“Brother Eye And Buddy Blank” (k044)

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“Brother Eye And Buddy Blank” is the 20-page debut story from OMAC #1 [1974], a debut for a new character by Jack Kirby, inked and lettered by Mike Royer.

Brace yourselves for “The World That’s Coming”.

OMAC #1 is some strange stuff even by 1970s Kirby standards. What can you make of a book that opens with a full page splash of a disassembled robot woman “Build-A-Friend” in a box saying “Hello — Put me together and I will be your friend”?

Also, kind of an unusual story structure for Kirby, as he opens with the climax of the story, then has a flashback to the origin building up to the first scene and then the conclusion. It works pretty well, as it moves the action right up to the front and sets up the rest of the issue nicely.

After seeing OMAC bring down the Build-A-Friend shop, we flashback to his origin, as the faceless Global Peace Agency tell Dr. Myron Forest that they have selected Buddy Blank to be the subject of the OMAC Project, leaving Forest to activate the sleeping satellite Brother Eye. After a view of Buddy’s life at the offices of Pseudo-People, Inc. and some bizarre scenes of their “psychology section”, we see that he was befriended by the previously revealed to be a Build-A-Friend Lila, as part of an experiment in making lifelike beings. As Buddy stumbles onto the secret section and finds out the secret of Lila and the nefarious assassination plans she’s to be part of, Brother Eye transforms him to OMAC.

A wonderful issue, brilliant in its almost pure expression of imagination, Even the artwork seems like a heightened pure version of Kirby.

https://www.comics.org/issue/27707/#182837
COUNTDOWN SPECIAL – OMAC #1 [2008]
JACK KIRBY’S OMAC – ONE MAN ARMY CORPS [2008]
JACK KIRBY’S OMAC – ONE MAN ARMY CORPS [SOFTCOVER] [2013]

“Shilo Norman, Super Trouble” (k043)

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“Shilo Norman, Super Trouble” is a 20-page Kirby story from MISTER MIRACLE #16 [1973], inked and lettered by Mike Royer.

Following his introduction the previous issue, Shilo Norman is now training full-time as the apprentice to Scott Free in the escape artist trade. He keeps seeing a giant insect, which vanishes before anyone else can see it, and which then abducts Oberon and Barda while Scott is out of the room. When the insect next appears, Shilo attacks, ending up shrunk to insect size and facing off against  Professor Egg, who is creating a race of insect-human hybrids.

This all ends rather abruptly in an “all a dream, or is it” ending. Overall this is one of the weaker of the Fourth World stories, as there definitely seems to be an attempt to make Shilo the star of the book in the last few issues up to the conclusion. There are some imaginative creatures and well drawn action scenes, and some nice interplay among the characters in the first few pages which make up for the plotting weakness.

https://www.comics.org/issue/26846/#179145
JACK KIRBY’S FOURTH WORLD [2001]
JACK KIRBY’S FOURTH WORLD OMNIBUS #4 [2008]

“And Fear Shall Follow” (k042)

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“And Fear Shall Follow” is 6-page Jack Kirby fantasy/horror story published in Marvel’s CHAMBER OF DARKNESS #5 [1970]. It’s inked by John Verpoorten, and is one of the few Marvel stories of this era where he was given an explicit writing credit, although he was at least the co-writer of almost everything he drew.

This story is told by an unnamed military pilot who crashes in Red China and is pursued by a mysterious figure.

This ends with a mystical twist, as it turns out the pilot died and the figure is just his benevolent guide to the afterlife, sort of like the Black Racer without the skis. An interesting story, a lot more like Kirby’s earlier BLACK MAGIC work or upcoming SPIRIT WORLD than most things he would do at Marvel. Some really nice visuals, especially with the “walking through walls” effect at the end of the story (and also on the cover)

I thought John Verpoorten’s inks were especially nice, one of the first time he inked Kirby (also in a much-meddled with story in the previous issue and some covers). He would also do some very good work on some of Kirby’s later return to Marvel, both credited and apparently occasionally ghosting for Frank Giacoia before his untimely death in 1977.

https://www.comics.org/issue/23528/#163712
TOMB OF DARKNESS #20 [1976]

“Doom In The Desert” (k041)

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“Doom In The Desert” is a 7-page western story by Jack Kirby, inked by Dick Ayers and originally published in RAWHIDE KID #28 [1962]. The original Rawhide Kid was a short-lived series in the 1950s, cancelled after 16 issues. In 1960 the character name was re-used for this Kirby creation. Kirby stayed on interior for 16 issues, a bit longer on covers, and the series lasted for almost two decades, 135 issues of the main title (most of the later ones reprints), plus additional reprints in an annual and a 46 issue run of THE MIGHTY MARVEL WESTERN. The character has also been revived many times since for new stories and reprints.

