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Showing posts from January, 2018

The Living Hulk (Monsterbus p.383)

Another prophetic message, the same message Kirby drives home again and again: do not create beings more intelligent and powerful than yourself!!!
The birth of the Marvel Universe    Here we continue to see the birth of the Marvel Universe: another two parter, and the first Hulk. The next page of the Monsterbus shows a cover that's close to the cover of Fantastic Four 1, and announces a precursor to "The Thing" in the familiar font that would be used for years later. The only difference with Fantastic Four 1 is that it began its own title. Otherwise it simply continued the direction Kirby was already taking.
Layered stories This is a good example of a layered story. On the surface we have a hero with a cliche of the nagging wife. But look at the evidence: she is right. What the man did was irresponsible. This was an electrical machine, not living in the normal sense. He should have alerted the authorities rather than try to immediately revive it.

Even if we decide it was…

Krang (Monsterbus p.369)

This is the fourth movie homage in a row!  First, the Mummy, then Bodysnatchers, then King Kong, and now "Them" and its many imitators (Deadly Mantis, Black Scorpion, etc.). And with his unlimited special effects budget, Kirby does it better!

This is also the first two parter, and (I will argue) a story continued from an earlier issue: a step to the continuous monster stories that became The Marvel Age of Comics. The science In the previous post I said how larger animals become weaker. I explained it because doubling height means four times strength but eight times weight. This story overcomes that problem through continuous growth: the force of each muscle (or equivalent) is increased because it is also pushing against itself as it grows. For example, imagine a leg that had no muscles at all: it could still push, simply by growing. And note that the giant ant does not do anything exceptional, it does not run or jump, it just leans on things.
Another advantage that mini-beas…

Gorgilla (Monsterbus p.360)

Another classic! And it's a beauty: Kirby's version of King Kong, with human evolution as the science topic. Don't be confused by the simple style: this is necessary in order to cram in so much information. This has the same ideas as a two hour movie:

pop culture: this is the third movie homage in a  row, after the Mummy and Invasion of the Body Snatchers human evolution (as understood in the 1950s)uncharted jungles (uncharted in the 1950s that is)Borneo: how many westerners think about Borneo at all?dinosaursconflicts (poisoned arrows, apex predators)ethics (leave them alone)and more
And all in six pages (after the splash page), and can be read in under five minutes! This is why I love comics, and Kirby comics in particular: they are the most efficient means to spread amazing ideas.
Kirby the prophet Kirby has the missing link found in Borneo. Decades later, an actual missing link was found in another island in the chain, Flores. And this one was also of a radically differ…

A Martian Walks Among Us (Monsterbus p.353)

This is an excellent take on the shape changing aliens trope: full of tension and big ideas (what would YOU do?) But I think Lee has weakened it, as he often does, by narrowing the scope and changing the ending.
Narrowing the scope.  Lee's influence is often seen at the start and end of these stories. The start has Lee's classic lines "Why? Why?" Something like that is often seen at the start. It's familiar from the Fantastic Four as well, when we compare the text to the art. The art will show many reasons for tension, but the text will choose just one and emphasise that. Because it was Lee's job to adapt these stories for children. Crucially, Lee's text is redundant, and does not add to the story. He just takes the most obvious thing we can already see from the art and repeats it. "Why? Why?"

That is what I mean by narrowing the scope. The art on the first page shows a man surrounded by menacing creatures. So we would naturally ask, who are the…

Gomdulla (Monsterbus p.345)

Kirby's story is interesting and different. But Lee's text tries to make it dull and the same.
Text versus art.  Look at the last page, where the mummy lies on the floor. Look at the font size, compared with other pages. See how much is squashed into the panel - so much that the word balloon extends into the next panel. Compare this to other pages, or to pure Kirby stories (i.e. after 1970): Kirby does not plan his panels so badly. 
Also notice that this panel and the next one introduce information not even hinted at before. That is bad writing, a bad conclusion. Kirby's art does not do that: no hint of aliens in the pictures. In short, the art and the final edited text are different, so once again we must look at them separately. Bad text.  First, let's dismiss the text. The text opens by saying the creature is a pharaoh. But clearly he is not: what pharaoh was ever twenty feet tall? The text says his power is the greatest on Earth. This is not true, as he is defeated…

