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Showing posts from March, 2018

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…

Metallo (Monsterbus p.568)

This story is a good example of Kirby's prophetic power, and how it's undermined by Lee.  A prophet, you will recall, is someone who speaks eternal truths. Those truths typically feature enemies and the future, and typically tell us to hold our nerve and do the right thing even when faced with terrifying threats. See for example the Old Testament prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, etc.).

Here Kirby is telling us that, if we cannot reach a threat, don't worry: if it is evil then the evil will destroy itself from within eventually. This is because what we call "good" is simply what works in the long run. Our ancestors called theft and violence and aggressive isolation evil because they weaken the tribe. So anybody who relies on theft and violence and aggressive isolation will inevitably be weaker. In this example, a man who cuts himself off from society finds he needs healthcare. And to emphasise the point, his disease is almost certainly caused by…

Grogg (Monsterbus p.554)

We are back to classic Kirby, and the prophet does it again, though probably not intentionally. Grog is slang for alcohol. Russia has a history of alcoholism: 20 percent of Russian men die from alcohol related causes, compared with 6% globally. Kirby wrote this story in 1961, and Russia had just made a great attempt to defeat alcoholism in 1958. But when life is hard, people turn to drink. So just as in the story, in the real wold the harsh Russian life brought the demon Grogg back to life. This ends up helping the west maintain technological superiority: a workforce with a serious drink problem will find it harder to develop world class industries. Grogg makes the men weaken and give up one by one, just as with alcohol.

This story is also full of those other Kirby pleasures, science and culture. He shows us the scientific method: in placing plants in a test region to see how they fare. He expands the mind: until I researched this story I didn't even know atomic gardening existed!…

The return of the Hulk (Monsterbus p.540)

It's been a while since we saw Stan Lee's fingerprints on a story. But there are all over this one. Take Lee's trademark repetition, which appears whenever tension is high. Here the tension beings on page 6:
(p.6): "None of you shall escape the mighty hulk! None of you!"
(p.8) "Where did it go? Where?"
(p.10) "I was wrong! Deadly wrong!"
(p.11) "My plan must work! It must!!"
(p.12) "Which one would it be? Which one?"

There is also Lee's trademark redundancy, describing what we can already see (e.g. p.7), or explaining a word for younger readers (e.g. "disintegrated, reduced to nothing" on p. 12), without adding anything to the drama or plot.

The broad outline (hypnotist monster comes back, he is defeated with a mirror) fails when we think about it: the monster has to be much weaker than before and the mirror is tiny and can only be used for a second. In contrast, the details are dramatic and plausible in conte…

Goom (Monsterbus p.526)

Kirby the prophet does it again! A story about planet X, a large hidden planet beyond the orbit of Jupiter. 55 years layer it appears to have come true. "The mythical "Planet X" may actually be real, and scientists are calling it 'Planet Nine.' Astronomers have found evidence for a planet 10 times more massive than Earth in the far outer solar system, orbiting about 20 times farther from the sun than distant Neptune does."

It was a little further out than Kirby expected, but he may have been thinking of the closer "planet ten"predicted in 2017.