Jack Kirby

Marvel Premiere 2 (May 1972)

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Ladies and gentlemen… the writing stylings of Roy Thomas! Yay! Yay!

Oh, wait. Umm. No. Not yay.

I suppose if someone wanted to read some really bad seventies young person counterculture dialogue, he or she could read Roy Thomas’s Adam Warlock story. It’s painful to read. And eventually painful to see too.

It’s another issue where Gil Kane’s art falls apart after a certain point. There’s this private detective who Kane draws terribly, but also disturbingly. He looks like an evil, poorly drawn Peter Lorre.

Oh, and the villains. The villains are these giant animals–a rat, a snake–and Kane butchers them. It’s like he can’t draw anything but regular people. Worse, the art all starts good and then plummets.

It’s a confusing story. Thomas loves to overwrite.

There’s a Jimmy Woo backup too, from Jack Kirby. It’s not any good, but it’s mildly interesting as a fifties relic.

Creatures on the Loose 17 (May 1972)

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For some inexplicable reason, probably because he liked to read himself (I don’t think Marvel paid by the word in the seventies), Roy Thomas has his protagonist spouting expository dialogue every panel.

Thomas and Gil Kane do the feature, Guillvar Jones, and it’s beautiful to read. Kane eventually does have some weak panels, but most of them are fantastic. Lots of fluid movement. Just great.

And Thomas doesn’t do bad with the first person narration. It’s fine. All the expository dialogue (protagonist talking to himself) is terrible and narratively pointless, if not incompetent.

The issue also has some old reprints. There’s a pretty good giant sea monster one from Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. The twist is the sea monster is intelligent, but Lee doesn’t explore that point enough. Nice art.

The other reprint is sci-fi (from Lee and Don Heck). It’s fine until the moronic ending.

Captain America (1990, Albert Pyun), the director’s cut

Captain America actually has a few interesting ideas. First is how Carla Cassola’s scientist (she creates the villain, Scott Paulin’s Red Skull, and Captain America—played by Matt Salinger) almost serves as a surrogate mother to the two boys. Well, they’re supposed to be boys when they change. Cassola probably gives the film’s best performance; she manages to imply depth rather well.

Second is how Captain America is a failure. The script touches on it and Salinger tries, but there’s just not enough character development to show it. Instead of focusing on the titular character, Captain America often focuses on the supporting cast.

The film reunites Christmas Story stars Darren McGavin (who’s awful) and Melinda Dillon (who’s just bad). Of course, they don’t have a scene together. Neither do Deliverance alumni Ronny Cox and Ned Beatty. Beatty’s bad, but Cox has his moments. One wonders if he wanted to be an action star, as he gets to beat up a bunch of eurotrash.

Oh, that element’s another amusing one. All of Paulin’s gang are eurotrash. It’s sort of funny.

Salinger’s not always terrible, but he’s too physically awkward to be believable. Not to mention the costume being a disaster. His love interest, played by Kim Gillingham, is bad. Except in her old age makeup.

Michael Nouri manages not to embarrass himself too much.

Pyun’s direction is mostly weak, often obviously due to the minuscule budget; he’ll occasionally have a profound shot.

It’s fairly awful, but at least it’s interestingly awful.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Albert Pyun; screenplay by Stephen Tolkin, based on a story by Tolkin and Lawrence Block and characters created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby; director of photography, Philip Alan Waters; edited by Jon Poll; music by Barry Goldberg; production designer, Douglas H. Leonard; produced by Menahem Golan; released by 21st Century Film Corporation.

Starring Matt Salinger (Steve Rogers / Captain America), Ronny Cox (Tom Kimball), Ned Beatty (Sam Kolawetz), Darren McGavin (General Fleming), Michael Nouri (Lt. Colonel Louis), Scott Paulin (Red Skull), Kim Gillingham (Bernice Stewart / Sharon), Melinda Dillon (Mrs. Rogers), Bill Mumy (Young General Fleming), Francesca Neri (Valentina de Santis) and Carla Cassola (Dr. Maria Vaselli).


Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (2010, Lauren Montgomery)

Kevin Conroy has been doing the Batman voice for, off and on, almost twenty years. If his work in Apocalypse is any indication, he’s gotten a little tired of it. At least there’s only one aspect of a phoned-in voice performance. Some of it might be the awful script from Tab Murphy (probably taken verbatim from the awful comic book by Jeph Loeb), but Superman-regular Tim Daly manages to be earnest–even with the absolutely dreadful animation.

Montgomery’s direction is occasionally okay–she did a fine job on the Wonder Woman animated (unfortunately she handles that character terribly here)–especially at the beginning, with a complex action sequence involving Supergirl arriving on Earth. It’s idiotically written, but choreographed well.