Gor-KIll (Monsterbus p.337)

What was the legend of Gor-kill before the water creature appeared and was given the name? This story is set near Krakow, so the name is probably Polish: "Gor" is Polish for hot and "kil" means keel. They called their legend "hot keel". You can imagine the rest. You are far out to sea in a wooden boat. At the mercy of nature. You notice that the bottom of your boat is growing hot. What is under the water??? Nobody ever knows. Something attacks the boat, and nobody survives. It happens again,. Sailors speak in dread of the hot keel: it means you are all dead.  The terror has begun.

I love how the story is about astrobiology. The idea that a gas cloud could drift into our atmosphere and react with water is wild, yet plausible! After all, water itself is made of two gases. What biological molecules could have been in that cloud? We now know that biological molecules are common in deep space. Kirby the prophet predicted this, and took it to the next level: wh…

Kirby as an artist

The next story ends with this image:

Notice anything? When reading this (January 2018) people were discussing the upcoming publication of Kirby's adaptation of The Prisoner. Here is the splash page. Notice a similarity?.

Yep. the stretched arms and torso. Kirby was famous for adding extreme muscle, bone and sinew to his action shots: distorting the body to reflect the mind. Here he does the same with mental topics. The first prisoner is stretching, tensing against the bars. His arms are drawn longer. The second prisoner is trying to escape yet there are no bars: his prison is psychological, his battle is in the mind. His body is stretching, contorting.

We see the same "bad art" in 2001: the story is about extremes of reality, of stretching contorting ideas, or death and rebirth in infinite forms, and the faces and bodies stretch accordingly. We see the same in New Gods and in Captain Victory: extreme mental states contort the face and body. In fact, we saw this in the p…

Groot (Monsterbus p.329)

This is probably the most famous character in the book, and illustrates the difference between a novel and superhero story. The original Groot story is like a novel: the characters change. In superhero stories they do not change. They may appear to change, but all change is then reversed, so there's no reason to care.

When Groot was brought into superhero comics he had to lose any elements that would make him or others change: he lost his deadly aggression, his overwhelming power, his need to attract wood, his role as ruler of the planet, and so on, while gaining conventional superpowers for conventional "nothing really changes" stories.

As for this story, it has the hallmark of a Kirby story: real world science. It got me thinking about termite biology!

At first I thought termites could never cause so much damage so quickly, but a little research showed that how much damage termites do is a simple function of the size and maturity of the colony. Kirby made clear that th…

The Abominable Snowman (Monsterbus p.323)

Superb! Another Kirby classic:

Exotic locations (Calcutta, the Himalayas). Exciting activities, (cliff edge railways, mountain climbing), Conflict of different kinds (violence, threats), Strong passions driving the story forwards,Ancient legends (both the snowman and the curse),Educational details (referencing the language Hindi; the Tibetan costume)A powerful message: how greed can turn a man into a monster Note the differences between a Kirby twist ending and a Lee twist ending (see the Lee-Ditko stories for more examples of the latter):  With a Lee twist, that's the whole story. Without the twist ending there is no story. That is, the story only really has one idea and once you see it, or if you've seen something similar before) then the story loses any interest. In contrast, with a Kirby twist, the story works even without it: every page is satisfying. This story could have ended like the novel Frankenstein, with the protagonist fading into the icy distance. The final twist …

The Return of Taboo (Monsterbus p.315)

This looks like a story commanded by Stan Lee. That is, Kirby produced the original story, Lee liked it and told Kirby to bring the character back. But Kirby didn't like the idea so he didn't put much effort into it. Here is my evidence:
The original story is by Kirby: rich and thought provoking as usual.This story also has Kirby touches - like the dramatic and interesting way that Taboo reforms. That has to be by Kirby.But bringing him back is a crazy idea, so it must be by Lee (Kirby doesn't do crazy stuff like that): how does somebody survive a hydrogen bomb??? A hydrogen bomb is far more powerful than a regular atom bomb! It wouldn't just separate the mud into small pieces, it would separate every molecule!  Kirby would only do this if forced to do so.Kirby would not continue this story if he had a choice. Because the story has nowhere to go: this character can survive a hydrogen bomb, and has already shown he cannot be reasoned with. So the only hope is to contact …

The Things From Nowhere (Monsterbus p.309)

This looks like a story Kirby outlined very quickly. The pacing is very slow, and does nothing other than pull you toward a twist ending, the kind that can be predicted from page one. Stan Lee's trademark dialog is throughout: very simple exposition, questions that repeat phrases, and explaining everything for young children.

