Sunday, July 6, 2014
The Eternals Question!
I've been slipping around from tome to tome trying to find something which gives me the same wonderful excitement, both visceral and intellectual, which I derived from my recent re-reading of Jack "King" Kirby's epic "Fourth World" books for DC. The closest work he did was upon his return to Marvel a few years later after the DC experiment soured. That project was dubbed "The Eternals" and had the mighty Kirby delve into theories popularized by Erich Von Daniken and others which suggested that ancient astronauts came to Earth and are responsible for much of both human history and myth.
It's a fantastic notion, largely poppycock, but nonetheless a properly grand and sprawling canvas to put some of those epic characters Kirby was so famous for. To be honest, though I was a true-blue fan and devoted buyer of all the comics at the time, I've always held The Eternals in some disdain, as I always felt they fell short of the majesty of the New Gods. They do, but the truth is Kirby was not given the space to develop them like he was the Fourth World books. The Eternals saga ran in one title for nineteen issues and one annual from 1976 to 1978.
In that rather limited time, Kirby introduced Celestials, Eternals, Deviants, and even some intriguing Humans, races who have a conjoined destiny of which the Human side was unaware. "The Eternals" saga lays out the parameters of man's place in the larger world and offers up an intriguing insight to our natures, both the better and lesser aspects. I began reading the story using the trade reprints from some years ago with little memory aside from a few key scenes and quickly I found that I had underestimated this last great Kirby epic.
I hope to uncover the saga over the next few weeks in a series of posts which not only reprise the series, but also focus on those aspects of the tale which fascinate me in particular. If you're not a fan of Kirby, or of his later work, I apologize for the focus, but hopefully you'll give it a chance. I'm not going to worry especially about spoilers, so if you've never read this story, I recommend you do not read my posts as I will reveal many of the better secrets. For those who have, I invite you to take the tour with me. I don't know where it will end up (neither I suspect did Kirby himself) but I am very much looking forward to it.
What was Kirby up to with this series? I think he was doing what he always did, asking the essential question about humanity. Did he believe in ancient astronauts? I prefer to think he was more sophisticated than that, but neither do I think he necessarily disbelieved it. It was an intriguing way to get at those core queries about humanity. That's the Eternals questions I hope to fathom a bit over the next several days. "Who are they? What are they? Why are they?" Which is really in the final analysis: Who are we? What are we? Why are we?