Friday, July 28, 2017

100 Days Of The King - Day 69

Mister Miracle might well be the most durable of the myriad heroes and heroines created by Jack Kirby for the DC "Fourth World". As seen above the original concepts were a wee bit different than final product, especially the notion that Mister Miracle might rely on a gun.

Here we see the ultimate design as worn by Thaddeus Brown, the original Mister Miracle.

Scott Free steps in to save the day and in doing so shows that he has the bravery and spunk to be more than a bystander.

Later he shows that he as skills, talents, and equipment which make him a most remarkable replacement for the original. He takes the role when Brown is killed and makes it his own.

Scott himself, is on Earth hiding from Darksied's terrifying Granny Goodness who took charge of him when he, Highfather's son, was traded for Orion to make a peace many years before. When Scott escapes Apokolips he gives Darkseid an excuse to reignite the conflict, which this time brings the New Gods to Earth.

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Fourth World Friday - The Greatest Show!

When Jack Kirby was confronted with the unpleasant task of replacing his beloved Fourth World books with such titles as The Demon and Kamandi, he made the most of the opportunity and delivered entertaining comics minus the grand operatic myth but still brimming with action and character. The lone survivor of the Fourth World was Mister Miracle. In these titles we see a decided shift away from references to New Genesis and Apokolips as Mister Miracle and his assistants focus on the show business side of the escape arts. We still get villains like Doctor Bedlam, but generally the threats hail for a myriad of locations and sources. Even the beloved Mother Box is changed into mysterious circuitry hidden in Mister Miracle's mask.

It's a full book with Scott Free, Oberon and Barda forming the core.  But added to the mix is the son of Thaddeus Brown who functions as a publicist for the act and the Female Furies Lashina, Stompa, Bernadeth and Mad Harriet. The latter dangerous dames faded out of the series as a young man named Shilo Norman arrived on the scene and became a protege of Scott's. This seemed to be the direction of the series but when the news came to end the run, Kirby used the last issue to reintroduce the Fourth World concepts and as Scott Free and Barda get married by Highfather, we see the rogues gallery including Granny Goodness and others. Even Orion and Lightray show up and as the tale winds to an the malicious Darkseid makes his presence known.

Kirby added OMAC to the schedule and completed his contract with DC before returning to Marvel. Almost as soon as he was out the door the New Gods and Mister Miracle were relaunched by new talents but the runs were met with limited success as DC faced some real sales challenges. Eventually Mister Miracle becomes part of the revised DCU after the Crisis becoming a member of the Justice League. Since then as we all know things have changed and changed and changed again. But the Fourth World, Kirby's magnificent concept continues to inform the DCU and has even broken onto the big screen in recent flicks.

Here are the remaining Mister Miracle covers.

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

100 Days Of The King - Day 68

Fin Fang Foom is just the best comic book monster ever! When Stan and Jack and Dick concocted this woeful ancient Chinese dragon they hit a homer. Aside from the weird underwear, Foom proved to be a truly strange monstrosity and no less so because unlike so many of them he could speak and speak eloquently. It's that latter quality which elevates among the ranks of Marvel monsters.

I first encountered Fin Fang Foom in the pages of Fantasy Masterpieces and so imprinted on the orange version and not the original green.

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Diverse Commandos!

While Jack Kirby was whittling away in the DC shop during the 70's a few titles were trotted out to take full advantage of DC's rich trove of vintage stories. We get two issues of Boy Commandos, a title which once upon a time during the war was as big a seller nearly as Superman and Batman. Above we see a re-purposing of the original artwork by Kirby and Joe Simon for the debut issue of Boy Commandos.

But you'll quickly note several differences. One is the color scheme and another is the addition of a foreground battery of Nazi soldiers. Also missing is the phalanx of aircraft behind the Commandos.
The guns in the foreground though are not by Jack Kirby, nor are they by Joe Simon who was also working at DC at this time. No the editors made use of the consummate talents of Luis Dominguez to render them. It works really well and the styles blend much better than you might expect.

There was only one more issue of this truncated series and for that we get a brand new cover by Carmine Infantino and Joe Orlando. There's an oddness to this one as the figures of the Boy Commandos conform in a strange way to the curvature of the stone arch they are hiding behind. It's not maybe logical but visually it really ties the cover elements together.

Sales alas were not all they might have been and the series ended. It would be a long long time before DC reprinted anymore of these. I'll be taking a look at those this weekend.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

100 Days Of The King - Day 67

Here is a dandy splash page by Jack Kirby and possibly elusive inker Christopher Rule from Tales to Astonish #10. Here is a bit more about the leering Simon Drudd.

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The Golden Derby - July 1967!

On this month fifty years ago it's probably safe to say that the Charlton Action Hero universe was mature. In The Peacemaker we take a tour down below the ocean thanks to artist Pat Boyette to confront a villain who wants to change the world and the people in it. Thunderbolt is once again up and at it taking on trained killers under a handsome Pete Morisi cover.  But new on the superhero front is a new title called Charlton Premiere which showcases three new features. Each is distinctive and worthy of additional installments but alas all we ever got was these three. The Shape featuring art by Richard "Grass" Green is a naive creature who can alter his form into all sorts of useful and useless things. Many see an early variation of the same notion which would soon enough bring into the world the mighty E-Man. Also on hand in this issue is the Tyro Team about three stalwart young men who don masks and use their perfectly human talents to battle the crime around them. Finally we have a neat piece from Pat Boyette called Spookman about a supernatural "hero" who fights for mankind ultimately but who is himself still rather scary. (It is to noted that new Spookman stories have been cropping up in recent years from the folks at Charlton Neo.). In addition to these we have two more examples of Jack Keller's racing comics, this time both Grand Prix and Top Eliminator are featured. These comics were good sellers for Charlton and kept a steady presence for many many years.

