and using the the identity "Mark Cury". Anyway, it's a neat story, if a bit haphazarly written, with a nice scene in the beginning of Hurricane taking a cab and a fight at a masquerade party.

Also from CA #1, the first Tuk, Caveboy story, "Stories From the Dark Age". In this one, we meet Tuk, living in 50,000 BC, as he hears the story of how his dying guardian Ak, last of the Shaggy Ones, witnessed his parents being exiled from the island of Attilan. All of which begs for a connection to the Inhumans, doesn't it? Anyway, at the end of the short story, Tuk gets rescued by another man who seems to be of his species, Tanir the Hunter. Very fun story, I'm curious about what the Atlantis promised in the next issue is like.

Later is the previously discussed "The Case of the Hollow Men" from ALL-WINNERS COMICS #1 (1941). Different colouring from the previous reprint, I like it slightly better.

Another Vision story rounds up the book, with the story from MARVEL MYSTERY COMICS #23 (1941)

Interesting story about a tribe in Africa which worships a killer man-shark as a god, sacrificing people to it. As a group of explorers are captured, the Vision appears from the smoke and battles the shark, who looks neat.

The cover is a painting by Greg Theakston, mixing Kirby character poses from various sources for a new image.

Published 1999

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Rawhide Kid #92

Two Kirby/Ayers reprints in this issue, both from RAWHIDE KID #18 (1960).

"At the Mercy of Wolf Waco" is a 13-page story, wherein the Kid is run out of town, doing that usual lame trick of shooting the guns out of everyone's hands (this time fully a dozen men at once) and then running into the Wolf Waco gang, who were hiding out of town. They recruit him to try to rob a mail-train, which leads to a nice scene where he's sent with a stack of dynamite to the train, throws it back and boards the train in a hail of gunfire.

Eventually he confronts Waco, who falls off the edge of a cliff. Because you can't have the Kid actually kill someone.

"A Legend is Born" is a 5-pager takes care of the western comic set-piece missing from the previous story, the saloon, as the Kid, now apparently not recognized by anyone, listening in as various men talk about what they've heard about the Rawhide Kid, none of it resembling him. Then the Kid is hassled by Hammer Hogan, who claims to have defeated the Kid, so the Kid finally reveals himself, and mops up the bar with Hogan before fleeing. Even having just seen him, everyone in the bar gives a description of him as tall, with four huge guns and fists the size of hammers, when in fact we're told he was only five foot three inches, 125 pounds, regular, maybe even small, size hands and two colt .45s.

It's odd how it alternated in the RK stories. One story he's recognized on sight by just about everyone, the next he's not, and he has to prove his identity with his prowess with a gun.

They're both attractive stories, with the usual Kirby/Ayers flair for drawing the classic western sets and clothing, and full of really good action scenes. I especially liked the horseback action on the two splash pages of the first story.

Published 1971

Thor #171 - The Wrath of the Wrecker

From the middle of the great run of THOR inked by Bill Everett. It's a beautiful thing to see the texture that Everett brings to these pencils both in the 20-page story and the cover.

The basic story this time around has Thor returning to Earth and his Don Blake identity, just in time to operate on a a civil rights leader who was shot (somewhere along the line Don Blake seems to have gone from a decent surgeon to the greatest surgeon in the world). In the middle of the operation, the Wrecker manages to escape custody and Blake has to leave the operation for a knock-down fight, returning just in time to finish the operation.

A bit of an oddly written issue, as Thor spends most of the fight lecturing the Wrecker on morality and responsibility, in between the punches and hammer blows.

But the art is a masterpiece of destructive action. There's one really good scene where the Wrecker sends his crowbar right through a truck, sending the engine flying out the front. Then when he and Thor get to fighting in the city, it's as powerful as Kirby's art ever looked. It's a shame most of this run of THOR has never been reprinted, and probably won't be for a few more years at least.

Published 1969

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

X-Men - The Early Years #8 - Unus the Untouchable

X-MEN - THE EARLY YEARS was a monthly reprint series that ran 17 issues 19 1994/1995, reprinting the first 18 issues of X-MEN (the last issue being double-sized). It had new covers of variable quality, but most issues reprinted the original Kirby covers inside as well. A nice inexpensive way to get the early X-MEN issues before the ESSENTIAL UNCANNY X-MEN book came out in 1999, although some of the colours printed a bit dark here (I think its the same colouring as the glossy paper Masterworks version), obscuring some of the linework.

"Unus the Untouchable" is from X-MEN #8 (1964), inked by Chic Stone. X-MEN is my favourite of the Kirby/Stone collaborations of the period. Very bold, solid work. Anyway, as we open, the X-Men are practicing under acting leader Cyclops' command, giving the usual oppurtunity to show off their powers (and change Iceman from the snowman look he had up to this point to hismore refined icy look) and for Scott and Jean to mentally whine about how much they love each other but dare not talk about it. Later, Bobby and Hank go out in the world and face the anti-mutant hysteria that abounded in those days after the Beast rescues a boy. That leads Hank to quit the team and become a wrestler, where he encounters another mutant, Unus the Untouchable, who is being scouted by Mastermind for the Brotherhood.

After various plot complications, Hank creates a device which increases Unus' untouchability, leading everyone to think he's betrayed the team.

Of course he hasn't as Unus soon finds out when his powers are now so powerful that he can't even touch food to eat. He's restored with a promise to stay in line. Like that's going to work.

A slight story with a clever twist (okay, it seems a bit hokey now, but only because similar things have been done so much since). The art is a lot of fun, with the practice sequence at the beginning and the wrestling match in the middle standing out, as well as goofy things like Unus with food floating all around him.

This reprints the full 20-page story from the original, as well as the cover, also inked by Stone. It doesn't have the pin-up of the Beast which appeared in the original.

Published 1994

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Eternals #2 - The Celestials

One of the flaws in Kirby's last few years at Marvel was probably the over-use of splash pages, especially given the shrinking page count. This issue of THE ETERNALS is a case in point, with no less than five full-page and one double-page splash in just 17 story pages. Makes for a bit of a slight read, although I'll happily concede that Kirby put a lot of work into those splashes, and to be fair big concepts deserve big art. It's more in the context of 17-page stories that it become a problem.

Anyway, this issue continues introducing the major concepts of the series, as members of the three major races of Earth (humans, Deviants and Eternals) witness the coming of a great space-ship of the Celestials. As the defiant Deviant leader Kro flees with his men, Ikaris of the Eternals gives some more background of how the Deviants tried to conquer the planet once before, and were toppled by the Celestials who caused a great flood. Then, Ikaris finds out how to operate the mechanism to bring back his lost friend Ajax and his men, who are the "landing crew" for the Celestials.

At this point the series was still about laying down the groundwork of big ideas and a new mythology, so character unfortunately takes a backseat, even among the handful of Eternals we'd met so far. Later on Kirby would take care of that, once the basics were done.

Royer inks the cover, while Verpoorten inks the interior story, and Kirby also writes a text page while they were waiting for letters complaining about the lack of ties to the Marvel Universe to flood in.

Published 1976

Monday, January 24, 2005

Where Monsters Dwell #19

Two Kirby/Ayers stories in this issue, both reprinted from TALES OF SUSPENSE #24 (1961).

