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Thursday, March 31, 2005

Where Creatures Roam #3

Reprint from TALES TO ASTONISH #16 (1961) in this issue. The story was originally titled "Here Comes Thorr, the Unbelievable", but for some mysterious reason was renamed "Thorg" (okay, not so mysterious). A 7-page Kirby/Ayers effort.

This is one of many examples of Kirby using large stone creatures (including, oddly , the first Thor story soon after this), specifically Easter Island types, in stories. I think there was an article in TJKC about it. Anyway, in this one Linus, an archaeologist, and his wife Helen go to a recently discovered remote volcanic island in the Pacific to examine some giant stone heads. He finds a hidden room and trips an electric eye, which brings one of the heads to life, digging itself out to reveal a giant figure. Turns out Thorg is part of an advance team for an alien invasion. Linus convinces Thorg that he can conquer Earth solo, without activating the other heads, and calling his people to the island. Naturally everyone else assumes that he's betraying humanity.

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But after the other aliens arrive, Linus sneaks away and uses dynamite to trigger the volcano, destroying the island, knowing that the aliens rocky bodies would sink in the sea. Everyone else flees, but they return for Linus when they realize what his plan was. The natives don't seem too upset by him blowing up their island, but he did save humanity.

Lots of common plot points from several other stories, like man pretending to sign with the invaders and the advance force to the invading army, but as usual put together in a clever way, and great looking artwork. This story also features another of the "world balloons" often seen in stories of this era.

The cover is a modified version of the Kirby/Ditko TTA #16 cover, with various figures added, as well as some boats and water across the bottom.

Published 1970

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Marvel Spectacular #2 - The Verdict of Zeus

Reprints of 1966 issues of THOR continue with "The Verdict of Zeus" from #129. It's pretty impressive how much story they were putting in just 16 pages each issue back then. This issue has Thor returning to New York, with a very funny sequence where he's talking to a crowd on the street and then taking a cab to Jane Foster's place.

We then turn our attention to Olympus, in all its ornate glory, where Pluto announces to Zeus that Hercules has been tricked into taking over Pluto's punishment in the underworld. Hercules also battles his way up to Olympus, only to be told that the contract is binding, and he must find someone willing to battle on his behalf.

Back to Thor, he speaks to Jane (and briefly meets her new room-mate, the mysterious and kind of freaky looking Tana Nile, setting up another future story) and tells her he'll be renouncing his godly heritage for her love. Returning to Asgard, he finds out Odin has been looking for him.

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Turns out it's the time fated for Thor's trial on the Day of Three Worlds, so he has to delay his discussion about Jane. Meanwhile, Hercules has no luck finding any willing to battle on his behalf, and is really to accept his fate rather than live in a world where valor means nothing. That's when Thor, hearing Hercules' plight during his trial, arrives and announces he'll fight for Hercules.

As I mentioned about the previous issue, I'm a big fan of this storyline, all the more amazing when you consider that this was originally published on the same month as FF #51. Talk about firing on all cylinders. Just the various drawings of Asgard and Olympus in all their majesty are worth it.

Tales of Asgard continues running a year behind with "The Sword in the Scabbard" from JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #117 (1965). This begins the major saga for the feature which would run for the next dozen episodes. It seems that the immortals of Asgard have been a bit bored, and when Asgardians get bored, they fight. This displeases Odin, who goes to find Thor and Loki. He orders the fighting to cease and takes his sons to see the Oversword (aka the Odinsword, a massive sword which will cause the end of the universe if it's unsheathed) and shows them that it's developed a massive crack. He tells them they'll have to lead an expedition to discover who was responsible it. A great start to a fun story that introduces some nice Asgardian background characters and concepts.

Vince Colletta inks throughout, including the cover from #128.

Published 1973

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Kamandi #29 - Mighty One

This is a favourite issue of KAMANDI for many readers, myself among them. Following their involvement in the Bulldog/Leopard wars, Kam and Ben come across a flying figure that's neither a bird nor a plane. Before they find out more they find a giant comic strip mural carved in stone, telling the story of how the great hero "Mighty One" saved the world during the Great Disaster, creating the Landbridge between North America and Europe. It turns out the gorillas of this region have passed along the legend of Mighty One, distorting it along the way, and do things like fire themselves off catapults with a cry of "Up, Up and Away".

(and I never noticed before that the "Demonstration Course" has a giant DC logo)

Kamandi is especially interested in the legend, and convinces Ben to compete to prove he's the Mighty One, competing on such trials as moving a giant stone called the "Daily Planet". In the end Ben wins the rights to Mighty One's suit, which one of the gorillas tries to claim but Kam rescues, insisting it be left for the inevitable return of the real Mighty One.

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As I said, a favourite from this series, as well as one of the best Superman stories from the era (certainly among those that don't actually mention Superman...). The giant comic strip mural on the double page spread is spectacular, and the whole thing shows a great understanding of the character.

Long time Kirby assistant Steve Sherman is credited with suggesting the idea for this story, and D. Bruce Berry inks the cover and story.

Published 1975

Monday, March 28, 2005

Boy Commandos v2#2

This is the second of two issues published in 1973 reprinting 1940s S&K Boy Commandos stories. Boy Commandos is my favourite of the major S&K work for DC from the 1940s, so these are welcome reprints to go with the stories reprinted in MISTER MIRACLE the year before.

"Nine Lives for Victory" is a 9-page story from BC #2 (1943). In this one the boys pick up a stray cat, and keep it hidden from Rip Carter as it's a violation of regulations. It sneaks its way aboard on a mission to France. The team runs into a nazi patrol and let themselves be captured to keep the rest of the nazis off the trail of the rest of their mission. The hidden cat then attacks the rat-ish looking nazi officer.

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This creates enough confusion for them to finish their mission and get away. Back in England, the boys expect to be rewarded but are instead put on kitchen duty for disobeying orders while the cat is toasted as the hero of the mission.

