Monday, July 31, 2017

100 Days Of The King - Day 72

The Fighting American and his buddy Speed Boy was inspired some of Jack Kirby's best artwork. Along with Joe Simon he drew the character in the 50's and off and on all through the years.

Here is on ef his most dynamic presentaitons of this other patriotic superhero in Kirby's later more high-tech style.

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Star-Spangled Covers!

Captain America is truly an icon. Since his debut in 1941 in the pages of Captain America Comics #1 by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby he and his sidekick Bucky have been part of the fabric of comic books and popular culture. Later of course Cap is defrosted and put into the middle of the Marvel Universe concocted by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and others. He goes on to have a reliable partner in The Falcon, and he becomes the go-to leader of the Avengers. Cap's comics have been among the most dynamic in history because they were drawn by Jack Kirby. Here are some of those classic covers from across nearly four decades.

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Sunday, July 30, 2017

100 Days Of The King - Day 71

The Monster from the Lost Lagoon is a really scary addition to the Kirby canon. Appearing in a single issue of the Fantastic Four, he really is a nifty variation on the classic Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Kirby and Lee had tapped into the classic Universal imagery before in a story featuring Triton of the Inhumans.

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The Commandos Are Here!

The Boy Commandos was a hugely successful Golden Age comic book feature, and no small reason was its extremely timely setting. Joe Simon and Jack Kirby made their bones on Captain America for Martin Goodman's outfit, but were seeking a better deal and so contracted with DC. What made Captain America stand out was the unusual confluence of real world events and a viscerally patriotic hero who for the most part battled spies and other criminals in the United States. With the Boy Commando, Simon and Kirby take the battle to the Axis powers with a rough and tumble team of tyros.

At Marvel Simon and Kirby had concocted the Young Allies which had Bucky and Toro ally themselves with regular kids to battle such enemies as the Red Skull. They took that formula and introduced an international team of youngsters who rushed into battle alongside the toughest soldiers, commandos who spearheaded the battle against Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo. Andre Chavard is French, Alfie Twidgett is British,  Jan Hasaan is Dutch and Brooklyn (no last name) is of course American. These four youngsters served as mascots of a sort, similar to Bucky, but were often on the battlefield across the globe. Their leader is Rip Carter, a sharp-chined classic good guy and all around role model for the boys.

The key to the success of the series was that as interesting as these characters might have been, they were often not the focus of the stories. Very much like Will Eisner's The Spirit, the stories of the Boy Commandos often focused on one-shot characters who demonstrated unusual bravery or cowardice or both. Very often the Commandos themselves would disappear in their own feature, showing up at the end to tie up the loose ends. This gave the stories a real variety and also downplayed the fundamental weakness of the series, the improbability that boys could effectively fight with such gusto on the war front. The stories wind across the globe, hitting all the theaters of war and invariably offered up a patriotic message of support and encouragement.

The Boy Commandos were very much a product of the times and captured the zeitgeist of the country. Simon and Kirby, who both served in the war effort (Simon in the Coast Guard and Kirby overseas under the command of Patton) really seemed to have a sense of what the moment required. They also reveled in the storytelling of comics, clearly to my eye adapting many of the popular tropes of movies to the comic book page, another similarity to Eisner's work. But where Eisner tapped into the film noir aspect of movies, Simon and Kirby seemed to really love comedies and adventures. When I read the dialogue of Brooklyn, I hear the voice of Curly of the Three Stooges ringing in my head.  Whatever the elements of the brew were, it's clear that Simon and Kirby and the members of their studio were pushing the limits of the medium and having fun doing it.

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Saturday, July 29, 2017

100 Days Of The King - Day 70

Toward the end of his tenure at Marvel, Jack Kirby produced a four-part story in the pages of the Fantastic Four which promulgated an offshoot of the Skrull empire in which the shape-changing aliens had replicated the gangster society of 1930's America. Kirby loved to dabble in this era and produced lots of imaginative variations on this theme throughout his career.

