Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Things From Beyond The Stars!


During this near two-year run on Captain America in the mid 70's Jack Kirby produced two annuals in addition to the stories in the regular run. These stories were isolated epics, apart from the regular run of the series which pitted Captain America alone (no Falcon in these tales) against some classic sci-fi tropes and creatures.


In the 1976 annual Cap is called in by a farmer who has rescued a stranger from the stars and who seems to be under attack by other aliens bent on capturing the seemingly harmless and innocent visitor. Cap investigates and then alongside the brave farmer fends off several attempts to capture the alien.


But tragically it is revealed that the stranger is actually a malicious vampire-like monster from the stars and cares not a whit for the brave Earthling souls who defend him, using the farmer as a source of sustenance and is very eager to treat Cap the same way. Cap finally allows the forces from the stars to take this monster off the planet and they consign this immortal beast to existence within a distant star.


This yarn reminded me very much of the 1985 movie Space Vampires, otherwise known as Lifeforce. It's unlikely, but I wondered reading it if the creators of that film had ever had chance to read this story.


The 1977 annual is another sci-fi classic with more superheroic details thrown in. This time Cap battles the then still evil mutant Magneto for the possession of a strange mutant who seems harmless enough on the surface.


Dubbed "Mister One" and "Mister Two" the former is an impossibly tiny being who can live comfortably inside a watch while the latter is a exceedingly large and powerful creature more than capable of defending both of the strange beings. It turns out that one personality is shared by both bodies and sadly by they story's end the creature can find no way to continue to exist and ends his life with a ferocious explosion leaving only Cap to ponder the outcome.


In this one Kirby introduced more mutants for Magneto's "Brotherhood". We have the snakelike Slither, the big-eyed Peeper, the claw-handed Shocker, the mustachioed Burner, and powerful bearded Lifter. These simply named villains do show up again in the Marvel Universe as of course does Magneto.


These annuals are rousing fun, but little more. The first one does have a tragic core and Kirby attempts the same in the second, but it never connects as well. It's too obvious in both stories what the secrets are and so you are merely waiting, not unlike a vintage 50's sci-fi movie, for the anticipated elements to be revealed and for the events to play themselves out. Maybe that nostalgic vibe was what Kirby was shooting for. If so, he succeeded pretty well.

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