The second story is an 11-page story from BC #6 (1944), "News from Belgium", where the team are given a mission to smuggle parts for a printing press into Belgium so that the underground can continue to produce their newspaper of real news of the world to counter the nazi propaganda. The team gets split up along the way, and Brooklyn and Alfy wind up being helped by a Belgian farm girl who disguises them in girl's clothing, which is pretty amusing. Later re-united with the rest of the team, they get the parts to the newspaper editor, and come up with the idea of baking the newspaper into loaves of bread, so they can be delivered right under the noses of the occupiers.

Some of the inking on this story is especially good, especially the scenes in the Belgian forest. Also, I know I don't give too much attention to the scripting in these things, but there are some interesting things in this one, like "with a practiced landing that would put even the feather-footed tiger to shame" and "the ominous thud of booted feet bodes evil for those living under the nazi heel". There's some really nice scripting and imagry in here.

Published 1973

--Link-- Isabella on Unleashed

Tony Isabella's online column Tony's Tips takes a look at KIRBY UNLEASHED, as well as a vintage 1950s DC cover.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Marvel Milestone Edition - Fantastic Four #5

Another of Marvel's cover-to-cover reprints of key issues from the early 1990s, this one marking the first appearance of Doctor Doom from 1962 in the 23 page "Prisoners of Doctor Doom" story. It's also the first FF issue inked by Joe Sinnott, later the inker most associated with FF through the second half of Kirby's run and the decade after that.

Following a brief prelude with Doctor Doom departs from his lair to capture the FF, we switch to the as-yet-unnamed Baxter Building where Johnny is reading that new Hulk comic, comparing Ben to the Hulk. Welcome to the Marvel age of subtle cross-promotion. This leads to a fight of course (I'm sure Johnny regrets burning that copy of HULK #1 now), and even Reed's starting to notice how they're always fighting amongst themselves when they don't have a super-powered meance to face. This is sharply cut off when Doom attacks. Reed gives the quick version of Doom's origin, a great little sequence that left a lot of room for later stories to flesh out.

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Using Sue as a hostage, Doom sends the rest of the FF back in time to retrieve Blackbeard's treasure chest. The boys go back, get period disguises and soon find themselves drugged and taken prisoner aboard a ship. Ben wakes up and attacks first, with a great scene of him coming up through the floor.

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The adventure continues with a battle with another pirate ship, after which we find out that Ben is in fact the Blackbeard of legend. Reed realizes that there must be something more to the treasure than Doom has let on, so he replaces it with chains, and Ben briefly turns on his team-mates, planning to stay in the past where he can be accepted as a giant orange pirate. A sudden tornado then appears, knocking out the ship, and when the trio wash ashore Ben realizes the error of his thinking, and Doom's time machine appears to take them back. Back in the present, they battle Doom and are saved by Sue, with Doom finally escaping in the end.

This is a great issue, I think my favourite of the first ten issues of FF. A very dense story, with a lot of interesting concepts and clever twists, plus showing the tightening continuity (with some references to the Sub-Mariner from the previous issue) which would soon definitely set Marvel apart. Plus of course Sinnott's inks are great. Kirby's pencilling at this stage is obviously quite different from the work Sinnott would be inking a few years later, but Sinnott brings it out well.

The only notable ad this issue is the full-page house ad for INCREDIBLE HULK #1. The letter column includes a note from Roy Thomas praising the use of continuity up to #3 (I'm sure Namor showing up in #4 just blew his mind) and signing up for a two-year subscription.

Published 1992

--Link-- Get Well Joe Sinnott

Joe Sinnott, as I'm sure you're all aware one of my favourite Kirby inkers, broke his shoulder recently. It's healing, but he can't draw for now. Visit his site for details on where to send well wishes, as well as a funny Hulk drawing.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Silver Surfer #18 - To Smash the Inhumans

Kirby was brought in to give a new direction to the reportedly under-performing SILVER SURFER book with this issue, inked by Herb Trimpe, who was apparently supposed to take over the art with the next issue. Said next issue doesn't exist, of course, and the issue ends on a cliffhanger that I believe isn't even acknowledged in the next Surfer story.

The Surfer's wanderings take him to the region of the Inhumans' Great Refuge. He's first attacked by some of the renegade Inhumans who are under the command of Maximus. He's able to drive them off, but that's enough to make the Surfer paranoid when he comes across the Great Refuge and winds up in battle against the Inhuman royal family (the Inhumans don't help the situation by attacking him first).

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Said battle continues through an attack by Maximus, including an amusing episode where Lockjaw is able to use his mighty jaws to keep the Surfer's board from him. The Surfer finally leaves, and renounce reason, love and peace and revel in the madness he's always found himself greeted with on Earth. Verily, the sixties were over at that point.

This is a really mixed issue. In some ways I'm not sure Kirby was fully engaged in what he was asked to do, understandably since he was just about to leave the company, and couldn't have been that happy about being asked to "fix" the Surfer two years after the character was launched in a solo book without him. So I'm not sure that the new direction was even viable. However, some of the artwork is really nice, in particular the splash page of the Surfer entering the Great Refuge. Trimpe's inking is really fine in spots.

The Bullpen page for this issue announces that Kirby is leaving Marvel.

There doesn't seem to be a consensus on the cover, as some sources credit Kirby and others don't. I'd say the backgound Inhumans definitely don't seem to be Kirby, but the Surfer and Black Bolt figures are clearly at least someone talented trying to do Kirby, maybe based on previous drawings (they're pretty generic poses for the characters). Opinions?

Published 1970

Friday, March 25, 2005

Phantom Force #1

Originally intended to be published by Genesis West, PHANTOM FORCE wound up with two issues published by Image. It's a bit of a mess, with eight inkers working on the 23 pages of Kirby artwork (a cover, 20 pages of story and two pinups). Most of them, not surprisingly, don't work out too well (although, to be fair, not nearly as bad as I imagined when it was announced these artists would be inking Kirby), although Jerry Ordway does some good work on his two pages, and Jim Lee is surprisingly good on his story page and pinup.