But in addition to the gangsters, this story also presented the Thing as the captive and an unwilling participant in gladitorial games. In those games he came up against Torgo, a warrior from a world in which the dominant life form was machinery.

Their battles were epic and of course eventually Ben Grimm returns to Earth. But you knew that already. Many people see a hint of the classic Star Trek episodes "A Piece of the Action" and "Bread and Circuses" in these issues, and frankly so do I.

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A Day In The Anti-Life - Health Scare!

The failure of Republicans to abolish Obamacare "root and branch" as had been long promised for  years to their legions, has been an amazing spectacle. There's a lot of blame to sling about and for sure the chattering classes are up and at it, with the devoted Trumpians attaching little blame for the failure to their savior despite his incessant promises to offer up something much much better and apparently overlooking the small detail that he discovered after winning office and actually engaging one or two of the details of actual policy that health care was "hard". Still he's off the hook it seems and is apparently willing to let poor folks suffer yet again to make the point that he was right all along.

The health care bills which were put forth failed because they had as their primary reason to exist an attempt to claw back taxes. They failed as health care bills because they were not health care bills at all. And ultimately it's a lack of courage on the part of all Republicans to stand up and be counted on the promise they've bleated about for so many years. Democrats stood in line and took the harsh medicine which followed the erection of Obamacare and suffered many electoral defeats to accomplish the last big project of the Progressive program. It's the reason Democrats appear to be out of big ideas, they are; the mission is accomplished in its broadest strokes.  Individual men and women took hard votes and showed their personal success was less important than the help they would be able to extend to Americans across the land. Republicans have never been able to show that courage, or perhaps now it appears the courage is not to stand up for repeal but to stand in its way.

And now for another thing -- Trump voters! What the hell will it take for folks, even those hard-headed folks from the heartland to see that the man they have invested all their hopes and dreams with is a lying, xenophobic, racist asshole who is utterly consumed with his own immediate welfare at all times. He lies to the country on an almost hourly basis, shows zero loyalty to folks who have sacrificed their integrity to back his erratic plays, and kisses Putin's butt with weird aplomb.

These folks appear to think that only the high and mighty Trump is the one who can tell them the truth. Okay, but when he fails on health care why don't they then realize he isn't what he pretends to be. They ignore the media because they've been encouraged to think it is against them, and now it seems they have more faith in the former USSR. than CBS or NBC. The idea of patriotism seems now to be limited to the benefits of one man - Trump. How many shit sandwiches are folks going to eat before they get a clue the stink ain't a media conspiracy. God almighty!

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The Commandos Are Coming!

I guess I never realized that the Boy Commandos were so popular. I first encountered the Simon and Kirby DC material when it was tapped to fill up the extra pages in the back of the Fourth World books after DC's ill-fated decision to jump its prices to twenty-five cents way back in those halcyon days of the early 70's. I loved those comics brimming as they were with vintage material but apparently it cost DC once and for all its lead role in the market

Of the Simon and Kirby material which was used, I liked Manhunter the best, Sandman the best after that and Newsboy Legion in third position. The Boy Commandos who appeared in the back pages of the Mister Miracle. The WWII adventures felt out of place. But getting hold of the series in bulk and reading them with a firmer feel for the whole of the Golden Age output, I have to say they age quite well.

The Boy Commandos debuted in the pages of Detective Comics #64 and got a cover appearance in the very next issue. But after that, despite their great success in terms of sales (apparently only second to Superman and Batman) they were relegated to the back up pages of Detective Comics and World's Finest. The boys were widely available but not cover featured much if at all.

The exception was of course when they got their own self-titled comic. Boy Commandos was a quarterly comic and each issue gave us four adventures featuring Brooklyn, Alfy, Andre, Jan along with their adult leader Rip Carter. The title last long after the war and long after both Simon and Kirby had effectively left it for other challenges at other companies.

The first volume of Boy Commandos showcases the debut and many stories from the series as well as the complete stories from the first two issues of the Boy Commandos comic.

More tomorrow.

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