“Different” (k029)

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“Different” is a 14-page romance story by Simon&Kirby from YOUNG ROMANCE #30 [Vol 4 No. 6] [1951]. It’s unfortunate that the romance comics are probably the least reprinted genre of Kirby’s career, with thousands of pages never reprinted (and even more never in decent colour). Of those I’ve read this is probably my favourite, a powerful and mature story about prejudice in post-war America.

This story is narrated by Irma Williams, daughter of a furniture salesman who has moved his family to the small town. Her family finds the people there very friendly, and quickly falls in love, only to find the facade collapsing when people find out that the family has changed its name from Wilheim.

A very densely plotted and well scripted story, ending with a promise of hope but no easy answers. While the plot doesn’t allow for the over-the-top action scenes that many of these stories feature, you do get a great variety of characters, lots of great clothing and crystal clear body language and facial expressions that reinforce the story.

I especially like this bit of narration:

“I looked at these people whose community life we were to share, and I liked what I saw… they were warm, considerate, god-fearing folk! Even now, after all they have done to me, I marvel at the vileness that lives inside them, that was part of them all the time…”

https://www.comics.org/issue/225738/#1029091
REAL LOVE [1988]

“The Menace Of The Ancient Vials” (k028)

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“The Menace Of The Ancient Vials” is a 24-page Jack Kirby story featuring the Challengers of the Unknown, first published in SHOWCASE #12 [1958], the last of four SHOWCASE issues of the feature, which led directly to the on-going Challs series a few months later. Kirby would continue to draw the series for eight issues for an even dozen issues.  In the through-line of Kirby’s career it’s an interesting link between the kid gang books of the 1940s and some of the super-hero teams of the 1960s. It was written with Dave Wood, and I think at one time or another it’s been credited to every inker who worked on Kirby’s work in that era. DC’s opinion in recent reprints seems to be George Klein.

The Challengers begin the story in flight in pursuit of the gang of Karnak. The criminals take refuge in the isolated island home of an archaeologist doing experiments on some ancient vials he found. As the Challengers approach, Karnak has his men drink the contents of the first vial, turning them into giants who go out and fight and are defeated by the Challs.

Two other vials release a fire monster and a sea monster, allowing Karnak to escape back to the mainland with the two remaining vials, one of which creates fifty clones of him which go on a crime wave. The Challs track down the real Karnak, who tries to escape using the final vial, which turns out just to be an antidote for the previous one.

The plot this time, especially the ending, is kind of a letdown, but along the way there are some cool things for Kirby to draw, especially the flame monster.

https://www.comics.org/issue/14184/#116048
CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN #77 [1971]
CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN ARCHIVES #1 [2003]
SHOWCASE PRESENTS CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN #1 [2006]
SHOWCASE PRESENTS SHOWCASE #1 [2012]
CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN BY JACK KIRBY [2012]

“The Death Wish Of Terrible Turpin” (k027)

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“The Death Wish Of Terrible Turpin” is a 23-page story by Jack Kirby from THE NEW GODS #8 [1972], inked and lettered by Mike Royer.

An excellent Fourth World story, as Kalibak runs wild in the streets, attacking the home of Dave Lincoln in his search for Orion. The police respond, led by Dan “Terrible” Turpin, who’s got no time for those “Super Weirdos” taking their war to his streets. I love Turpin in this issue, taking on Kalibak one-on-one.

Eventually Orion and Lightray arrive, having seen the battle on TV, and Orion takes on Kalibak, showing his true face and giving some allusions to their common ancestry (which had only been confirmed the previous issue).

The Lightray/Orion interaction is great in this issue, too, including the last scene in the issue:

“You saw my face!!”
“I saw scars — both old and new — taken in the cause of New Genesis!”
“You’re a good friend, Lightray.”

https://www.comics.org/issue/25006/#170690
NEW GODS #4 [1984]
JACK KIRBY’S NEW GODS [1998]
JACK KIRBY’S FOURTH WORLD OMNIBUS #3 [2007]

“With A Nation Against Him” (k026)

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“With A Nation Against Him” is a 17-page Jack Kirby story from MACHINE MAN #7 [1978], inked and lettered by Mike Royer and coloured by Petra Goldberg.