"Big thing turns out to be small" is a classic Stan Lee idea: Jim Steranko tells a story of when Lee told him to come up with a plot. He said Lee made a suggestion of a story about aliens landing on a planet, and the planet turns out to be a child's balloon. Steranko didn't think that was much of a plot, and didn't use it. But it's typical of the Lee-Ditko twist ending stories.

Design wise, the splash page is another giveaway: the title leaves acres of space, and that isn't how Kirby designs things. This story misses most of the eight signs of a Kirby plot. Either Kirby was laying out a story suggested by someone else, or he crea…

Bomba (Monsterbus p.302)

Another triumph from Kirby! But it looks like Lee ruined the ending again.

First, the good news: this is (in my opinion) a classic.

A fresh new idea, a completely different kind of monster, a new exotic location, great art, a story driven by personality: Bomba was irritated by American attitudes, and it was this, not any hurry to conquer the earth, that drove the story. rational heroesand real brain food: why do we assume that aliens will target Americans or Europeans? This alien preferred the company of Amazonian people. 
This is an excellent example of how Kirby writes: he described his method in interviews: he would immerse himself in a situation without any plan, and let the situation dictate what happened next. This story is like that, it really feels believable and natural to me. I love every frame!

Now the bad news: the ending is obviously changed. The final panel art is not how Kirby drew planets. And the final dialog is classic Stan Lee: it adds nothing, merely restating what …

Sporr (Monsterbus p.294)

Superb! Some of the recent stories showed evidence of editing, or of being hurried. But this is Kirby at his best! It has seven of the eight signs of a Kirby story (the missing one, no text before the title, is optional anyway). There is so much in this!

The start of Dracula, and its rich locationFrankenstein references and movie motifs (the villagers with pitchforks were not in the book IIRC). Real creativity: not just an alien or conventional monster - it has no brain or desireReal science: amoebas exist, and Kirby even gives them their correct phylum, protozoa.More science: how the amoeba does not have a brain but simply reacts.More science: how experiments must progress slowly, step by step.The name: "sporr" is of course a "spore"Adding the phylum is one of many indications that the dialog is not significantly edited by Lee. Other indications include:the lack of "explain the obvious" textthe general sparse efficiency of the textthe amount of text fits …

I Dared to Look Into The Beyond (Monsterbus p.288)

This is a clear example of the art contradicting the final text. The splash page suggests horror, and the final page shows a primitive world. Kirby would certainly know of H.G. Wells' "The Time Machine" , and there are plenty of Kirby stories that show a concern with nuclear destruction. So it all points to a future where mankind has wiped itself out, or died off in some other way. But then the final text tries to be upbeat, as if the entire human race had left the planet just five years later. But why would everybody leave? And why is there no evidence of cities or other human influence? And why scratch the message on a rock, if mankind was so advanced, why not at least create a shiny plinth?

Almost certainly this is an apocalyptic story. But it appears that Lee as editor wanted to make it upbeat for children (that was his role in Goodman's business, to make stories suitable for young children). so he removed the story's teeth.

The original story, then, was of …

Monstrom (Monsterbus p.281)

This is more like it! Better art, a more believable story, and it's well told: plenty of human interest and excitement. And a good moral: at no point did the creature ever threaten them. Of course, they couldn't take the chance. This was not a moral failing, but a simple measure of technology: the people had no way to protect themselves except through primitive violence. A nice story to remember and think about.

Note that both this and the previous story have elements that were later used in the Fantastic Four: the Watcher's sky full of fire (FF 48) and the silent Creature From the Lost Lagoon with his broken spaceship underwater.

Dragoom (Monsterbus p.273)

Frankly, this story does nothing for me. To my eyes the art looks rushed (the main character in particular), so I will conclude that the story was as well.