First up is "The Insect Man", an excellent example of the big monster sub-set of these stories. In this one, a man is sent in a capsule deep into the bowels of the Earth in an experiment to test how astronauts will react to being cut off from humanity. After several days he's on the verge of cracking when he hears a knocking outside the capsule, which turns out to be a giant insect. He's taken to the insect city, and given to a young insect as a plaything.

The adult insects then decide to examine him, but he's able to escape, back to his capsule, which is raised back to the surface. Everyone assumes he was hallucinating, not noticing the giant insect hair that the janitor sweeps out of the capsule.

Kirby has an interesting style of drawing the giant insect men, which look suitably creepy in this story.

Next is the issue is "Beware... The Ticking Clocks", about a beloved King who has a room filled with elaborate clocks. A rival King hires an assassin, who attempts to kill the good King, but is mysteriously foiled at the last minute in the clock room. The evil King ends up deposed by his people, while the assassin has become a figure on one of the clocks.

A simple enough story, the real highlight is probably the very detailed clocks that Kirby and Ayers drew. Insane monstrosities with dragons, gargoyles, soldiers and the like. Very cool.

Published 1973

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Pulp Fiction Library - Mystery In Space

Wow, that has to be the saddest library in the world. Presumably DC at some point intended for this to be the first of a series of matching collections of their various genre series of days gone by. Didn't work out that way, so just this lonely collection, MYSTERY IN SPACE, of 33 science-fiction stories from the 1940s to the early 1980s.

First up was "Rocket Lanes of Tomorrow", a 2-page Simon&Kirby feature from REAL FACT COMICS #1 (1946). A nice little filler about the wonderous future of jet-packs, space exploration and trans-world tunnels. Very nice artwork, showing the influence of pulp sci-fi illustrations on Kirby's early style.

Later in the book is a sample of Kirby's 1950s work at DC, the 8-page "I Found the City Under the Sea" from MY GREATEST ADVENTURE #15 (1957). In this story, the crew of a fishing boat find a strange tube with a note inside from an oceanographer, Ellery Jones. He detected signs of a civilization under the ocean, and went to explore, finding a massive city.

That panel of the city is nice, very much like a rough form of the odd perspective city-scapes he'd perfect in the 1960s with some of the views of Atlantis or Asgard, and later with New Genesis.

As it turns out, the city is filled with aliens, planning to conquer the surface world, once they can get their hands on an experimental new chemical, aqua-ulium, without which the aliens and their materials vapourize in the atmosphere. They're just waiting to sink a shipment of the chemical to proceed. With the help of a peaceful alien scientist, Jones is able to escape, finds a way to send out his note in case he fails and then prepares to blow up the alien city.

Back on the fishing ship, they think the note is just fantasy, until suddenly an underwater explosion jolts the ship, and then the note and container dissolve. They check and find out that an approaching ship is in fact carrying a shipment of aqua-ulium.

Very fun story, with some nice Kirby artwork. In particular I liked the alien city, both the city-scape views and some of the interior views, with odd bits of alien sculpture.

Published 1999

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Kamandi #7 - The Monster Fetish

This is one of my favourite issues of KAMANDI, great high-adventure in Earth A.D. Opening somberly with the funeral of Flower, Kamandi's brief companion killed in the previous issue, with full military honours courtesy of Sultin of the Lion Rangers, they're then attacked by a gorilla scout. It turns out the gorillas are trying to free the simple-minded giant gorilla Tiny, who's being held by the lions. They succeed in freeing Tiny, but he turns on them, being interested only in Kamandi, who he thinks of as a toy.

After Tiny is knocked out and Kamandi is freed, Sultin takes Kamandi to the lion city, which is surprisingly sophisticated compared to most that Kamandi would encounter, and Kamandi finds out about their legends of the Founding Lions from the fabled land of "Zuu". Tiny attacks again, this time scaling a skyscraper, and is knocked down by the new experimental bi-planes the lions have designed from old photos. As Kamandi observes, "even the ancients, with their imaginative movies, couldn't have produced anything like this".

Mike Royer inks the 20-page story and the cover, and really shines on this issue, even moreso than usual. I love the texture he brings to the art in this one, especially the animal faces and hands, which Kirby clearly had a blast drawing.

Published 1973

Human Torch #1 - The Human Torch

This short-lived reprint series of the mid-1970s featured both the solo adventures of the FF's Torch from STRANGE TALES and golden age adventures of the original android Torch. The first issue had the Torch's solo debut from STANGE TALES #101 (1962). Unfortunately, it's slightly edited, taking out a full page and one panel, most of which recap the origin of the FF, replacing it with a single later panel of the team.

Early on we see Johnny's room, which is amusingly almost completely coated in asbestos, thanks to Reed. I'm not sure, but I suspect he has the basis for a lawsuit there (as if the poorly shielded space-ship wasn't enough).

This is also back when they had this misguided attempt to give the Torch a secret identity for the first few issues (and I love the explanation from a few issues later that everyone was just humouring Johnny about the secret identity thing). So a lot of these early stories is filled with Johnny distracting people so he could flame on in secret.

It's an okay story otherwise, with the Torch foiling a villain who is trying to shut down an amusement park. Johnny eventually figures out that the high rides in the park offered a vantage point which would have exposed the landing point of a hidden communist sub. That Long Island is a nest of spy activity. There's some nice art along the way, especially of the amusement park rides done in Kirby style, and Ben Grimm makes a brief cameo.

Dick Ayers inks the now 12-page story.

Published 1974

Tales of Suspense #94 - If This Be Modok

An excellent Kirby adventure in this issue, with a great villain. In this story, Cap and the as-yet-unnamed blonde SHIELD agent are captured by the bee-keeping minions of AIM, who are now under the command of their mysterious creation, Modok. They decide that their best bet is to pit Cap and Modok against each other, so they can easily take them both out after they wear each other out. That's when we get our first good look at the glory that is Modok.

Cap battles Modok until a squad of AIM agents attack, wounding Modok. Cap and the SHIELD agent are able to defeat the AIM agents aboard an escape sub easily, while the dying Modok destroys the main ship.

Fun enough story, but the real charm is in the crazy big-head design of Modok. I'm surprised that such a great villain was just a throwaway.

Joe Sinnott inks the 10-page story and the cover (which rather oddly has Modok stuck in a corner almost as an afterthought, when you'd think he'd either be the focus of the cover or not there at all (if he's meant to be the big reveal).

Published 1967

Friday, January 21, 2005

Anything Goes #2

An obscure late entry in the Kirby bibliography, ANYTHING GOES was a benefit book published by the Comics Journal due to a lawsuit filed against them. Kirby contributed an odd three page story, made of three splash pages featuring characters from his Pacific Comics books of a few years earlier, CAPTAIN VICTORY and SILVER STAR. Joe Sinnott inked the three pages.

It's a weird three pages, a kind of gag with Kirby's sense of humour at its quirkiest. Pretty fun, and interesting to see Sinnott inking work of that era (Sinnott's inked a number of Kirby things since, like several TJKC covers, but it's usually work that was actually pencilled in the 1960s or 1970s. The only other 1980s art I can think of him inking is a WHO'S WHO piece). As is typical for Kirby's work of the era, the anatomy is a bit wonkier than normal, but still a nice power to the work, and some nice design on the final page punchline.

