Archival Site 2004-2006 see See

Monday, February 28, 2005

Themeless Cover Gallery (BoyC, Fury, Defenders)

BOY COMMANDOS #7, 1944. After six issues doing interiors, Kirby is off to the army, with just covers for the next two years. A great vintage S&K cover, lots of movement, nice details on the motorcycles.

SGT. FURY #15, 1965. Dick Ayers inks. Fury and the Howlers taking care of business in Holland, in a nice dramatic cover. I don't usually mention anything about the non-Kirby interiors of these things, but this one has a gorgeous unusual combination of Dick Ayers pencils with Steve Ditko inks.

DEFENDERS #42, 1976. Klaus Janson inks. Hulk versus the Rhino. That's okay. I also always like the way that Kirby draws Doc Strange for some reason.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Super Powers #2

The series continued with Kirby doing just plotting for the interior story. He did draw the cover, as inked by Mike Royer. Pretty decent looking, although of course Kirby's never at his best drawing other people's designs.

The story pretty much has three of the villains sent out with enhanced powers the previous issues failing, thanks to some teamwork on behalf of the heroes, and being taken away at their moment of defeat by those mysterious tubes with the "boom" sound effect. That leaves Brainiac and his attack on Wonder Woman at Paradise Island set up on the final page for next issue. Gonzales/Marcos are still trying a bit too hard to add surface elements of Kirby's style to their art. The writing wasn't bad, but it had some odd references to the then-current continuity (Flash's murder trial, Batman leaving the JLA).

Published 1984

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Black Panther #8 - Panthers or Pussycats?

This story opens up with a flashback to a combat ritual some years ago in Wakanda, where the ruling Panther took on various challengers in hand-to-hand combat. A brilliant two-page spread highlights that battle.

Following the flashback, we get two storylines. T'Challa is flying back to Wakanda when he rescues two men who turn out to be gangsters. They cause his helicopter to crash and T'Challa finds himself stranded in North Africa with the surviving gangster, Scarpa. Meanwhile, in Wakanda, the regent N'Gassi gathers together some other members of the royal family to battle Jakarra, now mutating to monstrous form by exposure to Vibranium. They're all uncertain of their ability to help, but rise to the challenge when Jakarra attacks, and resolve to defeat him.

An entertaining start to the "Black Musketeers" storyline in the title. I especially like the background scenes given for T'Challa's history.

Published 1978

Friday, February 25, 2005

New Kirby - Marvel Weddings

Just a quick note that MARVEL WEDDINGS came out recently. It has a reprint of FF Annual with the wedding of Reed and Sue. It's not really a very sharp reprint (and bad print quality with Colletta inks is just a double killer) unfortunately, and most people would probably prefer to get the story in the recent MARVEL VISIONARIES STAN LEE or one of the other reprints (none of which are any better, but have better other material).

Also, more when I confirm, but I've heard that the recently announced MAXIMUM FANTASTIC FOUR has been pushed back to the fall.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Marvel's Greatest Comics #72 - The Skrull Takes a Slave

This issue reprints FANTASTIC FOUR #90 (1969), inked by Joe Sinnott. The story opens with the wrap-up to the previous issue, where the FF have captured the Moleman in the house they'd planned to move into. Reed lets the Moleman escape, explaining that "It's a strage paradoxical world we live in. A man can be arrested for illegal parking, but there's actually no law against trying to conquer the planet". Ben then goes back to town. Meanwhile, a skrull lands in the country, intent on capturing the Thing.

In town, Ben deals with some of his many fans when the skrull finds him.

Disguising himself as Reed, the skrull fools Ben into going out to his ship in the country, knocks him out and takes him as a slave for the "great games".

A nice transition issue between major storylines. The Moleman story finishing up wasn't that good, although it had its moments, including a few scenes this issue. The "Thing Enslaved" story that begins in here has a slow start, but would turn out to be the highlight of Kirby's final year on the book.

The reprint is only 18 pages, knocking two out of the original. Those pages mostly dealt with the FF calling and checking in with Alicia and the as-yet-unnamed Franklin. Nice character bits, it's a shame the reprint didn't have room for them.

Published 1977

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

2001 - A Space Odyssey #8 - The Capture of X-51

For the final three issues of 2001, Kirby introduced X-51. Seems the government has been experimenting with machines in the form of men, but found that the X-Series of robots tended to become unstable and violent. Doctor Broadhurst activates the built-in self-destruct for the robots, and they all explode. All except X-51, the robot that Doctor Abel Stack took home and raised as his son, Aaron.

Stack has given X-51 a human face, and removed the self-destruct mechanism and sends him off before the bomb can explode, staying to face it himself. The army pursues Aaron, finally capturing him, and he's held by Colonel Kragg, who's bitter because a previous rebel X-series robot caused him to lose and eye. Kragg removes X-51's human face, leaving him in his cell. Having an identity conflict, X-41 is suddenly confronted by the mysterious monolith and approaches it.

Fun start to what would be a rich concept for Kirby to explore for a dozen issues. It's also a nicely dense story compared to many of the era, with only a single splash page, which led to a story with a lot of twists and details despite the short 17-pages he was given.

Mike Royer inks the cover and story.

Published 1977

Giant-Size Fantastic Four #2 - The Red Ghost and his Indescribable Super-Apes

The new story in this issue featured the Watcher, so the reprint in the back went back to the introduction of the Watcher in FANTASTIC FOUR #13 (1963), a 22-page story inked by Steve Ditko.

In this story, Reed re-news his determination to beat the reds to the moon (and Roy Thomas helpfully points out this was before the mid-1970s detente), and discovers a new energy source from a meteorite sample. Planning to go alone, Ben convinces him otherwise.

I love these kinds of scenes, Ben stuffing Reed in a giant tube until he agrees to take them all on the mission.

