2012 – A Kirby Odyssey

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Spirit World By Jack Kirby 2012 #[nn]DC pretty much dominates the noteworthy Kirby reprints list for 2012, and will soon be almost out of unreprinted Kirby from after the 1940s. Top of the list, featuring lots of never before reprinted stuff, are KAMANDI, THE LAST BOY ON EARTH BY JACK KIRBY VOL. 2, concluding Kirby’s run, and SPIRIT WORLD, which included nice crisp black and white versions of the stories intended for #2 of the magazine and repurposed for the colour comics line.  Meanwhile the Fourth World saga concluded another reprint cycle, this time softcover, colour and chronological. Just a guess, but the next iteration will probably involve digital (KAMANDI #1-#20 are already available digitally for $1 an issue, which is a huge bargain, especially if you don’t already have them in three other formats. And no, I’m not ashamed…). Going back to the 1950s, Challengers got a couple of reprints, with the whole Kirby run in the colour hardcover CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN OMNIBUS, while the earliest stories joined the other tales from DC’s classic tryout book in the delightfully named black and white softcover SHOWCASE PRESENTS SHOWCASE VOL. 1. And, to be complete, an excerpt from the origin appears in the colour hardcover DC UNIVERSE SECRET ORIGINS. Also from the 1950s, a handful of Kirby covers and stories appear in the black and white softcover SHOWCASE PRESENTS TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED VOL. 1 (all the Kirby content of that book is available in colour in the 2011 release THE JACK KIRBY OMNIBUS VOL. 1, along with the rest of Kirby’s 1950s work for DC outside of the Challengers, but you do get some nice Mort Meskin, Nick Cardy, Leonard Starr and Ruben Moreira in addition to the Kirby).

TwoMorrows got out two issues of THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR in the year, shifting out of the tabloid format, with a, well, let’s call it “controversial” one issue departure into a book-length essay about the Fantastic Four in #58 and then back into the more standard magazine format with #59.

The only other thing really worth mentioning is Charles Hatfield’s book from the University Press of Mississippi about Kirby’s work, HAND OF FIRE – THE COMICS ART OF JACK KIRBY, available in hardcover, softcover and digital. And which I’ll get around to reading any day now.

There were a handful of other books from other publishers, as usual all listed here. 2013 already has some good stuff on the schedule.  DC has a hardcover of IN THE DAYS OF THE MOB, including material from the unpublished second issue, and another JACK KIRBY OMNIBUS book, picking up most of the remaining not already reprinted 1970s and 1980s work that Kirby did for the company. TwoMorrows continues the KIRBY COLLECTOR, with another issue out in a few weeks. Most interestingly, we’ll finally see another volume in Titan’s Simon&Kirby Library series, this time SCIENCE FICTION, including some very nice stuff from RACE FOR THE MOON and their early collaboration on BLUE BOLT.  That’s currently scheduled for March, and last I heard the following volume will be HORROR, featuring stories from BLACK MAGIC and STRANGE WORLD OF YOUR DREAMS.

5 thoughts on “2012 – A Kirby Odyssey

  1. John S.

    Amazon has the listing posted now for the next volume in Titan’s S&K Library series — HORROR!, featuring Black Magic and Strange World of Your Dreams — with an on-sale date of October 29th of this year — much earlier than I would have expected. That’s great news, because it means we’ll get two dynamite volumes of S&K stories in one year!

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  2. patrick ford

    John, That is great news. What I wonder about is the long delay on the science fiction book, and the weird lack of trust on the Romance material.
    I’d rather another publisher go involved at this point. Joe Simon did not retain copyright on anywhere close to as much material as he claimed. The crime, romance, science fiction, and “horror” material is mostly PD and any publisher could go to work on it. This is particularly true of the Romance material. There are a large number of stories written, penciled, and inked by Kirby in the Romance genre, and it’s the best Kirby material (by far in my opinion) until you reach the ’70s and ’80s.

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  3. John S.

    I’m not really certain how much of a delay there’s been between the last book and the upcoming science fiction volume, but delays are always inevitable in publishing, as I’m sure you’re aware, so I doubt if it’s anything to worry about.

    For myself, I’m glad Titan is involved and I’d prefer their involvement to continue, since both the Simon Estaste and the Kirby Estate are receiving proper royalties for these books. I know most of the material being reprinted is in the public domain now, but I still think — obviously — that it’s much better for the creators involved (or their heirs) to receive royalty payments for the work than to not receive them. Additionally, Steve Saffel and Harry Mendryk are both huge S&K fans, so their devotion to the material is a big plus for the series and I’d hate for anyone to upset that particular applecart.

    As for the romance material not being featured yet, well, I guess it’s because they can only do one book at a time and maybe they figure the audience demographics for these books favor the more male-oriented material like crime and horror as opposed to the more tradtionally-female-oriented love stories. My own favorite is the crime stuff, and I’m really hoping for a second volume of that, but I dig the romance stuff as well; so when that one finally does get published I’ll be sure to snap up a copy as quickly as possible.

    Lastly, I think one of the great things about the upcoming horror book will be the opportunity it affords us to see all that material in its original, unedited form. I’m mostly familiar with the BLACK MAGIC stories, for example, from the seventies reprint series, which had a lot of editorial amendments; so it’ll be nice to see some of that work as it was originally presented.

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  4. patrick ford

    John, Very good point about compensation going to the heirs.
    Aside from the Titan horror book I’m pretty sure IDW has a Craig Yoe edited volume featuring STRANGE WORLD OF YOUR DREAMS.
    I think you are right Titan views the romance material as the least commercial, and I think they are wrong. Of course I want to think they are wrong because the romance material is the best in my view. There is also more of it. What is really discouraging is Titan said that the Fantagraphics book ruined any chance of Titan publishing a romance collection. I hope he was just irritated and not actually thinking the material had so little appeal that one volume filled the demand.

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  5. John S.

    I hope so too, Patrick — considering I didn’t buy the Fantagraphics book after I heard that neither the Kirby Estate nor Joe Simon (who, I believe, was still alive when the book came out) would be receiving any royalties from it. My main exposure to the S&K romance stories came from Eclipse’s 1988 reprint book, REAL LOVE, edited by Richard Howell, which I thought was absolutely excellent. Greg Theakston has also run a few more of them in his various Kirby reprint books since then; but there’s still room for lots more, since, as you say, the work is superb and there’s a great deal of it.

    As far as mass appeal is concerned, I also happen to be of the opinion that, with some judicious marketing, you can sell just about anything nowadays — all the more so if you actually have the product to back up your hype. And in the case of the romance comics, they’ve certainly got the product to back it up, so all Titan would really need to do to make it a sales success would be to crank up their promotional efforts a few notches and they’d definitely get the rewards. In fact, they might also view it as an opportunity to bring in a few more female readers to the comics and graphic-novel worlds, which could only be a good thing.

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