Author Archives: Bob

“Claws Of The Dragon” (k039)

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Posted in K100.

“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]

“It’s Got The Whole World… In Its Hand” (k034)

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“It’s Got The Whole World… In Its Hand” is a 20-page story from DESTROYER DUCK #1 [1982], co-created by Steve Gerber and Jack Kirby, inked by Alfredo Alcala (with Steve Leialoha), coloured by Gordon Kent and lettered by Tom Orzechowski. This was a comic done to raise money for Gerber’s legal issues with Marvel over the character Howard the Duck, something Kirby was obviously sympathetic to with his own issues with the company (which took several decades to resolve).

With that background,  it’s understandably  a bit of an angry comic.  But clearly anger works as a motivating force, since this is a really good story. The analogy is obvious enough, with Duke “Destroyer” Duck going on a mission of vengeance on behalf of “The Little Guy”, a talking duck who was exploited, cheated and ultimately killed by the monolithic GodCorp. Kirby’s got an interesting funny animal style that he only had a few chances to use in his career, and this is a nice mix of that and his traditional action art. That works well with the slightly off-kilter, cynical satire of Gerber, who’s rarely been better than he is here. Everything dealing with GodCorp and their president Ned Packer is great, from their world-grasping logo (below) to their motto “We Make Product” to Packer’s declaration that “It’s not enough to defeat an enemy. One must devour, digest and eliminate him.”

The inks also work better than you’d expect, given how dominant Alcala is over some other artists. He seems to preserve most of Kirby’s line based on the pencils I’ve seen for the book, while having a finish that sometimes reminds me of some of the 1950s S&K work.

https://www.comics.org/issue/36010/#212802

“I Worked For The Fence” (k033)

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“I Worked For The Fence” is a 13-page Simon&Kirby crime story from Prize’s HEADLINE COMICS #28 [1948].

The “I” of the title is narrator Monica Bell, a failed show-girl, who is about to go back home from the big-city when she finds her suitcase has been switched with one full of jewels. Remembering a co-worker’s mention of a fence he dealt with, “Buyer Busch”, she takes the jewels to him, finding out she was set-up by him as a likely prospect for a “switcher” as he explains the inner workings of his operation. She takes the job and makes some easy switches, and then works as a buyer at the racetrack. She’s spotted by a private investigator, who she quickly falls in love with him, but almost gets caught when her next buy turns violent.

She tried to quit but finds she’s already in too deep, but is rescued by her new beau, and is now serving her time in jail, determined to live life straight when she gets out. Because, if you haven’t learned by now, Crime Never Pays.

Very enjoyable comics here, with a lot of story about how Monica gets drawn into the life of crime, attracted by the glamour but eventually having misgivings.  The background in how the fencing operation works is well done, with “Buyer Busch” playing up the charming rogue routine when it serves him. The investigator who rescues her also has some great dialogue. “You’re just the mixed-up kind of dame who takes a flyer on a racket for some fast dough and winds up in a fix! Well, you’re in a fix — now listen closely and do what I tell you! You owe it to that dead policeman!”.

https://www.comics.org/issue/127900/#374747
TEEN-AGED DOPE SLAVES AND REFORM SCHOOL GIRLS [1989]
THE SIMON AND KIRBY LIBRARY – CRIME [2011]

“Enter, The Avengers” (k032)

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“Enter, The Avengers” is a 20-page Kirby story from X-MEN #9 [1965], inked by Chic Stone, who inked most of Kirby’s work for one year in mid-1960s, most of it quite attractive. This is also around the time that crossovers became even more frequent at Marvel. This month also had Thor meet the Hulk, Spider-Man meet the Human Torch and the Avengers fighting the FF villain the Mole Man in their own book.

In this story the X-Men are summoned to Europe by Professor X, who is hunting down the villain Lucifer, the man who cost him the use of his legs in some hinted-at story that wouldn’t be told until after Kirby stopped drawing the book. The Avengers also wind up in the same region, apparently thanks to Thor’s hammer detecting evil rays or something. Yeah, I don’t know what that’s all about, but something has to lead to the crossover.