As for the story, co-written by Kirby with Michael Thibodeaux and Richard French, it's as much of a patch job, with the second half being taken from a 1970s proposal Kirby did for a Bruce Lee comic, modified to be a character with the kind of sad name Gin Seng, grafted onto a seperate group concept, which looks like it was pencilled some time in the 1980s. The first chapter has most of Phantom Force (Apocalypse, Probe and Bobby) trying and failing to break into a lab to steal a cylinder. In the second chapter we meet their leader, Sensei and Tadsuki, the person who sent them on their mission to get the cylinder, which contains an antidote to a government created plague.

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Tadsuki then goes to try to enlist Gin Seng, a former student of Sensei, who refuses. In the final chapter (which has the pages Kirby did for the Bruce Lee proposal) Gin Seng is talking to some neighbourhood kids and is kidnapped, along with his girlfriend. He fights in captivity until finding out his girlfriend is being held elsewhere.

There's some decent art down below the surface here, in particular the martial arts scenes, but there are also parts that seem more like someone doing a Kirby imitation. Hopefully if this stuff is ever reprinted we'll see it closer to the original form.

There's also an ad in here for an still-unpublished Genesis West book RUSH, featuring a cosmic snowboarder by Kirby inked by Marty Lasick.

The back of the book has several pages of the various collaborators on the book writing about Kirby.

Published 1993

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Eternals #3 - The Devil in New York

This issue opens with the arrival of Celestial Arishem of the Fourth Host among the Incan ruins, sent to judge Earth in fifty years. Doctor Damian chooses to stay with Ajax and learn what he can, while Ikaris takes Margo out to the plane before the area is sealed off. Meanwhile, Kro is being punished for his failure to prevent the Celestial's arrival by the Deviant leader Tode. He plans to use his devilish appearence to get the humans to do their work for them. He also attempts to attack Ikaris and Margo's plane, until Ikaris uses his powers to quickly take them to New York, where he drops in on a fellow Eternal.

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The beautiful Sersy (later changed to Sersi), who we find out is the inspiration for the Circe of Greek myth. He asks her to protect Margo while he deals with the impending Deviant attack. The issue closes with Kro, in full Devil mode, attacking, spreading fear, but we see some humans are also defiant as Ikaris flies in.

There's some great stuff in this issue. In particular I like the page introducing Sersi and the two page spread of Arishem's arrival. I also liked the bit at the end with the defiant human responding to Kro's threats, as it reminds me of the classic Terrible Turpin sequence in NEW GODS, humanity defiant in the face of a war among gods brought into the city streets. ETERNALS definitely kicked into high-gear with this issue after a lot of set-up in the previous issues, still introducing lots of new concepts but starting to play with them.

John Verpoorten inks the cover and 17-page story, and I just want to say, though Verpoorten's name doesn't often come up among discussions of best Kirby inkers, he definitely deserves some consideration for stories like this. Very slick, very powerful, seems very faithful to the pencils.

Published 1976

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

--Link-- Digital Dream Machine on Kirby

Thanks to Michael Ryan's Palaeoblog for the link to this site's Devil Dinosaur page (and keep an eye on the Palaeoblog's history of Dinosaur comics by Steve Bissette), as well as pointing to this tribute to Jack Kirby over on the Digital Dream Machine:

More 1970s Covers (IM, FF, Invaders)

Sorry, been a bit busy, so I'm resorting to another cover gallery. 1970s Marvel this time.

IRON MAN #90, 1976. Jack Abel inks. That's an interesting composition (remembering that most of these covers were done from layouts sent to Kirby from New York). It really works well with Kirby's style.

FANTASTIC FOUR #175, 1976. Joe Sinnott inks. Two big cosmic types from the 1960s doing battle in the city. I like those cars fleeing down by the bottom of the page.

INVADERS #32, 1978. More Sinnott. Hitler using Thor to fight the Invaders. There's some good high concept work. As usual, stuff like this makes me wish Sinnott had inked some more Thor back in the 1960s. He really seems to get the character.

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--Link-- Simon Comics

Longtime Kirby art and business partner Joe Simon has a website with his son Jim, with quick looks at many of the classic S&K collaborations. Check it out.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Monsters on the Prowl #16 - Mister Morgan's Monster

This 7-page Kirby Ayers story is reprinted from STRANGE TALES #99 (1962). Apparently after several failed attempts at making robots, an inventor named Morgan finally came up with a decent design in 2090. The robots worked fine (oddly the tasks we're shown them doing are vacuuming and directing traffic) but were feared by people and outlawed. Morgan sends them off a cliff, but secretly keeps one alive, hidden under his house, for the day when humanity can accept the robots.

Then one day aliens secretly land in a cool looking ship...

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These aliens apparently don't do well with confrontation, as they gas the city and sneak in, hoping to steal the robot, copy his design and use their robot army to invade Earth. Unfortunately for them, the creatur remains loyal to humanity and steadfast in his insistance on obeying Morgan's order to stay undergound, delaying the aliens enough that the gas starts to wear out. The cowardly aliens blow up their ship and themselves rather than be detected by the humans, leaving the robot damaged and dying on the street. Morgan assumes that the robot had disobeyed his orders to stay hidden and humanity was right to distrust the robots. The robot dies with a tear in his eye, with no one knowing of his sacrifice for humanity.

Definitely one of the highlights of the Kirby/Ayers monster stories, this is a very well drawn and touching story.

As usual for Marvel Monsterworks, you can check out the MonsterBlog for more on this story.

Published 1972

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Western reprint covers 1973

Marvel used a lot of Kirby's western covers in the 1970s reprints of their 1960s issues, sometimes with minor alterations and usually with new much brighter colors. I've always found it interesting that a lot of late 1950s and early 1960s Marvel covers have some detailed sophisticated colouring that you never see on 1970s books. Anyway, here are three for the big three Marvel western stars.

RAWHIDE KID #111, 1973. From RK #41 (1964). The fence in the back is new, and the speech balloon is completely redrawn (with the same dialogue). That's a beautifully dynamic cover.

