“Darius Drumm” (k020)

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“Darius Drumm” is a 20-page Kirby story published in SILVER STAR #2 [1983] from Pacific, inked and lettered by Mike Royer, coloured by Janice Cohen.

Kirby’s “Visual Novel” continues this issue, where the main focus is on the villain, Darius Drumm. But first we catch up with Morgan Miller, ten years later, and how his powers of atomic manipulation have developed. They’re then attacked by projections of Drumm, who also attacks Silver Star’s government minder in his car.

This issue gives us the origin of Drumm, the first born of those with the genetic gifts from Bradford Miller’s experiments. Kind of creepy, as we find he was talking and evil at birth, his father was head of a cult, the “Foundation for Self-Denial”, until Darius turned the cult on him. Drumm attacks the Miller home again, and we find out that Tracy Coleman has been in “stasis” for the last ten years, and there are others among the Homo Geneticus that Drumm fears.

Still a lot of set-up, but Drumm is an effective character, if a bit over the top, and his story is among the creepiest things Kirby ever wrote.

SILVER STAR – GRAPHITE EDITION [2006]
JACK KIRBY’S SILVER STAR #1 [2007]

“To Smash The Inhumans” (k019)

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“To Smash The Inhumans” is a 19-page Kirby story inked by Herb Trimpe and first published by Marvel in THE SILVER SURFER #18 [1970].

Kirby was brought in to give a new direction to the reportedly under-performing SILVER SURFER book with this issue, inked by Herb Trimpe, who was apparently supposed to take over the art with the next issue. Said next issue doesn’t exist, of course, and the issue ends on a cliffhanger that I believe isn’t even acknowledged in the next Surfer story.

The Surfer’s wanderings take him to the region of the Inhumans’ Great Refuge. He’s first attacked by some of the renegade Inhumans who are under the command of Maximus. He’s able to drive them off, but that’s enough to make the Surfer paranoid when he comes across the Great Refuge and winds up in battle against the Inhuman royal family (the Inhumans don’t help the situation by attacking him first).

Said battle continues through an attack by Maximus, including an amusing episode where Lockjaw is able to use his mighty jaws to keep the Surfer’s board from him. The Surfer finally leaves, and renounce reason, love and peace and revel in the madness he’s always found himself greeted with on Earth. Verily, the sixties were over at that point.

This is a really mixed issue. In some ways I’m not sure Kirby was fully engaged in what he was asked to do, understandably since he was just about to leave the company, and couldn’t have been that happy about being asked to “fix” the Surfer two years after the character was launched in a solo book without him. So I’m not sure that the new direction was even viable. However, some of the artwork is really nice, in particular the splash page of the Surfer entering the Great Refuge. Trimpe’s inking is really fine in spots.

https://www.comics.org/issue/23721/#164476
MARVEL MASTERWORKS #19 [SS-002] [1991]
ESSENTIAL SILVER SURFER #1 [1998]
SILVER SURFER OMNIBUS #1 [2007]
MARVEL MASTERWORKS – SILVER SURFER #2 [2010]

 

“The Mad Menace Of The Macabre Mole Man” (k018)

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“The Mad Menace Of The Macabre Mole Man” is a 21-page Jack Kirby story from FANTASTIC FOUR #31 [1964], inked by Chic Stone.

The original FF villain, the Mole Man, returns for a third go-round, this time sinking whole city blocks out of New York to his subterranean domain. While the rest of the FF go to investigate, Sue sees a photo of an escaped convict and goes to the police station. The block she’s on is sunk by the Mole Man and she’s taken hostage, and the rest of the team have to rescue her, including a brief side-track of having to keep the Avengers from interfering (as the “Marvel Universe” concept became more common in this era).

The FF escape, only Sue somehow gets injured in an explosion, and only one doctor can save her. It turns out to be the fugitive whose photo Sue was looking at earlier, who it turns out is Franklin Storm, father of Sue and Johnny, believed by most people to be dead. He’s able to save Sue, and we’re promised more on him next issue.

