Saturday, January 26, 2013

Blogathon 04: Jack Kirby's Comics Work in the '70s (Part 2)

Tim Callahan, ladies and gentlemen! That is how you discuss Jack Kirby, people!

As I said an hour ago, I have, without knowing I was, taken Tim's prescription for all of us. I don't have a nightstand next to my bed, I have a small, three-shelf bookcase. You see, our bed is a big one. Very tall. I'm 6'1" or so and I have to hop up slightly (pity my poor wife for the massive leaps she must take every time she wants to get into bed). When we were looking for bedside tables, we saw some nice shelves on sale and, well, now I have shelves filled with trades. Some of the first that I decided must go in were those Kirby collections. Over the next while, I plan on taking out the three Captain America trades and reading them. And that Essential Black Panther I picked up in the summer that has most of Kirby's run along with, what I'm told are some fantastic comics done by people who aren't Kirby. Maybe I'll try to reread the Fourth World saga in one long go.

Tim's post was a lot of bombast and became something of a list (which is hard to avoid) and I'm struck by the sheer magnitude of Kirby's output in the '70s. I have four big omnibuses, a slim hardcover, and then another six trades of material... and that's, what, half of what he produced in the '70s? There's no Losers or The Demon or Kamandi or Devil Dinosaur or 2001 or anything else on my shelf. Though, as someone just e-mailed me, 2001 needs to be reprinted. Whatever needs to be done to get that to happen, Marvel, needs to happen!

The one work that I want to read more than any is one that never really happened, not completely: Jack Kirby's The Prisoner. If you read Mister Miracle or OMAC (and probably some of the stuff I haven't read yet), you can see that Kirby had a shared sensibility with that show. A similar love of weird, unexplained events -- of elaborate traps and rouses. Of getting to the end and having the rug pulled out from under you. Of weird machines and fake villages. The Prisoner is a TV series that I enjoy a lot and seeing it filtered through Jack Kirby gets me excited in a way that remaking it with Jesus as the lead doesn't (still haven't seen the remake). I guess it's the unknown possibilities of a Prisoner comic that leaves me so entranced. What would Kirby have done? Would it have been a simple adaptation? Or would Kirby have deviated after that first issue? Where would he have gone?

But, that's the story of... well, almost every Kirby did in the '70s, isn't it? Here was a man, basically, producing creator-owned work, except it was owned by corporations and they kept cutting him off at the knees. The most popular comic book artist of the '60s wasn't so popular in the '70s and every time he tried to make something new happen, something personal and brilliant, it would be taken away because the sales weren't there. That is hard to fathom now, isn't it? How could readers in the '70s not love what Kirby was doing? How could they not buy New Gods and OMAC and Eternals and everything else and make them best sellers? What else of that time hoped to match those books? How? HOW? How could they not let this brilliant genius tell his stories in the ways he wanted for as long as he wanted?

And it makes me wonder about the things we're ignoring now. We've made great strides in this area, but we've all known too many materpieces that have been cut off at the knees thanks to low sales. I guess that's a reality that I'll never fully understand or be comfortable with. But, how could I not when I've got a shelf next to my bed where Kirby's Fourth World ends at four omnibus editions and Eternals only fills two trades? Where OMAC is only eight issues! EIGHT! MY GOD!

So much missed opportunity... so many damn good comics...

In 30 minutes, I'll kick off the next topic as David Brothers and I discuss the idea of keeping up with other critics.

And my top ten comics of 2012 has kicked off with Prison Pit book four!

As well, we're up to $490.95 raised for the Hero Initiative! And it's only 10:30 in the morning. I can't believe it, honestly. That is stunning. Thank you.

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Hero Initiative (Details in this post)! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]