KID COLT OUTLAW #173, 1973. From KCO #99 (1961). Again a new fence, plus that coach in the background is added. Actually in this case I think the additions add some nice balance. I liked how they played around with the settings and angles to provide a variety of strong images within the genre.

TWO-GUN KID #112, 1973. From TGK #65 (1963). Yay! This one was pretty much left alone. A very powerful cover with a nice background and a character who would have fit right in on the super-hero books that were taking off when it was first published. My favourite of these three.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Upcoming Kirby - Marvel in June 2005

Wow. Bucketful of stuff to list here. Explain this to me. In all of 2003, Marvel published one, count 'em, one new book with substantial Kirby art. Now we get this. Not really complaining, better a flood than drought, but spread 'em out a bit, dudes.


Five books in five very different formats. I'm most excited by the over-due release of ESSENTIAL FF v4, four years after v3. Some great Kirby/Sinnott classics in there. BICENTENNIAL BATTLES is also good stuff, should look good even with the tabloid issue shrunk down. It's nice to see a MILESTONES issue with all classic material this time, which should be a good sampler of the Golden Age Masterworks books for Cap and Subby. And then there's that FF OMNIBUS book. Wow. Very tempting, moreso than the MAXIMUM FF book listed before (no word on the status of that one). I assume by oversize they mean the size of the VISIONARIES books.

I've tossed in the listing for the FF MOVIE TPB, which just says it'll include some classic FF stories in addition to the adaptation of the movie. Logically that would mean some Kirby (there are classic non-Kirby FF stories?), but you never know.

Cover & pencils by JACK KIRBY
Variant Dust Jackets by JACK KIRBY & ALEX ROSS
They were visionaries. Explorers. Imaginauts. They were Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. And like their creations – the Fantastic Four – they continually strove to overcome the impossible and achieve the extraordinary. Now, the first three years of their landmark run on FANTASTIC FOUR – issues #1-30 and Annual #1 – are collected in one oversized volume. This keepsake edition also includes all original letters pages and pinups, critical commentaries, a historical overview, and other DVD-style extras – and features the best-ever reproduction of FANTASTIC FOUR #1.
848 pgs, $99.99
Please Note: this will be a limited printing

Written by STAN LEE
Pencils & Cover by JACK KIRBY
Relive more of the FF's classic exploits as they stand united against Dr. Doom, Annihilus and Galactus! Featuring the first appearances of the Kree and the microversal Psycho-Man! Guest-starring Spider-Man, Daredevil, Thor and the Warlock formerly known as Him! Lee and Kirby were the ones who started it all, and they kept it going in these cosmic tales! Collects FANTASTIC FOUR #64-83 and ANNUAL #5-6.
536 PGS/$16.99
ISBN: 0-7851-1484-X

Who loves seconds? We love seconds—a second sensational serving of the Sentinel of Liberty! Yes, that’s right, the Mighty Minions of Marvel are chipping the next Cap Masterworks free from its icy fifteen-year slumber and you’re invited to the homecoming party. So strap on your shield and prepare for a barrage of Stan and Jack’s best as Cap (with a little help from his friends, the Avengers) battles a bevy of baddies like the strange Super-Adaptoid—the super-powered robot with the combined powers of the Avengers. And if an android passing himself off as Cap was as odious as you thought, the Red Skull tries to convince the people of America that Cap’s turned traitor. Yikes! Don’t crawl into your fallout shelter in shame, though. Our boy will bounce back to take on a hearty helping of that horrendous head, M.O.D.O.K.., in his first-ever appearance, before taking it home in a scintillating struggle against Baron Zemo, guest-starring Nick Fury, the Black Panther and Cap's super-spy gal, Sharon Carter! Reserve your star-spangled copy today! Collecting TALES OF SUSPENSE #82-99 and CAPTAIN AMERICA (VOL. 1) #100
240 PGS. / $49.99
ISBN: 0-7851-1785-7

Written by JACK KIRBY
Pencils & Cover by JACK KIRBY
Cap goes cosmic in this collection of the King's comics! See the Living Legend and the high-flying Falcon fight monsters and madmen in a dimension of disaster and follow up fighting a futuristic phantom! Finally, accompany Cap on a tour of history conveyed by the curious Contemplator! Collects CAPTAIN AMERICA #201-205 and MARVEL TREASURY SPECIAL FEATURING CAPTAIN AMERICA'S BICENTENNIAL BATTLES #1.
184 PGS. / $19.99
ISBN: 0-7851-1726-1

It’s SUPER-VILLAIN TEAM-UP revisited as MARVEL MILESTONES brings on the bad guys! In a special preview of this month’s MARVEL MASTERWORKS: GOLDEN AGE SUB-MARINER VOL. 1, Prince Namor fights single-handed the world’s first deep-sea blitzkrieg, from SUB-MARINER COMICS #1! Plus: the fantastic origin of Dr. Doom from FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #2, and the first appearance of the Red Skull from CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #1!
48 PGS. / $3.99

Written by MIKE CAREY
Penciled by DAN JURGENS
Photo Cover
The comic adaptation of the blockbuster motion picture starring Ioan Gruffudd, Michael Chiklis, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans and Julian McMahon, this collection captures all the cinematic excitement of the new hit movie – plus a selection of the classic stories that inspired the film! Forty years ago, writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby created a team of adventurers like no other that had come before. Unlike previous groups of stone-jawed super heroes who got along perfectly in their pursuit of liberty and justice, the Fantastic Four bickered, argued and fought among themselves — just like a real family. Their continued adventures around the world, into outer space and throughout uncharted dimensions have pushed the limits of the Marvel Universe, consistently challenging readers’ perceptions of what a comic book could be!
120 PGS. / $12.99
ISBN: 0-7851-1809-8

Golden Age of Marvel #1

This anthology includes three Kirby stories. First up is the requisite Captain America story, this time the 13-page "An Ear For Music" from CAPTAIN AMERICA #7 (1941) (the table of contents mis-credits it as "Horror Plays the Scales", another story from that issue. Also, this story is usually listed as "Captain America and the Red Skull", but I think the title is "An Ear For Music"). In this story, the Red Skull returns, using Chopin's funeral march as a calling card, planning to kill some military leaders. As this is going on, Steve and Bucky get recruited for a play with Betty Ross, and have to constantly get out of that when duty calls. A nice story, the design for the Red Skull is a highlight of the early Captain America stories. I also liked the Skull's attempt to frame Cap in this issue, leaving a note reading "Captain America, I got away with General King... Too bad you were nabbed... If you're shot for this I'll avenge your death -- The Red Skull". Even worse, that works. The art for this story is by Kirby/Shores.

