Comics Chat #1: Lee/Kirby’s Fantastic Four
Rereading the original Lee/Kirby Galactus story, I was struck by how it reads like a Stan Lee story that gets blown wide open by a bunch of Jack Kirby characters*. More specifically, it reads like a crazy situation comedy whose characters suddenly find themselves in a deranged photo-collage dimension where the stakes are so high that the fate of planet Earth barely registers.It’s a rough, engaging set-up, with Lee’s cheap’n’cheerful banter and Kirby’s gloriously blockymonstrosities sharing page space in a powerful, if wonky, melodrama.And maybe this is just me, but reading it over it seemed like a precursor to any number of Grant Morrison stories. I’m specifically thinking of the way that nature of Galactus makes the Fantastic Four panic about their place in the food chain, an effect that is central replicated in Morrison works such as Animal Man, The Filth and We3. Of course Morrison gives the idea a more postmodern sheen, but there’s still a hint of Moz’s interest in shattered perspectives in this old pulp adventure.But forget high-faluting thematics for a second, and enjoy some good old-fashioned melodrama:
THE THING: Yiccchh! My eyes… my nose… what izzat? What in blazes is happenin’??
MR FANTASTIC: Can’t you tell? He’s treating us like some sort of bothersome gnats! It’s some type of cosmic insect repellent!Now that’s what I’m talking about!*This dynamic repeats itself throughout those old Fantastic Four issues, and is reversed in what little I’ve read of the Lee/Kirby Thor stories.
An unpublished page from “Galaxy Green,” Jack Kirby’s unsuccessful pitch for an underground-style tabloid comic at DC in the 1970s. Tame as it is, this is probably the closest Kirby ever came to erotic comix.
(Image from The Jack Kirby Collector #56)
Dan Turpin knows the score, from New Gods #8 (May 1972) by Jack Kirby and Mike Royer.
Turpin’s downfall was the scuzziest note of Final Crisis. Morrison’s intent was to show the insidious enormity of the threat, but it utterly missed the point.
Turpin can’t be defeated, because he refuses to accept defeat.
I suspect Morrison couldn’t grasp that because it is such an American way of thinking, one formed by a child of immigrants who went from the rough and tumble alleys of the Lower East Side to participate in a grand crusade to topple the one of the most evil regimes in human history.
Discussions of Kirby’s greatness too often focus on his gonzo concepts and visual designs. I can understand that, as they are pretty damn swell and the man brought a sense of dynamism to the medium which has yet to be surpassed.
That’s only half of the matter though, as it was Kirby’s sense of humanity which elevated the material into something more than the cosmic, high-concept bombast which so many have tried and failed to imitate.
Andrew pins why the gonzo works, why the crazy dialogue works. Because there’s a heart bigger than the world underneath every line.
Judge Dredd:Silver Age!-Brendan McCarthy
IDW Comics continue their great run of cover art with these “Silver Age" homages from one of 2000AD’s most original creators,Brendan McCarthy.
The McCarthy droid has taken inspiration from some of comicdom’s finest talents-Jack ‘King’ Kirby,Carmine Infantino,Steve Ditko and Jim Steranko-during the 2nd classic period of superhero comic books,the so-called “Silver Age”(’60s-’70s)and applied it to the future’s hardest Lawman,Judge Dredd,for these eye-catching covers;
Jamie Hernandez’s joyful salute to Jack Kirby, as printed in Amazing Heroes #100, 1986.
Original Art - Tales Of Suspense #083 Pg 01 by Jack Kirby And Dick Ayers
His super power is to overwhelm people with “feels” and pictures of Loki and cat videos and also to randomly throw porn at his foes. His weakness is images that are properly credited.
Comixtime: Gives Me FEELINGS Special Edition
Basically, Moore is in the right here. I don’t know how anyone can say otherwise, unless they straight out say “screw Alan Moore, I want more Rorschach beating up criminals”. That would at least be honest.
American superhero comics is a medium based on taking others’ ideas and running with them. And there have been many instances of creators not getting the credit they deserve; see Siegel and Shuster and Jack Kirby. So why is this different? Well, it isn’t - which is precisely why it’s so depressing. Why are the rights of creators still in such a shitty state? The 2011 Kirby lawsuit judgement has gone down as a breaking point for a number of people. It’s confirmation that these companies that have made millions off other people’s ideas can’t make even a token acknowledgement of that fact.
And while Superman and Batman in their original incarnations were meant as serial stories - you have the set-up (super-strong alien or wealthy vigilante) to apply to any new plot - Watchmen was ALWAYS intended to be a single self-contained story. From the first to the final image, there’s not a single panel that needs to be added to explain or clarify anything. DC’s intellectual bankruptcy to the extent that they need a 6-month sales bump off a 26-year-old limited series is … depressing. And I find the insistence of the creators that they’ve in fact found things that must be added to the story specious at best, and insulting at worst.
Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, meanwhile, created Watchmen under the impression that the rights would be returned them eventually. Within a year after it was concluded, in fact. That’s not my opinion. That’s a fact. It’s public knowledge. Due to the nature of the deal that had been agreed upon by Moore, Gibbons and DC Comics, it was widely discussed. It was a genuine victory for creators’ rights.
But then the book was kept in print forever, and the rights to Watchmen never reverted back to Moore and Gibbons.
And people wonder why Alan Moore felt betrayed.
A company having the legal right to exploit someone’s work does not translate to a moral right. It doesn’t translate to the certainty (or even the possibility) of good art. I enjoy Darwyn Cooke and Brian Azzarello’s work, but I wouldn’t put them on par with Moore. And this is before you get into the company-man bullshit-shovelling and passive-aggressive denigration of the guy who actually created the work that this brains trust is going to play around with.
There is a curious phenomenon at work here; creators who feel a need to attack Alan Moore, even though he’s never addressed them himself. The team behind Watchmen 2: The Legend Of Nixon’s Gold may be perfectly at ease with profiting off Moore’s characters and story, but there’s something odd with the way the interviews contain a pre-emptive lashing out.
I don’t begrudge anyone buying or enjoying the Watchmen prequel comics. I’d much rather not have to worry about the moral consequences of my tastes in my entertainment. But Marvel could have acknowledged the debt they owe to Kirby within his lifetime, and compensated him accordingly. They could have admitted to his family that they made a mistake, and awarded them something by way of recompense. DC could have done the same for Siegel and Shuster, and they could have left Watchmen alone as a stand-alone work and reliable bestseller.
Instead, we’re seeing the worst aspects of modern comics culture. And it’s the fact that they work towards the corporate-led status quo that makes stuff like this possible. If you have fans that side with corporations over creators, and creators working for these corporations that will throw their predecessors under the bus for a chance to play with the toys, the whole thing will play out just as before, right down to Visionary Director(tm) Zak Snyder bringing Watchmen Babies to the big screen, and Rorschach action figures all the way down…
…And I don’t want any part of it.