Leaving exactly when the FF do is Ivan Kragoff, Russian scientist, who is going to the moon with a trio of trained apes. He's also going with no shielding on this ship, hoping to replicate the FF's cosmic ray experience from back in #1 and get powers. That actually works, and he and the apes get a variety of powers. The FF reach the moon first (with a glorious 1/2 page shot of the long dead city in the Blue Area), and face off against Kragoff, now known as the Red Ghost, and encounter the Watcher, who would of course become an important part of the FF mythos in later years. It's almost surprising what a throw-away concept he is in this first story.

As usual at this point in FF history, the story is pretty creative, gradually getting better and more complex. The art is wonderful, with lots of innovative ideas and clever bits of storytelling thrown in. Ditko inks over Kirby are always interesting to see (this in one of just a handful of examples on the super-hero books). He brings a lot of his own texture to it, but seems to be very faithful to the pencils as well.

Published 1974

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Weird Mystery Tales #3 - The Burners

More leftovers from the unpublished SPIRIT WORLD #2, this time featuring Kirby/Royer taking on spontaneous human combustion in a 10-page story.

Apparently Dr. Maas has some across all sorts of case history on the phenomenon, all lovingly rendered by Kirby. He dismisses those who would link the burnings to UFO activity (although that does give Kirby a chance to use one of his collage pages), as even Maas has limits on what he can believe.

Maas does some readings on one subject, a depressed man who is generating huge amounts of electricity. He notices smoke coming from the man just as he leaves, and pursues him in his car (I'm not sure how the man got such a lead on Maas). Unfortunately, he arrives too late and the man has flamed out in his car. Apparently Maas's theory is that there is an "ability to fulfill a death wish by a self-activating thermo-chemical process". Y'know, not something silly like UFOs.

This is a gorgeous looking story. It's amazing how much detail he was putting in some of the pages at this time, and how perfectly Royer was able to capture it all. The actual plot is a bit weak, maybe with some more pages he could have fleshed it out and gotten something more satisfying, but it serves the art nicely.

Published 1972

Fantasy Masterpieces #5

Heavy on the Kirby in this issue, with five stories reprinted, totaling 50 pages, plus a new Captain America figure on the cover by Kirby/Giacoia.

Three of the stories from CAPTAIN AMERICA #5 (1941) are included. Unfortunately, the reproduction is really splotchy, and they're frequently edited for page-layout (usually involving chopping the sides of some panels) and content (like making the killer clowns in the first story less scary). According the Kirby Checklist, Al Avison was the inker on these stories.

"The Ringmaster of Death" is up first, a 12-page story involving Cap and Bucky coming across a circus run by a Nazi ringmaster, who plans to kill several key figures. With the help of reporter Betty Ross they manage to foil his scheme, with the usual circus motifs (lions, elephants, a strong man and a trapeze rescue) along the way.

"The Gruesome Secret of the Dragon of Doom" (retitled from "...Dragon of Death") has Steve Rogers re-assigned to the Pacific as General Haywood's orderly, with Bucky going along "since [they're] so inseparable". Before they arrive, a patrol boat on the island vanishes, with reports it was swallowed by a sea dragon. Turns out the Japanese have the captain prisoner, and are trying to get a password from him for a sabotage plan. They kidnap the captain's daughter when he won't talk, while Cap follows and sees their boat go into a sea dragon's mouth. He and Bucky follow, and find it's part of a giant Japanese sub.

Cap is able to rescue the captain and his daughter, and seemingly gets caught in an explosion, leading Bucky to briefly think he's dead, shooting several Japanese soldiers in his rage. Fortunately, Cap shows up shaken but alive.

"Killers of the Bund" begins with the father of one of Bucky's friends, a German-American ("Yes, Bucky. I've found German-American people to be very nice"), being beaten up by nazi agents trying to recruit him for their bund. Steve and Bucky go to see him, and find out about the nazis. In costume, they go to the bund camp (Camp Reichland, with a big Nazi flag. Worst spies ever) and deliver a lesson in the American way with their fists. The next day, Bucky recruits his Sentinels of Liberty to keep their eyes open for clues on more nazi camps and plans. They find out about a plan to blow up a dam, but Bucky finds Cap has been taken prisoner. Cap is able to escape and commandeer a plane to foil their bombing plan, meanwhile Bucky has led his Sentinels and their fathers to take caret of the camp.

Man, you'd think there was some sort of war on the way when these were published. Anyway, despite the spotty printing these look pretty good. Kirby would get a lot better soon after with the DC work, and the plotting and scripting would get a lot tighter, but there's a lot of raw energy in these earlier efforts.

Three fantasy stories round out the issue, two of them by Kirby. "Mr. Gregory and the Ghost" from JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #75 (1961) is a 7-page story inked by Christopher Rule. Gregory is an unpleasant rich man who makes inferior homes for people by cutting corners. For his own home he spares no expense, but finds the house in haunted before he moves in. He tries to photograph the ghost and fails, and tries to exorcise it and fails. Finally he decides to spend all his money moving the house to another town, because he read ghosts can't move from town to town. We're finally told that will be in vain, because his house was made from haunted trees, so the house itself is the ghost.

Bit of an odd ending. I would have thought the ending should have more to do with his crooked business dealings mentioned in the front. Would have made it a better story. Anyway, the art is nice, with some interesting storytelling sequences, detailed backgrounds and some very nice work on Gregory's face.

"It Fell From the Flying Saucer" is a Kirby/Ayers 6-pager from TALES TO ASTONISH #31 (1962). An artist in the park is the only witness to a flying saucer, and sees a pencil drop from it. Recognizing a quality pencil, he tries it out and sees that everything he draws comes to life. After some tests (like putting himself on Mount Rushmore and bringing Cleopatra, Caesar and Davy Crockett to life) he decides to make himself the ruler of the world. It works, but when no one believes his story about the flying saucer, he draws it, and it returns, and a tentacle comes out and takes back the pencil, causing everything to vanish and go back to how it was, with no memory of what happened.