Next up is the 7-page Vision story from MARVEL MYSTERY COMICS #25 (1941). Unfortunately they used the 1968 reprint from MARVEL SUPER-HEROES #13 as a source, as you can see from the huge vertical gaps between panels.

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This story features a disgraced professor using a book of black magic to call forth a massive storm. The Vision appears in the smoke from one lightning strike, rescues some people and then takes the battle to the mountain where the professor is controlling the storm. A light story, but very dynamic art, Kirby was very rapidly getting more bold and confident during this year at Marvel.

The last story in the book is "The Microscopic Army", a 5-pager from YELLOW CLAW #3 (1957). As usual for the short Claw stories, the plot is sparse but the art is brilliant, including a great splash page. In this story, the Claw uses a kidnapped scientist to create a shrinking device, sending in some of his soldiers as spies. FBI Agent Jimmy Woo is called in to a mysterious break-in and notices little tiny footprints, and uses a prototype of the device to shrink himself. A quick battle that includes a giant type-writera and Jimmy using a pen as a lance follows, and the Yellow Claw is forced to flee before his base can be found.

Published 1997

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Challengers of the Unknown #75 - Ultivac Is Loose

This issue reprints the second Challengers try-out story from SHOWCASE #7 (1957). The recent hardcover reprint of the story credits the story to Dave Wood and the inks to Roz Kirby and Marvin Stein.

Following an origin recap, we see the Challs settling down to check their mail for new adventures. In walks Hesse, a former Nazi who comes in with a story about an out of control robot he created. Suddenly...

A great looking panel of Ultivac's hand bursting in through the window. Very nice detail, you can definitely see the same kind of visual themes from the many other giant robot hands that Kirby would use. Anyway, Hesse is taken, and the Challs contact a robot expert, leading to their first meeting with later honorary fifth Challenger June Robbins (oddly with dark hair here. Later she'd be blonde and named June Walker, before finally settling in as blonde June Robbins. Of course, Prof's name changes at least three times in Kirby's run, so obviously continuity wasn't a bit thing back then). Her computer predicts that Ultivac can only be defeated after a Challenger dies. That doesn't slow down the Challs of course, and they leap into danger for the rest of the story. A lot of twists in the story, with a King Kong riff in the middle, the giant robot taking June and being attacked by planes, and then the Ultivac trying to live in peace with humanity only to be destroyed by his creator. And while Rocky does die in the climactic battle, but is saved by revolutionary life-saving techniques.

A very strange story, but with some gorgeous artwork. The Ultivac panels are particular highlights, as are the detailed underwater scenes in one segment in the middle. Very nice, and wonderful inking. The later Wally Wood stuff tends to get more attention, but the inking on the early issues is just as good, I think.

The entire 24 page story is reprinted, with some minor modifications for page layout and such things (like substituting the then-current COTU logo, but oddly not fixing at least one spelling mistake I noticed), plus one page of the then-current Challs was added as an introduction in the beginning. The cover is a slightly modified version of the splash page with a figure of Ace in the then current costume introducing.

Published 1970

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Marvel's Greatest Comics #73 - The Thing Enslaved

This issue reprints FANTASTIC FOUR #91 (1969), although thanks to the editing out of two pages it's effectively a Fantastic One story, with only Ben appearing.

The story opens with an unexpected scene of several gangster types of the prohibition era discussing their upcoming purchase of Ben from the Skrulls, when they're interrupted by another gangster who owns the slave they want Ben to fight against. We then see Ben still restrained by his captor in a ship bound for that planet. Arriving there, he's greeted by a boisterous kid gang, naturally enough.

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Following that brief interruption and a demonstation of the nerve collar holding him captive, Ben is taken in a truck and told about how escaped con Machine-Gun Martin was taken to this world from Earth years ago, and inspired its current look. Along the way they're attacked by a man in a bi-plane, of all things. Finally at the training center, Ben has a brief battle with one alien creature and is then put in a cell with his planned foe, Torgo.

A lot of fun this time, especially how Kirby mixes in the excellently drawn 1930s era scenes and people with the sci-fi elements. He pretty obviously had a lot of fun with that (fortunately he did have quite a few chances to draw that stuff in context with the crime comics before and after this era), and the several action scenes.

Joe Sinnott inked the now 18-page story, as well as the original cover (slightly modified for this reprinting to allow for the different cover layout).

Published 1977

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Silver Star #3 - The Others

Morgan (Silver Star) Miller starts this issue with a big attempted rescue of a woman from a plunging car.

They both emerge from the crash unscathed, and he finds out the woman, apparently another of the super-powered Homo Geneticus, one of "Others", is stuntwoman Norma Richmond on a movie shoot. He then quickly transports her and the movie crew to safety to avoid an attack by Darius Drumm. He then takes Norma to try to protect another of the Others, a baseball player, who falls victim to an exploding baseball. Morgan really isn't cut out for this rescue gig, is he? Drumm takes off with Norma in the confusion, while Morgan returns home. We next see Drumm with Norma as captive at a circus where the strongman is one of the Others, Albie Reinhart. Drumm gives an interesting monologue in this scene, about his goals and the "self-denial" aspects of the cult he was raised in. Some of the scripting in this issue is a bit clunky, but that scene worked well. Anyway, Albie is attempting a stunt with a carousel on his chest, and Drumm causes it to go out of control. Morgan senses this and vanishes from his home.

