In The Days Of The Mob by Jack Kirby (graphic novel review).

November 26, 2015 | By | Reply More

When I was young, over forty years ago, we grew up watching old black and white Warner Brothers gangster films on black and white televisions, thrilling to the rise and demise of various villains played by James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart. When Fantastic Four # 91 came out, we were deeply impressed by Kirby’s gangsters. Their narrow, mean eyes and sagging jowls oozed menace from every ink blot. Having grown up mostly seeing Kirby’s super-villains it was interesting to see how well he did scary civilians, though they were actually Skrulls who had chosen to copy the mob style. When ‘In The Days Of The Mob’ came out, I thought it was terrific, like Fantastic Four # 91 to the power of ten with page after page of mobsters but even more grim and gritty as they were not inhibited by the comics code. ‘In The Days Of The Mob’ was put out as a magazine rather than a comicbook. According to John Morrow’s introduction, Kirby wanted it full colour – he never liked black and white – but to cut costs, DC issued it in monotone. Personally, I think it works better that way, more reminiscent of those classic Warner Brothers movies.

InTheDaysOfTheMob

This edition combines the first issue, which was what we bought way back then and the second issue which was never published. The book is an anthology of short stories and, in the style of many horror comics of that era, there is a narrator to link the tales. In this case, the storyteller is Warden Fry, who is in charge of Hell. He takes the reader on a tour and introduces several of the ‘inmates’ and then tells their tales. In the first issue, inked by Vince Colletta, we get Ma Barker and her lovely children then Al Capone, Pretty Boy Floyd and Country Boy. There’s also a wanted poster of John Dillinger and a text feature by Mark Evanier and Steve Sherman about the Chicago gangs.

The second issue is inked by Mike Royer, which is better though Colletta did a good job on issue one. The format is pretty much the same. First up are ‘Murder Inc.’, who took over the Brooklyn underworld in the thirties. This is followed by a gangland story in which pinball machines are the racket. There’s an interesting history of pinball as part of John Morrow’s excellent introduction to the book which links in nicely. ‘Ladies Of The Gang’ is not really a story but rather a string of panels telling how various females were involved with the mob. I found the story of the decent kid very sad but it certainly dispelled any lingering idea that these men were in any way admirable. The last yarn ‘A Room For Kid Twist’ ties in with the first about ‘Murder Inc.’ It is emphasised throughout that these villains always came to a bad end and that crime doesn’t pay. Kirby is not out to glamorise the bad guys, though he inevitably does so to some extent with his gorgeous, powerful depictions of them.

Some think this late flourishing at DC in the seventies was Jack’s best period because there were few editorial restraints and the reader got undiluted Kirby. For me, his greatest work was done in the sixties but this still has plenty of that old Jack magic and even a little of it goes a long way. I hesitated a while before buying this, afraid that it an older man would not find it as wonderful as did that twelve year old kid I once was. Obviously, it wasn’t quite that great but it’s still pretty darn good and I don’t regret the expense. I paid £14.00 and I think it was worth it for this collector’s item.

Eamonn Murphy

November 2015

(pub: DC Comics, 2013. 108 page hardback graphic novel. Price: about £14.00 (UK) if you know where to look. ISBN: 978-1-40124-079-0)

check out website: www.dccomics.com

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Category: Books, Comics

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About the Author ()

Eamonn Murphy is a science fiction, fantasy, horror and graphic novel reviewer who lives in the south west of England. He's written a few stories too.

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