There's also a short bio of Kirby in the contributor notes section. The editorial also thanks them, but mistakenly notes its their first collaboration in 15 years, forgetting the many covers and the SILVER SURFER graphic novel in Kirby's last Marvel stint.

Published 1986

Buried Treasure v2#2 - Lockjaw the Alligator

This issue of the Greg Theakston edited comic contains a reprint of the S&K story from PUNCH & JUDY COMICS V2#10 (1947), introducing Lockjaw the Alligator. It's a fun 7-page story, with a action packed splash of the most common sight gag in the series, Lockjaw swinging the diminutive Professor like a club. The story features the Professor looking for a rare alligator in the Everglades, and finding a talking alligator, Lockjaw, who learned to talk because all the animals in comics do.

This is a fun, kind of surreal, stream-of-consciousness type story, with scenes like the Professor trying to get Lockjaw booked in Punch&Judy comics (with cameos from some of the other characters and the editor) and Lockjaw using the Professor as a water stopper.

This story was also reprinted in the third COMPLETE JACK KIRBY volume.

Published 1990

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Destroyer Duck #2 - Mommie Noises

The year after the lawuit benefit one-shot, DESTROYER DUCK returned for a regular series, with the Gerber/Kirby/Alcala team re-united up to #5. This issue begins with Duke building a device to get back to his Earth while Holmes is suing GodCorp. Duke is targetted for assassination, but defeats the would-be assassin (with some odd asides about Mariel Hemingway which I don't get). Meanwhile, in one of my favourite scenes in the series (and setting up my absolute favourite in an upcoming issue), company man Booster Cogburn delivers some arms and a message to a General in Hoqoom, and gets show, only to get shot and have his spine crawl off.

We then catch up with the GodCorp executives and their plans for Hoqoom, including the exploitation of Vanilla Cupcake, and then we meet Medea, a rather strange but brilliant parody of the then-popular Elektra. While Duke has his battle with her, we find out more about Vanilla Cupcake and the Cogburn.

It's a fun issue setting up the storylines for the next few issues, with some nicely wacky characters and some interesting art by Kirby in the fight scenes. I really like Alcala's inks in here as well, especially with the very nice paper and printing that Eclipse had at the time.

The cover is by Kirby/Alcala, and this issue also has the first chapter of the Jerry Siegel/Val Mayerik series "The Starling".

Published 1983

1970s Team Covers

AVENGERS #158, 1977. Joe Sinnott inks. Boy, that Wonder Man costume is quite an eye-sore, isn't it?

FANTASTIC FOUR #173, 1976. Joe Sinnott inks. Very nice image of the FF and one of their greatest foes.

MARVEL PREMIERE #29, 1976. Frank Giacoia inks. Spinning out of the pages of the Invaders, a very nice cover of the various golden age and pseudo-golden age second stringers.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Machine Man #2 - House of Nightmares

The adventures of X-51 continue, as he's plagued by nightmares regarding his humanity. Still on the run from the Army, he visits a gas station and buys some tires (using some newly created diamonds for currency. Meanwhile, Doctor Spalding, who had met X-51 back in #1, is dealing with a patient who is having odd delusions about being in a space-ship falling into a sun.

As the army catches up with him, MM bursts out of the gas station (which I guess explains why he grossly over-paid for the tires) with his new wheels (three tires attached to him with rods) and escapes. He then goes out and drives some motorcyclists off the road (I'm not sure if that's still Kirby working out his resentment of the motorcyclists outside his first California home, as mentioned in one TJKC article).

He then arrives in Central City and goes to see the doctor, who agrees to help him. Just then MM notices an interstellar transmission, which is the same thing the patient had been receiving, and translates it into a visual representation of a ship in distress. They begin to plan a rescue, which will lead to the battle with Ten-For.

Mike Royer inks the 17-page story, Frank Giacoia inks the cover and Jack Kirby writes a text page about potential machine rights.

Published 1978

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Upcoming Kirby - Complete & Collector

A couple of nice releases scheduled for April. Pure Imagination returns to the COMPLETE series with more from 1947, which should be fun, and TJKC looks at the 1970s at DC, and have managed to dig up yet another Kirby interview. Man, it's a wonder he was able to draw as much as he did with all these fans interviewing him all the time.

Also, check out for more on the previously mentioned MODERN ARF, including a look at a page of the Kirby story that will be reprinted in there, plus a caricature of Kirby by artist David Cowles and a look at Roy Lichtenstein's use of a Kirby panel.

The work of Jack Kirby, "The King of Comics," continues to be reprinted in this ongoing series. This time it's from the fall of 1947, and features a red-hot series of stories by Kirby in his prime! Important moments in Comics history which include the first issue of Young Romance, the first romance comic; as well as Justice Traps the Guilty #1, with a cover featuring a killer in the electric chair, ready to fry! No wonder it sold out on the stands! Also included are three Flyin' Fool stories, his last Lockjaw the Alligator, and Earl The Rich Rabbit stories; crime from Headline Comics; and high-school humor from My Date Comics. A must-have for the fans of Jack Kirby!
SC, 8x11, B&W SRP: $25.00

This is the “Hip” issue, spotlighting all the funky, clunky stuff Kirby did at 1970s DC Comics! From Jimmy Olsen and Dingbats of Danger Street, to Kung-Fu Fighter and Soul Love, you’ll get it all! The issue features Kirby covers inked by Kevin Nowlan (Guardian and the Newsboy Legion) and Murphy Anderson (if you ever wondered what Jimmy Olsen would’ve looked like if Murphy had inked the whole book — and not just the Jimmy and Superman heads — you'll find out as he inks the unused Kirby cover from Jimmy Olsen #147! Also, both inkers share their thoughts on inking the King! Plus, a never-published interview with Kirby himself! Includes the usual columnists and features, including Mark Evanier answering Frequently Asked Questions. And a colossal gallery of Jack’s finest pencil work at whopping tabloid size!
Tabloid, 10 x 15, 80pgs, B&W SRP: $9.95

Monday, January 17, 2005

DC Special #4 - The Magic Hammer

This issue reprints the Kirby story from TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED #16 (1957). Unfortunately, they added a framing sequence to the issue with all the DC horror comic hosts of the era, so they cut out the title image on the first page and start with the bottom tier of the first page. Not sure if they did any other editing.

Anyway, the story features Bard, a prospector, finding a hammer out in the desert, and finding it causes rainstorms when thrown. He sells the rain-making ability for a while, then finds out the hammer can also cause destruction when thrown, and plans to use it to rob banks. Suddenly he's confronted by the figure of the Norse god Thor.

Thor explains how the mischievous Loki stole his hammer centuries ago, and how Thor'd been punished by being reduced to human size until he found his hammer. With his hammer returned, Thor grows to his old godly size, leaving Bard scared straight while Thor goes out to take care of Loki.

This is a really attractive story, especially with this Thor character. I suppose it's not too likely, but I'd love to see a collection of Kirby's scattered short stories and covers for the DC sci-fi/fantasy books of the 1950s.

