Saturday, October 03, 2015

Today in Comics History: Pinup photographer discovers Bettie Page

Panel from Original Sin Annual #1 (December 2014), script by Jason Latour, pencils and inks by Enis Cisic, colors by Chris Chuckry

Countdown to Halloween: Jack Kirby's Monsters! Night Three: I'm Pretty Sure I Can Prove Jack Kirby Saw King Kong

Tonight, "I'm Pretty Sure I Can Prove Jack Kirby Saw King Kong!" But you may have realized that already from the title.

Except he substituted a turtle.

Cover of Tales to Astonish #1 (January 1959), pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Christopher Rule, colors by Stan Goldberg, letters by Artie Simek

Ape,, pretty much exactly the same thing.

As further "proof," short of asking the notoriously swiss-cheese brain of Stan Lee if Jack saw "King Kong," let's dash over to Wikipedia™, "The Dictionary That Put That Annoying World Book Kid Out of Business." Bold text is mine!
King Kong was sold to television after the conclusion of the 1956 release. One channel in New York showed the film seventeen times in a single week, with each showing topping the ratings.
Kirby's full authorship of this script is still a question mark (literally, on the comic's GCD index page), but comics scholar and indexer Nick Caputo proposes it is a script by Kirby. (If it isn't, just take all the references to Kirby seeing King Kong in this post and change them to Stan Lee, okay?) And considering the similarities not just of plot and that "ninth wonder" blurb, but also of visual imagery ('specially in that gate sequence/cover above), I'm bettin' Jack Kirby saw it more than once. While smokin' cigars.

Anyway, to continue on from the other night's exciting saga of giant clams, "We Found the Ninth Wonder of the World!" opens with this thrilling scene of a massive, apparently already-cooked red lobster! Diggin' the oversized seafood motif, Jack! If I hadn't read in the GCD index that you wrote these, I'da guessed they were penned by Shelly the Little Otter Puppet!

Splash panel of "We Found the Ninth Wonder of the World!" in Tales to Astonish #1 (January 1959), script (?) and pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Christopher Rule, colors by Stan Goldberg, letters by Artie Simek

Say, does that panicky guy in the lower left-hand corner running away from death by clawsection remind you of anyone?

Like King Kong, the story all begins with a three-hour cruise, and there's even more giant aquatic life on the table; in this case, a giant albino starfish. Although Professor Briggs claims it's a four-foot starfish, we can easily see he doesn't know much about his own business. It's clearly a starfish with five feet.

And also, Kirby fans: does Professor Briggs remind you of anyone else in comics?

Panel from Fantastic Four (1961 series) #10 (January 1963), script by Stan Lee, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Dick Ayers, colors by Stan Goldberg, letters by Artie Simek

The sudden appearance of a geodesic dome rising from the sea frightens the men into sheer, pants-wetting panic over the imminent attack of the Montreal World's Fair Expo '67 Dome! As Expo '67 would not be created for over eight years, this proves the startling originality and prescience of Jack Kirby as a futurist and a guy who borrowed the plot and visuals of a movie from 25 years before.

Stranded on an uncharted island, kidnapped by "savages," dragged off towards a gigantic wooden fence, yadda yadda yadda — hey, remember that big gate from King Kong, as also seen on the cover of Tales to Astonish #1? Well, a great gate deserves another encore!

Luckily for the hapless crew of the SS Schmenture, Professor Exposition is on hand to give us all the necessary backstory! And he'd better hurry up too — they've all already journeyed four pages into a seven-page story!

Oh, just release the Kraken Kong turtle already, huh guys?

Time and page count are runnin' out pretty fast, so instead of bringing Ting Tong back to New York, the Captain just fantasizes about it. Yeah, I'm guessing he saw that movie seventeen times on WOR's Million Dollar Movie, too. Let's compare and contrast the scenes, shall we?

Then, in the next panel, Captain Kane, False-Face, and Professor Parker escape thanks to a gratuitous motorboat ex machina! Thus was born that day the phrase "Well, isn't that conveeeeenient."


This first appearance of the scientist named Parker in this Atlas-era story was merely a teaser for the Marvel Age that was yet to come. Because that man later turned out to be...Spider-Man's dad.*

Panels from Amazing Spider-Man Annual (1964 series) #5 (November 1968), script by Stan Lee, pencils by John Romita Sr. (top) and Larry Lieber (bottom?), inks by Mike Esposito, letters by Artie Simek

There you have it! Pretty-near definite proof that at one point or another Jack Kirby saw King Kong at some point between 1933 and 1959 and figgered he could make turtle soup out of it. Well, whatever you may say about Experiment 247 and his big brother Experiment XYZ, you can't deny the fact that they are two of Jack Kirby's Monsters!

So, King Kong, what do you think about tonight's blog post?

*No he didn't.