In this story, the Kid wins a shooting contest, and gives some of the money to the widow of a sheriff he once rode with. Meanwhile, some spectators belatedly recognize him as a wanted outlaw and he has to escape into the desert. Here we see the Kid’s typical gallantry bordering on stupidity, as he gives the last of his water to his faithful steed Nightwind. Following this he finds himself robbed and left to die by a thief, then rescued by said thief’s sister (who is unaware of his criminal ways) and conflicted about his desire for revenge and his reluctance to cause pain to the gal who saved his life.

A pretty busy story for just 7-pages, this might be my favourite Kirby Rawhide Kid story. The scene of the Kid suffering from dehydration in the desert is extremely well rendered, and the ending is nicely unconventional for this kind of story.

https://www.comics.org/issue/16990/#132808
THE MIGHTY MARVEL WESTERN #6 [1969]
THE MIGHTY MARVEL WESTERN #44 [1976]
MARVEL MASTERWORKS #87 [2007]
ESSENTIAL RAWHIDE KID #1 [2011]

“Lone Shark” (k040)

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“Lone Shark” is a 7-page Simon&Kirby story from Prize’s BLACK MAGIC #33 [vol. 5 no. 3] [1954],

This is the story of a shark who, as a result of undersea atomic explosions, grows a tumor that serves as a second brain, giving it human level intelligence. What really makes the story special is that it’s told from the perspective of the shark.

I fell in love with this story based on the splash page when it was shown in THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR. I couldn’t not buy it when I saw a copy for sale. It doesn’t disappoint (and fortunately is now more widely available). From the punny title on, it’s a masterpiece, with a nice sense of humour in the shark’s “voice”, complaining about the scavenger fish that follow him around, expressing curiosity, complaining about those damn headaches. He becomes almost sympathetic by the end. And the artwork looks great, following his undersea roamings. Definitely a highlight of the later days of the classic S&K team.

https://www.comics.org/issue/11684/#681967
THE SIMON AND KIRBY LIBRARY – HORROR [2014]

“Claws Of The Dragon” (k039)

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“Claws Of The Dragon” is an 18-page story drawn by Jack Kirby for RICHARD DRAGON, KUNG FU FIGHTER #3 [1975], written by Dennis O’Neil (based on a novel written by O’Neil and Jim Berry) and inked by D. Bruce Berry. This was towards the end of Kirby’s five year run at DC, when he did a handful of stories he didn’t write.  This particular series couldn’t seem to hold an artist, with five pencillers in the first four issues (which adapt the novel), with the last of them, Ric Estrada, sticking around for the original stories in the rest of the series.

As you’d expect in a martial arts book, this is pretty much just a series of fights. First Dragon fights a mob to rescue Carolyn from men of the Swiss, who wants some information from her. Carolyn manages to get captured again while Dragon is distracted fighting three guys who think they have martial arts training. We get a flashback to Dragon’s teacher, the O-Sensei, who gave him the Dragon’s Claw pendant to be used when he has to use his skills to defend a life. Finally the Swiss lures him into a trap, where he fights various hired weapon-masters.

I suspect that a few pages were cut here, as there are a few hired hands shown in the initial scene that Dragon doesn’t actually fight. Anyway, Dragon is able to defeat them all, but the Swiss still manages to blow up the place and escape with Carolyn.

Obviously a bit of a trivial entry in the Kirby career, but he has a pretty funny way of drawing martial arts. A few years later he would work on a proposal for a Bruce Lee comic, which was eventually re-purposed to some Phantom Force pages.

https://www.comics.org/issue/28857/#187394
THE JACK KIRBY OMNIBUS #2 [2013]

 

“The Rocks Are Burning” (k038)

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“The Rocks Are Burning” is a 17-page Kirby story from CAPTAIN AMERICA #197 [1976], inked by Frank Giacoia, lettered by John Costanza and coloured by Phil Rachelson. Kirby returned to his 1940s creation in the 1970s with the 8-part “Madbomb” story which concluded in #200 (which conveniently came out right around the US Bicentennial) , so this is in the middle of that story.

After the conclusion of the “Kill-Derby” battle of the previous issue, this story has Cap and the Falcon battling in the underground lair of the New Society in their search for the “Big Daddy” Madbomb.

