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About Kirby The Prophet

Jack Kirby was America's greatest writer. In my opinion.

He sold 600 million books (around 2000 stories, averaging around 300k sales each). For the claim that others wrote his work, see the analysis of Fantastic Four 1. Kirby's stories have a greater range, and a greater depth, than any other writer I know. He presented ideas as seeds: seeds that grow and grow after the story ends. This is what Kirby said on the topic:
I was presenting my views to the reader and saying 'what do YOU think?' I think that's an imperative for any writer. In other words, no writer should feel that he has the last word on any subject. Because he hasn't got the capacity. He doesn't know! I don't know, see, I'm guessing as well as you [do], except I may be a little more descriptive, that's all. [...] I put enough chinks into the story to allow the reader to interpret it his way.  Because I've always respected the reader. [...] I sold the best stories I could. But I d…
Recent posts

Spragg (Monsterbus p.664)

Just a quick review: I only have 5 minutes. After the last post (the origin of Marvel) the Spragg story is a good opportunity to stand back and see what Kirby was doing with these monster stories.

Kirby said in interviews that he enjoyed thinking up strange new dangers, and then thinking up how to defeat them. This is an exercise in intelligence: what might go wrong, at an abstract level, and how could one person then then solve it? All simplified for children, and made symbolic through monsters. It is also a prophetic message: be prepared for all possible futures! Is this what we are causing through out thoughtless actions? (see my previous comments on the Internet as a monster that might enslave and replace us)

Spragg is a brilliant concept: if life evolved in a gas cloud, or in liquid magma, then it would make far greater use of electromagnetic fields. That is, what we call brain waves, or with more energy, magnetic or electrostatic repulsion. Such a creature would not need arms or…

The lost origins of Marvel

We are now at 1961 in the Monsterbus. This is when Kirby created "Marvel Comics" as we now know them. I will blog about each detail when I cover each issue, but here is a quick overview. If this seems one sided, or overly critical of Kirby's editor, I refer the reader to my book, The Case For Kirby.
Timeline The exact dates don't matter except as a memory aid, an easy way to remember the stories and how they were changed. If any reader can prove beyond doubt that the dates and events should be different then I will happily update the blog. But this is really about the stories.
1960: planning We have seen in the Monsterbus how Kirby was trying longer stories, and characters who would be suitable for serial adventures.
Early 1961: all the major charactersIn early 1961 Kirby went to Goodman with an armful of presentations. This included; the FF, Spider-Man, the Hulk, the X-Men, Ant Man, Iron Man, Sgt. Fury, Thor, and perhaps other characters. Kirby had been prepping the…

Googam (Monsterbus p.638)

It looks like the Lee told Kirby to "bring back Goom" or in this case "the son on Goom". Then at the end Lee asked the readers if they wanted Googam to come back yet again (spoiler: they didn't). I don't know why Lee liked the character, but Goom was not a great character for continued stories, and Kirby evidently knew it. This is the kind of story you write when you don't want to write a story. On to the next one.

Magneto (Monsterbus p.624)

This is Kirby's version of "Of Mice And Men". Except Kirby's Lenny is more like the real Lenny would be: no friend to look after him, and he lashes out more savagely. And it is his own (not George's) best laid plans (of mice and men) that give him hope, and ultimately come to nothing. Note the symbolism of magnetism: Hunk could not attract anyone to him, he was always alone.

This is a thought provoking tale that stays with you. Because it is two opposite stories in one. The first is troubling, the second heart breaking.
The surface story   On the surface it's a story of goodness and decency. Hunk wants to help a random stranger. And although he is taken advantage of, the authorities are decent and good, showing that the mass of men are also decent and good. Not only do they understand and forgive his problem (it was not his fault really), but they give him the greatest gift a man could ever have: a rocket to the stars, that will let him try planet after plane…

Rommbu (Monsterbus p.610)

I love the beginning (how he became a fugitive) and dramatic ending of this story. And the middle is OK too. Superb writing!
The prophetic message Nothing hidden here! We evolved to put survival of our species before everything else. The name Oskar Romm was a Nazi flying ace in WWII, who shot down 92 other planes. Unusually for a Nazi, he was half Jewish!
Science, engineering Geology, the Polaris missile
Foreshadowing the superheroes Alien stops the train (FF 73), invading saucer has horns (FF 2), bad guy redeems himself through suicide that saves others (FF 51) and no doubt many other parallels.  Kirby as writer, always The heroic death motif has been wrongly identified as a sign of Lee's writing (see the Comics Journal Library volume 1). 
But as Patrick Ford and others have shown (and we will get to in time) Kirby's solo writing shows plenty of heroic deaths. Kirby fought on the front lines in WWII and war dominated his thinking, so obviously there would be heroic deaths!

As…

Gruto (Monsterbus p.596)

And another superb, original tale. For a change, with a woman as the real hero, subverting the old "man impresses girl" trope. The planet name "pacion" in pacion rex means "grazing" in Latin, or could be a variation on peace (pax) or even passion, or something else.
Kirby the prophet At first it seem silly that discovering an alien is not a big enough story for a reporter to keep his job, but the first panel (after the splash page) explicitly states that this is about the cold war. So it's best to se this alien as a metaphor for an alien in the sense of foreigner: if you found a Russian in 1961, what would you do? Becoming friends could have perhaps ended the cold war sooner, or certainly helped share new ideas.

The Return of Gorgilla (Monsterbus p.582)

The previous Gorgilla story was essentially the first half of King Kong. So, instructed to bring him back, Kirby did the second half. Except Kirby gives the creature more dignity: he is never captured. The story is notable for the endless variety of Kirby's creations (and of course the beautiful set piece art). I think this may be the first time we've seen a monster be quite this gentle and innocent. After more than sixty stories Kirby still comes up with something new.

This is interesting for what it confirms about the relationship between Kirby and his editor, Lee. Nothing major here, but we don't have access to their conversations and Kirby's original un-erased pencil notes, so all evidence is useful.

First, this is the "return of" and says it's by popular demand. The timing suggest this is probably true: there is enough time for fan mail to come in. So this was requested by Lee.

Second, the splash page is simply the cover, re-coloured. Either Kirby wa…