Besides Daly, the voice work is pretty lame. Andre Braugher is terrible as the big bad guy, who looks like he should sound like Darth Vader but instead sounds like Frank Pembleton. The animation on that character, Darkseid, looks unfinished and just plain cheap.

Summer Glau might be good as Supergirl, but it’s hard to tell, since the character is so reprehensible. She’s vapid and materialistic–I’m shocked no one at Warner has thought of making an animated “Simple Life” for the character.

Apocalypse fails at really simple stuff–the big joke of having Ed Asner play an ugly woman doesn’t work when the animation is so bad it’s unclear she’s supposed to be female.

These Warner superhero cartoons are just getting worse and worse.

Besides Daly, of course.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Lauren Montgomery; screenplay by Tab Murphy, based on comic books by Jeph Loeb and Michael Turner and characters created by Bob Kane, Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, William M. Marston and Jack Kirby; edited by Margaret Hou; music by John Paesano; produced by Bobbie Page and Montgomery; released by Warner Premiere.

Starring Tim Daly (Clark Kent / Superman), Kevin Conroy (Bruce Wayne / Batman), Andre Braugher (Darkseid), Summer Glau (Kara Zor-El), Susan Eisenberg (Wonder Woman), Julianne Grossman (Big Barda), Rachel Quaintance (Lyla) and Edward Asner (Granny Goodness).


The Amazing Spider-Man 8 (January 1964)

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So, there’s a point to about seventy percent of this issue. The rest is a back-up with Spider-Man battling the Human Torch, then the rest of the Fantastic Four, because Spider-Man wanted to show off for the Torch’s girlfriend. It’s an addle-brained waste of pages. The only possible purpose would be if Sue Storm ever hooked up with Spider-Man, but she never did. So it’s a bunch of phooey. The Kirby art isn’t as nice as the Ditko art on the principal story either.

The principal story is basically an all-action issue–it’s either Spider-Man versus the Living Brain (an utterly inelegant unstoppable killing machine) or Peter Parker versus Flash Thompson. Lee comes up with a great resolution to the Flash fight and also betrays some of Peter’s new self-image.

Spider-Man is, in Parker’s thought balloons, his true identity.

Only okay.

CREDITS

The Terrible Threat of the Living Brain!; artist, Steve Ditko; letterer, Art Simek. Spider-Man Tackles The Torch!; penciller, Jack Kirby; inker, Ditko; letterer, Sam Rosen. Writer and editor, Stan Lee; colorist, Stan Goldberg; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Thor: Tales of Asgard 6 (October 2009)

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So, for a forty year old comic, originally serialized in back-ups (and a double sized reprint), this issue is essentially a done in one. Thor and his sidekicks (are they called the Warriors Three?) hunt down this bad guy (called Mogul, no relation to the intergalactic Superman villain–this Mogul is from the Mystic Mountain, or Zanadu, or Xanadu or Zandu–lots of spellings) and set out to depose him from his throne.

And Mogul doesn’t appear very intergalactic here.

He’s Muslim.

He’s, in fact, a stand-in for Mohammed, which Lee’s readers probably wouldn’t have realized but I think Stan did. And Stan has Thor and his sidekicks fight for the American way.

In other words, it’s a very political comic book. More, I think, than any Silver Age Marvel book I’ve ever read.

Still good stuff. And, hey, with Bill Everett on inks, Kirby’s art is luscious.

CREDITS

The Tragedy of Hogun!; inker, Vince Colletta; letterer, Art Simek. The Quest for the Mystic Mountain!; inker, Colletta; letterer, Sam Rosen. The Secret of the Mystic Mountain; inker, Colletta; letterer, Simek. The Battle Begins!; inker, Colletta; letterer, Rosen. Alibar and the Forty Demons!; inker, Colletta; letterer, Simek. We, Who Are About to Die…!; inker, Colletta; letterer, Simek. To the Death!; innker, Bill Everett; letterer, Simek. The Beginning of the End!; inker, Colletta; letterer, Rosen. The End!; inker, Colletta; letterer, Simek. Writer, Stan Lee; penciller, Jack Kirby; colorist, Matt Milla; editors, Lee and Mark D. Beazley; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Thor: Tales of Asgard 5 (September 2009)

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It’s Thor versus Fanfir for the (first?) time and Odin busts out his awesome “Star Trek” viewscreen to see everything going on.

The way Lee lays out the story… while it was originally serialized, plays well read in a sitting. Thor and his sidekicks have to go fight Ragnarök’s coming–by preventing an arms race it almost sounds like in the first section, but quickly it descends into a big battle.

Loki’s been banished for this stuff, so there’s none of his mischievous nonsense.

What’s interesting is how Lee sets up the subsequent story as a possible continuation, but not really… Odin’s still talking about sending Thor on a secret mission to gauge his abilities, but it’s not clear if it’s the battle, the fight against Fanfir or the stuff on the boat from the last issue. It makes everything seem very smooth and gradual, even if it’s really not.

