Saturday, July 29, 2017

100 Days Of The King - Day 70

Toward the end of his tenure at Marvel, Jack Kirby produced a four-part story in the pages of the Fantastic Four which promulgated an offshoot of the Skrull empire in which the shape-changing aliens had replicated the gangster society of 1930's America. Kirby loved to dabble in this era and produced lots of imaginative variations on this theme throughout his career.

But in addition to the gangsters, this story also presented the Thing as the captive and an unwilling participant in gladitorial games. In those games he came up against Torgo, a warrior from a world in which the dominant life form was machinery.

Their battles were epic and of course eventually Ben Grimm returns to Earth. But you knew that already. Many people see a hint of the classic Star Trek episodes "A Piece of the Action" and "Bread and Circuses" in these issues, and frankly so do I.

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A Day In The Anti-Life - Health Scare!

The failure of Republicans to abolish Obamacare "root and branch" as had been long promised for  years to their legions, has been an amazing spectacle. There's a lot of blame to sling about and for sure the chattering classes are up and at it, with the devoted Trumpians attaching little blame for the failure to their savior despite his incessant promises to offer up something much much better and apparently overlooking the small detail that he discovered after winning office and actually engaging one or two of the details of actual policy that health care was "hard". Still he's off the hook it seems and is apparently willing to let poor folks suffer yet again to make the point that he was right all along.

The health care bills which were put forth failed because they had as their primary reason to exist an attempt to claw back taxes. They failed as health care bills because they were not health care bills at all. And ultimately it's a lack of courage on the part of all Republicans to stand up and be counted on the promise they've bleated about for so many years. Democrats stood in line and took the harsh medicine which followed the erection of Obamacare and suffered many electoral defeats to accomplish the last big project of the Progressive program. It's the reason Democrats appear to be out of big ideas, they are; the mission is accomplished in its broadest strokes.  Individual men and women took hard votes and showed their personal success was less important than the help they would be able to extend to Americans across the land. Republicans have never been able to show that courage, or perhaps now it appears the courage is not to stand up for repeal but to stand in its way.

And now for another thing -- Trump voters! What the hell will it take for folks, even those hard-headed folks from the heartland to see that the man they have invested all their hopes and dreams with is a lying, xenophobic, racist asshole who is utterly consumed with his own immediate welfare at all times. He lies to the country on an almost hourly basis, shows zero loyalty to folks who have sacrificed their integrity to back his erratic plays, and kisses Putin's butt with weird aplomb.

These folks appear to think that only the high and mighty Trump is the one who can tell them the truth. Okay, but when he fails on health care why don't they then realize he isn't what he pretends to be. They ignore the media because they've been encouraged to think it is against them, and now it seems they have more faith in the former USSR. than CBS or NBC. The idea of patriotism seems now to be limited to the benefits of one man - Trump. How many shit sandwiches are folks going to eat before they get a clue the stink ain't a media conspiracy. God almighty!

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The Commandos Are Coming!

I guess I never realized that the Boy Commandos were so popular. I first encountered the Simon and Kirby DC material when it was tapped to fill up the extra pages in the back of the Fourth World books after DC's ill-fated decision to jump its prices to twenty-five cents way back in those halcyon days of the early 70's. I loved those comics brimming as they were with vintage material but apparently it cost DC once and for all its lead role in the market

Of the Simon and Kirby material which was used, I liked Manhunter the best, Sandman the best after that and Newsboy Legion in third position. The Boy Commandos who appeared in the back pages of the Mister Miracle. The WWII adventures felt out of place. But getting hold of the series in bulk and reading them with a firmer feel for the whole of the Golden Age output, I have to say they age quite well.

The Boy Commandos debuted in the pages of Detective Comics #64 and got a cover appearance in the very next issue. But after that, despite their great success in terms of sales (apparently only second to Superman and Batman) they were relegated to the back up pages of Detective Comics and World's Finest. The boys were widely available but not cover featured much if at all.

The exception was of course when they got their own self-titled comic. Boy Commandos was a quarterly comic and each issue gave us four adventures featuring Brooklyn, Alfy, Andre, Jan along with their adult leader Rip Carter. The title last long after the war and long after both Simon and Kirby had effectively left it for other challenges at other companies.

The first volume of Boy Commandos showcases the debut and many stories from the series as well as the complete stories from the first two issues of the Boy Commandos comic.

More tomorrow.