Mike Royer inks the cover and 20-page story (with "an assist from Mike Jr.", presumably his son).

Published 1983

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

X-Men - The Early Years #14 - Among Us Stalk the Sentinels

This issue reprints the original X-MEN #14 (1965). Kirby continues the hand-off of art duties to Werner Roth, doing layouts for Roth (working under the Jay Gavin name) to finish. Colletta inks this time around.

Recovering from their battle with the Juggernaut, Professor X gives the X-Men some vacation time. It would prove to be short lived respite, as anthropologist Bolivar Trask starts whipping up the anti-mutant hysteria. My favourite bit of the issue is the newspaper article with artist renditions of Trask's predictions of the mutant overlords.

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The Professor arranges a TV debate with Trask, where Trask unveils his Sentinal robots meant to protect humanity. The robots quickly turn on him, so Professor X sends out a mental alert.

Hank and Bobby at the Coffee A-Go-Go (complete with beatnik poet) are the first to respond, just after most of the Sentinals depart with Trask to create more Sentinals, leaving one guard. They battle him until Cyclops (who ran into an example of the anti-mutant sentiment Trask riled up) arrives, and then the Sentinal mysteriously collapses. Jean and Warren arrive shortly after (with Warren having a brief encounter with the other Sentinals on the way), as Professor X examines the fallen Sentinal and gets an impression of their headquarters, as well as mentioning that the Sentinal said something about "Master Mold" as it collapsed (oddly we're not actually shown that). The X-Men drive up to the location the Professor saw, and find an empty field which suddenly rises to reveal a fortified structure that fires at them.

This is a surprisingly attractive issue. Roth seems to maintain a lot of the Kirby elements from the layouts, and Colletta's inks seem more compatable with his pencils than most. The Sentinals don't look quite as menacing as they should, but are a nice design. More importantly, this run of the book would solidify the themes that would carry the book for decades to come.

By the way, this is one of those annoying instances where Marvel reprinted the story without noting that "Jay Gavin" was a pen-name, so Roth's name doesn't appear at all, despite the fact that newly typeset credits were pasted on the originals.

The original cover is printed as a pin-up in the back, as drawn by Kirby and Wally Wood. I never noticed before, but it seems to be flipped left-to-right (or at least the Sentinal has a backwards "1" on its chest).

Published 1995

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Machine Man #3 - Ten-For, the Mean Machine

Machine Man is still in the sanitarium, receiving the visual of the distress call, projecting an image of a ship plunging into a distant star while one of the patients channels the verbal distress call. While MM begins to work on a space-time bridge for a rescue, the army, led by Colonel Kragg home in on MM's location.

MM starts the device built to the alien's specifications, but finds out that it was designed to exchange them for the alien, and almost gets sucked into deep space.

MM manages to escape and redesigns the device for a straight rescue, even though the alien makes it clear that he doesn't care who is sacrificed for his sake. The alien arrives, proving to be a robot named Ten-For, a Holocaust Specialist First Class. Just then the army attacks, mistakenly locking in on Ten-For instead of MM. Ten-For partially disables MM and goes off to attack the army, while Doc Spalding attempts to help MM, who has just realized that "Holocaust Specialist" probably means bad news.

A decent story, with some nice visuals. Ten-For is a bit over the top this issue, but would prove to be an interesting villain in the issues ahead.

Mike Royer inks the 17-page story, and the Kirby Checklist credits John Verpoorten with the inks on the cover.

Kirby also writes a text page, "The Unexpected Robot", speculating about how man will react to competition from robots like MM in the future.

Published 1978

Monday, March 07, 2005

Admin - Indices of posts

For those wondering, I just passed the 300th Kirby publication covered in this weblog (not counting two card sets and one cartoon). Which is frankly more than I honestly expected to get to when I started. Anyway, to make it a more useful resource, I've added a few index pages, which I'll update every few weeks, one alphabetical and one chronological. You'll always be able to find links to those on the sidebar of every page.

Mister Miracle #9 - Himon

Time to pull out a particular favourite. "Himon" is the companion piece to "The Pact" (NEW GODS #7) and is probably what I'd most often cite as my favourite single Kirby comic. Certainly always in the top five. Thankfully at this point DC briefly gave Kirby a full 26 pages an issue and Mike Royer was the inker, so the story had room to breathe and looks as close to how Kirby imagined it as it could.

The background to the story was laid out in the previous issues, in particular three short "Young Scott Free" stories in MM #5 - #7. It opens with three big pages showing the heart of Apokolips, Armagetto, by the fire-pits. There the local "protector", Wonderful Willik hopes to trap the rebel Himon, killing the other "lowlies" to flush him out. Himon is able to use his devices to escape, and meets up with Scott Free. We find out that Scott has been meeting Himon in secret, along with other students, working on making their own versions of Mother Box. Among them are Kreetin, who can't get his to work, and Auralie, another charge of Granny Goodness' "orphanage".

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Barda and her Furies break in and take Auralie, and we witness the first meeting of Scott and Barda. After she leaves, the crowd of "lowlies" break in, and most of the students escape, except for Kreetin, who still can't use his Mother Box. Himon offers himself for Kreetin's freedom, an offer Kreetin leaps at, after which Metron appears to try to understand him, and realizes what it is about his nature that prevents his Mother Box from ever working.

Meanwhile, Himon manages to repeatedly escape from a variety of traps and tortures. And we see one of his meetings with Metron as they discuss how and why they conspire to Willik finally captures and kills most of his students. He brings in Scott and Barda to witness what he's done, but they're led away by Himon as he delivers a finishing bomb to Willik. We then find out about Himon pioneering the research into the Boom-Tube, which is why he feels guilty for enabling Darkseid's rise, plus his work in developing the Mother Box and its link to the Source. Finally Scott mentions his memory of his mother in a reference to "The Pact"

Finally, the great escape, Scott Free pursued by Para-Demons on his Aero-Discs, rescued by Barda and her Furies and in the end one of the best scenes Kirby ever wrote.

