Ah, but we were so young and beautiful then, weren’t we?
And so woe is me, and so here we are again, Bloggers. I am out in the weird bugmesh-sewn garment bag strung between errant trees, absorbing the beautiful sunset and the music of the Swainson’s thrush, and you are probably stuck in the riot of summer festivals, Cuban jazz, hot peppers, and slithery shots of high-priced tequila. Whilst I contemplate the mysterious proliferation of daises under the fir trees, you attend to the merest rustle of the spouse’s eyebrow beneath the bedsheets, or contemplate the exotic motions of the big-belted girl by the jukebox. Don’t you? My God, I would, if I were in your place…
But never mind that now.
I want to talk about Jack Kirby. Specifically, a scene that I’ve mentioned before, in the issue of New Gods after “The Death Wish Of Terrible Turpin” (which is some kinda comic, by the way), where we find Orion and Lightray taking it easy on some penthouse balcony owned by some unnamed fully adult woman. Lightray is just standing around, as always; Orion is sleeping.
This is where it gets good.
Oh, and why am I telling just this, just now, on my huge holiday?
Blame Jim Roeg: he’s the one who said to me that the genius of superhero comics is in the pictures — in the occasional graphic emergence of sublime delight, like a seal’s nose, from the flat water of story. For me, much as I love Kirby and Ditko, and Steranko and etc., the ultimate “sublime” guy is always gonna be Alex Toth…Good Lord, but that man knew what he was doing. Scary stuff. But, I’m off topic. Wait, let me get off a little more:
Sean W.’s “Because Fuck It” List:
Best Gene Colan: Dr. Strange/Dracula crossover.
Best Steranko: Captain America, duh, grow up Sean!
Best Writing In An Issue Of Planetary: Elijah Snow in The Lost City Of Opak-Re
Best Stan Lee Dialogue: Thor, the Mangog issues — wow, I couldn’t’ve done that, congrats Stan! Forget Warren Ellis or Alan Moore or even the sainted Steve E.! Good stuff.
Best Bendis Dialogue: Powers: The Sellouts
Best ST: TNG Episode (best of a bad lot): “Tapestry”
Best Mark Hamill Performance: Corvette Summer
Best Robert Redford Line: “We’re Not Lost”, from “The Electric Horseman”
Best Bloggers: Dave Fiore, Marc Singer, Jim Roeg, Tom Bondurant (Tom because of his incredibly awesome Friday Night Fights etc., CRIPES!), Bully
Best Hulk Artist: Gil Kane
Best Continuity Nerd: Len Wein — he invented it, after all
Best Sense Of Vista: Ross Andru
Artist Who Most Knocked Me The Fuck Out Of My Socks Ever: Steve Leialoha on Coyote #2, closely followed by Steranko’s Cap, and Kirby and Ditko’s everything
Best Cancelled Comic Of All Time: Ditko’s Shade
Best Walt Simonson: Thor. Man, that was awesome.
Best John Byrne Pencils: X-Men #137, and if you don’t think he KILLED on that, there’s something wrong with you. But let’s not leave out Terry Austin, also absolutely ROCKING it on X-Men #137, like no kidding, that was some pretty intense inking.
Best Man-Thing Artist: Mike Ploog. He drew Dawg. ‘Nuff Said.
Person I Would Like To Meet At A Con: RAB…is third, because Redhead Fangirl and Evie are both, y’know, attractive girls, and frankly RAB’s chin scares me a little. It’s just too darn scientific. Fourth is my man Sean W., because I know he’d rush the stage nine times out of ten, and besides it’s ’cause of him I’m doing these lists
The Pro I Think Is Probably The Nicest: Neil Gaiman, surely?
The Pro I Would Happily Spend A Hundred Bucks On Getting Them Shitfaced: um, surely Gail Simone?
Best New X-Men Issue: X-Men #108 (narrowly edging #137)
Best Team-Up Ever: Power Man/Iron Fist #1
Best Pure Superhero Comic Ever: Superman Vs. Spider-Man. The King James Bible of superhero comics, and I am running out of beer
Tightest Plotter: Jim Starlin, for his Epic work
Most Unknown Frighteningly Awesome Thing: Steve Englehart and Steve Ditko’s “The Djinn”
Favourite Writer Who’s Still Alive: William Messner-Loebs. Man’s a comics genius. Although when he doesn’t care — nobody doesn’t care like him
Favourite Webcomic: Tozo. So sue me.
