Wednesday, August 23, 2017

100 Days Of The King - Day 95

These stunning stylish images of Sigurd, Honir, Heimdall, and Balduur are apparent attempts by Jack Kirby to redesign the heroes of Asgard. Inked by his go-to man Don Heck, these were part of an art portfolio produced at about the same time that Kirby left Marvel for DC.

Here's the sleeve these pieces of art came delivered in, featuring a character who evokes more than anyone else the awesome Galactus.

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Tales Of Asgard!

When I read Kirby's Tales of Asgard this time, it was with a keen eye to the notion that these stories are a direct precursor to the Fourth World material he'd generate at DC after his famous migration in the early 70's. For there to be "New Gods" there must have been "Old Gods" and these are them.

Thor started as a somewhat peculiar superhero feature with secret identities, offbeat romances, super-villains, and all the trappings. But slowly it became something else as more and more aspects of Thor's Asgardian roots appeared in the story. It became less and less about his timid romance with Jane Foster and more and more about his relationship with Odin and the other denizens across the Brifrost.

Eventually the drive to give the series a mythic thrust gives us small vignettes which dramatized Norse myths. We get the origin of the universe, the world, the gods and man. We meet Odin, his allies, his enemies, and eventually his sons Thor and Loki. We see Thor as a boy and Loki too, as their eternal enmity begins to express itself. We meet Heimdall, the guardian of the Rainbow Bridge and others such as Balder the Brave. More myth is adapted as the series slowly begins to slow its pace and offer up extended stories.

A real shift came when Odin sends Thor on a quest to investigate the advent of Ragnarok and along with him are a crew which includes Hogun the Grim, Fandrall the Dashing, and Volstagg the Voluminous. These "Warriors Three" begin in the the Tales of Asgard feature and then become a reliable part of the main modern story up front in the comic.

It is in this tale of Ragnarok that these warriors find their own end and the hints of a new world to come. It is in the pages of these short back up yarns that the seeds of the Fourth World are planted.  We even meet one of Kirby's first passes as a Hive community, an idea he develops in the Fourth World with Forager and his ilk. Later we'll meet the Lightning Lady and her minions in the pages of Captain Victory.

Following the discovery the end of the world and the hint of a new, the heroes go on other quests. They seek out Harokin, a brave warrior who ends up being embraced by the goddess of the death Hela. They find and confront the dragon Fafnir who offers up a terrible tempation.

They even end up visiting a distant territory which evokes the magic and wonder of The Arabian Knights. All along the way the stories grow more and more baroque with Kirby's art getting increasingly abstract as he develops into his mature stage. Vince Colletta supplies the inks to nearly all of these tales save for a few in the early days inked by Don Heck and  George Bell and a later tale inked by Bill Everett of all people.

The Tales of Asgard feature ends and is replaced by The Inhumans (and odd place for them, but the one comic which seemed to be largely controlled by Kirby). It offered up a delightful brew of heady adventures and it offered up a glimpse of what was to come.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

100 Days Of The King - Day 94

I've always loved this classic Jack Kirby pin-up pose of the Mighty Thor by Jack Kirby and inker Chic Stone. It showcases an idealistically bright and shining hero who puts forth a handsome beacon of bravery and boldness.

There's something of aspiration and hope in the way Kirby drew Thor, an admittedly Aryan ideal image (like Captain America) but one who rises above the potential social danger that image can present by his altruistic impulses for doing good for all men.

Kirby never seemed to tire of drawing Thor in these kind of bold and forthright poses. It seems to be the perfect blend of character and creator.

And then there's this guy.

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The Uncollected - Destroyer Duck!

One of the grand comic books of the 80's was the totally in-your-face satire named Destroyer Duck. The comic started out as a method by which like-minded talents (Jack Kirby, Alfredo Alcala, Mark Evanier, Joe Staton, Sergio Aragones, among others) donated their time and talents to produce a story written by Steve Gerber who at that point in time was in a legal dispute with the Marvel machine over the ownership of Howard the Duck.

The debut story is about that struggle directly and hilariously as we meet Duke Duck, a ally of the "Little Guy", a small duck who gets sucked into a distant dimension where he is exploited and killed by Godcorp. Duke ends up going to this other world and kicks Godcorp butt. After this one-shot though it was deemed smart to do more Destroyer Duck stories and Gerber and Kirby and Alcala kicked out four more issues before seven issue series was taken over by Buzz Dixon and Gary Kato. Duke has showed up  a few times since, in the pages of Total Eclipse in the late 80's and the Image one-shot guest-starring with Savage Dragon in the late 90's. Surely there's an audience for these bizarre tales of the "Marauding Mallard of Vengeance".

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Monday, August 21, 2017

100 Days Of The King - Day 93

This image of a reflective Dr. Donald Blake, oft forgotten alter-ego of the Mighty Thor from Thor #159 is one of the more enchanting images Jack Kirby concocted for the comic and that includes some mighty images.  The way Thor's face is unseen seems odd posing but adds emphasis to the face of the mortal dreamer Blake.

When it was turned into a blacklight poster it seemed an odd choice, but I really think it captures something mythic and romantic about the nature of the character.

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Sandman Of Your Dreams!

The Sandman Special #1 from DC is the best yet of this month-long celebration of Jack "King" Kirby's creations. Under a Paul Pope cover, what you have are two stories, two different takes on another Sandman tale. Now this is the Sandman created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, their last tandem effort.

The first story by Dan Jurgens and artist Jon Bogdanove is my favorite so far in these specials. It's a sprawling adventure of Sandman and his two colleagues Brute and Glob as they rush to save a very special young boy who is being overcome by his dreams fired by his unquenchable imagination. The creatures in this dream might ring some bells and the story might seem a bit overly sentimental, but I fully enjoyed it.  Bogdanove does a great job with the art and even treats us to a Kirby-inspired collage.

The second story by Steve Orlando and drawn by Rick Leonardi is less effective, but still quite decent. In this one the dream trio attempt to help out the dreamer Jed who has become a man but who is encumbered with some real guilt about how life has turned out.

Also in this issue are a battery of fun tiny two-page "Tales of the D.N.A. Project" from the pages of Jimmy Olsen.  These little frolics were great fun back when and are still so today and a delightful glimpse into the playful imagination of Jack Kirby.

This one is a hoot and gets my highest recommendation.

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Hero And Villain In One Day!

This seems like the perfect day to dig out this wonderful DC Showcase volume starring the one and only Eclipso, the character who cannot make up his mind if he's a villain or a hero.

For sure this was a stranger than usual premise, a man overcome by the magical power of a mystic gem triggered by eclipses which transformed him utterly into a being of great power. What he did with that power was an open question. Created for the House of Secrets by the wildcard writer of DC Bob Haney, this character was illustrated by great pros like Lee Elias, Alex Toth and Jack Sparling.  If you haven't sampled some Eclipso, take a snort, it's pretty tasty. Here is my review from the prehistoric days of the Dojo.

(This issue is not in the collection, but I love the Gil Kane cover.)

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