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Himon and Metron present a Boom-Tube to Earth on one side, while Darkseid finally makes his presence felt on the other. Promises of power versus freedom. Risk and reward. And above all identity. "Let me be Scott Free -- and find myself" and a final leap into the future, followed by a prophecy of the end, Darkseid's final confrontation with Orion in Armagetto. Man, I love this comic more every time I read it.

(interestingly, the photocopies of the pencilled pages have slightly different dialogue for the last page. You can see a copy of the original in JACK KIRBY QUARTERLY #9, but it's muc more powerful in the published version)

Published 1972

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Rawhide Kid #84

A trio of Kirby reprints from RAWHIDE KID #27 (1962) in this issue. Not sure of the inking, the first two look a little different from the usual Ayers (who the Kirby checklist has inking the last story), but I'm hardly an expert on the styles, and the reprint quality makes it even harder to judge.

"When Six-Guns Roar" is a seven-page story where the Kid takes a job at a ranch to build up a grub-stake. The ranch owner's policy is that no-one can wear guns at the ranch, and some of the other cowpokes think that gives them an advantage, but of course the Kid can take care of himself guns or no.

The no gun policy of course makes the ranch an easy mark for some bandits, with one of the Kid's tormenters as their inside man. The Kid is able to get loose (thanks to his small hands. No, really), get to the guns that are kept locked up and lead the others in driving off the bandits. The ranch owner learns the importance of always packing heat.

"The Man Who Caught the Kid" has the Kid on the run from the law again, this time making a five-page run for the border. The sheriff leading the pursuit can't understand why the Kid doesn't take advantage of several easy oppurtunities to ambush them. Finally, almost scott free, the Kid stops to admonish a man abusing his horse. The posse catches up to him, but the sherrif lets him go, taking in the horse-beating coyote instead.

There are some great horse-riding scenes in this story, through a variety of terrains. Really just a pleasure to look at.

"The Girl, The Gunmen, and the Apaches" is a six-pager with the kid encountering a family heading west on a stage-coach when they run into an Apache raid. The daughter is taken prisoner, and the Kid pursues, taking on Red Wolf in hand-to-hand combat. The Kid wins, but Red Wolf pursues, so the Kid starts a bison stampede. The Kid then leaves the girl to return to her family, with the usual ending of both wishing they stay together but asuming the other wouldn't be interested. Bit of a western cliche story, but some pretty art of the girl and the Apache tribe.

Published 1971

Black Magic (DC) #2

Four S&K reprints from various 1953 issues of the original BLACK MAGIC series in this issue.

First up is the six page story "Fool's Paradise" #26[v4#2], the tale of a criminal on the run from the law in a park, when an old man helps him escape. The old man tells him to meet a mob boss at a certain place, where he arrives just in time to stop a hit. Working for the mob boss, he rises quickly up the ranks, and plans to take over and fools around with the boss' girl. Eventually he ends up on the run again, back in the park, where the whole thing starts over.

"The Cat People" #27[v4#3] is a six page story about a man visiting a friend and getting creeped out by some kids playing "Cat's Cradle". He recounts a story about his trip to Europe, where he encountered an old woman and her daughter living in the hills, and how he witnessed them turning into giant cats in a midnight ceremony using rituals similar to a "Cat's Cradle" game and how he barely escaped with his life.

Up next is a short but creepy three page story "Birth After Death" #20[v3#2], about a pair of grave-robbers in the 1700s who are startled when their intended victim rises from the grave. The robbers are shot, and the woman lives, apparently having been mistakenly buried in a stare resembling death. Five years later she gives birth to a baby boy (with the same doctor attending. I don't know about you, but after a bit of malpractice like that I get a new doctor), and that boy would grow up to be Sir Walter Scott!!! Out of curiousity I did a quick search, and couldn't find any reference to Walter Scott's mother being buried alive. Could it be these startling true stories are in fact fabrications?

"Those Who Are About to Die" #23[v3#5] is last, a five page story about an artist who has a vision of death while eating in a restaurant.

He takes this as a cue to ask the cashier at the restaurant to pose for him (no, that's not creepy at all), but ends up painting another woman being pushed into a coffin by a skeleton. When he and his wife go to the restaurant the next day, the find the cashier is missing, but just out sick, but the woman in the painting is the server, who had just died of lung cancer in exactly the spot where the skeleton is touching in the painting.

This is a really fun issue. Although none of the stories are that great, mostly variations of themes that Kirby and others did better elsewhere, the art is really sharp and moody throughout, with a lot of different settings that Kirby does well.

Published 1974

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Incredible Hulk Special #3

Five 10-page reprints from TALES TO ASTONISH #70 - #74 (1965) in this issue. The first is Kirby pencils inked by Mike Esposito (as Mickey Demeo).

"To Live Again" opens with the army raiding the Leader's lair, where they had found Bruce Banner with a bullet in the head. Rick Jones manages to get Banner's body out to his secret lab, and gives him a dose of gamma rays to change him to the Hulk.

This time he retains Banner's intellect as the Hulk, and realizes that the bullet will kill him if he changes back. Meanwhile, the Leader unleashes a 500-foot tall "humanoid" on the army, and the Hulk goes to get a final look at Betty (and I have to say, security at that army base sucked, as no one sees a big green man hanging around). The Hulk and the army both attack the humanoid, which repels them, and the army pull out the "Sunday Punch Missile", a wonderful Kirby designed weapon.

The rest are Kirby layouts, with some combination of Esposito and/or Bob Powell doing finishing. They look pretty nice, both men are long established professionals probably just working on Kirby's layouts to get a feel for how Marvel liked their comics done, and to get some extra plotting out of Kirby.

"Like a Beast at Bay", Esposito finishes, features the defeat of the humanoid, the Hulk giving Rick artificial respiration and the army's siege of Banner's hidden lab. I like how the Hulk side of his personality comes and goes depending on the circumstances in this run.

