Yeah, been a while. Didn’t want to let another Kirby birthday pass without at least a quick update. 104 years ago today, in New York City, Jacob Kurtzberg was born. By the time he moved on, 76 years later, he had left an indelible mark on the world of pop culture, which only continues to grow deeper and more profound with every passing year. When I started this weblog almost 17 years ago there was a bit of a gap in the internet on details about the full width and depth of Kirby’s career. Fortunately that’s changed quite a bit, for various reasons, and he’s probably better known now than ever.
Anyway, no promises, but in the next few weeks I want to get in here, tie up a few loose ends on this weblog, maybe decide if there’s a direction I can take it that fills a need that may exist, either in the world at large or in my own head. As they say, stay tuned. But don’t hold your breath. That would be unhealthy.
Today marks 100 years since the birth of Jack Kirby on August 28, 1917 in New York City. You can go through the archives of his weblog, or all over the web, to see a sampling of the thousands of pages of comics art he created in the 76 years of that century that he lived, and the unending source of inspiration for creativity he sparked in others.
The photo above is part of my own collection of Kirby comics, mostly consisting of single issues published while he was alive. That’s the first thing in my eyeline when I wake up. Leaving my room, the first thing I pass is the bookshelf seen below, which is mostly filled with stuff published after his passing (and is only a small sampling of everything published, as I don’t have most of the colour Marvel reprints, or the original art sized IDW books).
Anyway, there’s Kirby stuff all over the place today, so I’ll keep it short here. As you may have noticed my plan to post 100 post about 100 Kirby stories leading up to the day (//kirbymuseum.org/blogs/kirby/archives/category/k100) didn’t quite pan out, though I do hope to continue it and get all 100 done in the calendar year. Here’s just a sample of what’s still to come:
“20,000 Lugs Under The Sea” is a 6-page movie parody comic by Jack Kirby, published by Charlton in FROM HERE TO INSANITY #11 . It’s based on the 1954 Disney film adaptation of 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, starring Kirk Douglas, James Mason, Paul Lukas and Peter Lorre.
There’s quite a bit of Kirby material published by Charlton in 1955, most of it obviously done for the short-lived Mainline publishing venture Simon & Kirby did in 1954/1955. so this particular story (and the other Kirby stories in this issue) was probably meant for an unrealized Mainline humour title and used in Charlton’s name-changing MAD inspired mental health journal (also known at times as EH! DIG THIS CRAZY COMIC or CRAZY, MAN, CRAZY or THIS MAGAZINE IS CRAZY. Never just CRAZY, which was published by Marvel).
This sticks pretty close to the parody formula that Harvey Kurtzman and his collaborators had been doing at MAD for a few years at this point, with names like “Captain Screamo” and “Dirk Cutlets”, and lots of the slapstick and little gags in the backgrounds. I’m not sure what the origin of the bullet-hole gag is, I think Al Capp did that a lot in Li’l Abner. Some of the visual elements are similar to earlier Kirby humour work in some comic strips in the 1930s, and a few comics in the 1940s.
Overall an interesting example of Kirby in a less familiar genre, making some good use of his frantic energy.
THE JACK KIRBY READER #1 
THE BEST OF SIMON AND KIRBY 
“The Partisans” is the fifth of Kirby’s dozen stories of The Losers, running in DC’s OUR FIGHTING FORCES #155 , an 18-page story inked and lettered by D. Bruce Berry.
The Losers continuing travels through the various theaters of operations in WWII brings them to Yugoslavia this time, with a story that focuses almost purely on Sarge, with just short cameos by the other members. This has the effect of making it read like it could be a story about a cigar-chomping Nick Fury or Ben Grimm during the war just as easily as anything else (or maybe Dan Turpin, or ultimately Kirby himself). Like the other classic Kirby tough guys, Sarge faces injury and impossible obstacles to accomplish his mission, as part of a story about a strange group of Yugoslavian resistance fighters, led by the silent but powerful leader “Fur Hat”. This is classic Kirby, one of the best of this very good run of comics.