More to come next month.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

100 Days Of The King - Day 66

Always liked Ulik. As he says, he was the "mightiest" of the Rock Trolls, and he was one of the Thor villains who could go toe to toe with Thor. They had some awesome slugfests.

Over at DC, Kirby created Kalibak as the primary physical counterpart to Orion, but one can clearly see that Ulik was a primary influence on Darkseid's other son.

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A Day In The Anti-Life - Troll King!

Trolls of myth are ugly critters than live in the dark and make havoc for civilized folk. Likewise on these here internets, we find ugly critters who adore making life a misery for honest people. And it's a sad fact that our "So-called" President is one of these critters, he might even be their king.

This modern Troll King lives in a shadowy world of international finance and it becomes more and evident with each passing day that the dangerous denizens of those shadows have influence on the machinery of our democracy. If not directly, then indirectly by the daily denigration of communication and governing norms which have for many decades served to create the stability citizens of the United States and the greater western world have taken for granted for over fifty years, my entire life.

I have been gifted with a life free of the rigors of true chaos which was the norm for the world's population before the current hiatus of order which has been maintained by the old rules. There have been winners and losers for damn certain and those who feel left out are to some extent finding ways to act out and strike at the heart of the order they object to. Some do so out of ignorance of the true nature of society, some do so with full cognizance of the chaos they will unleash and the power they hope to gather unto themselves when the old order falls.

But these are important times and it is dangerous indeed for anyone to attempt to undermine the very pillar of a free society in the vain attempt to maintain momentary momentum. The brash self-importance it requires to sacrifice all news media in a lackluster attempt to "win" a single news cycle is short-sighted to such an extent that it seems tragically childlike.

I work with folks who often require reminders to behave in an adult-like fashion. Being childish is seen as a weakness in adults, emotions like peevishness and sulking are seen as weaknesses and should be avoided. Churlish insults are not part of the social fabric, at least not any part of one most folks want to participate in.

These are dangerous times. The election process is challenged by the guy who "won" because his fragile ego is bruised that he gained only an Electoral College victory, and so all of us must face an identity check to make sure we're sufficient American citizens. The rule of law is questioned and challenged by a "so-called" President who demonstrates guilty knowledge with almost ever utterance. The fourth estate is in danger of being dragged down by the "leader" of our country because they don't kowtow to his meager efforts to be "Presidential", even if you slap a pointless adjective like "modern" in front of that phrase. These are indeed dangerous times; trolls are dangerous folk.

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Windmill Swipes!

Here is a cover I ran across several days ago. This Dutch comics features art by Rik Van Neidek who it appears is a specialist in Kirby swipes. This particular comic was written by Ramon Schenk, a longtime online colleague who is among the most erudite Charlton fans on the planet Earth. Below is the Jack Kirby classic the Neidek cover is swiped from .

And here are some more of Van Neidek's spins on classic Kirby covers. The first one is based on an unpublished Atlas imaged which served as a cover for The Jack Kirby Collector some years ago. The others speak for themselves.

I'm a fan of swipes, though I realize the objections. These though (with one exception) acknowledge the King's contribution and appear to some extent designed to tap into a market of Kirby fans.

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Monday, July 24, 2017

100 Days Of The King - Day 65

This utterly wonderful image by Jack "King" Kirby captures the energy and sheer blithe fun of Fighting American, a comic book which was superheroes with a satiric twist. Here we see Fighting American and his sidekick Speedboy rendered in Kirby's later mature style and to my eye inked by Joe Sinnott (or someone evoking same). Makes you wish he'd done more with the character later in his career.

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Guardians Of The Galaxy - Mad Mad Universe!

The Guardians of the Galaxy were a remarkable project and their fundamental reason for existing was to operate a resistance to the Badoon invasion. To my chagrin when they get their own book, that reason is soon dispensed with.

Steve Gerber was a writer who quite properly deserved a reputation for creating some exceedingly weird scenarios. Clearly he saw the Guardians and their setting of all of outer space as a grand opportunity to create some truly bizarre stuff.

And bizarre he truly was. With a girl added to their ranks, Nikki from Mercury, the Guardians encounters out-sized planets and planets full of madmen.

They fight alongside each other and against each other as the tried and true Marvel method of internal conflict ruled the day.

Increasingly the series became dominated by the story of Starhawk and the mystery of how such a being (both man and woman) could be.

Even a detour which showcased the earliest appearance of the Badoon didn't derail that story, though it did not bode well for the health of the series.

The origin of Starhawk was a pretty good story, but alas it wasn't really the kind of Guardians story I was most eager to read.

I wanted further insights into Charlie-27 and Martinex and Yondu. We did get some Vance Astro stuff, but mostly background bits as the Starkhawk story ruled the day.

To be fair, maybe it was intended that after the Starhawk mystery was solved, we'd get more of the classic Guardians,  but the book didn't last long enough to find out.

When it ended, we still had limited insights into the those who first wore the mantel of Guardians of the Galaxy. They'd been shoved out of their own title by newcomers who weren't necessarily bad but added to a story which was already quite crowded.

The Guardians of the Galaxy won against the Badoon, they freed Earth, but they were not able to overcome the the rigors of the newsstand. It was a missed opportunity to create some sterling science fiction, the promise of the original Arnold Drake and Gene Colan story. Too bad as it would be many years before they'd get their own title once again.

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