Today in Comics History: That sexy French feather duster from Beauty and the Beast sweeps away the text stories in Variety

Panel from Silverblade #1 (September 1987), script by Cary Bates, pencils by Gene Colan, inks by Steve Mitchell, colors by Joe Orlando, letters by Gaspar Saladino

Today in Comics History: Crooked health inspectors put pressure on the owner of Ray's Famous Original Pizza

Panel from Black Market #3 (September 2014), script by Frank L. Barbiere, pencils and inks by Victor Santos, colors by Adam Metcalfe, letters by Ed Dukeshire

365 Days of Star Wars Comics, Day 276: The Star Wars Illustrated Swimsuit Special

Hey, it's Leiasaturday!

Cover of Classic Star Wars: Return of the Jedi #1 (October 1994), art by Adam Hughes

Hey, Leia-fans, here's that same image unadorned by text and with better printing! Who says this isn't the Mighty Bully Age of Fan Service?

Image from Star Wars: Panel to Panel v.1 (September 2004), art by Adam Hughes

What do you mean, that isn't a swimsuit?!? Darth Vader with a boom box respectfully disagrees!

Cover of Rolling Stone #400-401 (July 21-August 4, 1983), photograph by Aaron Rapoport

Today in Comics History: Ray takes a paid break from his beaker-dropping job

Panel from Black Market #2 (August 2014), script by Frank L. Barbiere, pencils and inks by Victor Santos, colors by Adam Metcalfe, letters by Ed Dukeshire

Friday, October 02, 2015

Countdown to Halloween: Jack Kirby's Monsters! Night Two: When you see him, say a prayer and kiss your heart goodbye

Hey, who's this dude? What's his story? What's he all about?

Panels from "Alien on Earth!" in Journey into Mystery (1952 series) #51 (March 1959), script (?) and pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Christopher Rule, colors by Stan Goldberg, letters by Artie Simek

What's a-goin' on here, dude? What's your major malfunction? (Besides phonics.)

What do the intelligentsia, Les Fran├žais, those dirty commie Russkies, and…I don't know, Alfred Pennyworth and that one guy from Ghost Hunters...all think about him?

Well, I don't know what the heck that thing kids, don't put your lips on it!

Oh, let's just do to it what we do to everything. Let's blow that sucker up with a nuke! Yee-haw!

Oh, say! Turns out he was smarter than us. Well, that'll happen. Wah-wah-wah-wahhhhhhhhhhh!


Join us tomorrow when we prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that...Jack Kirby has seen the motion picture King Kong!

Today in Comics History: Fingers are outlawed, and only outlaws have fingers

Panel from "Bacchus is Back" in Deadface #1 (April 1987); script, pencils, and inks by Eddie Campbell; letters by Trevs Phoenix and Eddie Campbell

And yep: befitting Eddie Campbell's renowned attention to genuine Earth-Prime detail, the Evening Argus of Brighton and Hove in Sussex, England, is indeed real, although technically it's called The Argus and the "Evening Argus" is only a local nickname. (I can't find any real-life reference to "Willowbrook Motor Co" online, though.)

The finest thing about the Argus? Its surreal and hilarious headlines that rival the infamous New York Post in their surrealness. (Plenty more here; but warning: Pinterest page that wont' let you look if you don't have a Pinterest account.)

Weird, huh? Well, here's a more measured and newsworthy headline about true justice in action:

See? Newspapers do look like that!

365 Days of Star Wars Comics, Day 275: Darth Vader tells the truth, from a certain point of view

Panels from Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison #3 (July 2012); script by Haden Blackman; pencils, inks, and colors by Agustin Alessio; letters by Michael Heisler

Today in Comics History: Super Grey Hoodie Guy debuts

Panel from Black Market #1 (July 2014), script by Frank L. Barbiere, pencils and inks by Victor Santos, colors by Adam Metcalfe, letters by Ed Dukeshire

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Countdown to Halloween: Jack Kirby's Monsters! Night One: Close Encounters of the Kirb Kind

BWAHHHHHHH! (In my spooky vampire voice.) It's once again time for that orangy-and-blackiest holiday of them all, Halloween! Which is coming up in only thirty-one short, chilly fall nights, so you'd better stock up on candy to hand out now. I really mean it. Do not run out of Halloween candy! This month, all month, you should be checking my humble little puppet-town cow-blog for titanic tales of those terrifying titans, those Kingtastic Colossuses (Colossi?), those masters of the macabre month: Jack Kirby's Monsters! Every day, a new Kirby Monster from the Atlas Age of Comics! Also, as in previous spine-tinglin' Octobers, I'm once again part of the Countdown to Halloween web ring of Halloweeny horror! Be sure to visit the other 170+ (!) members of Countdown to Halloween for lots of other fun stuff leading up to our scariest day, because I'm pretty sure you'll find witches, goblins, ghouls, vampires, and a Frankenstein or two in there.

Over here, I'm pretty sure we'll run into the Plant Thing from Venus, the Stone Men of Halloween Easter Island, the Molten Man-Thing, not to mention Fin Fang Foom (brother of the illustrious Doctor Victor von Foom), all of 'em in living color by K-I-R-B-Y, King of the Monsters! (Actually, he was an elected official, but we still call him king.)