Published 1969

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Devil Dinosaur #8 - Dino-Riders

Another DD classic, this issue sees Devil and Moon-Boy out looking for Moon-Boy's people, the Small-Folk, while they're being tracked by the Dino-Riders, who are impressed that Moon-Boy has been able to tame such a large beast. As Moon-Boy finds his people and tries to convince them that Devil isn't dangerous, the Dino-Rider's attack.

Devil is captured, and they attempt to break him with various types of physical and chemical abuse, but DD is having none of that. Meanwhile, Moon-Boy convinces his people to help drive the Dino-Riders out of the valley and leads the assault. Devil finally frees himself when the head Rider, Gray Tooth, is threatening Moon-Boy, and makes short work of Gray Tooth and his mount.

As usual for DD, the story is simple but fun, with some good excuses for action, and some nice scripting for Gray Tooth and the other Dino-Riders in this issue.

Mike Royer inks the 17-page story, and I was a bit surprised to find out when I looked it up on the Kirby checklist that Walt Simonson inked the cover. I don't really see it, but then I'm familiar with Simonson's more distinctive later style. It does look nice.

Published 1978

In The Days of the Mob #1

When he first went to DC in 1970, Kirby seemed to think that they'd be open to different ideas and new formats. Soon enough he'd learn that they weren't, not so much. In the meantime he did produce a number of stories, some still unpublished, in the crime, horror and romance genres. All genres that Kirby had quite a bit of experience in, although at this point in his career it had been years since he'd done any substantial story-work in anything but super-heroes (except for two short horror stories he'd done for CHAMBER OF DARKNESS late in his Marvel days, which didn't end well). DC ended up publishing two issues of this stuff in 1971, oddly under the "Hampshire Distributors" label (I'm not sure if anything else was ever published under that name).

Clearly crime stories fascinated him, as he showed in a memorable storyline for the FF shortly before. Let loose to work solo he came up with IN THE DAYS OF THE MOB. It's your basic true-crime book, with a framing sequence set in Hell, with Warden Fry doing the hosting. Kirby pulls out some of the big guns for the first issue, Ma Barker, Al Capone and Pretty Boy Floyd.

The issue features 41 pages of Kirby comics, as inked by Colletta. Kirby apparently planned these to be colour stories, but instead they were printed in black and white format with a heavy grey inkwash, and for some reason no panel borders. The combination seems to deaden it somewhat, which is a shame as it's really strong work otherwise. While I don't know if it would have been successful at the time even if it was given a higher level of support and production, it's strong work by Kirby, who was clearly into the subject matter, and his attention to period detail and scripting style really fit the material.

The book opens up with the no-nonsense Warden Fry exclaiming "Welcome to Hell", and showing us through the section of Hell where mobsters serve their time, including a massive two-page spread of the teeming masses of the prison (and if there were this many after Colletta was done, imagine how many there were before). He then comes across Ma Barker, and tells her story about how she led her four boys into a life of crime and how they all died. Back in Hell we see various felons playing cards, with predictable results.

We then meet Al Capone, allowing the Warden to launch into the story of "Bullets For Big Al", where we see the story of a misguided attempt to overthow Capone in the Chicago mob. A fun story, it features another two-page spread of a lavish mob party, with a big band and dancing girls, before descending to some brutal violence.

Next up are some text features. Kirby writes a three page article with photo illustrations about the era, a sort of bizarre free-form essay called "The Breeding Ground" about era he grew up in. Meanwhile Evanier&Sherman write a two page article, "Funeral For a Florist", with a small Kirby illustration for the header.

Back to the comics after that, as the warden leads us to a 1933 train station to witness "The Kansas City Massacre", an attempt by "Pretty Boy" Floyd and others to help a prisoner escape gone wrong. Finally we get "Method of Operation", a quick look at the story of "Country Boy" and how his affection for fishing and women led to his capture in New Orleans.

Sergio Aragones finishes up the book with two pages of cartoons, and there's a large poster insert of a wanted poster for John Dillinger included. The cover is a mix of photo-collage and illustration, apparently inked by Frank Giacoia.

A finished second issue, inked by Mike Royer, was done but not published, although parts of it appeared in AMAZING WORLD OF DC COMICS and various fanzines. The inside back cover features an ad for it, with two great full pages of art from the "Ladies of the Gang" story and a panel from "A Room For Kid Twist". For more about the series, including a page from #2 and comments by Mark Evanier, read this article from TJKC #16, ignoring the odd comment about Colletta's inks for #1 being better than Royer's for #2.

Published 1971

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Who's Who #10 - Highfather

Only one Kirby piece in this issue, a great image of Izaya, the Highfather, inked by Greg Theakston, with a symbolic representation of the exchange in "The Pact" in the background. Izaya is a fascinating character from the glimpses we get of him, never really explored outside of "The Pact".

Published 1985

Fantasy Masterpieces #7

Two Kirby reprints in this issue. First up is "Titan, The Amphibian From Atlantis", from TALES OF SUSPENSE #28, a 7-page story inked by Russ Heath (I think the only time Heath inked Kirby). Looks very pretty, with a lot of the qualities that someone like Wally Wood brought to the pencils of that period, without being quite as overpowering. Anyway, in this story a giant monster comes out of the waters and attacks New York, informing everyone telepathically that he's an advance scout from Atlantis, which will invade, and promises riches to any human who will betray the secrets of humanity. One man, industrial giant John Cartwright, agrees, managing to escape with Titan just ahead of an angry mob. He's branded a traitor by humanity, who put aside their national difference to prepare for the Atlantean invasion, not realizing that Cartwright has in fact sacrificed his own life by exaggerating. humanity's technology to the creatures.

The other Kirby story goes back much futher, to 1941, "Death Loads the Bases" from CAPTAIN AMERICA #7. 15 pages with Syd Shores inking, according to the Kirby Checklist. Not the sharpest reprint quality, really, and made worse by adjusting the layouts, adding space betwwen panels to make the art fill the page. Anyway, in this story Steve Rogers and Bucky attend a Brooklyn Badgers game, only to see two of the players drop dead on the field. Cap spots a poison dart, and he and Bucky go after the masked Black Toad and henchmen and get soundly defeated. The next game Cap and Bucky take over as pitcher and catcher for the team, doing quite well. Which has to be embarassing for the regular players. I mean sure, Cap has the super-soldier serum, but Bucky?

The Toad finally attacks, in the form of a bomb hidden in a baseball, and Cap and Bucky take him out and unmask him. This is far from the best written of the S&K Cap stories, and the reprint doesn't really show off the line-art, but it does have some really nice action bits, as the quality of their layouts was improving by leaps and bounds in those early years. The baseball bits are especially well done in this story.

Published 1967

Journey into Mystery v2 #7

A pair of Kirby reprints from JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY v1 in this issue. First up is "The Scorpion Strikes", inked by Paul Reinman, from #82. At a lab where they're doing delicate experiments with radiation, the owners find that some of the lab boys are getting a bit clumsy (and unknowingly irradiate a scorpion in one mishap), so they hire a hypnotist to keep everyone calm. Soon after, that scorpion mutates to giant size, with telepathic abilities, and plans to take over the world. The hypnotist tries and fails to get the Scorpion under his spell, but soon after it finds itself in physical agony.