FF was a pretty good book at this point, just on the verge of a big leap in quality to the peak material. I especially like how Kirby was drawing the tech stuff at this time, like the scooters the Mole Man’s army uses, and Reed’s various devices.

Chic Stone inks the cover and story, a few issues into his run as FF inker. While I love Stone’s Thor and X-Men work of the period, his FF didn’t quite work quite as much for me (although he was better than the regular inkers right before and after him). For some reason his FF just doesn’t seem as bold as those other book. The big problem is how Ben Grimm looks in here. Seems a bit sparse, cartoony, without the texture that Sinnott would be bringing a year later, although he’s close to that in a few close-ups. Actually, ignoring how he inks Ben, most of the rest looks pretty decent.

https://www.comics.org/issue/18694/#140898
MARVEL’S GREATEST COMICS #23 [1969]
MARVEL’S GREATEST COMICS #29 [1970]
MARVEL MASTERWORKS #21 [1992]
ESSENTIAL FANTASTIC FOUR #2 [1999]
FANTASTIC FOUR OMNIBUS #2 [2007]
MARVEL MASTERWORKS – THE FANTASTIC FOUR #4 [2010]

“The Burners” (k017)

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“The Burners” is a 10-page Kirby story, inked and lettered by Mike Royer, originally intended for SPIRIT WORLD #2, and after the cancellation of that book published in WEIRD MYSTERY TALES #3 [1972].

Spirit World series host E. Leopold Maas takes a look at spontaneous human combustion in this story. Apparently Dr. Maas has come across all sorts of case history on the phenomenon, all lovingly rendered by Kirby. He dismisses those who would link the burnings to UFO activity (although that does give Kirby a chance to use one of his collage pages), as even Maas has limits on what he can believe.

Maas does some readings on one subject, a depressed man who is generating huge amounts of electricity. He notices smoke coming from the man just as he leaves, and pursues him in his car (I’m not sure how the man got such a lead on Maas). Unfortunately, he arrives too late and the man has flamed out in his car. Apparently Maas’s theory is that there is an “ability to fulfill a death wish by a self-activating thermo-chemical process”. Y’know, not something silly like UFOs.

This is a gorgeous looking story. It’s amazing how much detail he was putting in some of the pages at this time, and how perfectly Royer was able to capture it all. The actual plot is a bit weak, maybe with some more pages he could have fleshed it out and gotten something more satisfying, but it serves the art nicely.

https://www.comics.org/issue/25613/#173643
SPIRIT WORLD BY JACK KIRBY [2012]

“Nine Lives For Victory” (k016)

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“Nine Lives For Victory” is a 9-page Simon&Kirby story from DC’s BOY COMMANDOS #2 [1943]. The Boy Commandos was the most successful of the features the team did for DC in the 1940s, appearing in both DETECTIVE COMICS and WORLD’S FINEST as well as 36 issues of their own book.

This story has the kids finding an injured kitten, who Brooklyn naturally named Dodger, and keeping it despite warnings from Rip Carter about it being against regulations.  The cat ends up going along with them on a raid into France, where our heroes get captured, and as you’d expect it’s Dodger who ends up saving the day.

https://www.comics.org/issue/70553/#540857
BOY COMMANDOS #2 [1973]
THE BOY COMMANDOS BY JOE SIMON & JACK KIRBY #1 [2010]

“Race Against Time” (k015)

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“Race Against Time” is a 17-page story by Jack Kirby from BLACK PANTHER #3 [1977], inked and lettered by Mike Royer.

The mystery of King Solomon’s time traveling brass frog finally brings T’Challa and Abner Little, accompanied by Princess Zanda, to King Solomon’s Tomb, where they have to contend with the guardian of the tomb to return the futuristic Hatch 22 to his own time.

