Jack Kirby Collection SeventyOne (magazine review)

July 2, 2017 | By | Reply More

The theme of this issue og the ‘Jack Kirby Collection’ is Omega, following on from last issue’s Alpha. Omega is about endings or death but, by stretching a point, you can say that anti-life is about death, too, and squeeze in Darkseid and Apokalypse, which is really about endings and so is Ragnarok.

To celebrate Omega in the ‘Fourth World’ series, the cover is an unused picture of the Black Racer, inked by Walt Simonson. Page three features an old ‘Tales Of Asgard’ splash page next to the contents. It’s entitled ‘Death Comes To Thor’. I can’t remember the story but clearly she didn’t. Death in Asgardian terms is the goddess Hela, of course. The Mighty Thor came within her reach a few times but always slipped away.

‘Opening Shot’ by editor John Morrow tracks the theme of death in Jack Kirby’s work over several decades. He cites Lady Deliah in Boys’ Ranch # 3, Bucky in Avengers # 4, Sue and Johnny’s father in Fantastic Four # 31 and several others, ending with the demise of Esak and Himon in ‘Hunger Dogs’.

This is followed by a 9 page story from Western Love # 5 from March 1950 in glorious colour. There’s a bad guy called Lee in it. The art is typical 50s Kirby, rather scrappy looking compared to his later stuff but that might have been the inking which might have been Joe Simon. These old things are interesting to see. Kirby basically learned comics on the job by doing them and he got better over time. When he hit his peak is a moot point.

Next is a transcript from The Jack Kirby Museum panel at 2016’s Silicon Valley Comic Con. These things tend to be much of a muchness with experts answering questions about Jack’s life and work. Sometimes there are interesting titbits and the one here is the theory that Jack drew Ego The Living Planet to look like Stan Lee. We’ll never really know.

‘Kirby Kinetics’ by Norris Burroughs often has excellent examination of Kirby’s art and compositional skills. Cleverly identifying death with the loss of identity and free will, Burroughs squeezes an analysis of Fantastic Four # 8 into the theme of this issue. That’s the one where the Puppet Master controlled the Thing. There’s the usual controversy about who plotted it as a fairly complete plot breakdown by Stan Lee exists for the story. However, Norris compares the last page of Fantastic Four # 8 to the last page of ‘Voodoo On Tenth Avenue’ in Black Magic # 4 (1951) and there are similarities. Interesting analysis and some insight into how Alicia Masters mellowed the Thing’s character.

‘Love Of (Anti-)Life’ is a long essay by John Misselthorn which interprets Kirby’s ‘Fourth World’ series in terms of life versus death and anti-life, of course. It all got a bit metaphysical but the point that Kirby technology branched into the spiritual with the Mother Box was something that hadn’t occurred to me before. The Mother Box is a device to connect one with the Source or God and, as it’s a Mother Box, does that mean that the Source is female?

At the end, there’s another transcript of another convention, the 2017 San Diego Comic Fest Panel. This one featured Mark Evanier, Steve Sherman and Mike Royer, two guys who worked for Kirby during the 70s and the other who inked him, so a pretty knowledgeable crew. Evanier is Kirby’s Boswell and practically makes a living from his expertise. Evanier and Sherman first started working in comics at Marvelmania, the Marvel Fan Club which was run quite separately from the comics by a man who turned out to be the dodgiest of entrepreneurs. There’s quite a lot of stuff about inking Kirby, Vince Colletta getting the usual criticism, and some information about DC editors at the time of the ‘Fourth World’ series. Nelson Bridwell, it seems, was the only one who understood what Kirby was doing and supported him. My impression of DC editors of the Golden Age is that they ruled the roost and didn’t want any mere artists or writers getting above themselves. The fact that Kirby was allowed to edit himself was probably offensive to them.

There’s an interview with Walt Simonson about how he tackled Thor and New Gods when he took them over. To my mind, Simonson’s pencils come the closest to emulating the spirit and the power of Kirby and that’s why he does so well with Kirby characters. He doesn’t copy the squiggles and blocky figures and his art is really quite different but it’s got that indefinable ‘Ooomph!’, especially like Kirby’s before it’s inked.

Regular readers of ‘The Jack Kirby Collector’ will not be disappointed and new ones are welcome, no doubt. Super-heroes are ubiquitous now and Kirby was a key figure in their development. With this and many other books and magazines, Twomorrows Publishing are doing a lot for comic fans.

Eamonn Murphy

July 2017

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 98 page magazine. Price: $10.95 (US). ISBN: 919-449-0344. Direct from them, you can get it for $ 9.31 (US))

check out websites: www.TwoMorrows.com and http://twomorrows.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=98_57&products_id=1294

Category: Comics, Magazines, Superheroes

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About the Author ()

Eamonn Murphy lives in the west country and grew up reading Asimov, Heinlein, lots of other old SF and Marvel Comics. After many years hard labour he has settled down to a quiet life with a nice lady, two rescue dogs and four ducks. He writes reviews for crowsnest and a few short stories, some of which even get published in obscure magazines. His self-published (Beware!) horror novel 'Arnos Hell' set in a Bristol graveyard is available on Amazon as a kindle book. His YA novelette 'The Brigstowe Dragons' will be published shortly by Alban Lake. He seldom blogs at https://eamonnmurphyblog.wordpress.com/

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