But first up, one of Jack's first Atlas Monsters: the Flying Saucer! (Not to be confused with the delicious, cold, creamy Carvel treat.)

Cover of Strange Worlds #1 (December 1958), pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Christopher Rule, colors by Stan Goldberg, letters by Artie Simek

Now just w-w-w-wait one doggone minute, Mister Bull! (you might say in your Jimmy Stewart voice, and a very fine impression it is too.) Just how the Sam Scratch can a flying saucer be a monster? Well, you just wait an' see! See if I don't show you! Yah boo!

Splash page from "I Discovered the Secret of the Flying Saucers!" in Strange Worlds #1 (December 1958), script by Stan Lee (?), pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Christopher Rule, colors by Stan Goldberg, letters by Artie Simek

Witness the shame of this pre-Reed Richards professor, who has just been turned down for membership in the Legion of Super-Heroes…hilariously! Also, everybody thinks his UFO stories are pretty funny. Even, sitting on the extreme right, The Joker! Well, he thinks everything's funny.

His quest to find out the secret truth behind flying saucers knows no boundaries! It also apparently knows no panel borders! Yow, Mister Kirby, that's dramatic! But did you lose your ruler that day?

Suddenly, swamp gas! No, wait, it's an actual livin' breathin' OO-EFF-OH!

Check out the alliteration in that first panel! (If that ain't Stan Lee, it's an incredible simulation.) Kirby gives the flying saucer just enough detail to make it looks like it actually works, mechanically, and yet not too much to overwhelm the inker. He was already prepping for dealing with Vince Colletta, wasn't he?

The flying saucer beams images of its home world into our hero's head, thus giving humanity a look at alien technology (or, as we like to call it, Kirbytech!) while simultaneously creating progressive rock.

Again, check out the first caption. Oh, that explains the whole thing! This story takes place on the Planet Garth! Currently being seen in the Secret Wars miniseries Battleworld: Wayne and Garth's World! Anyway, the Incredulous Hunk demands to see what the life form inside the flying saucer looks like before it returns home! Can you spot the surprise twist ending barreling around the corner at warp speed towards us?

Surprise! Twist Ending! (Told ya.) The Flying Saucer is the Kirby Monster! It has legs, and eyes, and a tongue made out of a staircase, I guess. Also, dig that swepy-back metallic hairstyle! It's groovy, man, far out of this world!

Perhaps mankind was not yet ready to make that leap into the unknown…to conceive that a being which could travel through space might not look like us at all…but might resemble the very craft which have buzzed above us in the sky, inspiring in hushed whispers tales of unknown alien worlds. All we know is that this flying suacer's existence must remain a secret to man, even in…the Twilight Zone.

Special extra-bonus Comics Did It First section! Stan 'n' the Atlas were not averse to re-using a plot from now and again (what, you think only Archie Comics did that?), and here's an earlier version of O. Henryesque ending of a flying saucer turning out to be an alien being from five years before, with a decidedly New England seafood flavor!

Panels from "The Secret of the Flying Saucer!" in Men's Adventures #21 (May 1953), script by Stan Lee, pencils and inks by Fred Kida

And before Captain America and Iron Man barged in rudely and took over the pages of Tales of Suspense for themselves, Steve Ditko — the second pillar in the Grandmaster of Art Pantheon at Marvel — illustrated a very similar story:

Panels from "I Know the Secret of the Flying Saucer!" in Tales of Suspense #11 (September 1960), script by Stan Lee (?), pencils and inks by Steve Ditko, colors by Stan Goldberg, letters by Artie Simek

Enough versions for you yet? Of course not! Here's a strangely familiar twist-ending story drawn by Don "Why won't Marvel give me credit for co-creating Iron Man?" Heck! (Seriously, how did I become the guy who has to remind Marvel about that?)

Panel from "The Impossible Spaceship!" in Strange Tales #101 (October 1962), plot by Stan Lee, script by Larry Lieber, pencils and inks by Don Heck, colors by Stan Goldberg, letters by Terry Szenics

If you don't care for the original cooked-lobster-red (hey, seafood again!) coloration of the Strange Worlds spaceship alien, well, just wait sixteen years until the story is reprinted and recolored in the pages of a 1970s Marvel monster comic! Behold: the blue and grey Batman Color Scheme Flying Saucer Alien!

Panel from reprint of "I Discovered the Secret of the Flying Saucers!" in Where Monsters Dwell #32 (November 1974)

Finally, leave it up to those crazy Brits to not only charge a shilling for a comic with big sixty-eight pages but to recolor the flying saucer! And leave out the blurb on the bottom. Eh, knowing British comics, there was probably a free prize glued there. Maybe a clam!

Cover of Race for the Moon #5 (Thorpe & Porter, 1959)

I'm pretty sure that's the most exhaustive examination you're ever gonna get about a Kirby space alien in which you can comfortably sit inside and zoom around the universe.