Saturday, August 19, 2017

100 Days Of The King - Day 91

Above are four of Jack Kirby's most evil characters. Darksied, Maximus, Loki, and Doctor Doom -- a gallery of fiends if ever there was one. These portraits capture the cold cruel essence of each. The grim confidence of Darkseid, the gleam of madness of Maximus, the leer of command of Loki, and the bored but deadly ennui of Doom all send a shiver.

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The Golden Age Sandman!

While the Boy Commandos were the most successful feature that Simon and Kirby developed in their first stint at DC during the Golden Age, Sandman is arguably the most famous of all. Thanks in no small part to the fame which the character has discovered in modern times with starkly different versions, the Golden Age Sandman is a rich figure who started business as a Green Hornet/Shadow knock-off who had the clever gimmick of inducing sleep.

But that sleepy attitude infected the feature in other ways and quickly the editors were looking for ways to make the dapper hero more action-oriented. So Gardner Fox's classic version gave way to something different.

In the pages of Adventures Comics #72 they gave the Sandman a new costume (gold and purple with a cape) and a new sidekick (Sandy the Golden Boy). The first stories were drawn by Paul Norris of Aquaman fame. Alas the new look didn't seem at first to create much stir.

Then Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, fresh from their highly successful stint on Captain America showed up at DC wanting more money and more credit. They got both and quickly too over at Adventure comics debuting on that comic with issue seventy-four, bringing their signature slam-bang style to Manhunter and the Sandman features. It must've been quite a shocker for fans to suddenly find do much action in what had been a pretty sedate outing before that time.

Simon and Kirby took over the comic and the covers with Sandman getting the majority of them though their run. They had the dynamic duo battle all sorts of misfits, gangster, and villains, all of them with some sort of sleep or dream detail. Reading these stories through, I was struck at how clever the S&S team were in coming up with fresh sleep/dream angles for the heroes to pursue.

The Sandman had a motto which is used in many of the stories, at least early on. "There is no land beyond the law where tyrants rule with unshakeable. It's a dream...from which the evil wakest to face their fate...their terrifying hour. - The Sandman". This mouthful did give the feature a nifty pulp gloss, but as the  golden hero got more comfortable in his super togs he lost the pulp aspects more and more.

Despite the cleverness of the S&S team, one can see they were running out of gas a bit by the end of the feature and so it's likely good that they moved on.

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Joe Simon and Jack teamed up for a final time in the 70's for a brand new spin on their Sandman feature.

It was a fun outing and I'll take a closer look at that one next time.

Pleasant dreams effendis.

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Friday, August 18, 2017

100 Days Of The King - Day 90

Kirby's last great original series was Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers. I'll have much more to say about this often overlooked classic next month, but for  your viewing pleasure here is a favorite splash page of the good Captain himself from the debut issue. The great device on his head gives Victory remote control of his spaceship The Tiger. It doesn't make much sense but it looks cool, like so many Kirby concepts.

Here is that image in glorious black and white with bright shiny inking by Mike Royer. I got the latter to sign my copy several years ago, and he seemed quite happy to see a book he says doesn't come his way very often.

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The King Of Webs!

It's my fault totally but I didn't realize that these two Spidey Super Stories covers were penciled by Jack "King" Kirby, or if I did know it at some time I long forgot. These penciled images show the hand of Kirby clearly, but alas by the time the extremely talented "Jazzy" Johnny Romita got finished with them, the Kirby touch has all but vanished. The second one is even signed and I never caught it! Sigh.

I recently read a potent argument for Kirby having a significant hand in the creation of Spidey, but as these two roughs show, he really had a hard time drawing him to model. There's a charm to Kirby's version, but it's not the usual look for certain.

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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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