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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

X-Men - The Early Years #2 - No One Can Stop the Vanisher

This issue reprints X-MEN #2 (1963), more early adventures of the strangest super-team of all. This issue seems to spend a lot of time setting up the powers of each character, with an opening scene of them making their way to the mansion to answer a call from Professor X, where he tells them about a new threat, a super-thief named the Vanisher with teleporting powers. He then takes the team to the Danger Room to work on their powers.

Eventually the X-Men face the Vanisher in Washington DC (this is back when they had a good working relationship with the government), but despite all their powers are unable to prevent him from making off with some military secrets.

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Prof X steps in for the next confrontation, and is able to use his mental powers to make the Vanisher forget everything, including his powers, while the X-Men make short work of his recruited criminal henchmen. Still mostly setting up the series, but I really liked a lot of the scenes showing the powers, as well as some of the characterization worked into the dialogue.

Paul Reinman inks Kirby on the 22-page story and the cover (reprinted as an interior pin-up). Not a huge fan of Reinman's inks in general, but there are several nice pages. Nice Mike Parobeck cover up front.

The Bullpen page for this issue contains a tribute to Jack Kirby, with a Ben Grimm illustration by Joe Sinnott and words by Sinnott, John Buscema, Marie Severin, Curt Swan, Sal Buscema, Gene Colan, Don Heck and Tom DeFalco.

Published 1994

Monday, May 30, 2005

New Kirby - Jack Kirby Collector #42 - quick notes

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usA few quick comments on TJKC #42, the most recent issue. First thing, a note in here mentions that BACK ISSUE #10 has an article on Kirby's b&w magazines for DC, published and unpublished. Anyone seen that and can give a rundown on what's included (especially if there's any unpublished art that hasn't been seen in TJKC yet).

The main focus this time is on the early part of Kirby's 1970s stint at DC, especially on JIMMY OLSEN. The front cover is inked by Kevin Nowlan, with the Guardian and the Newsboy Legion based on two sketches Kirby included with his bound copies of his STAR-SPANGLED COMICS issues. It's okay, I guess, but pretty liberally interpreting of Kirby's linework. The backcover is Murphy Anderson providing an inked version of an unused JIMMY #147 cover (and with Mike Royer providing the lettering). Also maybe a bit too free with the linework, but he did only have a bad photocopy to work with, and maintained most of Kirby's power at least. Fortunately the source material and related stuff is shown inside (I like Nowlan's first try at inking better than the final version).

The Opening Shot looks at how Kirby's work on JIMMY OLSEN was reflected in other Superman books, in particular LOIS LANE, which is kind of interesting, but more interesting is the closeup of one panel from JIMMY with the Plastino paste-up Superman head removed. DC really does seem to have been conflicted about wanting Kirby's influence on Superman, but without that, y'know, Kirby influence.

Mark Evanier has his usual column, this time with some interesting notes on Kirby's cover designs, eating preferences and politics. Some nice art and photos, including a crazily complex robot design that Kirby gave to Don Heck in 1966.

Shel Dorf provides a nice transcript from a taped interview Kirby did with several fans in 1969, where he discusses, among other things, the upcoming first San Diego Con where he would be a mainstay for several decades. This was shortly before he signed with DC, so his answer to whether he'd be at Marvel for a long while is interesting. Nice artwork for this section, too, including the obligatory San Diego Five-String Mob artwork and a recently inked unused FF cover by Joe Sinnott, as seen on Tom Kraft's site.

Odd unused JIMMY page from #144, inexpertly inked unfortunately, with a discussion about how the Guardian's story just seemed to be suddenly dropped a few issues before the end. Following that is a more in-depth look at Kirby's first issue of JIMMY from the perspective of a fan buying it off the racks.

An interview with the creators of the recent RADIOACTIVE MAN with the Kirby pastiche, an issue I enjoyed, but it's not Kirby so maybe takes a bit too much space, especially with four pages of "Kirby as a Genre" in the same issue and the visit to the FF set, which I'm sure is of interest to some. Good to see another example of Kirby's FF cartoon storyboards.

