Monday, August 11, 2008

REVIEW: Jack Kirby's OMAC

DESPITE my rampant cynicism, I'd been looking forward to buying this hardcover collection of Jack's flawed eight-issue series from 1974 ever since I heard it was being published by DC.

The story of future worker drone Buddy Blank being converted into a super-powered peace agent was intriguing. The King's vision of this future world was grim to say the least.

Kirby's ideas are as left-of-centre interesting as ever and - for a change - his writing (even his dialogue) is pretty strong, too. His artwork's even more dynamic than usual and inkers D. Bruce Berry (a pleasant surprise, I must say) and Mike Royer are probably responsible for that.

I really enjoyed reading OMAC in one hit. DC's also added some nice touches - excellent production values, additional pencilled roughs by Kirby and an informative introduction from his assistant Mark Evanier.

In fact, there's really only one negative aspect to the whole darn thing and that's the final issue itself. Y'see, by that stage, Kirby had quit DC to return to Marvel. He didn't even do the cover on OMAC #8 (Joe Kubert did the honours).

It wasn't selling well, so DC decided to discontinue the title. Which they did in spectacular fashion - by wrapping up the whole damn series in one final panel. ONE FREAKING PANEL.

It's literally the most sudden ending of a comic-book series I've ever read (Evanier describes it as "a whiplash-inducing sudden stop"). Wow, he's not kidding.

Still, that disappointing premature ending aside, OMAC is well worth picking up - just so you can see how good the King could be when he was on song and firing on all cylinders.

REVIEW: Tales To Astonish by Ronin Ro

A PERFUNCTORY book by a perfunctory writer. This is only partially a biography on Kirby - it also covers the life of Stan Lee and the history of comics (particularly Marvel). It's not a bad read, but I have to say I enjoyed Ro's chapter on Kirby's war years - a traumatic, scarring time that basically shaped his post-war comic-book career - far more than the comics history stuff, which I've read elsewhere in far-better-written tomes.

Anyway, this book's okay - it lacked photos and artwork that could've really added depth to the book, however.

And it doesn't really do Jack many favours either - he comes across as a bit of a doddery, working-class Joe; none too bright, easily led, easily pushed around (again, a result of his war experiences as he was a real Noo Yawker tough guy before WW2) and frustrated by bad career moves that a smarter man could have avoided.

By the end of his life, he'd resorted to outright lies and slander against Stan Lee who - despite what his critics may say - WAS the co-creator of the Marvel superhero line.

If Lee - an astute businessman for much of his career - did one thing ethically wrong, it was to cheerfully claim (or allow it to be claimed by journalists) that he created the Hulk, X-Men, Silver Surfer, etc.

Still, ultimately, Kirby's bitterness did him no favours.

REVIEW: Captain America 203 (Nov. 1976)

ALAMO II!

Goddamn, they don't write comics like this anymore.

Kirby's run in Marvel in the late 70s was unimpressive......except for Captain America in my opinion. The series was exciting, primal...and his dialogue didn't nearly suck as bad as it did in his other titles.

The King's art, inked by Frank Giacoia, looks particularly dynamic in this issue.

The only thing more remarkable about Cap and the Falcon's journey to a world populated by escapees from a lunatic asylum and menaced by alien gargoyles is the letters page, where pro-Kirby and anti-Kirby writers vent at each other. Fascinating reading.

REVIEW: The Green Arrow by Jack Kirby

AH, WHAT could have been? Kirby signed on to do the art for this second-string DC character in 1958 in the pages of Adventure Comics and World's Finest Comics.

The King tried to add his creative input - a few interesting sci-fi elements were briefly developed, then cast aside by DC's conservative editors - but, in the main, the writers churned out pretty staid fare.

Even Kirby's one written strip "The Case Of The Super-Arrows" (Adventure #251, August 1958) was mediocre. Usually, the plots revolved around Green Arrow and his lame sidekick Speedy beating villains by pulling trick arrows out of their arses: a balloon arrow, a dry-ice arrow, a fountain-pen arrow, a boxing glove arrow. Oh, for fuck's sake! Give me a break!!

Kirby got the shits with DC's stifling ways - and they got sick of his chunky artwork and pushy ways - and he pissed off in early 1959.

DC's loss was truly Marvel's gain.

As for Green Arrow, he floundered for another decade until Neil Adams tried to turn him into some kinda Easy Rider-style rebel.

He was still lame though.