It does make sense to an extent: the only thing this being fears is other beings from his home planet, so that is the only way to defeat him. And the idea that a top monster movie maker might have reasonable looking flame dummies, that is plausible. But otherwise I can't get excited about this story. Moving on...

I Unleashed Shagg (Monsterbus p. 265)

As usual Kirby chooses just the right name. "Shag" (also translated "shab") meant "assistant king" in ancient Mesopotamia.  ",,,the names on many of these fresh seals are those of the crown princes of Mesopotamia of Sargon's dynasty who latterly became emperors, the title which these bear in many of their seals is not " king " or " emperor," but " Under-King Companion," in the form of Shag-man, Shab-man, or Sha-man.  The first element in this title, namely, Shag, Shab or Sha, is very interesting. Its pictograph [,,,] represents and means " Heart " ; and its secondary meaning is " interior, midst, within," and also " below, lower, under " (source) "Shag" is also a part of very ancient Sumerian king names like  Lugal-shag-engur (ruler of Lagash, 2500 BC) and En-shag-kushana (ruler of Uruk around the same time). Often translated "Shak" which would explain the double &qu…

The Cyclops (Monsterbus p.257)

The very rushed art makes me think the writing was rushed as well. It does include a real world legend - the story of Ulysses, and that suggests a Kirby story. But the details are otherwise cliches: the woman who can't marry the man until he earns her respect, the convenient coincidence that creates the problem and the other coincidence that solves it. My guess is that Kirby just did rough layouts, and his heart was not in this story. 

Some of the dialog sounds like Stan Lee to me: for example, the very simple language, phrases like  "but the Cyclops was not dead!", general sloppiness (the Cyclops refers to "my eyes") and the ending that repeats the same phrase, and so on.

Moving on...

Titano (Monsterbus p.249)

Here, Kirby the prophet asks us to consider the power of nature. What do you do with a problem that is too big for mankind's usual responses? Answer: find its natural needs (in this case, chasing things) and work with those, not against them.

Titano, the unstoppable force of nature, works as a metaphor for global warming. We have to look at what motivates our desires, rather than shooting some new carbon-beating missile at it. Note the ending: as long as the ice caps are frozen, mankind is safe. But if those ice caps completely melt then we are in big trouble.

And note the historical touch: Titano, the unstoppable, ends by hitting an iceberg.

The ending may seem unrealistic after such a superbly realistic beginning. But we must remember that Kirby is presenting a dramatised story. The final frames, tricking the creature into becoming trapped in ice, can be seen as a summary of a much longer and slower process. Nuclear submarines were famous for being able to navigate beneath arcti…

The Strange Power of Simon Drudd (Monsterbus p.244)

Today, research continues into halting ageing. Kirby the prophet has three warnings for us:
growing young implies not youth, but age: gaining knowledge over centuries;immortality increases inequality, so the younger people cannot compete;a thought experiment: let's imagine we had complete control over ageing, while retaining memories. What happens when you get younger and younger, become a baby, then don't stop? Your memories survive, but where? Even if we don't go to that extreme, the fact that the mind can survive in different bodies shows that the body does not matter, it is merely a vehicle. What other vehicles might we use for the kind? Kirby makes us think.

Taboo (Monsterbus p.236)

I love the names Kirby uses. For example, in other stories, "Grottu" and "Groot" are probably derivatives of "grotesque", meaning ancient paintings found in grottos (with the implication of being mysterious, damaged, but opening up strange new worlds). Here we have the actual word "taboo". It fits so well!

The word "taboo" comes from the Tongan "tabu man" whose job was to instruct people in the rules of how to behave around sacred things. In general, a "tabu" thing must be left alone and not spoken of except with extreme care. Captain Cook was assigned a local priest, a tabu man, to accompany him when he explored the islands. The whole idea of Cook and Tabu was of an alien visitor (Cook) who might bring ether wonderful knowledge or great danger.