This is a fun story, with a lot of clich├ęd elements, but really well told. I especially like the middle, where he's experimenting with the pencil, giving Kirby a chance to draw some fanciful stuff. This is one I'd include in a collection of Kirby's best pre-hero Marvel work.

Published 1966

Giant-Size Man-Thing #3 - Save Me From the Weed

Reprinted from STRANGE TALES #94 (1962) is this 6-page Kirby/Ayers story. Some leakage from an atomic experiment winds up in the garden of millionaire Lucius Farnsworth, which is tended by George, a talented if somewhat tame gardener, who's happy to stay as a gardener rather than open up his own landscaping business, as Fansworth urges. The radiation cause one plant to mutate into an intelligent weed.

Now that's a great transformation scene. Anyway, the Weed develops mental powers and a desire to rule the world, so it makes Farnsworth sleep while it rests to build its powers. Fortunately George comes by and chops down the Weed, not realizing that he's saving the world. Farnsworth comes to the realization that everyone has their place in the grand scheme, or something like that. It closes with another one of those "world balloons" with a shot of the Earth with some dialogue coming out if it.
This is a really attractive story, with some nice background artwork, and a nice looking creative monster. One of my favourite of the monster stories of the era.

Published 1975

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Avengers v3#27

For a brief period a few years back, Marvel had a format they called the "100 Page Monster", where they'd back up a regular monthly book with a whole lot of reprints. In this example, they included a reprint of AVENGERS #150, which in turn reprinted part of AVENGERS #16 from 1965 (I expect in 20 years we'll get a reprint of AVENGERS v3#27 in AVENGERS v5#32, and so the cycle of life continues).

This story is of course "The Old Order Changeth", the first major change in the team line-up, with all the founding members taking a break, leaving Captain America to lead the team with three reformed villains, Hawkeye, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. While the departing members do the recruiting (which involved going through the mail to select two of the members. I wonder who else wrote in and didn't make the cut), Cap and Rick Jones make their way back from foiling Zemo's plans in the Amazon.

This scene always cracks me up, as they have Cap rush ahead as an excuse for a few action panels, and then it turns out he decided to wait for Rick anyway.

This reprints 12 of the original 20 pages, with the first few pages (wrapping up the battle with the Masters of Evil) cut, as well as some later pages/panels. This issue was Dick Ayers doing finishes over Kirby layouts.

Published 2000

Ms. Tree #50 - Captain Victory pinup

Max Collins and Terry Beatty finished up the first run of their detective series in this issue, including several dozen illustrations of congratulations on their "fiftieth issue" from various artists. Kirby was among them, sending in a note featuring Captain Victory.

I think Terry Beatty inked the drawing. At least it looks like his style, and I vaguely remember hearing that he did.

Published 1989

Friday, February 18, 2005

Upcoming Kirby - Marvel in May 2005

Kirby in a whole bunch of Marvel releases for May 2005, in a variety of formats. The most interesting is ESSENTIAL THOR v2, almost 600 pages of Kirby, most not reprinted in 30 years. Some good stuff in the BEST OF THE FF book, even some of the non-Kirby stuff which makes up the bulk of the book. And it's good to see those two Tuk stories, although I still think the MARVEL MILESTONE selection is a bit unfocused. The MAXIMUM FF book is a bit odd to see. I suspect Evanier will post more on his site, and I'll link to that when he does.

GIANT-SIZE X-MEN #3 (two stories)
MAXIMUM FANTASTIC FOUR (see details below)

Written by STAN LEE
Penciled by JACK KIRBY
Witness classic cosmic clashes between the God of Thunder and his evil stepbrother, Loki; the Absorbing Man, the Destroyer; and more of his most fearsome foes! Plus: Thor's first journey into the Black Galaxy and a reporter's firsthand account of Asgard! Guest-starring the Avengers and featuring the first appearance of Hercules! Collects THOR #113-136 and Annual #1-2.
ISBN: 0-7851-1591-9)

The super-villainy of Kang the Conqueror…unleashed at last! You've seen his true colors in YOUNG AVENGERS; now, see what came before! In a classic contest, the Grandmaster and Kang pit the Avengers against the Squadron Sinister and the wartime Invaders! And when the self-proclaimed "Ultimate Kang" sets outs to conquer his alternate-reality counterparts, only one force can possibly halt his mad march: himself!? Plus: Kang takes on Thor and the Hulk! Collecting AVENGERS #69-71 and #267-269, THOR #140, and HULK #135.
176 PGS./MARVEL PSR …$19.99
ISBN: 0-7851-1820-9

Follow the FF from their original adventure to the height of their success! Caught in a mental maelstrom of alien enemies! Trips into the Negative Zone, Subterranea and the soul of Ben Grimm! The triumph and tragedy of Mr. Fantastic! The Thing vs. the Thing! And who will be the last hero standing in the ultimate war...of practical jokes? Featuring Dr. Doom, Dr. Octopus, the Impossible Man, Daredevil and more! Collects FANTASTIC FOUR #1, #39-40, #51, #100, #116, #176, #236, and #267; FANTASTIC FOUR (Vol. 3) #56 and #60; MARVEL FANFARE #15; MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #50; and MARVEL KNIGHTS 4 #4.
360 PGS./MARVEL PSR …$29.99
ISBN: 0-7851-1782-2

Written by JOSS WHEDON
Featuring Classic Reprints by STAN LEE, JACK KIRBY & WERNER ROTH
In celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1975's GIANT-SIZE X-MEN #1 and #2 comes a colossal collection of the X-Men's greatest team-ups - plus a brand-new untold tale of the All-New, All-Different X-Men by JOSS WHEDON and DAVE COCKRUM! The X-Men tangle with the FF in FANTASTIC FOUR #28 (July 1964), the Might Avengers guest-star in X-MEN #9 (January 1964) and along comes a Spider-Man in X-MEN #35 (August 1967)!
80 Pgs/ Marvel PSR… 4.99