Another interesting article about JIMMY, this one with some insights on his working relationship with E. Nelson Bridwell over in New York on the book, plus a short interview with Neal Adams.

One of the highlights of the issues is the long article about the original Newsboy Legion stories, with lots of cover and splash page reprints and comments about the stories that weren't reprinted in the 1970s. Man, I hope we see a decent collection of those someday, as the early ones when Kirby was still heavily involved seem great.

Kirby Obscura looks at some nice work drawn in the 1950s for Harvey and DC, including old favourite BLAST-OFF #1.

First Gallery section is devoted to pencils from JIMMY OLSEN, all published pages but when it comes to JIMMY that still means a lot of the faces are unpublished. I especially liked the inclusion of the page from the "Arin" story in #146, one of my favourite Kirby shorts.

The absolute highlight of the issue is the complete reprint of the 10-page S&K story "This Way to the Gallows, If You Please" from JUSTICE TRAPS THE GUILTY #9 (1949). Great restoration of the linework and an amazing story, a nice witty crime classic. That section also includes one of the unpublished IN THE DAYS OF THE MOB pages and some nice photos of Kirby drawing at a convention. They're planning on including more public domain stories, to which I can only say bring it on. Might be nice to see them printed full page instead of some of the non-Kirby content in the issue.

Second Gallery has more good stuff, including several pages from the unpublished b&w romance mags of the 1970s and, drumroll, two unpublished Dingbats of Danger Street pages. Man, that unpublished 1970s stuff needs to be printed in one place once and for all, instead of spread out page by page across dozens of fanzines.

The letter column has some interesting speculation on the unused 1960s Hulk pages printed in #41, with various theories on where exactly they fit in.

The issue closed with Mike Royer's new inks for the unused JIMMY OLSEN #133 cover which has probably now seen more play than the replacement DC insisted on.

Very good issue, despite some superfluous stuff, thanks to the fact that the highlights were very special indeed.

Where Monsters Dwell #11 - Gruto, the Creature From Nowhere

This 13-page Kirby/Ayers story is reprinted from 1961's JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #67. For the reprint, Gruto is recoloured from red to green (though oddly not on the cover, which takes the monster image from the Ditko original cover and redraws the human figures completely).

In this story, a reporter needs to come up with a big story to save his job. As fate would have it, he and his girlfriend happen across the crash landing of an alien ship containing Gruto.

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Gruto has lost his memory, and the reporter decides to take advantage of that to pretend Gruto is the harbinger of an alien invasion, in order to make the story bigger. His lies eventually lead Gruto to be attacked and flee, when he finally regains his memory it turns out he was from an enlightened race send to share their secrets with Earth, but now he deems humans unworthy. The reporter loses everything, including his girlfriend.

Fun story with a nice turnaround on the conventions, and of course the usual great Kirby/Ayers artwork. Some odd captions in the narration, like this one from when the reporter is called into his editor's office: "Thirty-five fearful steps later I reached the door of doom". Very unlike most of the stories, I wonder if this was written by someone other than one of the regulars (I like Lieber scripted most of the Kirby stories of this era).

This story also has one of those "world balloons", for fans of those.

Published 1971

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Demon #11 - Baron von Evilstein

In the middle of the run of THE DEMON, Kirby trotted out various classic themes of horror novels and movies and gave them his own spin. In this story he played off the classic Frankenstein concepts to great effect. Etrigan confronts a giant beast on the rampage in a Gotham City park. He sees as the creature is captured by Igor, and is captured himself as he reverts to Jason Blood.

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Igor turns out to be the servant of of Baron von Rakenstein (or von Evilstein, as his fellow scientists refer to him, since they're apparently 8-year-olds), and the creature is one of his experiments. After various experiments, Rakenstein decides to transplant Blood's head on the creature's body. Meanwhile, Harry and Randu go to a para-psychology institute to try to find Blood, where unknown to them one of the test subjects has established a mental link with the creature.

Weird stuff, very frantic, but beautifully drawn. Mike Royer inks the 20-page story and cover.

