Friday, June 30, 2017

100 Days Of The King - Day 41

I always wondered why a Sherlock Holmes character was included in this ensemble of Simon and Kirby creations.

It turns out that Joe and Jack pitched a Sherlock Holmes strip when they first landed at DC after their success on Captain America at Timely. The idea was nixed but at least now we know why the sleuth from 221 B Baker Street is staring the leering Red Skull in the crimson mug and sits atop this gaggle which includes Stuntman, Cap, Sandman, Guardian, Blue Bolt, The Boy Commandos, the Newsboy Legion, Sandy, Bucky, Betty Ross, Green Sorceress, among others.

You take the image at the tope and add the image above and you have the wonderful cover for The Art of the Simon and Kirby Studio by Mark Evanier.

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Simon & Kirby - The Golden Age!

"Simon and Kirby" was an absolute brand name in the Golden Age of comics, one which promised effective storytelling and slam bang action. Jules Feiffer says of them in The Great Comic Book Heroes "no one put quite as much anatomy into a hero as Simon and Kirby". In an era when talent was painfully anonymous and actively treated like replaceable cogs in a vast machine, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby managed to get their names out there and establish a special look and feel for comics which superseded the publishers who put the books out. Here are some of my favorite Golden Age covers from the team, spanning the the years 1940 to 1950 when they moved about the field with vigor and generated scores if not hundreds of covers. We have some just by Joe Simon included but most feature the specific energy of the most dynamic duo of the Golden Age.

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Thursday, June 29, 2017

100 Days Of The King - Day 40

Forager, the Bug has proven to be one of the more popular denizens of Jack Kirby's Fourth World. He even has his own comic book as we speak during this centennial year. Kirby was fascinated by these colonies of "bug" cultures and the way in which the individual desires of person were sublimated to the larger cultural needs of the larger society. That's demonstrated dramatically in the scene above where "Prime One" the leader of the Bugs sacrifices himself to fulfill the requirements of the role.

Given more time, I'm sure we'd have seen much more of Forager. He gets to Earth and teamed up with Orion and Lightray, a contrary voice indeed to the high and might citizens of New Genesis.

Michael Allred's Bug

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A Day In The Anti-Life - Small Men!

The "Chattering Class" is fascinated with itself and chief among its number are the denizens of the White House press corp. Since they often conflate what is of key interest to them with what is of key interest to the majority of the country, they spend way too much time talking about personalities in and around the shadows of the White House. An analysis of a lapse in the President's responsibility to communicate with the public is transformed into a battle of personalities and overlong and overwrought talk about who is up and down in the "People's House". The stature of Shawn Spicer is in particular discussed and he seems at this juncture to have been disappeared totally. The blow up with a reporter a few days ago seems emblematic of the breakdown.

Likewise our current "So-Called" President has diminished those who serve at his pleasure by demanding public kowtows such as the recent obsequious Cabinet meeting in which the participants were one-by-one called upon to praise the "Leader". Such behavior is grotesque and embarrassing for Americans, especially Americans who tout liberty and evoke the Founders, characters who were far from ass-kissers of the their government. The swoon of Congress too has belittled them as their avarice and clear intention to suspend all objections and move forward on a healthcare plan that is likely to gut the party. They are willing to cut loose their moral compasses for the simple fact that such brazen cuts are necessary to get the tax cut their one-percenter masters demand.

And so the era of Trump has in exceedingly fast order diminished much of what was once held out as worthy. Public discourse is diminished, public service is demeaned, and our illustrious history is belittled as the lives of those who have come before and defended this land are disregarded. Their sacrifice is forgotten as the powers-that-be publicly suck the cock of the man who would be king.

UPDATE: As if to prove my point today long after I'd posted this item our "so-called" President tweeted this.

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The Golden Derby - June 1967!