Kirby’s year-long run on BLACK PANTHER is always frantic and imaginative, maybe a little absurd but with a certain charm in the absurdity. And most of them have been reprinted at least three times, which isn’t something I’d have thought was likely a decade ago.

https://www.comics.org/issue/31030/#194899
BLACK PANTHER BY JACK KIRBY #1 [2005]
ESSENTIAL BLACK PANTHER #1 [2012]
MARVEL MASTERWORKS #237 [2016]

“Winner Take All” (k014)

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“Winner Take All” is a 20-page Jack Kirby story inked and lettered by Mike Royer and published by DC in KAMANDI, THE LAST BOY ON EARTH #14 [1974].

This issue continues Kamandi’s adventures in Hialeah, Florida, where’s he’s pressed into gladiatorial duty for Sacker, riding his mutated giant grasshopper Kliklak against the bison-riding devolved human Bull Bantam. Fortunately his friends from earlier in the series, Prince Tuftan and Doctor Canus are in attendance and get him out of a tight spot.

A nice mix in this issue, with a lot of action and a few touching moments, like Kam having to accept the fate of his faithful stead Kliklak and his reunion with his friends.

https://www.comics.org/issue/27145/#180625
KAMANDI ARCHIVES #2 [2007]
KAMANDI, THE LAST BOY ON EARTH BY JACK KIRBY #1 [2011]

“Unleash The One Who Waits” (k013)

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“Unleash The One Who Waits” is a 24-page Jack Kirby story from DC’s THE DEMON #1 [1972], inked and lettered by Mike Royer.

 

I think this story is among the best that Kirby ever did, and maybe the strongest first issue. The opening scene of the fall of Camelot under Morgaine Le Fey’s attack is just stunning, with one of Kirby’s best double page spreads, and establishes the premise of the series neatly. The move to the present day neatly introduces Jason Blood and the characters in his life, and it all builds to a great climax with the transformation of Blood to Etrigan (I suppose most people who read this story for the first time today will go in knowing that Jason Blood is Etrigan, so it’s kind of interesting that it’s presented as a bit of a twist at the end of the story).

Also in this story’s favour is Mike Royer’s work, by this time a year into being Kirby’s inker and definitely in complete control, really bringing the boldness and energy in Kirby’s art to the forefront.

https://www.comics.org/issue/25329/#172401
DC SPECIAL BLUE RIBBON DIGEST #5 [1980]
JACK KIRBY’S THE DEMON [2008]

“The Origin Of Sore, Son Of Shmodin” (k012)

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“The Origin Of Sore, Son Of Shmodin” is an 8-page Kirby story from NOT BRAND ECHH #3 [1967], inked by Frank Giacoia. NBE was Marvel’s short-lived series mostly dedicated to self-parody of other comics, and Kirby drew five stories for it, looking at the various characters he was working on like The Silver Surfer and The Fantastic Four, plus “original” character Forbush Man.

This target of the issue this time is of course Thor.  Some pretty ridiculous things, like “Sore” having a chicken on top of his helmet, and his hammer being of the claw variety.

Of minor note, the term “kirbyesque” is used to describe one of “Hokey’s” guns, which might be the earliest published use of the term.

I really like how Giacoia’s inks look on this story. He inked Kirby a few times over the years, and always looks great, would have liked to see him do some more regular Thor than he did.

https://www.comics.org/issue/21368/#153496
NOT BRAND ECHH #10 [1968]
THOR OMNIBUS #2 [2013]

“The Savage In Me” (k011)

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“The Savage In Me” is a 14-page story by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, published in Prize’s YOUNG ROMANCE #22 [1950].  S&K of course pioneered the romance comics field starting in 1947, and Kirby did over 2000 pages of them in his career (as well as editing many more by other artists in the S&K days), unfortunately only a fraction of them have been reprinted.

This story features a young woman named Augusta Hatcher who works as a missionary with her father, teaching young kids in a small Chinese village. She finds her passions stirred by the arrival of an aggressive you man named Gary Donovan, who brings news of an oncoming threat that will force them to leave the village.

The S&K romance stories, especially the longer stories (they very rarely went above 14 pages), are always interesting, with a lot of varied settings and personalities and complicated plots that aren’t all about the romance elements.

https://www.comics.org/issue/8321/#77438
THE BEST OF SIMON AND KIRBY [2009]