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Jack Kirby Collector Seventy-Seven (magazine review).

September 12, 2019 | By | Reply More

The theme of this issue of ‘Jack Kirby Collector’ is monsters and bugs, mostly because monsters wasn’t quite a big enough theme for a whole issue and partly because bugs enlarged by radiation count as monsters, too.

My favourite article this issue was a piece for the ‘Retrospective’ section entitled ‘I Remember… Vandoom, Master Of Marvel Monsters’ by Will Murray. It’s a well-illustrated study of Marvel’s ‘Tales To Astonish’, ‘Journey Into Mystery’, ‘Tales Of Suspense’ and ‘Strange Tales’ back in the late 1950s and early 1960s when they featured monsters. Obviously, the best thing about it is those great Kirby covers showing Fin Fang Foom, Grogg, Orogo, Vandoom and other large creatures before whom humans flee.

But the text is damn good, too. According to Larry Lieber, who used to script the stuff, Stan Lee would come up with a goofy name and a synopsis, Larry would ‘break it down and try to figure out the story and put in dialogue’ and then Stan would go over it. Leiber was a slow writer and couldn’t keep up with Kirby who could draw 6 pages a day..  No mention of Jack creating everything. He had a script to work from.

By contrast, Norris Burroughs accords Jack writing credits in ‘Kirby Kinetics’ which looks at the Fantastic Four as a venue for monster stories beginning with FF # 1: ‘I specify Kirby because all of the early monster stories that it most closely resembles were signed Kirby/Ayers, meaning inker Dick Ayers. Stan Lee did not sign those stories which means that Stan Lee probably did not write them.

No. Larry Leiber wrote them to Stan’s synopsis he said and, well, he was there at the time. I expect the drawings were signed Kirby/Ayers because they did the drawing. I understand that when Kirby went back to Marvel after his fallout with DC editor Jack Schiff, the pay rates were lousy so why plot for free? Maybe he just focused on drawing as much as he could. This was very early days and boss Stan Lee was formerly Jack’s old office boy. Marvel was a small company scraping by and Stan Lee was a nobody in the field. The Marvel Method was some way off.

I hasten to point out that conflicting views in the same magazine is not a flaw. John Morrow accepts a wide range of opinions along the Kirby as a god to Lee as super-villain spectrum. No one doubts that Kirby originated stories but it seems to many that in the early days Stan had a lot of input. Roy Thomas saw a pretty complete script for FF # 8. All the same, I enjoy ‘Kirby Kinetics’ and I liked this one.

Another highlight is ‘Bugs In The System’ by Shane Foley which looks at Forager and the Bugs of New Genesis featured in Kirby’s ‘New Gods’. Firstly, it points out there was a similar insect society featured in ‘Tales Of Asgard’ (Journey Into Mystery # 124-125) which I had completely forgotten. Secondly, it acknowledges that Forager is not at all like the other Bugs and theorises that he might be Orion’s son from an illicit affair with someone! Wouldn’t that be great? The Bugs, by the way, refer to the gods of New Genesis as Eternals.

It’s interesting that the good guys of New Genesis simply wanted to exterminate the Bugs who are, after all, a sentient species. Foley proposes, quite reasonably, that the Bugs for Kirby represent the little people, ‘Anyone who is ignored and looked down upon and impoverished and frustrated by the ruling classes!’ Sometimes critical analysis of what are, in truth, children’s comics can be taken too far but this seems reasonable. It could be true even if Kirby himself was unaware of it, just an unconscious reflection of his own principles.

Mind you, the idea of Kirby as a working-class hero can be taken too far. His ambition with the ‘New Gods’ saga was to have other people take over the writing and drawing of actual books while he acted as an editorial supremo, like Stan Lee. As Gil Kane once pointed out, the Simon and Kirby studio was a fun place to work but they didn’t pay any better than other employers. Kirby was exploited by the system all his life, working hard to make other people rich, but he still believed in it. He wasn’t some goddamn commie.

JKC often features an old Simon and Kirby short story from the 1950s. This issue’s offering is ‘A Husband For Tracy!’ I believe every sentence ended in an exclamation mark back then because the printing wasn’t good enough to show full stops or periods as you Americans call them, which is silly. Did Captain Kirk ever shout the command ‘Period!’ to Scotty when he wanted the Enterprise brought to a complete halt? He did not. I rest my case.

Anyway, Tracy’s father is a big, burly farmer and, regrettably, she takes after him and doesn’t attract men. Daddy tries to fix her up with a local lad of good family who doesn’t attract girls. This had an odd twist and is a nice reminder that Kirby could do real life as well as mad machines and muscles. It’s presented here ‘In Memoriam: Greg Theakston (1953-2019)’. Theakston was a noted comic book restorer and historian and also friend and colleague to Kirby. See his Wikipedia entry for more.

Lots of good stuff in this issue and all wonderfully illustrated as usual with zillions of drawings by the greatest comic book creator who ever lived.

Eamonn Murphy

September 2019

(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 website: www.TwoMorrows.com and http://twomorrows.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=98_57&products_id=1416

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Category: Magazines, Superheroes

About the Author ()

Eamonn Murphy is a science fiction, fantasy, horror and graphic novel reviewer who has written a few short stories too.

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