After he saved the world from the invasion of Ten-For over the last few issues, this issue starts with Machine Man hauled in front of a Congressional committee, which now has to decide what to do about the federal order to destroy all of the X-Series robots. In the meantime, MM is released in the custody of Dr. Spaulding, and wins over a hostile crowd by stopping a pickpocket. Oh, fickle humanity. Out in the open, Machine Man is attacked by a larger clumsy robot sent by an inventor out for publicity.

Later, Spaulding is kidnapped, and Machine Man surrenders to a waiting helicopter in exchange, ending the issue prisoner of a criminal organization that wants to copy his design. In the meantime, various political maneuvering goes around thanks to his disappearance, with his longtime nemesis Colonel Kragg surprisingly speaking in his defense.

A very nice issue with a lot of plot. Some interesting storytelling bits, including a page with vignettes in odd shaped panels of people reacting to MM vanishing and a very nice sequence of MM leaping into a missile silo.

https://www.comics.org/issue/32698/#200635
MACHINE MAN BY KIRBY AND DITKO COMPLETE COLLECTION [2016]

“Lest We Forget” (k025)

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“Lest We Forget” is a 20-page Kirby story from CAPTAIN AMERICA #112 [1969], inked by George Tuska and lettered by Artie Simek.

So, the story goes, Jim Steranko takes over CAPTAIN AMERICA from Kirby with #110. Shortly thereafter, for whatever reason, Kirby’s asked to draw #112 on an extremely tight deadline. He’s told the cliffhanger to #111 had Captain America dying. Did they want him to bring Cap back to life? No, they wanted him to keep Cap dead.

And thus was created the Kirby comic that most closely resembles modern Marvel comics, a full issue where almost nothing happens.

The story is pretty much that Cap’s mask is fished out of the water, and he’s presumed dead, so Iron Man is informed. Iron Man then goes over Cap’s file, so we get short vignettes of Cap’s original WWII adventures and villains, the classic retro-fitted “death of Bucky” bit with Zemo, Cap’s thawing out courtesy of Namor and scenes from his adventures of the previous few years, including such villains as MODOK, Batroc and others.

So the story is light, it does at least look really good. George Tuska inks, I think the only other work he did with Kirby was finishes on some Cap stories a few years before this, but he does a good job here, presumably on as tight a deadline as Kirby was.

https://www.comics.org/issue/22655/#160044
ESSENTIAL CAPTAIN AMERICA #2 [2002]
MARVEL MASTERWORKS #64 [2006]
CAPTAIN AMERICA OMNIBUS #1 [2011]
MARVEL MASTERWORKS – CAPTAIN AMERICA #3 [2014]

“Hands Off Lucy” (k024)

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“Hands Off Lucy” is a 14-page romance story by Simon&Kirby from Prize’s YOUNG ROMANCE #20 [Vol 3 No. 8] [1950]. The romance books were in full swing at this point, with YOUNG LOVE having just been upgraded to monthly from bi-monthly, as this title had been a few months earlier.

Opening with the usual strong confessional title page, the story begins with a flashback to our hero Lucy as a child, where we see that Caesar was the local bully, as well as Lucy’s next-door neighbour. As they got older he tried to ask her out, but she wasn’t interested, until he called one time after a date she planned suddenly cancelled. Of course Caesar is as violent as ever, though not with her, and winds up very possessive of her, especially when an old flame returns to town, and Caesar finally gets his comeuppance as all bullies in comics eventually do.

A very nice story, with really powerful artwork from Kirby. Lots of chances for action thanks to Caesar’s bouts of violence, and great depictions of body language, facial expressions and backgrounds.

https://www.comics.org/issue/225733/#1121926

“The City Of Toads” (k023)

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“The City Of Toads” is the 17-page Kirby story from THE ETERNALS #8 [1977], inked by Mike Royer and coloured by Glynis Wein.