Celebrating 65 years of titanic tomes from the House of Ideas, MARVEL MILESTONES makes its triumphant return to the comics scene! Experience the highs, lows and in-betweens of Marvel's finest -- monthly -- in full color! This issue: In a special preview of next month's MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS: WOLVERINE VOL. 1 TPB, Logan makes his first foray as Patch into Madripoor -- an island nation where anything goes, and everything is for sale -- in a story from MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #1! Plus: Storm and Cyclops battle for leadership of the X-Men in UNCANNY X-MEN #201, and Tuk the Caveboy stars in stories from the Dark Ages from CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #1 and #2.
48 PGS./Marvel PSR …$3.99

Introduction and afterword by WALTER MOSLEY
Commentary by MARK EVANIER
Designed by PAUL SAHRE
FANTASTIC FOUR #1 Written by STAN LEE & Illustrated by JACK KIRBY
Ushering in momentous change in comic-book illustration and ingenuity, Jack Kirby's immense artistic contribution to FANTASTIC FOUR #1 revolutionized visual storytelling and brought the art of reality to the extraordinary lives of super heroes. The ripple effects of that single issue continue to influence comic-book art to this day. As a tribute to Kirby's rendering of Marvel's First Family and their first adventure, MAXIMUM FANTASTIC FOUR re-presents FANTASTIC FOUR #1 AS YOU'VE NEVER SEEN IT BEFORE - highlighted by a super-size, digitally remastered, panel-by-panel exploration of the entire issue that captures every single detail and nuance of Kirby's groundbreaking artwork. The book also contains a substantial introduction and afterword by bestselling author and comic-book enthusiast Walter Mosley; art commentary by Kirby expert Mark Evanier; the stunning design of Paul Sahre; and a scale-sized, high-resolution reproduction of FF #1. This immaculately packaged coffee-table masterpiece is must-have for any Jack Kirby enthusiast, Fantastic Four fanatic, or sequential art fan!
224 PGS./All Ages …$49.99
Format: Jacketed hardcover
Trim size: 8 7/8" x 11 7/8"
Special effects: four-color matte lamination, spot UV gloss jacket with embossing and foil, four-color matte lamination, spot UV case.
ISBN: 0-7851-1792-X

Written by STAN LEE
Penciled by DON HECK
Cover by DON HECK
Marvel's Man of Metal makes his triumphant return to the Masterworks! Yes, it's time to fess up and Face Front, True Believers: After a thirteen-year vacation, the iron-clad Avenger's back with his sophomore effort at long last. But it's guaranteed to be one harrowing homecoming!
This tome's classic tales pit Tony Stark against a virtual who's who of adversaries in the mighty Marvel manner that could only be brought to you by Stan Lee and the lavish pen of "Dashing" Don Heck! There's the return of Iron Man's arch-nemesis, the Mandarin, and said vile villain's origin, followed up by the first appearance of the long-loved Avenger, Hawkeye -- but he's not playing on the side of angels here. No, he's teamed-up with the Black Widow against ol' Iron Boots! And finally, Iron Man must test his mettle against no less than Captain America and his own Iron Man armor as the new Iron Man fights the old! It's a slam-bang barrage of Marvel classics with drama galore and a little '60s Russkie "Red Scare" that can't be beat. Reserve your copy today! Collecting TALES OF SUSPENSE #51-65.
240 PGS./ALL AGES …$49.99
ISBN: 0-7851-1771-7

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Monsters on the Prowl #28 - The Escape of Monsteroso

A 13-page Kirby/Ayers reprint from AMAZING ADVENTURES #5 (1961) leads off this issue. In this one, the owner of a failing circus hears about a report of a space-ship crashing in Africa (with some rather racist comments from the news announcer mentioning it). He decides to go down and see if he can find a lead attraction for his circus out there, and finds a giant monster, apparently dead, which he ships to New York to sell to a museum, using all his showman talents to come up with the name "Monsteroso" (now we know why his circus was failing). In the museum, Monsteroso suddenly comes to life and goes through New York, including a trip through Central Park, digging from the lake to the zoo, where he examines (and puts down unharmed) several animals.

(I love those weird panels Kirby would throw in, where he had the word balloons coming out of a shot of the Earth, which in his world-view apparently had many other planets, including ringed giants, in close proximity)

As the police use try to use gas on him, he climbs the UN building and sits up there, until they manage to shoot him down with a drugged harpoon and he falls into the river. They're quite proud of their ability to defeat the alien menace. Then, in an "ironic twist" (as the caption calls it), a giant space-ship comes down and out emerge mountain sized aliens, revealing Monsteroso to be a lost curious infant.

Decent story, the plot works a lot better here than it did when it was re-cycled for one of the weakest issues of FF a few years later.

The cover is also taken from AMAZING ADVENTURES #5, a modified version of the splash page, with the added art on the right side being done by Steve Ditko.

Published 1974

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Gallery of the Obscure (Shield-Wizard, KO, Chan)

Some covers to publishers Kirby didn't do too much work for.

SHIELD-WIZARD COMICS #7, 1942. The Kirby checklist credits this to Kirby/Novick, which seems plausible, but a bit surprising. It would be the only Kirby work for MLJ in the era (after they became Archie he seems to have done a short story in 1947, then of course the late 1950s super-hero stuff). It's a very nice cover, very much in the spirit of the Captain America covers Kirby had done the previous year.

KO COMICS #1, 1945. Not sure what the story with this cover is. The publisher is Geronoa (or possibly Gerona), and the cover has a "JCA" signature, but does appear to be partly by Kirby, certainly having some traits of his work of the era. Not sure the name of the character, could be "The Duke of Darkness" or "The Menace", which are listed in Overstreet as characters in here. Any more info would be appreciated.

