Monday, August 28, 2006

Genetic Criminal!

I very nearly didn't make a special post for Jack Kirby Day because every day is Jack Kirby Day so far as I'm concerned. But as I looked over all the other cool posts throughout the comics blogosphere, I remembered something I was meaning to share with you.

Kirby is often hailed for for his dynamic art and the wild imagination of his visuals...but his actual writing is occasionally scorned, or at best too often overlooked, when he was in fact a consummate storyteller. The cosmic vistas and space gods and twisted monsters weren't just there as eye candy: he created them all in service of a deeply humanistic outlook. Yeah...screw you, Spiegelman, and watch your lying mouth, Warren Ellis: Kirby's work was all about humanity. When his stories went to Asgard or New Genesis or the Negative Zone, it was to explore human feelings and aspirations and passions every bit as much as the stories he set in Suicide Slum or France in WWII.

And to demonstrate what a full-realized storyteller Kirby was, here's one of his stories. It has humanity, it has heart, it has action that flies off the page, it has plot development, it has a twist ending, and it even has an unspoken but potent moral...and it does all this in two pages. Any comics writer would be proud to write two pages as perfect as this little gem...but for Jack Kirby, it was just another day's work and probably nothing special.

From Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen issue #148, April 1972...

6 comments:

  1. What lurks behind.... THE SCARY DOOR?

    Heh, but I kid. Cool little story, yep.

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  2. Yup. Jack was a great humanist, and I think this short makes a good "nurture over nature" point.

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  3. John: Why should I believe you? You're Hitler!

    Mark: My sentiments exactly. Which is why I was particularly unhappy, after making this post, to discover this. Someone seems to have missed the point...

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  4. hey RAB,

    i was just over at the kirby blog and it led me here, fancy that.

    my current mode of escapist immersion is none other than those two classics, kirby and ditko, ditko and kirby. love 'em, defend -- and critique -- them to death, you know me.

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  5. Somehow missed jack kirby day officially, but i'll have to post about that in my blog. I've a great kirby anecdote from a few years back that has to be put up.

    Many of the great cultural visionaries of the 20th century have been overlooked as their work was absorbed and twisted and used again and again for far greater financial gain by lesser creative (but greater business) minds. Kirby is one of them, on a very short list.

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  6. GORdon: self-promotion is my friend! I don't know if the blogosphere is ready for Ditko Day just yet: wouldn't we get sick of exchanging Ayn Rand quotes all day?

    Charles (or should I call you ink?): my sentiments exactly. My interest in comics has long been directed towards following favorite creators, rather than favorite characters -- which always makes it a bit strange to see really smart comics fans say things like "I've been suffering through bad Supergirl stories by this writer, that writer, and the next writer...and even though I've hated the book I keep following the character." For me, it's about wanting to read stories by Steve Gerber or Steve Englehart or Grant Morrison...or reread old favorites by Gardner Fox or Arnold Drake or Nelson Bridwell, to name but a few. So it doesn't do a lot for me when a creator's character gets turned into a commodity; I'm not inherently excited to have Mister Miracle or Orion join the Justice League or see Darkseid used for merchandising opportunities, because it was always Kirby that mattered to me.

    And it's Kirby who was directly responsible for that way of thinking: New Gods #1 said "Kirby is here!" right on the cover...but when I bought that comic I had no idea who "Kirby" was. I thought it must be a new character. (As I once told Mark Evanier, I'm pretty sure I was thinking of Durward Kirby.) When I finished reading it, the comic had blown my mind more completely and utterly than any story before or since, and I wanted to read more stuff by that guy who opened up the entire universe for me. That's how I came to realize the creator of a work made all the difference.

    Of course, all my favorite comics writers have done stories using other creators' characters...but I liked them because of the individual writers, not because a particular character was being used. And I'll cop to a sentimental attachment to the Legion of Super-Heroes, for example, but that doesn't make me buy the current title (nor any Legion comic done in the past decade). With Kirby's "Fourth World" books in particular, that was such a deeply personal creation I still wish all those characters had been retired and no other writer allowed to touch them.

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