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Along with news about convention appearances and and creative process we post essay style content. Here is the one from this week that talks about one of my favourite comics.
With August the 28th of this year being the hundredth anniversary of the birth of the 'King of Comics Jack Kirby I thought that I would talk about one of my favourite issues. This isn't possibly his best book or even from his best period of work but it was one that I read over and over again. I was nine years old when it was released and I would copy the faces of the characters (who I didn't really understand) on paper my father brought home.
The Eternals: Annual 1. (1977).
Edited, written and drawn by Jack Kirby.
Letters and inks by Mike Royer.
Colours by Glynis Wein.
Published by Marvel Comics in full colour.
The Story - Zuras (the prime Eternal) and Thena (the good looking blonde Eternal) discover that (get ready for one of the best names in comics) 'Zakka: The Tool Master' is still alive and on Earth. He is making use of his many fancy tools to transport beings from history to present day New York and they are causing havoc.
So rather than heading off and getting the usual crowd of Eternals (who we see in the regular run of the series) they reach out to some who had recently been 'saved' from the fighting pits 'Karkas' and 'Ransak the Reject'. (see the Eternals regular series issues 8 and 9).
Karkas is a big old red scaly monster who could just about be described as humanoid and has immense strength. He is given a device that hides his true form from the eyes of man and makes him look like a bit of a lumpy New Yorker who would kick your arse for putting gum on your subway seat.
Ransak is in the grand tradition of Kirby an angry kid. Brought up fighting he is a big ball of fury and resentment. He'll fight your gran if you ask him to. He has those big wide open and deranged staring eyes that Jack did so well.
Back to the story... Turns out that Zakka has rented a room to live in with a little old lady. She turns up unexpected and finds him '....tinkering with those foreign cameras of yours....' She thinks that Zakka is a little strange but is probably from the Circus and one of those '...show folk...' always doing '...Flashy Magical Acts..'
Zakka's landlady is well off the point and fails to notice that Zakka is dressed like a classic super-villain. Is it just me or is there a little spark of the sexy about this relationship? Maybe Zakka (who let's face it isn't a young man himself) fancies a bit of New York GILF action? He's probably really lonely from fiddling with his gadgets so you couldn't really blame him?
'....I will plunge the humans in to a frenzy of panic!' (Typical man!)
Ransak and Karkas head to the scene in some classy Kirby men's suits which he drew so well. They split up and Ransak end up fighting Jack the Ripper. Yup, that one, transported back from 19th century London. I have to say that Eddie Campbell could learn a lesson from the art in these panels. I've never seen Jack drawn so well and with a real threat. Class stuff again from Kirby.
While Ransak is fighting for his life Karkas bumps in to a kid who is wandering about. They have a weird interaction where Karkas may as well have told the kid 'don't do drugs and stay in school otherwise you'll end up fighting demons in the pits like I did..' Before he in turn gets attacked by Attila the Hun and some of his soldiers on the landing.
'Die you vicious maggots!'
During the battle Karkas' disguise slips and the members of the public caught up in the chaos run in fear screaming. ('Run, big scaly penis with arms is attacking us' they fail to say.)
Zakka reappears and fiddles again with his 'Kirby machine' and goes too far this time and ends up transporting Tutinax from the fighting pits to New York. Thena, Ransak and Karkas go after this huge and very angry creature fearing that they are running to their death......
Of course they don't die. What are you? An idiot? This is a Marvel comic.
At the time I had not seen the Fourth World work ('New Gods', 'Forever People', 'Mr Miracle' and 'Jimmy Olsen') so for me as a young reader this series was a fucking revelation. You can see all the themes that Kirby attempted to carry through his time at DC Comics combined with a lot of 'Chariots of the Gods' ideas he had got from reading the sci-fi and futurist books of the 1970s. I absolutely ate this book up and it still influences what sort of fiction I choose to read from time to time now.
Kirby had an unfettered imagination. Some might say that he was given too much creative control and that a good editor working with him may have mean't that this series along with books like 2001, Machine Man, The New Gods, The Demon, O.M.A.C. and so on would have been about a lot longer if he was reigned in a bit.
You know what I think? Fuck all that. I adored this mental reality drift. This imaginative soaring through the cosmic. This is what we need now. Don't worry about fucking three act structure of Robert McKee's 'Story'! You have got to let the story speak without limiting yourself or yourselves. Look at what we got from these series. Darkseid, Orion, Brother Eye, The Celestials! These are characters and subjects that are mined constantly these days by the comics, tv and especially the movies! (Parademons in Batman v Superman anyone??)
Kirby could drawn anything. He could draw it with drama, action, brutality and emotion like no one else could or can.
Ladies and Gentlemen - Jack Kirby - 'The King of Comics!'
Many thanks for reading.