CHARLIE CHAN #6, 1955. Published by Charlton, presumably picking up some unused inventory material from the Prize series of 1948. This is a great dynamic cover, my favourite of these three.

Superman #400 - Pinup

For their big 400th issue, SUPERMAN featured many artists doing short stories and pinups. Jack Kirby was among them, doing a pin-up of Superman outracing a space shuttle. Terry Austin inked the piece.

It's a very nice piece, a good mix of Kirby's style with the classic Superman look.

Published 1984

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter #3 - Claws of the Dragon

Another of the books Kirby just penciled in the last days of his DC contract. At this point the comic Denny O'Neil was still adapting the RICHARD DRAGON novel written by O'Neil and Jim Berry under the name "Jim Dennis". The series apparently couldn't hold an artist, with five pencilers in the first four issues (the last, Ric Estrada, did stick with the book).

As you'd expect in a martial arts book, this is pretty much just a series of fights. First Dragon fights a mob to rescue Carolyn from men of the Swiss, who wants some information from her. Carolyn manages to get captured again while Dragon is distracted fighting three guys who think they have martial arts training. We get a flashback to Dragon's teacher, the O-Sensei, who gave him the Dragon's Claw pendant for Finally the Swiss lures him into a trap, where he fights various hired weapon-masters.

I suspect that a few pages were cut here, as there are a few hired hands show up in the initial scene that Dragon doesn't actually fight. Anyway, Dragon is able to defeat them all, but the Swiss still manages to blow up the place and escape with Carolyn.

Obviously a bit of a trivial entry in the Kirby career, but he has a pretty funny way of drawing martial arts, very kinetic. D. Bruce Berry inks the 18-page story.

Published 1975

Monday, February 14, 2005

100 Things I Love About Comics

Blame this guy. And him, too. Anyway, it seems to be the cool weblog thing to do, even with one so monomaniacal as this, so 100 things I love about comics.


Sunday, February 13, 2005

Weird Wonder Tales #4 - We Found the Ninth Wonder of the World

Reprint of TALES TO ASTONISH #1 (1959), inks attributed to Chris Rule.

A ship encounters a giant lobster, just one in a series of giant sea life they've encountered as Professor Briggs leads them on an expedition following the map of Doctor Parker. The ship is capsized by what seems to be a giant moving island, and Briggs and Captain Kane wind up on the shore of another island, where they find Parker. Turns out he'd been conducting experiments on hormone regulating systems, but hadn't yet found a way to control it, leading to the giant turtle currently escaping from behind a huge gate. As they flee, Kane considers the potential wealth and problems of taking such a giant beast to civilization.

Ultimately he decides not to, and on the way out they encounter an even bigger turtle from an earlier experiment, the very "island" that had capsized the ship.

A hodge-podge of ideas already cliche as the time, borrowing heavily from KING KONG of course. The monsters in this are also a let-down, being just large versions of real animals. I did like the odd perspective shot of the stockades that the turtle was held in, though.

The cover is also from TALES TO ASTONISH #1, also Kirby/Rule, but heavily modified for the reprint. In the original the monster shown through the gates is clearly a large turtle, just walking out, as in the story, in the reprint it's completely redrawn as some huge snarling clawed beast.

Published 1974

Fantastic Four #31 - The Mad Menace of the Macabre Mole Man

The original FF villain, the Mole Man, returns for a third go-round, this time sinking whole city blocks out of New York to his subterranean domain. While the rest of the FF go to investigate, Sue sees a photo of an escaped convict and goes to the police station. The block she's on is sunk by the Mole Man and she's taken hostage, and the rest of the team have to rescue her, including a brief side-track of having to keep the Avengers from interfering (as the "Marvel Universe" concept became more common in this era).

The FF escape, only Sue somehow gets injured in an explosion, and only one doctor can save her. It turns out to be the fugitive whose photo Sue was looking at earlier, who it turns out is Franklin Storm, father of Sue and Johnny, believed by most people to be dead. He's able to save Sue, and we're promised more on him next issue.

FF was a pretty good book at this point, just on the verge of a big leap in quality to the peak material. I especially like how Kirby was drawing the tech stuff at this time, like the scooters the Mole Man's army uses, and Reed's various devices.

Chic Stone inks the cover and story, a few issues into his run as FF inker. While I love Stone's Thor and X-Men work of the period, his FF didn't quite work for me (although he was better than the regular inkers right before and after him). For some reason his FF just doesn't seem as bold as those other book. The big problem is how Ben Grimm looks in here. Seems a bit sparse, cartoony, without the texture that Sinnott would be bringing a year later. Actually, ignoring how he inks Ben, most of the rest looks pretty decent.

Published 1964

DC Comics Presents #84 - Give Me Power... Give Me Your World

A bit of an odd one, this issue features a team-up of Superman and the Challengers of the Unknown. Kirby pencils the cover and first 2 pages, then Alex Toth pencils a 7 page flashback and Kirby is back for the remaining 15 pages. Bob Rozakis writes and Greg Theakston inks the whole thing. I think the Toth sequence was originally supposed to be a chapter in the Rozakis/Toth Challengers series that briefly ran in ADVENTURE COMICS DIGEST, modified here to lead in to the crossover with Superman.

Anyway, this story features the Challengers coming to the Daily Planet looking for Superman. Clark Kent comes in, and they tell their story about how they tried to save a man on a ledge, and found a card with what they recognized as Kryptonian symbols. Superman uses his old mind-prober to recall when he saw that symbol as an infant, as a mind-control device used by Zo-Mar, a criminal who was exiled to space before Jor-El discovered the Phantom Zone.

With the Challengers, Superman finds Zo-Mar and they're eventually able to defeat him using such Superman concepts of the period as super-ventriloquism. Zo-Mar is sent off to the Phantom Zone, where we get a teaser for a sequel that I'm not sure was ever published as Superman's history was scrubed clean soon after.