"Within the Monster Dwells a Man", Esposito again. The Hulk gets taken to the Leader's headquarters in Italy, where the Leader tries to recruit him with arguements of gamma solidarity. The Hulk doesn't go for it and battles more humanoids, and feels himself reverting to Banner, which would kill him.

"Another World, Another Foe", Bob Powell finishes the pencils on this one, with Esposito doing the inking (uncredited), which has the Leader remove the bullet from the Hulk's brain and gives him another gamma dose, possibly leaving him in Hulk form forever (and if you believe that...). The Hulk agrees to work for him in gratitude, and the Leader reveals that he has been observing the Watcher on the moon and on his homeworld, and sends the Hulk to get a particular device from the Watcher. The Hulk is sent off, where he encounters no resistance from the Watcher, who doesn't interfere, but is confronted by an alien lizard after the same device. Some nice imaginative alien creatures and devices in the Watcher's world.

"The Wisdom of the Watcher", Powell/Esposito over Kirby layouts again, with Esposito credited this time (well, credited as Demeo). The big battle issue, with the Hulk against the alien on a barren world where the Watcher sends them to battle. Good fight, very action filled. The Hulk wins, of course, and the Watcher lets him take the Ultimate Machine, a repository of all knowledge. The Leader puts it on and it appears to kill him (and if you believe that... In fact, the reprint editor even adds a note that the Leader is still around).

There are two pin-up pages between stories. One has the Hulk and Thing battling, taking the Kirby/Roussos figure from the first page of FF #26, the other showing various panels of the Hulk's transformations to and from Banner from various issues.

Published 1971

Marvel Milestone Edition - Fantastic Four #1

One of Marvel's reprint initiatives in the first half of the 1990s was the occasional "Milestone Edition", complete cover-to-cover (except for the CAPTAIN AMERICA #1 edition) reprints of various key books. Naturally FF #1 (1961) was among them.

First of all, none of the ads are very interesting. All the usual comic ads of the period, no house ads. Just so you know.

The cover is the usual altered version that appears in most reprints, with only three by-standers on the streets instead of five. It remains a great cover.

Presumably everyone is familiar with the story, which as always has a few problems as it would be a few issues before they really figured out the characters and where they wanted to go with this. Among the odd things that I always forget until I re-read it is that the FF were in "Central City" for the first issue, not New York. I also always get surprised at how destructive they are in this first issue, with Sue pushing people out of the way and scaring a cab driver, Ben destroying a store's doorway, two streets and a car and Johnny burning his way out of his car and destorying a plane when they respond to Reed's signal.

That introduction is followed by the origin flashback, of course, which is my favourite part of the issue. While it doesn't make much sense when you think about it too much, Kirby's art is excellent in this sequence, full of panels that have become classics.

Their first adventure, against the Mole Man, follows in the second half of the issue. It's a satisfactory enough story, mostly highlighted by the creatures of Monster Isle. Overall this is what you'd expect from a first issue of the era of a company with an uncertain future, a bit rough around the edges compared to the later work but with a lot of energy and hints of what would soon make it such a revolutionary book. While I'm still uncertain about how much I'd pay for the MAXIMUM FF book analyzing it in detail (still no word on when that'll come out), re-reading it now I can see how it might be interesting to see such an analysis for this more than almost any other single super-hero comic.

The inker is, of course, one of the mysteries of the ages. Christopher Rule seems to be the top contender among people who are familiar with other inking of the period, but that's far from certain.

Published 1991

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Our Fighting Forces #157 - Panama Fattie

This issue has the first part of Kirby's only two-issue story of his run on the Losers. Mike Royer inks the 16-page story and the 2-page look at ships and subs of WWII, while D. Bruce Berry inks the cover.

This story starts with a look at some espionage going on in Panama, led by a rather large female bar owner Lil, nicknamed Panama Fattie. The Losers are sent in to investigate, taking the role of navy men transporting supplies, and get stopped by Lil pretending to have a broken car as cover for a hijacking. The Losers drive off the other hijackers, but Lil gets them to drive their truck over to their club and drugs them.

After selling their supplies to a Japanese agent and gives the order to have them shot, and there the story ends.

Panama Fattie is fun in these issues, with a great look and charcter. The art also has the usual nice mix of exotic locations and aggressive combat scenes.

Published 1975

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Thor #170 - The Thunder God and the Thermal Man

This is from a bit of an odd point in Thor history. The previous storyline, featuring Galactus, had wound up heavily modified (with several unused pages later showing up in portfolios and fanzines), and the original intention was for Thor to team-up with Galactus to fight the Thermal Man, who had been terrorizing New York while Thor's fellow Asgardian's tried to hold him back. This change in the status quo for Galactus was apparently not what Marvel wanted, so the story was changed.

This goes a long way to explaining why Kirby's last year on the book was a bit bland compared to the earlier work. Still a lot of great artwork, but the storytelling was much less ambitious. I'd guess that the behind-the-scenes stuff regarding this storyline was part of the reason he took the DC contract a year later.

Anyway, as published, Thor returns to New York to find it deserted, and finds Balder and the Warriors Three still reeling from their battle with the Thermal Man, who is then making short work of the US Army.

Thor briefly switches to Dr. Blake to help an injured soldier, and when they're in danger Karnilla rescues the other Asgardians dure to her love of Balder, earning Loki's scorn. Thor finally unleashes the full power of the storm to sweep the Thermal Man out to sea and up to the frozen north, where I guess he still is to this day.

While the story is a bit weak, the art is pretty powerful. This is Bill Everett's first issue of this run (he'd inked a single issue a few years earlier, and the Kirby Checklist has him with an uncredited assist to Klein in the previous issue), and it looks very nice for the most part. A few rough spots, but he'd quickly be up to speed and doing some great inking.

Kirby's original cover for this was rejected (see TJKC #14 / COLLECTED JKC #3 for it), and replaced with a Romita/Verpoorten job.

Published 1969