While they fight inside, General Argyle Fist leads his US Army squad looking for the enemy in the desert above. This is a bit of a placeholder issue, though it reads well as part of the overall 8-part story, with a lot of action and one of those great big Kirby devices in the form of a sonic gun. I also like the General, who has some funny overblown dialogue in these issues.

https://www.comics.org/issue/29829/#190761
CAPTAIN AMERICA & THE FALCON – MADBOMB [2004]
ESSENTIAL CAPTAIN AMERICA #5 [2010]
CAPTAIN AMERICA BY JACK KIRBY OMNIBUS [2011]

“The Miracle Maker” (k037)

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“The Miracle Maker” is a 10-page Sandman story by Simon&Kirby, published by DC in ADVENTURE COMICS #78 [1942].  The Sandman was a pre-existing character that S&K took over six months earlier, making some gradual changes to the costume.

In this story, Wesley Dodds, the wealthy alter-ego of the Sandman, notices a recently released felon working as a carnival barker. He and young friend Sandy check it out, and recognize a few other known felons working for a mystic named Magno, who is being buried alive for six hours as part of a magic trick, which conveniently provides him with an alibi for a bank robbery. Later, Sandman and Sandy investigate as Magno stages an underwater escape as cover for an attack on a wealthy man’s yacht, foiling the scheme but getting captured in the process. Don’t worry, they get out alive and dish out some violent justice in the end.

The writing on the Sandman stories is pretty uneven, and this isn’t one of the better ones in terms of plot, as Magno’s schemes seem a bit half-baked and easy to see through. Visually it’s a lot better, with a few good action scenes, including the underwater fight.

https://www.comics.org/issue/2401/#30880
THE SANDMAN BY JOE SIMON & JACK KIRBY [2009]

“Kill Me With Wagner” (k036)

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“Kill Me With Wagner” is a 20-page story by Jack Kirby from OUR FIGHTING FORCES #151 [1974], inked and lettered by D. Bruce Berry.  At this time the title featured The Losers, a team made by combining three separate cancelled war features, Johnny Cloud, Captain Storm and Gunner & Sarge, placing them in various theatres of operation in WWII. It was primarily written by Robert Kanigher, but for a dozen issues in the middle of their run, starting with this one, Jack Kirby was the writer/artist for the feature, which turned out to be a surprising highlight of the last year of his five-year run at DC. Kirby drew on his own war experience, filtered through his boundless creativity, to tell some exciting stories.

For his first story, Kirby places the Losers in a small town in occupied France, where they have the mission to rescue famed (but apparently never photographed) concert pianist Emma Klein, being hidden by the Maquis. The youngest Loser, Gunner, gets captured, and the others come in with the help of the Maquis. I like how the women brought in as hostages get into the fight in the middle of their rescue.

Kirby does an especially good job with a sequence on the last few pages, showing the the entire town being leveled by Allied shelling following the rescue. Very cinematic, with Kirby setting up Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” as the soundtrack to the destruction in the previous scene (which is significantly before APOCALYPSE NOW used it in a similar vein).

https://www.comics.org/issue/27687/#182752
JACK KIRBY’S THE LOSERS [2009]

“Playmates Of Peril” (k035)

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“Playmates Of Peril” is a 13-page Newsboy Legion by Simon&Kirby from STAR SPANGLED COMICS #15 [1942], inked by Arturo Cazeneuve. The Newsboy Legion ran as the cover feature in the series from #7 to #64 (1942 to 1946), the second half of the run mostly without Kirby and including early work by artists like Gil Kane and Curt Swan. Kirby brought them back (as clones of the now adult original members) as supporting characters in the 1970s. In the original series the premise is that the four good-hearted but trouble-making young newsboys in Suicide Slum are put under the guardianship of rookie beat cop Jim Harper, who works outside the job as vigilante hero the Guardian, with the kids always suspecting, but never being able to prove, that Harper is the Guardian.

This time around, there’s an unusual lull in the action on Harper’s beat, so when he overhears some suspicious characters he decides to take a break from his beat to follow them as the Guardian. He busts them up, but manages to miss the action when some rivals coax his young charges into a fight. Harper gets in trouble for leaving his beat, and is under the watchful eye of his sergeant.

For the rest of the story, Harper has to find a way to get the boys to keep an ear open for criminal activity and get out from under the eye of his sergeant when they get in trouble.

Entertaining work, with a lot of good work done on the various characters, with some colourful mobsters, the main rival of the Newsboys who has a change of heart and various civilians adding some New York flavour. The action scenes all have some nice slapstick elements.

https://www.comics.org/issue/2551/#32501
THE NEWSBOY LEGION BY JOE SIMON & JACK KIRBY #1 [2010]