Taboo claimed to have secret or dangerous knowledge - that is, sacred knowledge. He was ready to teach the humans the correct use of that dangerous knowledge. He said this k…

They Called Me A Witch (Monsterbus p.234)

I would have dismissed this as just a predictable one-note twist in the tale, except Kirby adds so much more richness. We have:

historical truth (the nature of Salem), social truth (jealousies that cause people to hurt others) more than one age old human conflict (plain versus pretty, old ideas versus new, rationalism versus superstition). a strong female hero - that alone is enough to say this is a Kirby story and not a Lee story.  All these things make it engrossing, fascinating, stimulating, real. So when we come to the final twist this arouses real thought. We assumed the villagers were bad just because their beliefs seem very old fashioned. And worse, we assume the hero was good because she was pretty. So Kirby reminds us that old fashioned does not automatically mean wrong, and being pretty is a very poor guide to moral character. As for the accuser being motivated by jealousy, we could just as easily say that the man was motivated by lust: the story makes us question our assumpt…

The Return of the Martian (Monsterbus p.224)

This is another interesting case for the Marvel Method. I think we can clearly separate Kirby's original from the edits, and it shows some hints of the more famous Marvel comics to come (serials, partly re-written by Lee)

Caveat: this is purely based on my reading of the reprints. I haven't seen the original pencils, so I could be proven wrong. But here is my evidence.
Wanting continuous stories: First, this is one of two stories in the same month that attempt to bring back a previous monster. This is the first time I've seen it in the Monsterbus, and it will happen again (most notably with Ant Man in 1962). Most monsters are not suited to returning because they either die or are very specific, so I wonder if this is a sign that Kirby was looking for a continuous hit. It wasn't Lee's idea, as he ruined it (see below). Kirby was trying to create a continuous monster comic, which is how the Fantastic Four started out.
A few added Stan Lee captions Second, this starts…

Return of the Genie (Monsterbus p.217)

Compare this Kirby genie story to the non-Kirby genie story.* This is so much better. These situations seem bigger, more interesting, more vivid to me. But the biggest difference (to me) is the prophetic message. I find the ending is quite profound.

Superficially, the ending has the genie just learn his lesson.  But see how the dialog is squashed in the final frames. This is very common. It is usually because Stan Lee's job, he said, was to keep the comics very simple for kids, and you don't want them to leave confused. In this case the ending dialogue may also be an effort not to offend the Comics Code. The Code did not allow bad guys to win. So the dialog stresses how he learned his lesson. But that contradicts the guy's personality: this idiot never, ever blames himself or jumps to rational conclusions. He would be scheming about how to win better next time.

I think Kirby's original ending was more nuanced. I think the genie's experience in space would make him …

Diablo! ...from the Fifth Dimension! (Monsterbus p.209)

This story really made me think. It's obviously a Kirby plot (see the previous checklist) but the ending seemed odd: how could such a small act scare such a big enemy? And why had the enemy not seen regular smoke before?

As usual with Kirby stories, the solution is to look closer. With Kirby, careful thought is always rewarded with increased pleasure. So think what we know about this enemy. To understand the being from the fifth dimension, imagine yourself invading a two dimensional world. Here is your head passing through such a world:

This explains everything about the smoke monster and his behaviour:
His ever changing shapeHis lack of concern over size: he knows a puff of cigarette smoke might be a full size smoke monster.His confidence. The two dimensional world cannot even see most of his body, so cannot hurt him.His ignorance. He does not know the first thing about this world (e.g. that we have smoke), just as a non medically trained person would not understand the cross sect…

Gorgolla! The Living Gargoyle!! (Monsterbus p.201)

This is typical mind expanding, delightful Kirby fare. I learned something heer: I assumed that gargoyles were mostly a feature of medieval French architecture, but Kirby informs me that they exist throughout the world. Wikipedia confirms this: ancient Egypt and ancient Greece also had gargoyles, typically in the form of lions.

Realism matters to Kirby. He had the instruction to come up with monster stories, so instead of endless Martians he looked for real monsters.

This is wonderful stuff as usual: some of the most dramatic locations in the world and spectacular world history crammed into just seven pages.

Kirby the Prophet is seen in the climax: how do you defeat such a heartless creature? You let his heartlessness work against him. Show his supporters that you can offer them a better life. The same principle works against all madmen and tyrants. But it turns the focus back to ourselves: we have to be able to offer a better life! If we are not much better then the real problem is n…

The Martian Stole my Body (Monsterbus p.193)

This is a charming tale, and shows how Kirby is at home with heartwarming stories about platonic friendship. It's also well constructed, with the dog fulfilling dual roles (leading the hero into the action, then solving the problem in the end). And it shows that Kirby understands dogs!

