Jack Kirby Collector Seventy-Six (magazine review).

The 76th issue of the ‘Jack Kirby Collector’ opens with editor John Morrow correcting wrong impressions some have gleaned from the 75th issue, ‘Stuf’ Said’ in which he chronicled the creation of Marvel Comics. The Internet is now awash with anti-Stan Lee comments based on his work. Morrow is not anti-Lee just pro-Kirby. It’s a bit like patriotism. You can love your own country without hating all the others but not everyone does.

Anyway, fathers and sons is the theme of the latest issue of the ‘Jack Kirby Collector’ which is why they have Orion pounding Kalibak on the cover while Darkseid, their biological father looks on, along with Highfather, Orion’s stepfather (stephighfather?) whose son, Scott Free, isn’t in the picture.

He does feature on the inside pages as, among other things, there’s an interesting interview by Adam McGovern with Tom King. Aided by artist Mitch Gerads, King made a ‘Mister Miracle’ mini-series that took the character in a dark direction. Page one of this article features a panel showing Scott Free slumped in a bathroom with his wrists slashed. It seems that King focused on the psychological trauma Scott felt at being abandoned on Apokalypse by Highfather and raised under the unpleasant regime of Granny Goodness. Realistically, the idea holds water and the art samples shown here look terrific but after contemplating it and reading some reviews, I won’t be buying the series. Suicide seems wrong for a Kirby character, a kind of Anti-Life.

There is some other stuff I might chase up. In another feature ‘Kirbyesque’, Scott Braden tracks what DC did with the Kirby characters after Kirby left. ‘Kamandi’ had a good run and ‘New Gods’ were revamped a couple of times by Byrne and Simonson but Braden also checks out more obscure appearances by Mister Miracle, Kamandi and Omac. Kirby somehow created archetypes that can be reimagined over and over again, like Frankenstein, Dracula and the Werewolf. It’s a pity Hollywood couldn’t do for Darkseid what it did for Thanos.

The fathers and sons theme in Kirby’s work is all gods here. Odin, Thor, Loki, Highfather, Darkseid, Orion and Kalibak. In ‘Godfathers And Sons’, Jerry Boyd tells the long history of their various feuds and battles. It’s a good summary and the illustrations are beautiful.

Fathers and daughters feature in a classic 14 page reprinted tale from Young Romance # 30 (Feb 1951). A new family arrives in town. Dad Jacoby Wilheim grew up in Europe in poverty but as Jack Williams is a fairly successful American businessman selling furniture. Daughter Irma soon blends into local society and grabs a respectable boyfriend. Then the secret gets out. It doesn’t take much empathy to see how Jack (Jacob Kurtzberg) Kirby came up with this, though it might have been Joe Simon. In fact, many of the early comic creators were of that background. This shows that Kirby could do quiet stories as well as action.

‘Kirby Kinetics’ by Norris Burroughs is a regular feature that examines, with examples, the great man’s compositional skills and storytelling. Here the subject matter is the first ten issues of ‘Captain America’ in the Golden Age of comics, the 1940s. The analysis is interesting but, unfortunately, Kirby art this early leaves me cold. Another issue is that the comics were made in a studio and it’s uncertain who drew what or inked it, though Kirby’s style is so distinctive you can normally tell his work apart.

On the other hand, I loved the art in ‘Kirby Obscura’ by Barry Foreshaw, another regular in the magazine who eschews ‘New Gods’ and famous Marvel creations to study more minor works. ‘Cats Who Knew Too Much’ comes from House Of Secrets # 8 (Jan 1958) and is a minor but atmospheric piece. It’s reprinted in ‘Jack Kirby Omnibus vol 1’ which, like all colour Kirby reprint editions, costs a fortune. The article also has a bit of ‘Green Arrow’ and strips from ‘My Greatest Adventure’ and ‘Tales Of The Unexpected’ in the era before Kirby was ejected from DC. Our hero’s late 1950s art isn’t much different to his early 1960s art and it’s my favourite era.

Star interviews where fellow professionals say how much they loved Jack’s work are a mainstay of the magazine and Al Milgrom does the honours here. Milgrom is of a later generation but, as a kid, read the usual 1960s Lee-Kirby classics. Later, he got to do comicbook covers with Kirby on the King’s 1970s stint at Marvel. He designed and inked them. Kirby was on the west coast and it would have been too laborious to send him the comic and have him check the costume designs and extract a cover scene from the story. Instead, Milgrom did a sketch, Kirby pencilled it in his own inimitable style and Al inked it afterwards. He tried to design them in the Kirby style and largely succeeded. It’s not shown here but I distinctly remember the cover for Iron Man # 80.

The magazine winds up with a transcript of the 2018 ‘Kirby Tribute Panel At San Diego Con’, presided over by Kirby’s Boswell, Mark Evanier. It is not without interest. Like the publisher, John Morrow, Evanier tries to restrain the more fanatical fans who claim that Jack created everything in comics. There’s a story of how Jack used to see comic writer Robert Bernstein on the train from Long Island to New York now and then. Bernstein was sometimes desperate for ideas to give editor Mort Weisinger and Jack would give him a few. Gil Kane, Arnold Drake and Mike Sekowsky all acknowledged this, apparently. But some on the Internet now want to give Kirby credit for Bernstein stories that featured a version of Thor and another that had a man with a bad heart kept going by a machine, like Iron Man. Did Kirby give Bernstein these ideas? Maybe. But probably not. You can take speculation too far.

The letters page at the end is all reaction to the previous issue of the ‘Jack Kirby Collector’, a book-size special entitled ‘Stuf’ Said’ which traced the origins of Marvel Comics and the contributions of Lee, Kirby and others. Many of the letters are from comic professionals and rightly hail the book as an excellent piece of unbiased journalism. ‘Stuf’ Said’ was a hard act to follow but they haven’t done at all bad with this issue. Worth a look, as always.

Eamonn Murphy

June 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 websites: www.TwoMorrows.com and http://twomorrows.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=98_57&products_id=1415

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