MARVEL VISIONARIES: JACK KIRBY was just released. While I could (and will) quibble about a few thing, it’s an incredible bargain. I wasn’t expecting it to be at the slightly larger size Marvel’s been using for its hardcovers of contemporary books, and at 352 pages for $30 it’s under half the price-per-page of a standard Masterworks/Archives book. The economies of comic pricing never make much sense. I really hope we see another volume of this soon, and maybe volumes for Ditko and others.
A few quick comments, mostly on the reproduction quality since only two (and a half) of the stories in here are actually new to me.
Greg Theakston provides an introduction, which outlines Kirby’s career and various stints at Marvel with some sort of metaphor about Hans Christian Andersen stories. I’m not sure of the connection, either.
“Mercury in the 20th Century,” RED RAVEN COMICS #1, Kirby’s first work for Marvel; More historically interesting than anything else, this looks good. Seems to be pretty much the same sharp reproduction Theakston used in his reprint a few years back, in colour this time.
“The Vision,” MARVEL MYSTERY COMICS #13, Kirby’s first regular Marvel series; Same as the previous reprint, a bit spotty on the lettering but mostly decent on the art. Not bad, but the later Vision stories seem more interesting.
“Meet Captain America,” CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #1, the first Captain America story; Awful reproduction, only unacceptably bad repro in the book, which is odd since this story has been re-printed quite a bit, always looking much better than this. I don’t know why they just didn’t use the previous reprints. I know they’re reprinting the CLASSIC YEARS as part of the Masterworks line soon, I hope this isn’t a sample of how it’ll look.
“UFO the Lightning Man,” YELLOW CLAW #3, from a strip Kirby wrote and drew during the ’50s; Hey, it’s something I hadn’t read! The Yellow Claw stories are pretty weird, all short and snappy, with some great visuals but abrupt plotting, to be kind. The reproduction on this one looks surprisingly good, just a shade fuzzy, especially around the lettering, but better than I expected.
“Beware the Rawhide Kid!,” RAWHIDE KID #17, the first revamped Rawhide Kid story and the beginnings of the Marvel style; Disappointing they only found room for the beginning of the story, not the rest of the issue where you find out how the Kid became an outlaw. Always a pleasure to see a Kirby/Ayers western, though.
“I Am the Amazing Dr. Droom!,” AMAZING ADVENTURES #1, the origin of Jack’s first super-heroic character of the ’60s; Partly new to me, as the previous reprint was heavily altered in the process of chaging “Droom” to Druid”, giving him a beard and adding a page to the story by enlarging a few panels. Cover is pretty poorly printed, looks like a colour photocopy from back in the day when colour photocopies were new, but the story looks very good.
“I Was A Decoy For Pildorr, the Plunderer from Outer Space!,” STRANGE TALES #94, from the monster era; the first time Joe Sinnott inked the King(*); Also new to me. Typical of the Atlas monster books, with a cool creature and a twist at the end. Nice to see Larry Lieber credited for the writing of one of these, usually they’re mis-credited or uncredited. Spotty reproduction, especially on the cover, but better than some, I have to wonder why the editor of this volume is under the delusion that the title is “I Defied Pildorr…”.
(*)Actually seems to be the second Kirby/Sinnott story, after TALES TO ASTONISH #10
“The Origin of the Hulk,” HULK #3;
“Spidey Tackles the Torch,” AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #8;
“Captain America Joins the Avengers!,” AVENGERS #4;
“The Coming of Galactus,” FANTASTIC FOUR #48-50;
“This Man, This Monster,” FANTASTIC FOUR #51;
“This Is A Plot?,” FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #5;
All stuff which has been in Masterworks editions, so I assume the same repro that they got in those.
“The Fangs of the Fox,” SGT. FURY #6; Glad to see they worked in a Fury story, and didn’t resort to the Cap crossover issue (which is good, but not representative and more common). I’d probably have picked an Ayers inked issue rather than Roussos, but this is fine. Fair reproduction.
“The People Breeders,” THOR #134-135;
“To Become an Immortal,” THOR #136;
Good selection for the Thor sample, except for the obvious problems with Thor issues of this era. Fun stories, and they look pretty good here, especially considering they seem to be taken from printed comics.
“The Inhumans!” AMAZING ADVENTURES v.2 #1-2; Odd choice to end the Silver Age section on. The Inhumans half-issue stories weren’t Kirby’s best, as he seemed to still be feeling out doing full writing on his books, while under the Marvel system.
“America Will Die!,” CAPTAIN AMERICA #200; Might have been more welcome if the whole “Madbomb” story hadn’t just been collected and there weren’t a dozen non-reprinted stories to pick just in CAP. Still, looks good as a sample of his work of the era.
“The Fourth Host,” ETERNALS #7; I guess it’s a good choice for an Eternals issue, even though it lacks most of the main characters, it does work as a stand-alone story. Inconsistant reproduction, looks like they might have had good stats for most of the book, but not for a few pages. Still, nothing dips to unacceptable, mostly just suffering in comparison.
“What If the Original Marvel Bullpen Was the Fantastic Four?,” WHAT IF #11; I’m one of those who just loves this story, as silly as it is, and it’s great to have a reprint of it looking this fine.
Rounding out the book are a few neat things, an FF sketch for a fan on Marvel stationary, a gag cartoon from 1941, the famous drawing-board self-portrait with a host of Marvel characters and three pages of pencils from FF #49.