This blog is "Kirby the Prophet" because even in a charming tale like this there's a serious message about the future of humanity, and it acts as a prophecy of the future. This is a story of identity theft. If somebody steals all your details and makes everybody online think that YOU did certain things, what can you do? And the answer is in community relations: the more that people know you in everyday life, the harder it is for somebody to completely imitate you.

And like all Kirby stories, this raises serious philosophical questions: what exactly is identity? At some future date we will be able to replace every part of a human with a better technological version: cars begin to replac…

I Am The Genie (Monsterbus p.179)

This is another simple twist tale story, where the previous pages are merely there to delay said twist. So was probably not by Kirby. Or rather, Kirby was probably told to very quickly do layouts. That is, to invent the story without putting much thought into it. The detail would be added by Ditko and possibly Lee or whoever.

I find it hard to care about this story because so much is from the point of view of a highly unattractive individual. But the saving grace is the genie himself: he is somebody I can care about.

Monstro (Monsterbus p.186)

A classic! I love it! I don't have time to expound on eveything that's good here, so will just choose one element before discussing technical matters.

Usually in a story where a hero keeps a secret it's contrived, merely to extend the story artificially. Usually in such stories the problem could be solved by the hero just telling people what he was doing, But this one actually makes sense: the Russians had to pretend they were not doing nuclear tests, but the hero could not admit he knew that they were. This makes sense. It is a classic Kirby touch: historically accurate and intellectually both stimulating and satisfying.

The missing link with Fantastic Four 1 Monstro (Tale of Suspense 8, March 1960) seems to me to be the missing link between the Challengers and Fantastic Four. I think it shows an important step in Lee forcing himself onto Kirby's work.

I could write a long essay comparing the Challengers, Monstro and the FF, but fortunately for longsuffering readers I…

Grottu, King of the Insects (Monsterbus p.172)

This is Kirby at his best.!
Exotic locations,learn about the natural world (soldier ants and how they differ from others)learn about the human world (what it's like to live near soldier ants)cold war politics and economics (making secret deals to test atom bombs in poorer countries)atom bombs and their effects (think of the poor villagers, so near the blast!)radiation and its effects (a key Kirby theme)statistics (out of billions of ants only one was mutated. We don't know how many billions died.)a serious puzzle to solve (how can you stop such a creature with the limited tools available?), racing against the clocka thought provoking, realistic solutionspectacle! (giant ant, running across rooftops, etc)realistic restraint (don't have an army of giant ants when just one will do)etc., etc. And so much to think about:
All the ant did is what we would have doneHe must be so lonelyParallels with how humans might think about defeating a more powerful force (machine, emperor, natu…

I Planted the Seeds of Doom (Monsterbus p.165)

Imagine a world where we could visit other planets in a matter of hours. In other words, faster than light travel is perfected. This changes everything: there's no need for vastly expensive space probes, just send people there and see what they find. Just like exploring some new archipelago of islands in the seventeenth century. With faster than light travel we have literally billions of planwets to choose from, so we can afford to only viksit those with air and Earth-like life. What an idea!

For a moment I wondered if this was a Kirby story: maybe the faster than light implication was an accident? if so then this might seem a one note idea with a twist ending. But after checking my checklist (which of course cannot be wrong) and listening to my gut: this is good enough to be mostly Kirby: it has: the seventeenth century explorers vibethe faster than light ideaplant based animals"enemies" who may simply be trying to surviveeconomics and unexpected resultsa problem solved …

I Fought The Molten Man Thing (Monsterbus p.159)

Classic Kirby: a Kirby fire creature, and the problem of working out what it is and then working out how to stop him. Plus an interesting location, and the likelihood that the creature meant no harm. Nice brain food.

NB the colouring on the original cover is MUCH better. Modern colouring is garish and unrealistic, losing the power of the realism of the story.

Here is the reprint. It's maybe not obvious, but on shiny paper the monster has bright reds, the fire is bright yellow, the man in the green coat has a bright green coat, etc.

