Allow me to share my adventure regarding a unique piece of Jack Kirby work from the early 1970s.
A while ago, I was digging through a number of 11″ by 17″ photocopies that Greg Theakston had gifted to the Museum for its archives. One photocopy of a pencil art panel page was just plain odd. It had no word balloons or sound effects, only rhyming captions along the top of each panel. All in Kirby’s hand, the lunar imagery evoked both cartoony fantasy and the Apollo moon landings.
I had no idea what this work was. Maybe Kirby was adapting something, so I Googled some of the key words, but got no hits. Asked some Kirby friends and scholars. Nothing.
Around the same time, James Romberger pointed out an anecdote by Alan Kupperberg about some Kirby space pages he saw Wallace Wood inking in the DC offices in the early 1970s. (Look in the bottom half of the article.) There, Alan mentioned the pages were for Michel Choquette’s 1960s project.
So I searched the web and found an email address for Michel, who didn’t respond to my query. No worries, who knows whether the address I found was active. I don’t know the timing of this next aspect of this story, but I did eventually find the first page of the story in a loose leaf binder of 8.5″ by 11″ photocopies the Museum also received from Greg. Later I learned through James again, I believe, that the Comics Journal was promoting an article by Bob Levin about Michel Choquette’s Someday Funnies project. I reached out to Bob, who put me in touch with Michel. A preview of the Kirby piece illustrated the Comics Journal 299 article.
Nevertheless, this was a moment when the stars aligned, as it were, something John Morrow has said happened to him many times producing the Jack Kirby Collector. Two unknown pieces – what is this mysterious photocopy? and what is that Choquette space piece that Alan Kupperberg saw Wally Wood ink? – the two mysteries merge to become one, but there’s one important difference. Michel, a man with meticulous records of his project, tells me that he paid Joe Sinnott to ink the pages.
So, I reached out to Alan and sent him details from one of the photocopies – he was sure he saw Wood ink those very pages. Maybe some photocopies or vellum were involved and there indeed was a Wood inked version, too.
Well, The Someday Funnies has just been published by the fine folk at Abrams Comicarts (who brought us Mark Evanier’s wonderful Kirby: King of Comics), and editor Charles Kochman generously gifted a copy to the Museum at NYCC. Charles mentioned that the Kirby originals exist. It would be interesting to see them (and scan them for our OADA, of course).
So what is this two page piece? Briefly, in 1965, Beardsley Bullfeather escapes earthly troubles and heads to the moon, where, alone, he dances across the moonscape, reads novels and drinks martinis. The later Apollo mission finds no evidence of him.
In the last panel of the first page, Kirby writes that Bullfeather expresses “emotions inspired by Ayn Rand!” as he exclaims, “Get yours!” in one of only three word balloons in the piece.
Could Kirby’s poetic comic book vignette be a comment on Ditko having left Martin Goodman and Stan Lee’s Marvel five years before Kirby? Ditko’s last Spider-man comic was cover dated July 1966. My understanding is that this would mean the comic was on the stands in May, with Ditko’s work taking place in March or so. It makes sense to me that 1965 would have been a serious breaking point between Ditko and Goodman and Lee. I’m concerned that this is an insular comic book take on the piece, but, nevertheless, with Funky Flashman as my witness, I offer it for your consideration.
After having compared the pencil work with the published work, I discovered significant changes to the captions (see the scans illustrating this piece). Kirby isn’t known as someone who revised his work once it left his board. Also, the book’s endpaper collage includes an apologetic note from Kirby. More mysteries afoot.