And I have to say, a scorpion screaming in agony is a pretty funny sight. Anyway, it consents to another radiation dose to end its pain, which un-mutates it. Turns out the hypnotist did a fake-out, intentionally failing his first attempt to catch the Scorpion off-guard later. Junk science wins the day!

The cover of this issue is also from JiM #82, for this story. It's inked by Dick Ayers, and slightly modified (adding some shadows) and coloured very differently for this version. It seems the Scorpion was green first time around.

Ayers also inks the second Kirby reprint in this issue, "Won't You Come Into My Parlor", from JiM #80. In this story a European industrialist, Krumhausen, wants to take over a competitor, Zamora. He finds out that Zamora has a gypsy past and a bad heart. He comes up with an insane plot to shock Zamora to a heart attack, by building giant replicas of various rooms, inviting Zamora for dinner, drugging him and making him think that he shrunk. This works, surprisingly enough, but Zamora uses his mysterious gypsy powers to lay down a dying curse, so that Krumhausen finds himself shrunk for real, and attacked by his cat (which seems to be possessed by Zamora). Fun story, and I especially like Kirby's drawing of elaborate European rooms and furnishings done on a large scale.

Also a very nice Ditko story in this issue, "Take A Chair".

Published 1973

Friday, January 14, 2005

Fantastic Four #99 - The Torch Goes Wild

Another sentimental favourite story, as one of the earliest Kirby stories I read (in an edited version in MARVEL'S GREATEST COMICS). In a lot of ways I think this is really the last great FF story, as the next four that have Kirby art (including and especially the patch-job in #108) have various major flaws (but some good scenes).

I adore the opening splash page of this one, Ben practicing on skis in front of a mirror as Reed and Sue come in. I'll even forgive the colouring mistake.

We quickly find out that Johnny has left for the Inhumans' Hidden City to try to persuade Crystal to return with him after Medusa had come to retreive her several issues earlier. While the rest of the FF follow (with various complications, most of which were the pages edited out of the reprint I read first), Johnny reaches the Himalayas and begins to attack the Inhumans. Good old Kirby/Sinnott slam-bang hero-vs-hero action there, and the Inhumans are favourites of mine among the many creations from the FF. The rest of the team finally arrive and manage to cool down the Torch, and the Inhumans finally explain why Crystal had to return to help keep Black Bolt alive. No, there's no real reason this couldn't have been told to the Torch in the first place. Anyway, it's a good old-fashioned action plot, with some nice character bits and a happy ending.

Published 1970

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Teen-Aged Dope Slaves and Reform School Girls

This collection published by Eclipse brings together various crime and sensationalistic comics of the 1940s and 1950s. Two 13-page Simon&Kirby stories from Prize's HEADLINE are among the featured stories, both featuring sexy girls lured into a life of crime. Black and white reconstuction on the stories was by Greg Theakston's Pure Imagination.

"The Bobby Sox Bandit Queen", from HEADLINE #27 (1947), is a great little story about a 16-year-old girl who gets caught up in crime thanks to her older boyfriend, leading to a cross-country crime spree of bank robberies, hostage takings and stolen cars, with the police on their tails the whole time. The story was also reprinted in the recent Jack Kirby Reader v2

"I Worked For the Fence" is from HEADLINE #28 (1948). In this saga, Monica Bell, a failed show-girl, is about to go back home from the big-city when she finds her suitcase has been switched with one full of jewels. Remembering a co-workers mention of a fence, "Buyer Busch", she takes the jewels to him, finding out she was set-up by him as a likely prospect for a "switcher" as he explains the inner workings of his operation. She takes the job and makes some easy switches, and then works as a buyer at the racetrack. She's spotted by a private investigator, who she quickly falls in love with him, but almost gets caught when her next buy turns violent.

She tried to quite but finds she's already in too deep, but is rescued by her new beau, and is now serving her time in jail, determined to live life straight when she gets out. Because, if you haven't learned by now, Crime Never Pays.

Other stories include "Lucky Fights It Through", a Harvey Kurtzman comic about syphilis, "Teen-Aged Dope Slaves", from the Rex Morgan strip, plus other tales of drugs, sex and violence.

Published 1989

Cover editing follies

Thanks to regular commenter Nick (who's provided some interesting observations on inking identification on various old posts) for providing the material for this entry. The cover to THOR #148 back in 1968 had some redrawing going on with the Thor figure. Thanks to a 1970s Italian reprint, you can see what the the original looked like.


Yes, it's another one of those where we can all stand mystified that the re-drawing was deemed necessary, or even worth the time. No agreement on who did the modifications. The Kirby checklist lists Marie Severin, Nick is thinking Romita/Verpoorten.

And thanks to commenter Greg for mentioning that the original was auctioned a few years ago. Click for a big scan of the original artwork, or visit the original auction, where you can see that this puppy sold for almost $10,000.


Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Argosy v3n2 - Street Code

This unique story from the Kirby oeuvre was drawn in 1983, but not published until 1990, in the second issue of Richard Kyle's revival of the genre fiction magazine ARGOSY. It's 8 pages, written and drawn by Kirby, reproduced straight from the pencils.

Kirby's working class youth in 1920s New York obviously inspired a lot of his work over the years, in particular the kid gang classic Newsboy Legion and the various crime books from HEADLINE up to IN THE DAYS OF THE MOB, but here it was given a chance to move out of the background. This story is as rich with atmosphere as any Kirby ever drew, like the rich detail of the apartment in this page.

I like how he fills every corner of the drawing with a small detail, obviously emulating how crowded it felt, and how full of affection it is.

Latter in the story is one of Kirby's best two-page splash panels ever, showing a street scene from his youth. Again full of details, small touchs of humour and interesting action, a great image of the past.

While more a vignette, or perhaps an opening chapter in a never-produced graphic novel, than a complete story, it's a very satisfying piece, with interesting insights into what growing up in that kind of atmosphere meant, how people related, and how the followed the self-imposed "Street Code" of the title. There are some interesting moments of violence in it, probably no worse than in his many crime, horror and super-hero stories through the years but somehow much more brutal and real because of the context.

The story was reprinted, relettered and with slightly better reproduction of the pencils, as the lead piece in the TwoMorrows published autobiography themed anthology STREETWISE in 2000.

Published 1990

Demon #1 - Unleash the One Who Waits

I might be biased, because this story was one of the first handful of Kirby stories I read (in an early 1980s digest reprint), but I think THE DEMON #1 is one of Kirby's strongest art jobs in the 1970s. It's just a gorgeous book, with Kirby really throwing himself into the job. Starting off with a splash page of Merlin, then an amazingly detailed double page spread leading to the fall of Camelot, onto great scenes in the modern age, including the antiques in Jason Blood's home and the gargoyles in Merlin's lair.

This is a great first issue, setting up some of the background of the character in the mythic past, then launching in the modern age. Lots of great new characters, in particular Jason Blood, who promises a rich history, and Etrigan, who just seems to move in such a unique way when drawn by Kirby. Morgaine Le Fey is also a nicely ornate Kirby villain design.

Fortunately by this time Mike Royer was handling all the inking for Kirby, and had really gotten into the swing of things. Also helping out here, at the time DC was giving a few more pages of story, 24 in this issue, and that really let Kirby's worth breathe more than the incredibly shrinking counts of the later years.

