Sunday, August 20, 2017

100 Days Of The King - Day 92

Jack Kirby clearly loved to draw images of Odin' face. It was a common thing to find a full-page dedicated to the bearded All-Father of all Asgard. Odin seemed to have an endless array of colorful armor and an elaborate helmet or crown for every day. You gotta' do something I guess to while away the time between Odinsleeps until Ragnarok. 

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The Bronze Age Sandman!

When Joe Simon and Jack Kirby ended up working at DC Comics at the same time, it seemed ludicrously obvious that these famed talents should pair up again for some comics. They'd made their bones in the Golden Age at DC and Marvel and other publishers and in many ways had redefined the industry. Now they were poised for a grand swan song and together the put their minds to updating a hero they'd visited before -- The Sandman. Actually it seems despite the great desire of  editor Joe Orlando for the duo to work together there was some resistance by Kirby who mostly didn't work with other writers at this time, but eventually after Jerry Grandenetti's version was rejected, Kirby was pressed into giving the Sandman a go.

The Sandman they created was much different than the swashbuckling Wesley Dodds, this one operated from a mysterioud Dream Dimension, assisted by two grosteques named Brute and Glob, and effectively policed the dreams of folks who became ensnared in the potential dangers that dreams offered.

A little boy named Jed is our hero really, an orphan living with his Grandfather in an isolated lighthouse on Dolphin Island. The boy is caught up in the weird schemes of a former Japanese soldier whose brain had been transformed into a machine and who used hideous dolls to execute his will. The Sandman slides into to save the day of course.

Joe Simon steps away from the feature for all time. Kirby's involvement is limited to covers only on the next two issues after the sales on the debut convinced DC it was worthy to return.

Kirby took up the helm again, this time working with Michael Fleischer to concoct more tales about Sandman and the boy Jed.

There is a fairy tale quality to these yarns, a feel that these light-hearted comics were for younger readers. Jed loses his Grandfather and has to move away from Dolphin Island. He ends up as a Cinderalla-like character living with his Aunt and Uncle and their two odious children. He is disrespected and put upon, but his character remains undimmed.

Even when the Sandman and Jed are drawn into battle with a super-villain named Dr.Spider, they win the day despite some woeful odds. The series is cancelled with its sixth issue, apparently failing to find a large enough audience (though by modern standards I'm sure it would be a monster hit).

A seventh issue was already produced and later appeared in the Best of DC digest comic. The story about Sandman and Jed rescuing Santa Claus is pretty good, but it was better reading it at full size at long last in The Jack Kirby Omnibus Volume 2. All the modern Sandman stories are there save for the two with which neither Simon nor Kirby had any hand.

This one's a really grab bag for Kirby fans.

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Saturday, August 19, 2017

100 Days Of The King - Day 91

Above are four of Jack Kirby's most evil characters. Darksied, Maximus, Loki, and Doctor Doom -- a gallery of fiends if ever there was one. These portraits capture the cold cruel essence of each. The grim confidence of Darkseid, the gleam of madness of Maximus, the leer of command of Loki, and the bored but deadly ennui of Doom all send a shiver.

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The Golden Age Sandman!

While the Boy Commandos were the most successful feature that Simon and Kirby developed in their first stint at DC during the Golden Age, Sandman is arguably the most famous of all. Thanks in no small part to the fame which the character has discovered in modern times with starkly different versions, the Golden Age Sandman is a rich figure who started business as a Green Hornet/Shadow knock-off who had the clever gimmick of inducing sleep.

But that sleepy attitude infected the feature in other ways and quickly the editors were looking for ways to make the dapper hero more action-oriented. So Gardner Fox's classic version gave way to something different.

In the pages of Adventures Comics #72 they gave the Sandman a new costume (gold and purple with a cape) and a new sidekick (Sandy the Golden Boy). The first stories were drawn by Paul Norris of Aquaman fame. Alas the new look didn't seem at first to create much stir.

Then Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, fresh from their highly successful stint on Captain America showed up at DC wanting more money and more credit. They got both and quickly too over at Adventure comics debuting on that comic with issue seventy-four, bringing their signature slam-bang style to Manhunter and the Sandman features. It must've been quite a shocker for fans to suddenly find do much action in what had been a pretty sedate outing before that time.

Simon and Kirby took over the comic and the covers with Sandman getting the majority of them though their run. They had the dynamic duo battle all sorts of misfits, gangster, and villains, all of them with some sort of sleep or dream detail. Reading these stories through, I was struck at how clever the S&S team were in coming up with fresh sleep/dream angles for the heroes to pursue.

The Sandman had a motto which is used in many of the stories, at least early on. "There is no land beyond the law where tyrants rule with unshakeable. It's a dream...from which the evil wakest to face their fate...their terrifying hour. - The Sandman". This mouthful did give the feature a nifty pulp gloss, but as the  golden hero got more comfortable in his super togs he lost the pulp aspects more and more.

Despite the cleverness of the S&S team, one can see they were running out of gas a bit by the end of the feature and so it's likely good that they moved on.

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Joe Simon and Jack teamed up for a final time in the 70's for a brand new spin on their Sandman feature.

It was a fun outing and I'll take a closer look at that one next time.

Pleasant dreams effendis.

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Friday, August 18, 2017

100 Days Of The King - Day 90

Kirby's last great original series was Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers. I'll have much more to say about this often overlooked classic next month, but for  your viewing pleasure here is a favorite splash page of the good Captain himself from the debut issue. The great device on his head gives Victory remote control of his spaceship The Tiger. It doesn't make much sense but it looks cool, like so many Kirby concepts.

Here is that image in glorious black and white with bright shiny inking by Mike Royer. I got the latter to sign my copy several years ago, and he seemed quite happy to see a book he says doesn't come his way very often.

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