For those curious about Kirby's work habits of the time, the letter column gives a then-rare glimpse (of course now we have dozens of interviews and fanzines to consult). In answering a letter, Steve Sherman mentions that Kirby finishes an issue in about 11 days, writing as he pencils, and then goes through the pages to write the script. Royer then inks and letters an issue in about the same amount of time, and the whole package is sent to New York for the rest of the production.

Published 1973

Saturday, May 28, 2005

New Kirby - Essential Thor v2

At long last the second volume of ESSENTIAL THOR has been released, a big chunk of some of Kirby at one of his creative peaks for a very affordable price. Lots of fun.

Also of note on that topic, there's a new printing of the first volume of ESSENTIAL FANTASTIC FOUR (with a Kirby cover taken from FF #3 this time), which I noticed adds several of the bonus pages from the first Annual that were missing in earlier printings, and possibly other pin-ups from the early issues not in previous printings.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

--Link-- Chabon on Barda

Author Michael Chabon writes about his admiration for Big Barda and about Kirby in general in an essay posted on his website.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Upcoming Kirby - August 2005

Marvel continues its "feast or famine" scheduling, with just a trivial Kirby bit in their latest solicitations. MARVEL MASTERWORKS: DOCTOR STRANGE v2 continues the STRANGE TALES reprints and also promises a gallery of ST covers with Doc (the first volume was the only Masterwork without cover reprints). A few of those will be by Kirby.

AC Comics has this thing scheduled:

by Various
Comics' greatest artistic talents explore fantasy, sci-fi and humor in this cross-section of classics- Kirby on "Donnegan's Daffy Chair"; Meskin for "Invisible Link"; Powell does "Asylum"; Ditko draws "King of Planetoid X"; Cole does "King of Dopi Island"; Krigstein contributes "Bush Track Sentence"; and Kubert "Corsairs From The Coalsack."
52pgs, B&W SRP: $6.95

That's a silly but fun four page story with some nice art.

And Pure Imagination has this:

by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby
The first two volumes of The Complete Jack Kirby in one CD-Rom. Almost four hundred pages reprinted chronologically with historical analysis by Kirby historian Greg Theakston. CD extras include over 200 perviously un-reprinted examples of his comic strip work, rare photos and a previously unpublished interview. Works on Macs and PCs, Adobe Acrobat reader included. Pages can be printed.
CD-Rom SRP: $20.00

Very good stuff in the print version of those two books, so this is definitely worth it if you don't have those. Even with those I'm tempted by the further examples of Kirby's comic strip work and the interview.

Friday, May 20, 2005

2001 - A Space Odyssey #1 - Beast-Killer

After first adapting the movie for a tabloid format special, Kirby launched a monthly series to explore some of the ideas of the movie with his own unique flavour.

The first half of the story goes into the prehistoric past and explores the life of Beast-Killer, an early man who was given an evolutionary push from the mysterious monolith, gradually making more and more sophistocated weapons to aid in his hunting. We then leap forward to the exciting future of 2001 and astronaut Woodrow Decker, whose ancestor was Beast-Killer, in the asteroid belt.

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Decker and another astronaut are stranded on an asteroid with various mysterious artifacts and a strange beast. Decker is then taken by the Monolith on a cosmic journey, ages rapidly and turns into a "New Seed", one of the flyiing space babies from the end of the movie, going off to explore the cosmos. Pretty much a straight variation of the story from the movie, fortunately Kirby would inject more of his own ideas in future issues. This one does have some great artwork, in particular the prehistoric stuff (a great peek ahead to his DEVIL DINOSAUR run).

Kirby also provides a text page, "The New Seed", where he talks about a few of the ideas that the mysterious concept evokes in him and that he plans to explore.

Cover and story inked by Mike Royer.

Published 1976

Admin - Back again

Okay, ready to start posting again, although maybe not daily for a while. Meanwhile, I've updated the Announcement page with whatever has come out recently, and added a few links to available and upcoming books in the sidebar (including a good discount on the upcoming FF OMNIBUS from Amazon).

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Quick update

Still no time to update, but a quick mention that THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR #42 is in comic stores this week. Should be a good one. Also BEST OF THE FANTASTIC FOUR VOL. 1 HC and AVENGERS: KANG - TIME AND TIME AGAIN TPB.