A bit of a footnote in Kirby's career, but it was interesting to see him draw the Challengers one last time, and Superman without being redrawn. It's kind of disapointing that, even though he's mentioned a few times, Jimmy Olsen doesn't show up in the actual story.

Published 1984

Friday, February 11, 2005

Marvel Super Action #1 - This Monster Unmasked

MARVEL SUPER ACTION launched to carry the reprints of the CAPTAIN AMERICA series, beginning with this reprint of 1968's #100. It's an edited reprint, with one splash page in the middle missing and parts of the last two pages.

Following a recap of his classic return from hibernation in the pages of AVENGERS, we catch up with Cap and the Black Panther captured by Baron Zemo and agent, Irma Kruhl (in reality Agent 13, still otherwise unnamed) cleverly disguised with glasses and a beret, which seems to fool Cap easily enough). She manages to destroy the control panel to Zemo's space ray, then flees with Cap and the Panther.

After a brief encounter with Zemo's bodyguard Destruction (remember Kirby wasn't really creating interesting new characters for Marvel at this point), Cap unmasks Zemo as an imposter, Zemo's former pilot, who is killed by his own men, who are very picky about which Nazi they serve. They surrender at this point, and our heroes leave, with Cap offering the Panther a spot on the Avengers.

It's kind of a weak story, but some nice action scenes and machinery.

Syd Shores, who had inked some of the 1940s Cap artwork, inks the story. I didn't really like it too much in this issue, with a bit too much feathering, but it had its moments, and I like his stuff a few issues later more. Shores also inked the cover, although it was heavily modified prior to its original publication (especially a lot of the shading on the Cap figure and the details on his face), and that's the version used here. The unaltered version can be seen in the ESSENTIAL CAPTAIN AMERICA reprint and it's been shown in THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR.

Published 1977

DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #9 - The Green Arrow's First Case

Another "Secret Origins" issue, this one including the Kirby version of Green Arrow's origin from ADVENTURE COMICS #256 (1959), which I looked at in more detail here. Again, with digests, the reprint was modified slightly for the digest format. The captions and balloons didn't overlap with the adjoining panels like that in the proper version.

I like Kirby's detail with the "drill arrow" (obviously the easiest was to get down coconuts), one of the few times you get the idea that that much thought went into one of GA's gimmick arrows.

Published 1981

DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #5 - Unleash the One Who Waits

Since I was leafing through my various old digests, I figured I'd post about the few other Kirby stories I have, stories I've subsequently got better copies of. Almost all the digest reprints of older work were modified to some degree, and they weren't printed on the best of paper.

This issue's theme was "Secret Origins", and reprinted DEMON #1 from 1972, which I previously posted about here. As I mentioned then, I love the double page spread from this story, one of Kirby's best, and it still looks nice at this size.

This was the way I originally read the story, and I read it several times. Man, is this stuff overdue for a nice tradepaperback reprinting.

Published 1980

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Adventure Comics Digest #491 - The Man Who Couldn't Sleep

In 1982, after numerous format changes, DC revived ADVENTURE COMICS as a (mostly) reprint digest for a year beginning with this issue, including several S&K Sandman stories in the run (the same ones previously reprinted in the back pages of FOREVER PEOPLE). Because of the format of the digest, the artwork was modified throughout (golden age pages were wider, so parts of the art were taken out or expanded to fit the digest pages). And of course they're tiny. But they were a good place to read some stuff you hadn't seen before.

"The Man Who Couldn't Sleep" was from ADVENTURE COMICS #80 (1942). In this 10-page story, Sandman and Sandy have to deal with Felix Black, a rich man who has been driven crazy by his long-time inability to sleep. He uses his copious free-time at nights to become an expert and crime and recruits some henchmen to commit some robberies while keeping everyone else awake. Also involved is a struggling detective friend of Wes Dodds, who has trouble staying awake.

Eventually the detective gets kidnapped, and Sandman and Sandy trail the car through the city and rescue him. Great fight scene.

In the end Black finds his condition cured and renounces his life of crime, while the detective has more work than he can handle by taking credit for the arrest. While the format leaves something to be desired, and doesn't really show off the S&K linework which was really sharp at this point, you can see the power in the storytelling and the fast-moving plot. You're still better off getting the FOREVER PEOPLE issues for these stories (#7 in this case).

Published 1982

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Eternals Annual #1 - The Time Killers

In this issue, Thena of the Eternals is sent by Zuras to confront the Deviant Zakka, who is behind the sudden appearances of various creatures from the past into human cities. Thena takes along Karkas and the Reject, the recently rescued Deviant mutates from the regular series. Thena uses her powers to disguise Karkas and they're off. Thena and the Reject quickly encounter Jack the Ripper pulled forward in time, and stop him from killing before he vanishes. Meanwhile, Karkas is attacked by Atilla the Hun and one of his men, forcing him to reveal his true appearance.

He defeats them but terrifies everyone else, yet he still turns down Zakka's offer to join him, just as Thena and the Reject return. Tracking down Zakka, they face a final battle with Tutanix, an ancient Deviant mutate brought forward in time who first turns on Zakka and then battles Karkas and the Reject.

As you can see, Kirby's just tossing out concepts all over the place in this one, with a full 34-pages (then considered double size) to work with. It's a fun story, although it does point up how much wound up unexplored in THE ETERNALS, even with 19 issues and this annual. I'm sure Kirby could have done a lot more with Karkas in particular, but I think this is the only time he appeared outside of his introductory story.

Mike Royer inks the story, Frank Giacoia inks the cover.

Published 1977

Monday, February 07, 2005

1976 Annual covers

Kirby was used heavily as a cover artist for the 1976 Marvel annuals.

THOR ANNUAL #5, 1976. John Verpoorten inks. You know, Odin and Zeus really should just fight their own battles rather than pitting their sons against each other.

AVENGERS ANNUAL #6, 1976. Frank Giacoia inks. Nice, but a bit cluttered. And Captain America fighting the US Army, that's just wrong...

FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #11, 1976. Joe Sinnott. The FF face off against the Invaders. That's a fun looking cover, especially Ben vs. Namor and the battling Torches.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE ANNUAL #1, 1976. Joe Sinnott again. The Thing teams up with the Invaders spin-off group The Liberty Legion. I always like how Kirby draws those Golden Age and faux-Golden Age characters, and of course Ben Grimm is his signature character.

Kirby did two other covers for 1976 Marvel annuals, HULK, which was covered here, and CAPTAIN AMERICA, for which he also did the interiors.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Where Monsters Dwell #5

Two Kirby reprints from 1960 in this issue. "The Return of Taboo" is from STRANGE TALES #77, a sequel to the original Taboo story of two issue earlier. This 7-pager is inked by Dick Ayers. In the previous story, the would-be world conquerer from the Amazon swamp was fooled into going out into space with an H-bomb and blown up. Now his pieces return to earth, and eventually piles of mud from all over the world begin to merge in Central Park, where Taboo finally reconstitutes himself. Following a short reign of terror, Taboo issues an ultimatum to a defiant humanity.

Suddenly, a giant ship descends with more of Taboo's race. The future looks bleak for humanity when suddenly... well, I won't spoil it, but it's probably the most common stock ending for the giant monster stories.

Despite the cliche ending, it's a fun story. I rather like the defiant humans and brave cop panels on the page above.

The cover is also reprinted from STRANGE TALES #77, which is mostly the splash page to the story, with numerous small modifications. Further modifications were made for the reprint.

Following a Ditko solo story there's a 5-page Kirby/Ditko collaboration, "We Met in the Swamp" from TALES TO ASTONISH #7. A reporter goes out to see if there's a story in the old hermit out in a swamp who keeps staring at the sky. Slow news day, I guess. Anyway, the hermit tells his story of his youth, when he stumbled across an alien ship trapped in the swamp. He helped them out, in return for a promise of treasure, only to find out when they were leaving they were the advance scouts for an invasion force that will someday return. He vows not to open their treasure, and to wait for their return to warn humanity. The reporter opens the treasure and sees it is empty, and assumes the hermit was making everything up, but the hermit realizes that to beings travelling between galaxies, air would be a valuable treasure. Yeah, I don't buy it either. But presumably he's still out there in the swamp, waiting for the aliens to return.

The Kirby/Ditko art is always nice to see, especially with the swamp setting that they both did so well, plus the rather cute looking aliens.

Published 1970

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Demon #2 - My Tomb In Castle Branek

Kirby continues the first adventure of Etrigan in this issue, with Merlin as our guide, as Etrigan continues his battles in a European castle against the forces of Morgaine Le Fey. A great looking fight in there, with elaborate Kirby renderings of the castle and various statues. Unfortunately, Le Fey knows how to changed him back to Jason Blood and escapes to attempt to use her stolen spells to restore her youth.

Meanwhile, back in Gotham, Jason's friends Glenda, Harry and Randu hang around Jason's apartment, with its collection of artifacts and portraits of Jason's "ancestors". Jason and the local police inspector, Stavic, race on horseback to attempt to stop Le Fey's spell, and are blocked by one of her monsters. Fortunately, Randu is able to use his mysterious powers to evoke Etrigan, who attacks Le Fey at the crucial moment of her spell, with no idea if she was able to finish.

More intriguing hints about what is going on. I kind of wish Kirby had stuck with the Merlin / Morgaine Le Fey for a few more issues at the beginning, as it had some more potential that was never explored. Great artwork, too, with detailed backgrounds, fun monsters and nice fights.

Mike Royer inks the cover and 23-page story.

Published 1972

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Astonishing Tales #1 - The Power of Ka-Zar

Just before Kirby left Marvel, they launched a new pair of books giving solo features to some supporting characters, with Kirby doing a feature in each. ASTONISHING TALES featured Kirby drawing Ka-Zar. Sam Grainger inks the 10-page story, I think the only time he inked Kirby. Interesting look, very smooth and dark, I liked it.

Anyway, Kraven is brought in from Spider-Man as a villain for Ka-Zar, which is appropriate (and Kirby wasn't creating too many new characters for Marvel at the time). Kraven decides that his most challenging hunt would be Ka-Zar's pal, Zabu the sabretooth tiger. So he heads down to the Savage Land, manages to trap Ka-Zar in a pit and takes off with Zabu. Ka-Zar pursues and battles Kraven on his ship.

Despite his best efforts, Ka-Zar is defeated by a tranquilizer spray and tossed overboard. He quickly finds his way up to New York to rescue Zabu.

While a bit weak, especially compared to some of the work he'd soon be doing for DC, this was an interesting start, even though Kirby only lasted two half-issues on this feature. I thought his drawing of the Kirby designed Kraven worked surprisingly well, and I liked the various beasts and backgrounds he drew in the Savage Land in this issue.

Published 1970

Sgt. Fury Annual #5

This late-1960s annual collects two 1964 issues of SGT. FURY by Kirby, both inked by George Roussos (as George Bell). While I really preferred the Dick Ayers inked issues, Roussos does pretty good here, and suits the material much more than he did on FANTASTIC FOUR.

"The Fangs of the Desert Fox" from SGT. FURY #6 features the Howlers given a mission to kill Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox in charge of the German campaign in North Africa. Unfortunately, Dino Manelli is injured in a practice jump, and replaced by George Stonewall, who turns out to be a bigot, with particular problems with the black and jewish members of the team, Gabe and Izzy. So of course those two are the ones who end up saving him during the mission. Stonewall is still cool towards them after they return, but quietly leaves his forwarding address to Gabe and Izzy.

A little preachy, but well-intentioned, and a great war comic, with lots of firefights, hand-to-hand combat, loving renditions of tanks and planes and more.