And here is the original. The colours are more subdued, they blend into each other more, you could be looking at an actual photo of a real event,

There are much clearer examples than this on other covers, but this will do. The original went for realism, not silliness. These were days when monsters (H-bombs, wars affecting American soil) were real, not silly.
Lee's influence has made comics silly, and we now extend that attitude back to the past. Rev…

I Fought The Colossus (Monsterbus p.147)

Eight ways to spot a Kirby story:
More than a twist: The plot does not ONLY rely on a twist at the end. It is satisfying even without the last panel.Kirby did the layouts.Description above the title.
Kirby's stories were richer so needed the extra introduction: see Challengers, New Gods, Eternals, etc.Every page is rewarding.
There's something new and interesting on every page: it doesn't merely tease the ending.Reality: The story is based on science, or history, or something else from the real world.How would I defeat...?
The story has you thinking how to beat a new threat. And the solution is something that would work in the real world. Kirby said in interviews that he got a kick out of thinking up some wild new threat and then thinking "how would I beat it?"The dialog fits the art.
The amount of dialog does not look squashed in awkwardly: it is roughly what the artist (Kirby) intended.Originality.
The story is either original, or has not been used for a couple of ye…

The Luna Lizards (Monsterbus p.135)

The moon in 1966. Permanent settlers in 1970. It would have been possible if we had a less destructive economy. I'm still working on my replacement for so our amazing potential is very much on my mind.

As for the enemy, Kirby fought in the war. He knew that enemies are very much like us. 

All this and the wonder of discovering a new world and new life. So much to enjoy in a typical five pages of Kirby!

The Great God Pan (Monsterbus p.131)

I love learning stuff from Kirby: this story is just an excuse to talk about mythology, a favourite Kirby topic. The stuff about the battle with the Titans, and Pan defeating the Persians at Marathon? It's basically true. And I am an elitist snob: I think everyone should know about the battle of Marathon!

Even the idea of shaving someone to humiliate them, that's authentic. That's how the nymphs embarrassed Pan once, according to Philostratus the Elder.
A poke at Stan Lee? Here's some wild speculation: take this with a pinch of salt. But in the absence of any other evidence I'm calling it.

The story "The Great God Pan" (Tales to Astonish 6) is an odd beast. In brief, a man mocks old paintings in order to impress a girl. He focuses in particular on a painting of Pan. The art gallery guide tells the story of Pan, the man leaves, and the next thing we know is some time later: the man has lost his hair. It's a punishment from Pan, and the guide must have …

The Menace of the Purple Planet (Monsterbus p.125)

Six ways to spot a Kirby plot:Kirby did the layouts.Something new and interesting on every pageThe story based on science, or something else from the real world.The amount of dialog fits the art. It doesn't look verbose or squashed.The plot does not rely heavily on a twist at the end. There might be a surprising twist, sure, but the story will still be satisfying without it.The story is fairly original. If it's an old idea it won't have featured for a couple of years at least. I don't think the Purple Planet story is a Kirby plot. Or if it is, he's either very tired, not putting his heart in, or is highly edited. It's just the plot of The Day The Earth Stood Still, plus the tired old trope that the robot is the real life form and his human-like companion was just a puppet. It breaks all the five rules. Nothing to see here.

The Things on Easter Island (Monsterbus p.118)

The real statues (the moai) of Easter Island are indeed whole bodies. They are the spirits of ancestors: they watch over the villages and other areas of importance. They come from a different time: that is, a different world. What the English call "Earth" was a different planet then, without modern technology, before the Europeans conquered every last corner of this globe. In the story the moai call this other planet, this lost golden age,  "lithodia rex". From the Greek "litho" for stone and "rex" for king: a time when the stone men were kings and as long as they survived nothing could harm the people.

The statues were toppled in few years after the Europeans destroyed the culture of the native rapa nui people. To the indigenous population most earthlings were aliens: stranger, hostile, advanced, innumerable, from far away. This invasion from the rest of Earth caused the people to be enslaved. They lost their freedom, their authority, their pri…

A Giant Walks the Earth (Monsterbus p.110)

My wife and I are both tall - our average height is 6 foot 4. As a tall woman she sometimes has bad experiences with short men who blame their height for their problems. But as somebody who has benefited greatly from being tall* (e.g. finding my gorgeous wife) I do have some sympathy for them. Yes, people are judged by their height, and no, it is not fair. So this story hits home for me.