CREDITS

The Hordes of Harokin!; letterer, Art Simek. The Fateful Change!; letterer, Simek. The Warlock’s Eye!; letterer, Simek. The Dark Horse of Death!; letterer, Sam Rosen. Valhalla; letterer, Rosen. When Speaks the Dragon!; letterer, Simek. The Fiery Breath of Fafnir!; letterer, Rosen. There Shall Come a Miracle!; letterer, Rosen. Writer, Stan Lee; penciller, Jack Kirby; inker, Vince Colletta; colorist, Matt Milla; editors, Lee and Mark D. Beazley; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Thor: Tales of Asgard 4 (August 2009)

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How did Stan Lee–I mean, seriously–how did he okay Colletta’s inks? I mean, I’m not a salivating Kirby enthusiast, but Colletta just sucks the life out of his art here. I’m thinking the eighties Super Powers books from DC to tie in to the action figures had more merit.

And it’s really a darn shame, because Lee’s story–until it gets annoyingly convenient–is really cool. I’m not sure I’d have liked to read it as a back-up over six months, but he’s got a whole Thor on a quest thing going, with a cast of interesting characters (odd how many Asgardians are, it turns out, complete cowards).

And why does Loki get such benefit of doubt? His nickname’s “Prince of Evil” or something along those lines. You’d have to be a complete moron to not notice.

Oh, wait. Colletta’s inks did make the witch look creepy.

CREDITS

Maelstrom!; letterer, Art Simek. The Grim Specter of Mutiny!; letterer, Simek. The Jaws of the Dragon!; letterer, Simek. Closer Comes the Swarm!; letterer, Simek. The Queen Commands; letterer, Simek. The Summons!; letterer, Simek. The Meaning of… Ragnarok!; letterer, Simek. Aftermath!; letterer, Sam Rosen. Writer, Stan Lee; penciller, Jack Kirby; inker, Vince Colletta; colorist, Matt Milla; editors, Lee, Cory Levine and Mark D. Beazley; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Thor: Tales of Asgard 3 (August 2009)

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Did Marvel get Matt Milla to recolor these stories to try to sell them to a broader audience (I mean, isn’t the trade just going to be a Thor product pre-movie release) or to try to make the Vince Colletta inks less horrific?

I want to talk about the stories, but… after reading this issue–the first with only Colletta inks throughout–a moment needs to be taken to talk about this subject. His inking reduces Tales of Asgard. There’s still Lee’s exuberance, still Kirby’s macro-enthusiasm, so it’s Colletta who makes it lesser.

There’s a story arc forming here, Thor and Loki on a quest, with Odin directing them (with a hidden motive). There’s also some “Loki as a Problem Child” stories and it’s hard to believe anyone would associate with him as an adult given the crap he’s pulled.

It’s nice stuff. Shame the art doesn’t hold.

CREDITS

The Boyhood of Loki!; letterer, Art Simek. The Golden Apples!; letterer, Simek. A Viper in Our Midst!; letterer, Simek. The Challenge!; letterer, Simek. The Sword In The Scabbard!; letterer, Simek. The Crimson Hand!; letterer, Sam Rosen. Gather, Warriors!; letterer, Simek. Set Sail!; letterer, Simek. Writer, Stan Lee; penciller, Jack Kirby; inker, Vince Colletta; colorist, Matt Milla; editors, Lee, Alex Starbuck, John Denning, Cory Levine and Mark D. Beazley; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Thor: Tales of Asgard 2 (July 2009)

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Included in this issue (and the previous one) are some Marvel Universe entries relating to Thor and Asgard. It’s sort of amazing to see where everything stemmed from these stories (well, not just these stories, but in part these stories). Lee’s storytelling is somewhat reductive. It’s a big world he’s telling a story in, but he concentrates his attention on a single item. There aren’t subplots (there isn’t room for them).

So, on one hand, it appears he’s retelling old Norse myths, but on the other–maybe not clear to contemporary readers of the material–he was laying groundwork for something much bigger.

All the above noted, I’m still a little mind-boggled with the Asgard stuff. It’s just too much information to digest and it’s not clear how one can apply it.

Lots of good material in this issue… though I now understand why people dislike Vince Colletta’s inks.

CREDITS

When Heimdall Failed; inker, George Roussos. Balder “The Brave”; inker, Vince Colletta. Balder Must Die!; inker, Colletta. Trapped by the Trolls!; inker, Colletta. Banished From Asgard!; inker, Colletta. The Defeat of Odin; inker, Colletta. The Secret of Sigurd!; inker, Colletta. The Coming of Loki!; inker, Colletta. Writer, Stan Lee; penciller, Jack Kirby; colorist, Matt Milla; letterer, Art Simek; editors, Lee, Cory Levine and Mark D. Beazley; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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