Fifty years ago this month was a big one for the Charlton universe, such as it was. The second issue of Steve Ditko's Blue Beetle revealed the connection between Ted Kord and his predecessor Dan Garrett. This shouit out to an old series, defunct and supposedly forgotten really gave these Charlton comics a sense of being part of a larger whole. The seeming death of a superhero was still a big deal back when this issue struck the stands and not the tiresome cliche it has become in modern comics lore. Likewise in Captain Atom where up front we get a perfectly fine Ditko and Mastroserio adventure with out titular hero against a worthy opponent, the Firey-Icer, but in the back up series by Dave Kaler and Jim Aparo featuring Nightshade which revealed her origins and tied into the Judomaster comic by having her taught by a grown up Tiger, the Scarlet Smasher's WWII partner. Judomaster and Tiger take on The Acrobat in their own comic by Frank McLaughlin. Charlton offers up its usual gaggle of war books as evidenced by this potent cover for Fightin' Army. Ghostly Tales gives us a stunning cover by Rocke Mastroserio featuring Mr. Dedd as he invites one and all into the Haunted House.

More to come next month.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

100 Days Of The King - Day 39

Toward the end of his comics career Jack "King" Kirby created Captain Victory and The Galactic Rangers which was published by one of the earliest independent companies Pacific Comics. I loved the series, which took vintage sci-fi melodrama and bonded onto that a cosmic scale and echoes of then popular flicks like Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It is generally held that Captain Victory is a sequel of unofficial sorts to the grand Fourth World saga. 

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Bolts From The Blue - The Dream Team!

In the hectic early days of the Golden Age of comics the demand for new material seemed to far outstrip the ability of the talent to produce it. It was a mismatch in the marketplace of cheap offerings keeping the really fine talent out. That left youth. It was they up and coming youngsters from the close confines of New York City who fill the gap. They worked for small money in an industry which barely seemed to know it existed, but was beginning to capture the public imagination.

Into this atmosphere stepped Joe Simon, a savvy and talented artist who had honed his skills, such as they were, in local newspapers and as part of studios which supplied talent to the shark-like publishers who were entering the new field. Victor Fox was perhaps the most shark-like of all of them, a self-important loudmouth who called himself "The King of Comics".

His staff made fun of that remark and it became an ironic catchphrase many years later. Simon impressed Fox and was soon producing Blue Bolt, a comic which evoked the essence of the time, namely the science fiction serials such as Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers.

In the debut issue of Blue Bolt we meet Fred Parrish, the obligatory football hero who is struck by lightning and finds his way into a weird underground world dubbed Deltos. There he is infused with more lightning power which makes him effectively superhuman with great strength and the ability to fly. He dons a blue costume and with little reflection on the life he left appears to pledge allegiance to the scientist to who made him. The "Scientific City" is in a war with the Green Army led by the alluring Green Sorceress.

The second issue of Blue Bolt brings with it a new flavor as the artwork seems more energetic and alive. That's no accident, as the second Blue Bolt adventure is the first published work by the Joe Simon and Jack Kirby team. Simon seemed well aware what a consummate talent he had discovered with Kirby and was very savvy to hitch his horse to such an artist. Simon's skills were not insignificant as an artist and his skills as a writer and businessman were quite advanced for the time period.

The struggle between Blue Bolt and the Green Sorceress is one of those classic frictions in which there is romantic attraction in combination with fundamental differences in politics. The Sorceress wants to rule of of the tiny world of Deltos and Blue Bolt in service to Dr. Bertoff stands in her way.

The schemes switch back and forth and the Sorceress is captured and then escapes. The story is told not unlike a serial, owing much to its movie inspirations. Each chapter sets up a high-concept bit, but by the end the story is either reset or ends on something akin to a cliffhanger.

Blue Bolt was something of a hit, though Simon and Kirby left the series after ten episodes or thereabouts. The title ran for many years and the character showed up from time to time. Reading these yarns felt at times more like watching the Flash Gordon serials than even reading the original Alex Raymond material which those were based on. Simon and Kirby really tap into that movie vibe quite successfully.

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