That story was also the SGT. FURY selection for the recent MARVEL VISIONARIES - JACK KIRBY

Some special features between the two reprints, one of them from Kirby, the single page "Weapons of War" from SGT. FURY #5, showing various machine guns used in WWII.

Next up is "The Court-Martial of Sgt. Fury", from SGT. FURY #7. In France now, the Howlers are given a mission to help the French resistance attack a German ammo depot. The American lieutenant in charge turns out to be an old school-mate of Fury. Just as they're about to attack, Fury tries to stop the attack, and they get caught in an explosion.

Fury wakes up back in England, with no memory of why he tried to stop the attack, and is put on trial. This gives us some background on Fury from before the war. Some very interesting writing in there. On the sidelines, the Howlers of course wind up in the guard-house after defending Fury's honour from slurs by rival Sgt. Bull McGiveney. Eventually Fury gets his memory back and realizes that he stopped the attack because it was a trap, as he knew from questioning a German prisoner earlier (but for some reason didn't pass on the information at the time. Whatever).

The story works a lot better this issue than the other one, and the art is just as good, if a bit less action filled, with all the court-martial scenes. That does give a rare chance to see Sgt. Fury in his dress uniform.

There have been occasional rumours that we might see an ESSENTIAL SGT. FURY at some point for a while now. I certainly hope so, as they're a lot of fun, with art as good or better than Kirby's super-hero art of there era, with some really fun stories, and most haven't been reprinted in well over 30 years.

Published 1969

New Kirby - Black Panther & Marvel Visionaries - Stan Lee

Two Marvel releases featuring Kirby art now published

BLACK PANTHER BY JACK KIRBY v1 collects the first 7 issues of the 1970s series, with some nice stuff in the back like the unused cover and character design from the 1960s and some unused pencil pages.

MARVEL VISIONARIES - STAN LEE features a few stories drawn by Kirby, most notably the never before reprinted final Kirby issue of THOR.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Who's Who #22 - Steppenwolf

Only one Kirby entry in this issue, Steppenwolf, uncle of Darkseid. I think the main figure is mostly based on a re-design of the character for the toyline or SUPER POWERS series, but still looks nice. The classic Steppenwolf can be seen in the background images, including a scene from "The Pact".

Terry Austin handles the inking chores this time around, so that looks sharp.

Published 1986

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Young Romance #87

Ten years after launching, the first S&K romance comic was still going strong in 1957, with #87 (v10#3) featuring three stories drawn by Kirby. While not quite as good as the earlier romance stories that have been reprinted, they're still fun and really well drawn. The biggest problem is that they're too short, at only 5 to 7 pages each, to really develop the characters and multiple plot complications that the longer earlier stories did. The less complicated stories also make for few opportunities for the Kirby action sequences that frequently highlighted the early stories.

To place this issue in Kirby's career, this is from around the time he began working at DC again, with the first few Challenger issues of SHOWCASE being dated just before this.

(since the romance comics are less familiar to most people than the other Kirby work, I've included larger than normal scans from all three below)

"Girl With Possibilities" is the lead story in the issue, and easily the best. It features Sid, a failing young theatrical producer who has been unable to put together a hit since his first few early successes. Then he meets Alice, a girl from his hometown, who he recognizes as a sure hit. He quickly sets up a new show to feature her, but becomes afraid that she'll be signed by a bigger producer, and tries to sign her to an exclusive contract, which she says they don't need because she's in love with him. Sid later proposes to her in an attempt to make sure she stays with him, and we get a very clever twist at the end.

This was a lot of fun, and really well drawn. Only 7 pages, I'd have loved for this to go longer, with some very good story possibilities suggested.

"Rock 'n' Roll Sweetheart" is a quick story, only 5 pages, and really doesn't have a chance to get started before it ends. It features Judy, an orphaned young lady living with her father's family. She's considered a bit wild, and considers her cousin Harold a square, preferring to party with local rocker Happy Jenkins. Then at the end Harold announces he loves her, and there isn't any real set-up for her turnaround. A shame, as the story looks nice (look at that shading on the last panel of page four), and has some hints of interesting characterization, but as it is comes across as lecturing about making responsible choices. Like, uh, marrying your cousin...

"Make Me Beautiful" is the story of Ruth, and I'm not sure I really get it. Maybe you have to be more familiar with the era. Anyway, she's a plain girl who never gets any dates, and thinks it's because she's not flashy enough. Her mother lectures her about reaching out for false happiness, and she listens but still doesn't find happiness. Finally she goes out in her fancy dress and meets Kevin, a sailor friend of her friend David, and they hit it off, only she's sure he only loves her for surface appearances and breaks up with him. Of course he returns in the end. Again, there's the hint of a really good story, but with only six pages it comes across as preaching about not being too flashy and being yourself. And again, it looks great, as good as any

A non-Kirby story, "Was I Too Possessive?", and two text pages on romance advice and fashion round out the issue.

Published 1957

OMAC #2 - Blood-Brother Eye

Following his first adventure, where Buddy Black was changed to Omac by Brother Eye, Omac went to Electric City to meet the designer of Project Omac, Professor Forest. He found the city closed, rented for the night by criminal mastermind Mister Big for a party, actually a cover to kill Forest and destroy Project Omac. Omac manages to fail in a spectacular fashion, and Forest is killed by agents of Mister Big in costume.

You'd have to wonder about why criminals would be so afraid of Project Omac when guys in those get-ups can carry out an assassination right under his nose. Anyway, Omac continues into the city, and after a few more fights winds up dead and brougt to Mister Big, only to reveal that his death was a ruse to allow Brother Eye to gather evidence.

OMAC was one of those books where it felt Kirby never quite managed to get all the ideas in his head down on paper, which is a shame. I'm sure he had some interesting things to do with the whole Buddy Blank identity, which were never realized. What was published was still fun.

Inked by D. Bruce Berry, one of his first inking jobs over Kirby (so early that Royer was still the letterer at this point).

Published 1974