The focus in this issue switches mostly to the Deviants side of the vast cosmology Kirby was creating in this book, as we open with their leader Tode confronting the issue of a freak among the Deviants, known as the Reject, whose deformity is that he could pass for an Eternal or a human. Meanwhile, back in New York, Kro invites Thena to the Deviant city (while making some more comments about their past), while the other Eternals deal with Doctor Samuel’s curiosity about what’s he’s learning about the real nature of humanity. Kirby provides a few great views of the old Deviant city destroyed in an earlier battle with the Second Host of Space Gods as Kro and Thena approach the new Lemuria.

Thena is horrified by a lot of what she sees about how Deviant’s live, in particular how they treat those of their people who show instability in their genetic make-up. As the issue ends, the Reject is brought before the Deviant royalty to face combat with the monstrous Karkas.

It really is amazing the variety of characters Kirby was creating for this series, with some new twists in almost every issue. It’s a shame he didn’t get nearly enough time to explore it all.

https://www.comics.org/issue/30756/#193972
ETERNALS BY JACK KIRBY [2006]
ETERNALS BY JACK KIRBY #1 [2008]

“Devil’s War” (k022)

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“Devil’s War” is a 17-page Kirby story from DEVIL DINOSAUR #2 [1978], inked and lettered by Mike Royer, coloured by Petra Goldberg.

Were dinosaurs as smart as men? If their kind was known on Earth for 750 million years, one of them was bound to have learned something!”

Thus begins the second adventure of T. Rex Devil Dinosaur and his young companion Moon-Boy. As this issue begins, they almost fall into a trap of spikes in a pit laid by the Killer-Folk and their leader Seven Scars. They escape that but then are caught in a rockslide which buries Devil and knocks out Moon-Boy. Moon-Boy is taken to serve as a sacrifice in the cave of Long-Legs.

Devil soon manages to dig himself partially out when he’s confronted by an iguanodon.

A short battle follows, and the victorious Devil uses his sense of smell to track where Moon-Boy has been taken. Moon-Boy is tied up as a sacrifice to a giant spider when Devil bursts in with a burning stick from the flaming forest, rescues Moon-Boy, crushes Seven Scars and forces the rest of the Killer-Folk into the cave of Long-Legs to meet their fate.

It was a rough life back in the dawn of times, and DD was clearly a take no prisoners type. This is a really fun comic, especially the way that Kirby draws Devil, with a lot of personality, and how he emphasizes Devil and Moon-Boy’s mutual loyalty to one another.

https://www.comics.org/issue/32267/#199124
DEVIL DINOSAUR OMNIBUS [2007]
DEVIL DINOSAUR BY JACK KIRBY – THE COMPLETE COLLECTION [2014]

“Life Vs Anti-Life” (k021)

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“Life Vs Anti-Life” is a 22-page Fourth World story by Jack Kirby from THE FOREVER PEOPLE #3 [1971], inked by Vincent Colletta.

Kirby opens “Life vs Anti-Life” this issue with a quote from Hitler, about how the members of his movement are uniform in both ideas and facial expression. This is an ideal sought by another minion of Darkseid, Glorious Godfrey (who was somewhat based on evangelist Billy Graham). Some great Kirby writing Godfrey’s extolling the virtues of “anti-life” in the service Darkseid and being a faceless “Justifier”. “The right to point the finger or the gun”.

One of those “Justifiers” attempts to kill the Forever People, who then use Mother Box to trace them back to their “revelation tent” lair. Meanwhile the “Justifiers” are on the loose, rounding up undesirables and burning libraries, painting offending stores with an “S” for scapegoat. The Forever People transform to the Infinity Man to destroy Godfrey’s equipment. Unfortunately, he runs into a more powerful force.

Darkseid is able to easily bring back the Forever People easily enough, and DeSaad knocks them out to take to his prison camp. There’s some interesting interplay between Darkseid and two of his chief minions at the end, with one of Darkseid’s classic lines, “when you cry out in your dreams — it is Darkseid that you see!”

The villains definitely have the best scenes in this issue, and it’s interesting to see how Kirby modified and interpreted things he saw around him to use in his fantasy setting.