Jack Kirby Collector Seventy (magazine review)

February 19, 2017 | By | Reply More

The theme of this 70th issue of ‘Jack Kirby Collector’ is ‘Kirby: Alpha’, to be followed next issue by ‘Kirby :Omega’. ‘Beginnings And Endings’ or if you will, ‘Life And Anti-Life’ to quote editor John Morrow in the ‘Opening Shot‘. He mentions that Kirby saw the loss of free will as equivalent to death and so had Captain America (an alpha male) fighting the Nazis. Yes, that is pretty tenuous, I agree.

‘Kirby Kinetics,’ the oft times interesting analysis of Jack’s art by Norris Burroughs, sort of follows the theme by focusing on seeds. There are panels from a 1960 story in Journey Into Mystery # 56 where a scientists discovers some seeds on another planet which grow into giant lizards. Then there’s the big seed pod from Fantastic Four # 66 which gave birth to Him, later Adam Warlock. Lastly, there’s a splash page from Eternals # 7 in which life-seeds are being manipulated by the big guys. All of this is described in detail by Burroughs but without the art to look at you can’t get a sense of it from this review.

Those old five page Science Fiction stories from the late 50s and early 60s come up again in ‘Little Humans & Giant Gods: The Extraterrestrial Tiki Art of Jack Kirby’ by Robert Goffey. In this long and detailed piece, the author studies five old stories in which Jack explored the notion that the giant stone heads on Easter Island were actually aliens who landed on Earth long ago and were worshipped as gods by the primitive people. There are quotations from ‘Aku-Aku’ by Thor Heyerdahl of Kon-Tiki fame who first organised digging to reveal that the heads actually had bodies attached. Goffey sees this as the origin of Kirby’s fascination with super-powered aliens being akin to gods which came to fruition in that strange mix of super-cannons and magic powers that was Marvel’s Asgard, bloomed at DC Comics in New Genesis and Apokolips and reached its apotheosis back with Marvel in ‘The Eternals’. Goffey takes it as read that Kirby invented all the Marvel characters and the Evil One (Stan Lee) doesn’t get a mention.

He does in this issue’s other big article ‘Spider-Man: The Case For Kirby’ by Stan Taylor. Kirby said in a 1982 interview with Will Eisner that he created Spider-Man. This was published in Will Eisner’s Spirit Magazine # 39. Lee is quoted as saying, in Village Voice, Vol. 32 # 49, Dec. 1987, ‘All the concepts were mine.’ He came up with the idea, produced the script and gave it to Kirby to illustrate. Then he decided that Kirby’s version looked too heroic and switched the artistic chores to Ditko. Steve Ditko says that he got a script in which Peter Parker changed to Spidey via a magic ring and pointed out to Stan that this was very similar to Joe Simon’s ‘The Fly’. However, in a 1972 interview, before copyright became a big issue, Stan said that Jack Kirby first provided a proposal for Spider-Man but he decided to give it to Ditko for a different look. In later retellings, he would say that Kirby’s proposal was based on his idea. And so on, and so on, and so on. It’s a very well researched article that digs into previous super-hero concepts which were not dissimilar to Spider-Man. The most interesting thing here is a letter from editor Sid Jacobson in response to a proposal to Harvey Comics by Joe Simon for a character called the Silver Spider. Jacobson proposed that Silver Spider shouldn’t fly but should have the characteristics of a spider, namely great agility and the ability to produce silken webs on which he could swing like Tarzan. Is Sid Jacobson the unsung creator of Spider-Man?

Sanely, Stan Taylor concluded (he passed away in 2014, alas) that the success of Spider-Man was down to ‘a perfect blend of Kirby’s solid histrionics, Ditko’s philosophic atmospherics and Lee’s melodramatic human voice.‘ I’m inclined to agree that in a collaborative medium it’s almost impossible to say there is one sole creator and let it go at that. It’s another well-researched and interesting meditation on a comic character and features a glorious Kirby poster done for Marvelmania in which Spider-Man is being chased across New York city by two Sentinels! Yes, that’s Sentinels from ‘The Uncanny X-Men’. Romita redrew them as Doc Ock and the Green Goblin for the final version but Kirby’s oddball original is a great picture. That’s one part of Jack’s legacy no one can argue about. He did the drawing.

These articles are the main thing this issue. There’s the usual Mark Evanier comic convention stuff at the back with Q&A sessions in front of an audience. Evil Stan Lee gets another mention. There’s a nine page ‘Black Owl’ story from Prize Comics # 8 in living colour and lots of Kirby original art scattered throughout. To the rest of the world, this close textual analysis of 10 cent comicbooks might seem a bit odd but they’ve been doing it for Shakespeare and Jane Austen for centuries now, so why can’t Kirby have the same treatment? They say Bill Shakespeare wrote his name all over everything but it was Christopher Marlowe who did the work. I’ve heard that Jane Austen invented the Hulk. Or was that Mary Shelley?

Eamonn Murphy

February 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: http://www.twomorrows.com/ and http://twomorrows.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=98_57&products_id=1264

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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