The Professor finds Lucifer, but finds out that he’s rigged a bomb to explode if his heartbeat stops, so he mentally orders the X-Men to stop the Avengers from interfering. So of course, they fight, which has some entertaining interplay with a lot of characters to choreograph.

Eventually Professor X communicates with Thor and convinces him that they should let the X-Men handle this, and the team re-joins the Professor to defuse the bomb. And for some reason the Professor then lets Lucifer go now that he knows he can be defeated. So much for Xavier’s vow earlier to make sure he never menaces humanity again.

This is a solid story with a few very amusing scenes, like the tourist who runs into both teams.

https://www.comics.org/issue/18909/#141897
X-MEN ANNUAL #1 [1970]
MIGHTY MARVEL TEAM-UP THRILLERS [1983]
MARVEL MASTERWORKS #3 [1987]
MARVEL MILESTONE EDITION – X-MEN NO. 9 [1993]
X-MEN – THE EARLY YEARS #9 [1995]
ESSENTIAL UNCANNY X-MEN #1 [1999]
GIANT-SIZE X-MEN #3 [2005]
MARVEL VISIONARIES – JACK KIRBY #2 [2006]
MARVEL MASTERWORKS – THE X-MEN #1 [2009]
X-MEN OMNIBUS #1 [2009]
X-MEN VS. AVENGERS [2010]
X-MEN VS. AVENGERS – FANTASTIC FOUR [2011]
X-MEN EPIC COLLECTION – CHILDREN OF THE ATOM [2014]
KING-SIZE KIRBY [2015]

 

“The Cat People” (k031)

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“The Cat People” is a 6-page Simon&Kirby horror story from Prize’s BLACK MAGIC #27 [Vol. 4 No. 3] [1953].

George Gates goes to visit an old friend after a long time away in Europe, which ended in an extended hospital stay. He then freaks out when his friend’s kids are playing the string game cat’s cradle, and tells the story of his recent time in Spain, when he got lost and was invited to stay the night in the remote cavern home of an old woman and her beautiful daughter. As you’d gather from the title, they turn out to be able to transform into cats, using a spell cast by the original version of the cat’s cradle game. He barely escapes with his life, and not untouched.

A nice little story with an especially well done bit of adventure in the chase scene. The cat-like faces of the women are well done,

https://www.comics.org/issue/10906/#681914
BLACK MAGIC #2 [1974]
THE JACK KIRBY OMNIBUS #2 [2013]
THE SIMON AND KIRBY LIBRARY – HORROR [2014]

“The War That Never Ended” (k030)

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“The War That Never Ended” is a 6-page Green Arrow story by Jack Kirby published in ADVENTURE COMICS #255 [1958]. The writing is by Dave Wood, possibly co-plotted or re-written by Kirby, inks are by Jack Kirby, possibly with some assistance from Roz Kirby. Kirby did 11 Green Arrow stories during his 1950s run at DC, which are fairly entertaining, but compromised by DC’s reluctance to deviate too much from their established house style, or do multi-chapter stories. They are among the last major examples of Kirby inking his own work.

In this story, Green Arrow and Speedy are flying to Japan when their plane goes down in a storm.  Their liferaft ends up on an island occupied by Japanese soldiers who have been out of communication for thirteen years and think the war is still going on. They capture Green Arrow and force him to use his arrow technology to design weapons to attack a US naval fleet out on maneuvers.

Six pages (actually a bit less, with DC’s format then having a large logo, usually a splash panel showing a scene from later in the story and an advertisement on the last page) isn’t much to work with, but this story does manage to have a nice battle against sharks, several good action scenes and some very nice rendering of some of Green Arrow’s fairly ridiculous weaponry. The story also has a few similarities to a story published four years later by another company.

https://www.comics.org/issue/14780/#120044
THE GREEN ARROW BY JACK KIRBY [2001]
SHOWCASE PRESENTS GREEN ARROW #1 [2006]
THE JACK KIRBY OMNIBUS #1 [2011]