Favourite Artist: Uderzo.
Okay, back to Kirby, and that issue of New Gods. Orion is cat-napping after his (awesome) battle with Kalibak, and the girl touches his mask…she wonders who’s under it…and then she removes the mask, and Orion wakes up, and she’s horrified at his, not just ugliness, but presentation of BAD (he is Darkseid’s son, after all), and he says something like:
“Not quite the battlefield poetry you were looking for, is it?”
In my opinion it is a truly great moment in the annals of superhero comicdom. Uncompromising: doubtless the idiot fans got turned off by it. Oh yeah, that’s what I was ranting about! Sean W. directed me to a place (I can’t be mean: it’s Barbelith) where people were wondering out loud just WHAT qualities the New Gods stood for. Which is a game for aphasics: generalize all you will, Kirby didn’t put generalizations in that mix, in fact that was kind of his point. But LORD! Did anyone ever try anything as ambitious as this EVER in the superhero comics form…! Well, yes, someone else did, but his name was JACK FUCKING KIRBY!!! (Sorry for the profanity, Jack) Wow. I was just talking with Harvey Jerkwater about this, how Jack’s moral was beautifully specific to the form he was working in/had invented…it could not have been said in a novel, it could not have been said in a poem. You have to work your brain around it, it is not the standard comics fare, it’s something else. He “wows” you, no doubt…but you have to like Big Bear, in order for it all to work. Worse, so much worse…you have to respect Darkseid.
We were talking about that Jim-Roeg sublimity. Kirby and Ditko, the compositional geniuses of their time (and Timely was just bloody lucky to have them around) put it into every single panel they ever drew. Gene Colan too, And Frank Robbins, now there was a guy who knew how to lay out a page…
Best Roy Thomas Issue: that Invaders one when they’re all sitting at Lord Fansworth’s dinner table, and I’m not joking, because I could’ve said Avengers #113, which was a HECK of an Avengers comic! …But, shit, speaking of Heck…
Best Fill-In Issue Ever, Bar None: Don Heck on the Liberty Legion. Shit, that was some good stuff, and what a fucking story!
Okay, where were we…oh yes. Jack Kirby. New Gods.
I mean, what could be sillier than to say “Orion Equals Crushing Fate”, “Scott Free Equals Escape”. But Scott Free doesn’t equal escape, if you look carefully: he may equal individuality, but only in the same sense that Lightray equals CHANGE…really, all that sort of analysis is good for is stripping detail out of complexity. Hmm, something Harvey said…yes, that the failure of all science fiction is that the BEST it can be is allegorical…and even that’s not easy to do. But look, when you do genre, you simplify the world you want to extrapolate from: that’s why there is NO SUCH THING as good political SF (although I heartily recommend Robert Charles Wilson’s “Spin”, and Ursula LeGuin’s “Left Hand Of Darkness”)…
Allow me to say it out loud, for once: my love is specificity. Nuts and bolts. Devil in the details. Man on the ground. Actually as far as I’m concerned much of what they call “hard SF” can seriously suck my dick — we live in a grainy world full of rapid shits and disgusting surprises, and non-algorithmic textures, and a little bit of slippery blood and blackened toast. Extrapolation is pure bunkum from the get-go: no one can predict this shit…
Best Pure Crap Comic I Ever Bought: gotta be Man-Monster #1. Rich Buckler, in his heyday. Man, I read the bejeezus outta that thing…
Best Marv Wolfman: Tomb Of Dracula
Best Bill Mantlo: Seeker 3000
Best Hulk Comic: Hulk Vs. The Rain, by James Kochalka. Best fucking Hulk comic I ever read.
Artist Who Made Me Read Comics: Herb Trimpe
Favourite Cartoon Voice Actor: John Hurt. Man, I just wanted to say that once out loud…
So in closing…does Jack Kirby’s later 70s work resonate somewhat with Philip K. Dick’s output of the same time? I think it does.
Lordy lordy, that hammock is a-callin’ me…