A Failure To Communicate – Part Two
Thanks to Mike Gartland and John Morrow, The Kirby Effect is offering Mike’s “A Failure To Communicate” series from The Jack Kirby Collector. – Rand
Part Two was first published in TwoMorrows’ December 1998 Jack Kirby Collector 22.
What can be written about Galactus that hasn’t been expressed already by historians far more informed and eloquent than I? But let’s start off within the context of the theme of The Jack Kirby Collector 22: Is he a villain? By textbook definition he is not; he’s more of an adversary or antagonist, and given the previous opponents superheroes had faced up to his appearance, he represents either the ultimate adversary or antagonistic overkill — take your pick!
Galactus is a prime example of the thinking man’s opponent; i.e. an adversary that is so powerful it quickly becomes apparent that physical opposition will do no good in subduing him. A plan has to be devised or a way found to defeat him. In earlier stories for Marvel, Jack played with the notion of an alien visitor of enormous power, but they were more or less misguided (Impossible Man or Infant Terrible), or they posed no threat to mankind (the Stranger). Galactus, on the other hand, is not misguided — quite the contrary; because of his very reason for being, he poses the ultimate threat to mankind.
In interviews, Jack would say that “Galactus was God”; I always wondered if Jack really meant God. Granted, Galactus was definitely a “god” but surely not The God. To speculate, perhaps Jack was saying that if super-heroes were ever to face God, Galactus would be about as great an adversary as they could encounter. Superheroes have faced aliens before, and powerful ones too; but it was the way Jack interpreted Galactus to the reader that made him the first space god. How he was introduced made all the difference to the history of comics. His coming is heralded by not one, but two powerful aliens before he even arrives, telling the reader in essence that this was not your typical visiting alien menace; this is the menace; this is IT!
Jack introduced Galactus in Fantastic Four #48’s “The Coming Of Galactus!”; the second half of the book is utilized to prepare readers for his arrival, which culminates with the last page. This gives you an idea of what Jack was thinking about; devoting half an issue just to prepare the reader was saying something about this character. Things really get moving with #49’s “If This Be Doomsday!” and we are very fortunate to have these uninked pencils from that historic story. As opposed to Part One of A Failure To Communicate, there is no failure to communicate between Kirby and Lee on this storyline. Stan followed Jack’s direction without making major changes, and the story flows beautifully because Lee stuck to Kirby’s plotting — and let there be no mistake about who plotted and paced this story. Despite whatever input Stan might or might not’ve had at the conceptual phase, these margin notes show the action and dramatic impact of this pivotal episode in Marvel’s history begin with Kirby. But while Jack was the “father” of Galactus, we shall see — to his credit — Lee may have been his savior.
“If This Be Doomsday!”
Pencil story art by Jack Kirby, dialogue/captions by Stan Lee, lettering art by Sam Rosen
First published in Marvel Comics’ Fantastic Four 49, April 1966.
As far as Silver Age Marvel history is concerned, there is the period before Galactus, and the period after. With the introduction of this character, Jack entered into a period of cosmic creativity; granted he was always creating technological wonderment, but now he was incorporating the Universe in many of his ideas. After Galactus came Sub- Space, the Kree, the Colonizers, Ego the Living Planet; even the Trolls in Thor had Orikal — a powerful alien — in their company. It was space-age mythology fathered by Kirby, and Kirby’s new “Zeus” was Galactus.
Jack has said that after creating Galactus he had to “step back from him.” According to historian Mark Evanier, Kirby never meant for Galactus to be a recurring menace à la Dr. Doom. He might use him again, but only sparingly, so as to maintain the awesome nature of the character. Needless to say, Galactus became an immediate hit with the readers of the time. Ever in touch with the fan base, Lee undoubtedly heard their pleas for his return. According to Evanier, after prompting from Stan, Jack brought Galactus back in not only Fantastic Four, but Thor as well. So thanks to Lee (and the fans), we have more great Kirby Galactus stories and art than probably would have existed otherwise.
Before returning Galactus to the FF, Jack added a small cameo to his Thor/Ego story in The Mighty Thor #134’s “The People Breeders!”; just as Thor leaves the Black Galaxy (where Ego dwells) we see the great Galactus appear. He is scanning the Black Galaxy, whetting our appetite for a Galactus/Ego confrontation. Jack then “steps back” from Galactus, not using him again until Lee requests a Galactus story in FF. Jack eventually returns to the Galactus/Ego “seed” he planted in Thor #160’s “And Now, Galactus!”, more than two years later, finally bringing his classic mythological figures and space god together for several stories. The Ego story leads to an “Origin of Galactus” plotline that eventually culminates in Thor #169’s “The Awesome Answer!”.
Jack touches on the origin story in Thor #162’s “Galactus Is Born!” but then leaves it, not returning to it until #168’s “Galactus Found!”. It is unclear why this is so; Evanier feels that Jack definitely wanted to pen the origin of this character. But there was, by this time, a failure to communicate with Lee, who may have had his own ideas of the character’s beginnings. As seen in TwoMorrows’ February 1977 The Jack Kirby Collector 14, when the Galactus sequence was completed, there were many unused pages left over, but none of them pertained to the origin part of the storyline itself; so Jack was at least able to put an origin in before “losing” the character to someone else — or leaving Marvel, which he did less than a year later. (It’s still unclear how much of the published origin was Jack’s idea, and how much was Stan’s.)
At the end of the unpublished pages from the origin sequence, Kirby was going to have Galactus battle alongside Thor; perhaps Jack scrapped the idea, or Stan (wisely) rejected it, thinking that it would lead to the character’s denigration (which, as we have seen from subsequent stories after Jack left — and overuse of the character it probably would have). In my opinion, to this day no one has yet been able to capture the awesome nature of Galactus as well as his creator, Jack Kirby.
What made Galactus so riveting a character? From the outset, everyone who knows of him before he appears is rendered in characterizations of fear, dread, and awe: The Skrulls, the Watcher (whom we already knew to be an extremely powerful character), and even after Galactus appears, the Surfer as well. In the uninked splash to “If This Be Doomsday!” we see how awestruck the FF are — much moreso than in the inked version. Most telling was the reaction of the everyday people scattered throughout the storyline. This was indeed the coming of a god — Kirby’s god — and it terrified plenty.
What made Galactus so terrifying? Was it his power? The fact that he could destroy the entire planet? Probably in part but what made him terrifying to me was more psychological: The fact that Galactus did not even recognize that man existed, or cared if he existed, or needed to exist; the fact that Galactus made man look at himself and say “I kill what I need (or want) to survive; not bothering to rationalize if what I kill has a right to live.” Heck, we don’t worry about a carrot’s right to life, so when we realize that we are as little to Galactus as a carrot is to us, it’s enough to scare the hell out of you — not so much when you read it as a kid, ironically. Only as “rational” adults do we realize how scary this concept is. And the topper is you can’t condemn him without condemning yourself. So in the end we see man as an extension of God; but in the long run Galactus — God — is an extension of man. Galactus is man, pushed to the ultimate degree; a terrifying concept indeed!