Why I have four comic books that were either created by, featured art by, or featured characters created by Jack Kirby is a case of me just randomly grabbing comics out of back issue bins because they looked interesting or they tied into something bigger or more important (or so I thought). I’ll fully admit that while I know and admire Jack Kirby’s contribution to comics history, I have read very little of his actual work. I wasn’t very impressed by his X-Men stuff (although I’ve been told that I’m not the only person and the stuff from Giant-Size X-Men #1 going forward really is the X-Men to read), although I liked the Golden Age Captain America stories I’ve read.
His DC work is even more unknown to me. My experience with the New Gods has been through other means, most of which are company-wide crossovers that were written and drawn by other creators, or through the Super Powers cartoon that wrapped up the long-running Super Friends series when I was a kid.
I start with that Super Powers series because I randomly grabbed issue #2 of the 1985 miniseries at one point. I honestly don’t know why except that maybe I thought there was something important about this particular issue or I was looking for some Kirby comics? I also think I may have picked it up out of a 50-cent bin by complete accident. At any rate, it’s a solid Justice League vs. Kalibak book and Kirby’s artwork is dynamic, especially when it comes to the villains, although I will say that his renderings of our heroes’ faces seems odd. It’s also printed on the “mondo” paper that DC experimented with in the mid-1980s and that did not always look good. But the paper actually works here and for what is essentially a disposable toy tie-in comic (and let’s be honest, this was meant to help sell both comics and toys), it’s actually better than it has any right to be.
Fast forward simultaneously to 1986 and 1998. How is that possible, you ask? Well, there is a John Byrne series called Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, which is the latest attempt to make the New Gods happen in the post-Crisis DCU and without Jack Kirby (to be fair, Kirby died in 1994), this time by John Byrne. In this, the series’ final issue (#20), Byrne provides a “missing chapter” to his Man of Steel miniseries that launched the new Superman. The cover (which is by Walt Simonson) is meant to look like an issue of that series, with the white stripe on the right side and the featured character standing in it (in this case it’s Darkseid) and a scene from the book on the left.
It’s been a very long time since I have read through all of Man of Steel (and right now, my son owns only a couple of issues of the series, so I may have to track those down), so I don’t know how well it fits or even where it fits, so it will be a nice idea to try and read this in that context (the way I did with the Crisis issue of Legends of the DC Universe). The issue itself is a solid story that ties into Forever People #1 (which I forgot to mention I had read in The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told), although Byrne’s art at this time is much weaker than when he first started at DC in the mid-1980s. Everything feels like it’s very rushed, which is the same complaint I had about his Wonder Woman run (among other things, but that’s a rant for later). Still, the story is entertaining and I’m going to hold onto it to see where it fits into Man of Steel.
I am going to end on Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth #44 and 45, which was a series created by Kirby but at this point was being written by Gerry Conway, Denny O’Neil, and Martin Pasko; and drawn by Keith Giffen (with Mike Royer and Bob Smith on inks). Kamandi was a character whom I only ever knew through Crisis on Infinite Earths and by the time I started reading comics, his adventures were relegated to the dustbin of continuity and the occasional Elseworlds appearance. Here, he’s basically fighting various forms of mutants and monsters and even winds up in a Lilliput-type place. It’s entertaining and I can tell that the writers are doing their best, and Giffen’s Bronze Age art suits the book well; however, I could read only these issues and not feel that I have to read the rest of the series.
I should go look at some actual Kirby stuff, maybe his marquee Marvel or New Gods stuff, although I think that it still has to be a testament to his talent that something this “Kirby adjacent” is as enjoyable as all this proved to be.
Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash?
Kamandi #44 and 45: Donate
Super Powers #2: Sell
Jack Kirby’s Fourth World #20: Keep.