Kirby also writes a text page for this issue, "A Time To Build", mostly about the cancellations of the Fourth World books, as well as plugging this new one and the upcoming KAMANDI. It's an odd but interesting piece about myths and storytelling.

Published 1972

Monday, January 10, 2005

Our Fighting Forces #151 - Kill Me With Wagner

Beneath a generic Joe Kubert cover that has nothing to do with the interior story is the first of twelve issues of OUR FIGHTING FORCES featuring the Losers, written and drawn by Jack Kirby and inked by D. Bruce Berry.

For his first story, Kirby places the Losers in a small town in occupied France, where they have the mission to rescue famed (but apparently never photographed)concert pianist Emma Klein, being hidden by the Maquis. The youngest Loser, Gunner, gets captured, and the others come in with the help of the Maquis. I like how the women brought in as hostages get in the fight in the middle of this page.

Kirby does an especially good job with a sequence on the last few pages, showing the the entire town being virtually leveled by Allied shelling following the rescue. Very cinematic, with Kirby setting up Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" as the soundtrack to the destruction in the previous scene (which I just realized is significantly before APOCALYPSE NOW used it in a similar vein).

Kirby also writes a text page in place of the letter column about his intent for the series, to tell the stories of "Everymen" characters caught in the landscape of war.

Published 1974

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Rawhide Kid #141 - Shoot-Out with Rock Rorick

This issue contains a reprint of a story from RAWHIDE KID #31 (1962), inked by Dick Ayers. In this seven page story the Kid finds his siesta at a local salloon interupted by a fight between Rock Rorick's men and the locals whose land Rorick has been swindling. He interjects himself into the philosophical debate thusly:

I especially like the three panel progressions on the top two tiers of this page.

The Kid rides off, not intending to help the swindled ranchers any further, until he comes across another couple who are about to be forced to sell out to Rorick. He then stages his one-man army style raid on Rorick's place (where, oddly, Rorick has among other things a booby-trapped concrete weight which almost crushes the Kid). He then forces Rorick to sell him all the land with threats of violence and returns it to the original owners. Apparently that passed for heroism in the wild west.

One of the more trivial RK stories, but with a few good action interludes.

Published 1977

Saturday, January 08, 2005

New Kirby - Jack Kirby Collector #41 - quick notes

Some initial reactions to the latest issue of TJKC, which turns the spotlight on the 1975-1978 era at Marvel.

Front cover is a Black Panther piece, newly inked by Dick Giordano. Backcover is Devil Dinosaur as inked by Mark Schultz. Both are briefly interviewed inside (both the artists, not both characters...), and the full page original pencils of each piece are also shown. Both were fairly faithfully inked, but I kind of wonder how it would have looked if the colouring was done straight over the pencils.

The frontispiece is the unused splash page to the story that was published as FF #108, which I guess is newly discovered since they did the big reconstruction back in TJKC #9. Kind of amazing what seems to turn up all these years later, and I can't help but wonder if any of the other missing bits of that issue have turned up.

A promo article for the new edition of KIRBY UNLEASHED follows, with some background on how the new edition came together. Still need to pick up my copy of that.

Mark Evanier's regular article follows. Always interesting, in paticular this time talking about how Kirby worked in the "Marvel Method" in the 1960s. Some nice art, including the original art for the FANTASY MASTERPIECES cover that Kirby inked (although, as noted, miscredited to Frank Giacoia here. Another odd caption error a few pages earlier where they call the cover to JUNGLE ACTION #18 unused, which makes me wonder if they had an unused version and slipped in the wrong one, or just got it wrong).

Next article is about the upcoming GALACTIC BOUNTY HUNTERS, using some Kirby presentation and concept art. I'll take a look at the book when it comes out, but frankly I've got at best mixed feelings about this.

Some fascinating bits found on original art of the 1970s. The final issue of MACHINE MAN had the title changed, with the paste-up covering the original name and Kirby's introductory caption. And for some reason, on the brilliant double page splash of DEVIL DINOSAUR #4 Kirby wrote the script on a separate sheet. I wish they'd printed that double-page splash bigger, though.

Next article deals with some contracts between Kirby and Marvel, which isn't that interesting to me. Also some anecdotes about the horrible treatment of original art in the 1970s Marvel warehouse.

Can't say I agree with the next article, which argues Kirby should have put in more Marvel Universe ties in this 1970s work. While I can understand the desire for that on a fannish level, and even agree that it might have boosted sales on the books, I have two main objections. One, that Kirby clearly didn't want to do it, for good reasons, and forcing that is never a good idea. Second, that would have only invited even greater editorial interference given Marvel at the time. I can only imagine that the books would have been full of "corrected" faces and dialogue. That said, I do like the FF vs. Eternals sketch, and the look at the pencils to the altered Eternals vs. Robot Hulk cover.

The first Gallery section features pencils for a dozen covers that Kirby did for other editors during that era. I always find those fascinating, especially given the minor changes made on many of them before printing, mostly on some faces and costume details. Even though he was working from layouts by others on these they look nice. I especially like the cover they, for whatever reason, got him to do for the "Krang" reprint. Giant monster, fleeing crowd, you can go home again.

Never really understood the "Kirby as a Genre" feature. I always think that every image in TJKC should be by Jack Kirby unless there's a good reason, and this doesn't qualify. And I'm kind of bummed they printed in the centerfold, which I think should be used for a large repro of a two-page spread or an extra large single page at close to illustrated size.

Next article looks at those awful 1966 Marvel "cartoons" which swiped panels from the comics. Some interesting stuff, but no actual Kirby art or involvement.

Next gallery looks at some of the villains from the Kirby written and drawn books of the era, with pencils from some covers and interior pages and short articles. Some interesting stuff, and nice to see Ten-For covered, but come on, no Arnim Zola? And nothing from DEVIL DINOSAUR?

2004 Kirby tribute panel follows, with Evanier, Royer, Steve Rude, Dave Gibbons, Walt Simonson and Paul Ryan. Some interesting anecdotes about Kirby and about discovering his work in different eras. Most interesting art included is from the cover to CAPTAIN AMERICA #101, where it was found that under the sanitized Red Skull face was a real Red Skull face by Kirby/Shores, many times better than the published version. Also, I know I had that objecting to non-Kirby in TJKC rule above, but Steve Rude drawing Modok and Joe Sinnott drawing some scene of Doom taking over Galactus' powers. Cool.

Next up is a real curiousity. TJKC always gets highest points from me when it includes unpublished Kirby story pages. Well, here they have three pages that appear to be pencils from an unused Hulk story from 1962, found in Larry Lieber's closet. Best guess seems to be that they're from an abandoned story direction in HULK #3 (or possibly HULK #6). Wherever they're from, it seems clear that there were probably more, since it opens on "page 11" with the Hulk in a hospital, which no published pages logically lead up to. Pretty funny sequence, with I guess, Rick Jones getting hustled on the basketball court by toughs disguised as teen-agers, and using his mental link with the Hulk (which he only had in #3 and #4, hence the speculation it was meant for #3) to take care of them. That's playing fair, Rick, calling in the Hulk to take care of a basketball hustling ring. I don't know what Cap saw in that boy. Anyway, the very one-sided ensuing battle includes the Hulk slam-dunking a guy, which is neat.

