Thursday, August 17, 2017

100 Days Of The King - Day 89


In many ways my first Kirby monster was Mangog. (Technically the first was Fin Fang Foom in the pages of Fantasy Masterpieces.) Unleashed in the pages of Thor #154 the grotesque Mangog was set to march on Asgard and bring down Ragnarok by drawing the Odinsword from its massive scabbard.



He's an impossibly extreme creature, with an enormous head and clutching claws capable of crushing Asgardians on a whim.


The combined hate of a billion billion beings, Mangog was an unstoppable force bent on utter destruction.

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A Day In The Anti-Life - Race Bait!


Let's be clear -- the current President of the United States is a racist. I've been listening to the sundry news folk tenderly glide around this apparent fact now for months and the most recent tragedy in Charlottesville has showcased it in a startling way. The battle in the streets of Charlottesville between the Klu Klux Klan, Nazis, and other racist organizations and protesters on the other side (a violence both sides seemed well prepared and primed for) resulted in the death of one protester and two policeman (indirect as it was) and harmed many more. The ever-present desire by some to shout from the middle of the street the most heinous and vile ideas is something we've learned over the decades to absorb in America. You have the right to spew your vile as long as you don't try to force you ideas on others or convince them by force of arms. That line was crossed (almost literally) this past weekend.


I blame the police quite a bit for this one as they seemed unprepared for what was happening and were incredibly slow to respond to violence which was slowly but surely developing in their streets and before the cameras. You could see that the fighting only intensified as the day went on and the police demonstrated reluctance to intervene. A similar thing happened some years ago in Baltimore, as violence was tolerated until it couldn't be any longer. So at one level we already have a failure of the authorities in the face of this tragedy. Then our President made it worse.


His comments were typical of the loutish nonsense he's been pouring in our ears for many years now. He started his political climb by claiming the first black President in history was not legitimate, claims he never came close to proving and for which he only grudgingly apologized once. He started his campaign by claiming all Mexicans were rapists. He walked this comment back, but  allowed the original vile wording to resonate. And then he did the thing which completely convinced me he is a racist through and through -- he responded to an Indiana judge's decision with vitriol and claimed the judge was motivated to rule against him because of the judge's Hispanic heritage. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan described this last item as textbook racism. I agree and that shut the door on this seventy-one year old man who we hear time and again will not change. It was not arguably "political", it was not about larger issues, it was a small thing and showed us his inner self all too clearly.  If racists are people who say and do racist things then Donald Trump, our current "so-called" President is one.


He's not the first racist to be President I'm sure. But when he showed up to decry the violence in Charlottesville and failed to call out the infamous Klu Klux Klan (a group who have the blood of countless lynched black men on their hands) and the vile Nazis (really, the Nazis) he showed that his impulses are the worst possible ones. His most recent attempt toe "clean up" his earlier comments sound better but since he's such an inveterate liar cannot be taken with any sense of sincerity, as his later tweets demonstrated.  Let's face it, the President of the United States is a racist pure and simple.


(Note: I composed this post the day before the President lurched up to the microphone in Trump Tower and double downed on his insensitive "analysis" of the situation in Charlottesville. Those comments I believe have perhaps finally uncovered for many more the rank racism which nestles at the heart of our elected leader. woe that it is so.)

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Color Me Marvel!


I've been mostly cool to the modern trend for "adult" coloring books. But I'll have to admit I bit on the latest from Marvel. Color Your Own Marvel Masters is brimming with some really outstanding Silver Age artwork by some of the finest talents the company employed. But truth in advertising demands that the cover blur is rather misleading when it highlights both Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. Kirby is very much in evidence with thirty-eight images (not counting the cover) in the book. Ditko by contrast has two and none of it is Doctor Strange.  John Buscema is well represented with seven and Don Heck has several as well as a few choice ones by Jim Steranko. You'll recognize them all and there is a somewhat ramshackle quality to the selection. Still for ten bucks I enjoyed it, though I doubt seriously that I'll ever color any of them.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

100 Days Of The King - Day 88


Mantis was mentioned as a rival to mighty Darkseid at moments in the Fourth World books, but the leader of the Bugs turned out ultimately to be merely another henchman. His elevation is likely because, as seen above, he was part of the original concept drawings.


I missed Forever People #2 at first and was exceedingly enticed by this full-page illustration from New Gods #2. Mantis seemed a dandy villain and I was thrilled when he showed up in later issues of New Gods.


His role was taken up somewhat by the Lightning Lady in the pages of Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers, as she was the commander of her own batch of bug-people. More on her and her Hive next month.

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Newsboy Commandos!