JACK KIRBY’S THE LOSERS 
Kirby worked in syndicated newspapers strips a few times in his career, some published strips and several other proposals. The most successful was the science fiction strip Sky Masters of the Space Force, which lasted for two and a half years as a daily strip, from September 1958 to February 1961 (between the first orbital satellites and the first manned space flights). There was also a Sunday version, which ran for one year, from February 1959 to February 1960. This strip is from Nov 22, 1959, probably written by some combination of Kirby, Dave Wood and Dick Wood and inked by Dick Ayers.
While some of the adventures of Major Sky Masters would take place in space, where we quickly go from the first space flights to a manned space station to the moon, a lot of them are set on Earth, with stories about the training for space flights, and various espionage schemes which have to be broken up. That’s the case in this storyline, as Sky have to pursue a stolen gyroscope right into a storm. These storylines make for a decent conventional action strip, but sometimes it really does feel like this is two different strips between the space stuff and the Earth stuff.
“The Coming Of The Hulk” is a 24-page Kirby story inked by Paul Reinman and first published in THE INCREDIBLE HULK #1 , introducing the long-running (after a rocky start) Kirby creation.
“This is the often re-told and embellished origin of the Hulk, with the introduction of Bruce Banner, Rick Jones, Betty Ross and General Thunderbolt Ross. Banner is a scientist testing a gamma bomb for the army, under General Ross, but when teenager Rick Jones trespasses on the testing site Banner is caught in an explosion of his own device, thanks to a Soviet agent in the lab. The radiation causes him to turn into the monstrous Hulk whenever the sun goes down, a creature of brute force who has contempt for his alter ego. Banner and Jones go on the run, winding up captured by a deformed communist genius named the Gargoyle and taken behind the Iron Curtain.
A pretty decent introductory story, with a lot of the elements that would define the series. Some of the art is excellent, including the classic gamma bomb scene, with Banner trying to rescue Jones, Banner catching the explosion just on the edge of the protective trench and the hours long scream that follows. There are several good sequences of the tranformations to and from the Hulk, especially the one when Banner is driving a jeep and we just get a close-up of the hands for three panels. Reinman is far from my favourite Kirby inker in this period, but this is definitely one of his better jobs.
MARVEL TALES ANNUAL #1 
ORIGINS OF MARVEL COMICS 
MARVEL MASTERWORKS #8 [H-001] 
MARVEL MILESTONE EDITION – THE INCREDIBLE HULK NO. 1 
MARVEL LIMITED – FANTASTIC FIRSTS 
HULK – BEAUTY AND THE BEHEMOTH 
ESSENTIAL HULK #1 
FANTASTIC FIRSTS 
TARGET MARVEL CLASSIC ORIGINS 
INCREDIBLE HULK OMNIBUS #1 
MARVEL MASTERWORKS – THE INCREDIBLE HULK #1 
MARVEL FIRSTS – THE 1960S 
MARVEL KNIGHTS HULK – TRANSFORME 
STAN LEE – MARVEL TREASURY EDITION 
INCREDIBLE HULK EPIC COLLECTION – MAN OR MONSTER 
“Brother Eye And Buddy Blank” is the 20-page debut story from OMAC #1 , 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.
COUNTDOWN SPECIAL – OMAC #1 
JACK KIRBY’S OMAC – ONE MAN ARMY CORPS 
JACK KIRBY’S OMAC – ONE MAN ARMY CORPS [SOFTCOVER] 
“Shilo Norman, Super Trouble” is a 20-page Kirby story from MISTER MIRACLE #16 , 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.
JACK KIRBY’S FOURTH WORLD 
JACK KIRBY’S FOURTH WORLD OMNIBUS #4 
“And Fear Shall Follow” is 6-page Jack Kirby fantasy/horror story published in Marvel’s CHAMBER OF DARKNESS #5 . 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.
TOMB OF DARKNESS #20 
“Doom In The Desert” is a 7-page western story by Jack Kirby, inked by Dick Ayers and originally published in RAWHIDE KID #28 . 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.
THE MIGHTY MARVEL WESTERN #6 
THE MIGHTY MARVEL WESTERN #44 
MARVEL MASTERWORKS #87 
ESSENTIAL RAWHIDE KID #1