Rather maddeningly, the article isn't clear on if what was found was actual original art or photostats (kind of hope they're stats, since they seem to have been ripped in half at some point). Hopefully in the near future someone will be able to interview Lieber about what he remembers about these, and maybe show them to his big brother to see if they jog any memories.

Two more pieces of pencil art, more Eternals vs Robot Hulk action and a quiet page from the Surfer graphic novel.

Great issue. Next one up promises Dingbats, Soul Love and a Murphy Anderson inked (and not just the heads) Jimmy Olsen cover.

Silver Star #1 - Silver Star - Homo-Geneticus

Kirby's second book for Pacific in the 1980s was SILVER STAR. Starting life as a screenplay proposal co-written with Steve Sherman, which is quite different from what the comic ended up as. It's been a few years since I've read it, so I'll be interested to see what I think of the series now. I recall it having some really good moments, especially towards the end, but not quite managing to tie everything together.

In the opening chapter we meet Tracy, a young girl with some sort of mental connection to Morgan Miller, a 21-year old sold--ier in Vietnam. Morgan develops super-powers during a battle, tossing an enemy tank around. He also slips into and out of a coma-like state, and is given a silver outfit as shielding. While he's in the coma, he meets Tracy in a dream-like realm.

Sensing danger, Morgan tells Tracy to leave that realm, and is attacked by Darius Drumm. While that goes on, we find out, through a doctor and a government agent, that the powers these people have are the result of experiments conducted by Morgan's father on post-atomic survival.

It's an interesting, but not captivating, start. The best thing is probably the villain, Darius Drumm, and the battle scene in Vietnam in the beginning. The art is a bit of a mixed bag, too. A few strong bits, but overall just slipping a bit from most of this other work.

Some very strange dialogue in this issue, in particular the classic "don't rattle your gonads in my ears".

Mike Royer inks the 20-page story and cover. The song Tracy sings at the beginning is credited to Kirby's daughter Susan.

Published 1983

Friday, January 07, 2005

--Link-- Evanier on FM#4

I'd hope almost everyone who reads this is already reading Mark Evanier's site, but anyway, check out his post about the background of why Kirby inked the cover of FANTASTY MASTERPIECES #4 back in 1966, as well as why the credits were removed from 1940s Captain America reprints of the era. I also join Mark in congratulating JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR heads John and Pam Morrow on their new child. Finally picked up the latest issue of TJKC, great stuff, highlighted by three newly discovered unused pencil pages that seem to be for HULK #3, plus lots of material of Kirby's 1970s Marvel work, including Devil Dinosaur, and a promise of even more frequent publication in the future (and some odd caption mistakes, in addition to the one Mark mentions, but I guess they've had good reason to be distracted). More detailed review soon.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Genre Cover Six-Pack

Six great covers from six different genres, all of which Kirby did classic work in for many years.

FOXHOLE #1, 1954. - This is just an amazingly brutal war cover. Very strong concept, amazingly detailed rendering, and very good colour (I'm not sure if Kirby had a hand in the colouring, but the watercolour stuff from the late 1960s and 1970s that he apparently did solo show a similar colour sense to this).

POLICE TRAP #3, 1954. I wonder if an alternate name for this title was POLICE BRUTALITY? Anyway, a nice real-world version of the hard hitting action that Kirby pretty much defined in the super-hero books. Man, all those Mainline books look nice. It would have been interesting to see what they'd have become if the timing was better (as discussed in TJKC #25).

FIRST LOVE ILLUSTRATED #70, 1956. Here's a nice quiet romance cover, with the usual tension under the surface. I want to draw particular attention on this one to the rendering on the woman's hair and the flowers.

KID COLT OUTLAW #83, 1959. Unlike some other major western stars of the Marvel/Atlas line, Kid Colt continued on without a Kirby re-design. Kirby did draw a whole bunch of covers for the book (including on GUNSMOKE WESTERN which also featured Kid Colt), though, starting with this one. Inked by Christopher Rule according to the Kirby checklist.

WORLD OF FANTASY #17, 1959. More Rule. A fun science-fantasy scene designed to draw you in. An amusing looking robot, and I like the cape the guy is wearing.

AMAZING FANTASY #15, 1962. Almost certainly the most famous cover-only Kirby book, it's well known that Steve Ditko did a similar cover solo first, from an angle above the action. Both are great covers, but I prefer this one. It just leaps right out. I do wonder why Spidey is announcing his secret identity to that guy he's carrying (which is a problem on both versions).

Fantastic Four #101 - Bedlam in the Baxter Building

As opposed to "Bedlam at the Baxter Building", which was from FF ANNUAL #3. This is of course the second last issue of Kirby's FF fun, and the last complete story (as #102 begins a continued story).

The issue opens up strong, with some downtime for the FF and Ben showing off some dance moves. And yes, that is Alicia. I'm not sure exactly what happened to her hair in this issue. Anyway, Kirby/Sinnott drawing the Thing dancing. Cool.

There's another good scene later where Ben is showing off for some kids in a park.

The main story isn't as good as those scenes, and I think they'd have been better off spending another 17 pages of Ben showing his moves. It's a trifle involving the Maggia, Marvel's clever name for an organized crime gang, buying the Baxter Building, evicting the FF, hoping to steal their technology. The Maggia goons manage to defeat the FF rather easily but of course they come back and win in the end. While the plots for the last handful of issues aren't as good, the action scene are good, and Kirby was still clearly having a lot of fun with scenes like the first one.

Published 1970

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Giant-Size Master of Kung Fu #4 - Yellow Claw reprints

Two short reprints from YELLOW CLAW #2 in the back-up slot this issue, the first of three issues of the series Kirby had drawn during his brief stint at Atlas in 1956. It's possible that these are among the stories Kirby inked himself. Whoever inked them did a great job. The stories are, as is typical for the YELLOW CLAW stories, too short and formulaic to really develop much, but have great visuals.

"Temujai the Golden Goliath" has a couple of naming connections. "Temujai" is an oddly similar name to "Tegujai", the conqueror of Kirby's unfinished novel THE HORDE (presumably both based on Temujin). And even odder, Jimmy Woo's pilot is named "Rocky Davis", published just before the Challengers debut. Anyway, in this story the Yellow Claw has constucted a giant robot in the form of of Temujai, hoping to use it to take control of Asia using people's superstitions.

Jimmy Woo is sent to investigate, gets captured and thrown in with the scientist who invented the artificial skin on the robot, and with the Claw's traitrous neice Suwan takes control of the robot. At the end we find out that the fake skin only lasts a short while anyway, so I guess the Claw's plan was futile.

The next story is "The Mystery of Cabin 361". I guess a page was edited out here, but the plotting on these stories is so jumpy that I can't tell where. In this one, Jimmy spots the Claw and Suwan boarding a cruise ship and goes undercover as a steward. He gets captured again (not the best agent, is he, although I guess it's a genre standard from James Bond or Maxwell Smart), but manages to foil the Claw's plan. In an entertaining variation, the Claw takes the effort to drug Suwan so she can't betray him, but even in that state she's instrumental in his defeat.

