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An unpublished page from “Galaxy Green,” Jack Kirby’s unsuccessful pitch for an underground-style tabloid comic at DC in the 1970s.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.