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Friday, July 28, 2017

100 Days Of The King - Day 69

Mister Miracle might well be the most durable of the myriad heroes and heroines created by Jack Kirby for the DC "Fourth World". As seen above the original concepts were a wee bit different than final product, especially the notion that Mister Miracle might rely on a gun.

Here we see the ultimate design as worn by Thaddeus Brown, the original Mister Miracle.

Scott Free steps in to save the day and in doing so shows that he has the bravery and spunk to be more than a bystander.

Later he shows that he as skills, talents, and equipment which make him a most remarkable replacement for the original. He takes the role when Brown is killed and makes it his own.

Scott himself, is on Earth hiding from Darksied's terrifying Granny Goodness who took charge of him when he, Highfather's son, was traded for Orion to make a peace many years before. When Scott escapes Apokolips he gives Darkseid an excuse to reignite the conflict, which this time brings the New Gods to Earth.

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Fourth World Friday - The Greatest Show!

When Jack Kirby was confronted with the unpleasant task of replacing his beloved Fourth World books with such titles as The Demon and Kamandi, he made the most of the opportunity and delivered entertaining comics minus the grand operatic myth but still brimming with action and character. The lone survivor of the Fourth World was Mister Miracle. In these titles we see a decided shift away from references to New Genesis and Apokolips as Mister Miracle and his assistants focus on the show business side of the escape arts. We still get villains like Doctor Bedlam, but generally the threats hail for a myriad of locations and sources. Even the beloved Mother Box is changed into mysterious circuitry hidden in Mister Miracle's mask.

It's a full book with Scott Free, Oberon and Barda forming the core.  But added to the mix is the son of Thaddeus Brown who functions as a publicist for the act and the Female Furies Lashina, Stompa, Bernadeth and Mad Harriet. The latter dangerous dames faded out of the series as a young man named Shilo Norman arrived on the scene and became a protege of Scott's. This seemed to be the direction of the series but when the news came to end the run, Kirby used the last issue to reintroduce the Fourth World concepts and as Scott Free and Barda get married by Highfather, we see the rogues gallery including Granny Goodness and others. Even Orion and Lightray show up and as the tale winds to an the malicious Darkseid makes his presence known.

Kirby added OMAC to the schedule and completed his contract with DC before returning to Marvel. Almost as soon as he was out the door the New Gods and Mister Miracle were relaunched by new talents but the runs were met with limited success as DC faced some real sales challenges. Eventually Mister Miracle becomes part of the revised DCU after the Crisis becoming a member of the Justice League. Since then as we all know things have changed and changed and changed again. But the Fourth World, Kirby's magnificent concept continues to inform the DCU and has even broken onto the big screen in recent flicks.

Here are the remaining Mister Miracle covers.

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

100 Days Of The King - Day 68

Fin Fang Foom is just the best comic book monster ever! When Stan and Jack and Dick concocted this woeful ancient Chinese dragon they hit a homer. Aside from the weird underwear, Foom proved to be a truly strange monstrosity and no less so because unlike so many of them he could speak and speak eloquently. It's that latter quality which elevates among the ranks of Marvel monsters.

I first encountered Fin Fang Foom in the pages of Fantasy Masterpieces and so imprinted on the orange version and not the original green.

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Diverse Commandos!

While Jack Kirby was whittling away in the DC shop during the 70's a few titles were trotted out to take full advantage of DC's rich trove of vintage stories. We get two issues of Boy Commandos, a title which once upon a time during the war was as big a seller nearly as Superman and Batman. Above we see a re-purposing of the original artwork by Kirby and Joe Simon for the debut issue of Boy Commandos.

But you'll quickly note several differences. One is the color scheme and another is the addition of a foreground battery of Nazi soldiers. Also missing is the phalanx of aircraft behind the Commandos.
The guns in the foreground though are not by Jack Kirby, nor are they by Joe Simon who was also working at DC at this time. No the editors made use of the consummate talents of Luis Dominguez to render them. It works really well and the styles blend much better than you might expect.

There was only one more issue of this truncated series and for that we get a brand new cover by Carmine Infantino and Joe Orlando. There's an oddness to this one as the figures of the Boy Commandos conform in a strange way to the curvature of the stone arch they are hiding behind. It's not maybe logical but visually it really ties the cover elements together.

Sales alas were not all they might have been and the series ended. It would be a long long time before DC reprinted anymore of these. I'll be taking a look at those this weekend.

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