I mentioned before how Kirby stories generally have two hallmarks: first, a grounding in science or nature. The fact that lack of air would be fatal to a sufficiently large giant is a detail that other writers don't consider. For example, years later in Fantastic Four 271 John Byrne wrote a homage to the Kirby monster stories. Byrne also had an ever growing giant. I won't spoil it with how the giant was defeated, but Byrne didn't worry that a monster would defeat himself by his need to breathe.
(To be fair, Kirby didn't cover the other aspects of growing - conservation of mass, being t…

One of Our Spacemen is Missing! (Monsterbus p.103)

Today I read this story along with the second Judge Death story from Judge Dredd (from case files volume 5). Such a contrast! Judge Death is typical of hero comics: Judge Dredd decides to follow Judge Death and his friends into their alien death dimension, despite not having any plan. And thanks to being tough as nails (and having a sexy female sidekick who is in touch with feelings)  Dredd defeats the bad guys. Classic comic book heroics! None of it makes any sense.*

But see the contrast with Kirby: in real space exploration you take care. You take readings, You realise that alien worlds are ALIEN to our expectations. You act slowly and cautiously! This makes Kirby's work so real. You can invest your attention into a Kirby story because it works, it's like really being there. Kirby rewards your effort. Kirby describes space exploration as it really is: instruments and patience, not idiot jocks.

*To be fair, the whole Dredd thing is just about crazy ideas, and doesn't take…

Three stories not plotted by Kirby?

"Menace From Mars" (Monsterbus p.85), "The World That Was Lost" (p.91), and "To Build a Robot" (p.96) don't read like Kirby plots to me. There are at least two hallmarks of any Kirby tale:

(1) Each is based on something that matters: either important new science or some important aspect of nature (human or otherwise).

(2) Each is full of good stuff: every page has something new and interesting, so that the stories are rewarding, even if you miss the ending.

But these three stories are different, and much weaker in my view. The Lost World and Robot stories are tired cliches: wheelchair user is a mermaid; robot hater is a robot. And they do nothing except build up to the last panel: if the last panel doesn't grab you then the whole story is a waste (breaking rule 2). The Mars story is not quite that bad, but is just annoyingly dumb in my view: not something that a scientifically curious person like Kirby could either design or enjoy. Any civilisatio…

The Terrible Time Machine (Monsterbus p.78)

No matter the technology, the bigger problem is our desire to fight and steal. This is why I don't spend my time on technology like so many other people on the autism spectrum, And hence why I am financially poor despite excellent school grades and an interest in programming. Because some things are more important.

Sorry to talk about my pet hobby again. But I am working on my latest rewrite, and such things weigh heavily on my mind.

God, I love Kirby's work.

I Fly to the Stars! (Monsterbus p.74)

Time dilation. The wonders of the universe. How this affects our personal relationships. A metaphor for anyone who discovers something that others find hard to accept. Like, say, leaving the religion your family love.

This is mind expanding, serious, powerful Kirby stuff. This is why I started reading comics as a child, to learn about the real world in the most amazing way possible. This is why I still read Kirby today.

Test Pilot (Monsterbus p.65)

Classic Kirby! The wonders of the universe! So much to wonder and marvel at, and classic Kirby imagery. For example, the first page perspective shot and the meteor shots will be seen again in the Fantastic Four several times. This story isn't about a final panel twist, this is about the honest wonder and glory of the real world! I love it.

But this blog is about Kirby the prophet, and that is where it becomes sad. The story is written for publication in 1959, and set in 2089, 130 years later. That was plenty of time to develop near light speed travel, if we had fixed our economy, focusing on growth rather than war. But we chose not to. it is now 2018. We are almost halfway: 60 years on. And we effectively gave up on space travel long ago, so we probably won't make it.

it is 2018. The last people who walked on the moon are now old men, dying off one by one.  We could have reached the stars. But we chose greed (and hence poverty) instead.