As usual in these reprints, lettering is changed so Jimmy Woo is changed from an FBI agent to SHIELD.

Published 1975

Fear #5 - "Gorilla-Man" and "Channel X"

Three Kirby/Ayers reprints in this double-sized issue, which begins and ends with the two "Gorilla-Man" stories from TALES TO ASTONISH #28 and #30.

"I Am the Gorilla-Man" features evil scientist Radzik, first exiled from his home country for forbidden experiments, then perfecting a machine which lets him switch bodies with animals. After a test experiment switching with a cat, he decides the most logical use of this invention would be to switch to a gorilla body to commit crimes. Must have been a comic fan. So he steals a gorilla, placates him with bananas and switches bodies. Unfortunately, he didn't realize that gorillas were evolved enough to be able to control his body, and the gorilla has Radzik in the gorilla body send to the zoo, where he gradually become more beast-like.

Two issues later (far too soon to actually be by popular demand), the sequel "The Return of the Gorilla-Man". After a short recap, we see Radzik, apparently not so far descended into bestial state, gets hold of a crayon, and writes a note to a guard promising a reward for his freedom. Yes, the guard actually falls for this. Eventually Radzik finds himself among scientists, but his hands get burned on the way so he can't write. He does prove his intelligence in other ways, such as doing puzzles, playing poker, playing ping-pong and driving.

And yes, I know that all those require more use of hands than is required for writing....

Confident that the scientists would find a way to restore his humanity so he can resume his planned life of crime, Radzik is surprised to find himself herded onto a rocket, where he's sent on a trip to the stars, something the scientists were reluctant to sacrifice a human volunteer on.

Two fun goofball stories, and I love the way way Kirby draws gorillas.

Also in this issue, "What Lurks on Channel X?" from JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #73. In this story, a couple with a cranky landlord is given a free experimental TV. The TV begins to hypnotize them, and tell them of the conquest plot this is part of. Fortunately, the landlord comes to the rescue when he takes down their antenna as a violation of apartment rules. The aliens give up at this point. I love how poorly all these alien would-be conquerors take even the smallest set-back in these stories. Not a great story, but it does have a brilliant splash page, which can be seen on the Monster Blog (as can, by the way, splash pages and covers from most of the Atlas stories I mention here, if you ever want to check out more).

The cover is also Kirby/Ayers from the cover of TtA #28, which is an unusual panel layout cover, with a different take on the Gorilla-Man story.

Published 1971

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Captain America #208 - The River of Death

Kirby's final stint on Captain America was one of his longest of the 1970s, behind only KAMANDI, with 22 issues, 2 double-sized annuals and a big tabloid comic. 553 pages in all. It was an uneven run in some ways, but it had a lot of fun stuff.

#208 had one of those fun moments with the introduction of Arnim Zola, the Bio-Fanatic. He's just one of those crazy Kirby villain designs, like Modok, that just make me smile.

While it ended on an incredible up note, this otherwise isn't one of the highlights of the run. It features Cap in South America, having just escaped from the Swine's prison. He's attacked by a large red monster we get to know as the Man-Fish, which is the (at this point in Kirby's career) obligatory two-page splash, which is one of the weaker ones. I generally like the ones with detailed backgrounds you can get lost in rather than just two figures fighting. Cap then gets recaptured by the Swine and his men, and is about to be killed in a pit along with the Swine's cousin Donna Maria when the Man-Fish returns, killing the Swine (which seems like a rather anti-climactic end to his story) and then fighting Cap until his master, Zola, shows up and calls him off. In the middle is a short subplot about SHIELD and the Falcon looking for Cap. While it mostly looks good, the story is just a bit light and unfocused.

Frank Giacoia inked the story, while Joe Sinnott inked the cover.

Published 1977

R.I.P. Will Eisner

Will Eisner, who Kirby worked for in the Eisner/Iger shop in the 1930s, has passed away at age 87.

You can read a 1997 interview with Eisner about Kirby from TJKC #16, and an early 1980s conversation between Kirby and Eisner is available in WILL EISNER'S SHOP TALK.

There is another thing I can tell you. I did a book called The Dreamer [Kitchen Sink, 1986], in which I showed Jack Kirby, and Jack said to somebody, "I didn't think Will liked me that much!" (laughter) He always called me "boss." (laughter) I said, "Jack, we're old men now, you don't have to call me boss anymore." "No," he said, "you're still my boss." (laughter)

Monday, January 03, 2005

[Video] Thundarr - Wizard Wars

Probably the animation property most associated with Kirby in the 1980s is THUNDARR THE BARBARIAN, which had 21 episodes produced by Ruby-Spears from 1980-82. Alex Toth designed the main characters, and Kirby was brought in later to do character design, so many of the villains and vehicles were based on his work, sometimes quite obviously. He also worked on such things as an unsold proposal for a Thundarr newspaper strip. On the writing side, head writer was Steve Gerber, who Kirby worked with on DESTROYER DUCK around this time, and Mark Evanier was also on the writing staff.

The premise of the series is a hodge-podge of fantasy/sci-fi elements. Apparently, and I don't know if you noticed this, about 10 years in the past (well, it says 1994) a rogue planet zoomed between the Earth and Moon, ripping the moon in half and wrecking havoc on Earth. The series is set 2000 years later, in a land of ruined cities, "savagery, super science, and sorcery", with a group of three companions, Thundarr, Ookla and Princess Ariel, riding from town to town, righting wrongs.

I have a tape with several-generation-down copies of a bunch of the episodes, so every now and then I'll just post a few words on them, mostly on what seems to be the Kirbyest aspect.

"Wizard Wars" was the first episode of the second season. Thundarr and company get in the middle of a battle between two wizards, the first of whom, Skullus, pretty much has to be pure Kirby. He's a head in a glass dome, controlling four-armed magical robots. It's not so clear in the graphic here, but he even has Kirby squiggles on his head.

That's the clearest Kirby moment in this episode. The other wizard, Octagon, isn't as distinctive, although he does have Doctor Octopus style arms, both on himself and on his headquarters, which look neat.

Image lifted from the Thundarr fan website,, where you can also find an episode guide with a detailed summary of this episode and more. It also has a petition to get a DVD release of the series, which seems inevitable given almost everything else is getting released on DVD these days. Hopefully if they do one, they'll find some way to incorporate Kirby's raw design work (and Toth's as well), maybe as part of an insert booklet, or a video feature or DVD-ROM extra.

Broadcast circa 1981

Atlas Cover Gallery [World of Fantasy, Tales to Astonish, Strange Worlds]

A trio of Kirby's covers to Atlas books from shortly after his return, all three inked by Christopher Rule according to the Kirby Checklist.

TALES TO ASTONISH #3, 1959. Typical Kirby fleeing crowds, and good details on the buildings.

STRANGE WORLDS #5, 1959. A nice break from the giant monster and alien themes that dominate these covers, this looks like a good horror/sci-fi cover, reminds me a bit of the BLACK MAGIC stuff from earlier in the decade. Very nice face on the foreground figure.

WORLD OF FANTASY #15, 1958. And here we get some nice Kirby machinery, though not as elaborate as he would soon get. And the scan doesn't really show it, but the aliens are neat, and there's some good linework on the foreground scientist's face.