The Newsboy Legion - Boy Commandos Special featuring both of the famous World War II era DC kid gangs by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby is a bit of a puzzler. I love the cover, but for fans of Roy Harper and Rip Carter enjoy it since that's all of those guys you will see. This is a modern comic in many respects in that there's an inordinate amount of just sitting around and talking, which is the antithesis of a classic Simon and Kirby yarn. They were famous for their slam bang action sequences but this comic goes a different way.


The story as much as I can decode it has the Boy Commandos (minus Rip) getting involved in a possible mystery which leads them to first London then New York City in pursuit of some dangerous material. That same material is discoved by the Newsboy Legion in NYC and they follow their own exceedingly static investigation and of course eventually the two teams meet. They uncover a threat to the nation and take steps to end it but frankly I'm not one hundred percent sure what happened.

There's a scud of cameos in these stories and I figured out most of them (I think). We have Ernest Hemingway, Walter Winchell, and Ring Lardner fulfilling at various times the adult roles typically filled by Harper and Carter. Don't know why Chaykin made these changes, but there it is. I cannot really recommend this one; it's too odd and somewhat indecipherable. It is pretty but for two two-fisted teams like this I expected much much more action.


On the other hand there is a wonderful Simon and Kirby classic from the pages of Star Spangled Comics. "Cabbages and Comics" is a pure delight.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

100 Days Of The King - Day 87





Kirby's attempt at a kid gang at Marvel is the X-Men. They are of course older than the Newsboy Legion, the Young Allies, or the Boy Commandos, but they are at their essence a cadre of teenagers brought together to defend society from imminent threats. In this case they are gifted with strange and sometimes terrible superpowers. Kirby never got around to creating a pin-up for all of the X-Men (neglecting Iceman and Angel for some reason) but of the ones he did create the are delightful.

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Dead End Kids!


I have been familiar with the "Dead End Kids" (perhaps more famously known as the "Bowery Boys") for many years, but I had never seen Dead End, the 1937 movie by director William Wyler which launched their careers. Now I have, and I can report it's a pretty interesting and even at times compelling flick.


The movie adapts a Broadway play which featured these chaps who are only part, albeit an exceedingly memorable part of a narrative which focuses on the toils and travails of people who live cheek to jowl in the tenements of the poor and terraces of the rich at the end of a New York City street. It's a morality play about the value of human beings regardless of their environment and how that environment can lay foundations for complete lives.


We follow Tommy and his sister Drina (Sylvia Sydney), two siblings who are trying to do the right thing by one another despite painful poverty. Tommy is part of a gang of boys who have little to do aside from swimming in the river and causing trouble with each other and others youngsters on the street. Adults wander in and out of this setting, some rich who sniff at the poverty they usually are able to ignore, some poor who live alongside and within the poverty, and some who have escaped and have returned. The latter is found in the form of Baby Face Martin (Humphrey Bogart), a gangster who wants to see his Mother (Marjorie Main) and his old flame (Claire Trevor). He finds that his romantic notions have given way to grim and harsh reality and his response is violence. Violence too marks the life of Tommy and we see two individuals at the two ends of a life turned to crime. What happens is the stuff of the tale.


It's a classy production with a stellar set and functions very much like a filmed play. The static setting is livened by clever camera angles and occasional scenes set inside the tenements, though we never set foot inside the swank apartments of the well-to-do. The story here is about the rough and tumble of the Great Depression and the swelter of the immigrants who found themselves bundled together in situations which demand the most of them and which demand often more than they can deliver.

Highly recommended.

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Monday, August 14, 2017

100 Days Of The King - Day 86


Jack Kirby had a real knack at presenting images which could scare you. This full-page drawing from Forever People #4  is the one that bothers me the most. The lurid sadism evident in the face of Desaad is as scary as anything I've seen in a comic book ever. His evident desire to extract both fear and pain from the Beautiful Dreamer makes my skin crawl every time I see it. Maybe it's the way he caresses her throat with his crop or perhaps the way her eyes are open but appear unseeing and helpless, but this is one damn frightening image.

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All The Newsboys Printed To Fit!


DC has finally released the second volume of the Newsboy Legion yarns from the Golden Age pages of Star Spangled Comics. Now truth told this tome will be of less interest to Jack Kirby purists since it features the work of the talents who followed Joe Simon and Jack Kirby on the feature as it lingered on within the DC universe from the years 1944 to 1947. I haven't read these stories yet, but just glancing through the pages shows that the craftsmanship does slip a little on these. I was very impressed with the stories in the first volume and I'm sure there are some dandy ones here as well. When I finally find time, this one will have to get a good reading.

































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