Wednesday, January 01, 2014

365 Days of KirbyTech, Day 1: The Watcher's Matter Mobilizer

Welcome to 2014...and welcome to the future! uture uture uture uture All this year, every day: an astonishing, mind-shattering, reality-bending example of the technological wonders created by "King" Jack Kirby that we call, after him, since his name is Kirby and this is his tech... KIRBYTECH!

I suppose I should start out with a mission statement. what is KirbyTech, a word which is so ubiquitous across the infinite universes that as I type it, Microsoft Word isn't even spell-check correcting it? Well, it's those wonderful machines created by Reed Richards, or used on the Fourth World, or wielded by the Eternals or the Inhumans, the far-out space gear of Captain Victory and the ultra-dimensional kitchen tools of Asgard. A piece of KirbyTech consists of...well, it has loops, and shadows, and curvy bits, and, uh...well, probably the best way to describe it is "You know it when you see it."

Luckily my pal Isaac Cates, editor and co-creator of one of the most fun comics of 2013, Cartozia Tales has created this handy and colorful guide to the Principles of Kirbytech! (Read all about it here!)

That about covers it, especially the very last word, one of my favorites: fun! And that's what I hope you have all this shall. Let's kick it off the year, shall we? I don't know about you, but I can't wait.

#1: The Watcher's Matter Mobilizer

Panel from Fantastic Four (1961 series) #48 (March 1966), plot and script by Stan Lee, plot and pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Sinnott, colors by Stan Goldberg (?), letters by Artie Simek

This cosmic trileidoscope is one of the many tools in the Watcher's man-cave on the moon (and we'll be seeing more than a few in 2014!), and he's brought it down to Earth for the first time in his long eons of peeping on observing the humans of Earth. Ol' Shiny Head has used the Matter Mobilizer, a three-pronged absolute epitome of KirbyTech, to camouflage Earth from the approaching Silver Surfer. We all know that when the Silver Surfer arrives on your planet what follows is angst. Oh, and also cosmic destruction at the gullet of the great Galactus, who intends to eat the Earth. Even though it's heavily water-logged and will probably just ruin his dinner anyway. Earth: barely a snack.

The Watcher's Matter Mobilizer surrounds earth first with the illusion of flames...

...and then with a dense asteroid field intended to hide Earth from prying eyes. Like, say, a guy who lives on the moon and looks down on us? Just sayin', Uatu.

As he orates above, The Watcher replaced the flames with rocks for the perfectly good reason that people love the Thing more than the Human Torch. Oh, and also, because having the sky appear to burst into flames above every part of the world is likely to be misinterpreted as, I dunno, the end of the world. Which, cannily enough on Uatu's not that far off.

Hey, look! Pretty much the exact same scene is also taking place with Iron Man!

Panel from What If...? (1989 series) #41 (September 1992), script and layouts by Jim Valentino, finishes by Sam de la Rosa, colors by Tom Vincent, letters by Janice Chiang

But this tableau is occurring on parallel world Earth-944, where the Fantastic Four never existed, so it's up to the Avengers to meet the Watcher and fight Galactus. As on Earth-616 above, Uatu uses his Matter Mobilizer to conceal our planet from the Surfer and Galactus. A bit less successfully, we'll find out, but wasn't that the whle point of the What If...? series? Kill everybody and let the Cosmic Tribunal sort 'em out.

Now is as good a time as any to point out that this feature will spotlight throughout 2014 KirbyTech not only created by the Master himself (J.K...and I don't mean Jim Kirk), but examples of KirbyTech portrayed and designed by other artists throughout the various worlds of comics. Here's a good example to point out that even though he reproduces two classic Kirby panels, Jim Valentino, much as I love his storytelling, just is not Kirby. Check out the immense detail of the panic in the streets panel by Kirby as opposed to that of Valentino, and the subtle but discernible visual shortcuts taken in the portrayal of the Matter Mobilizer in What If...?. Comparisons or examples of this sort are not meant to be making fun of other artists, however (not unless it's Liefeld, who's fair game). It's merely to point out that the best designer and portrayer of KirbyTech is Jack Kirby. As it should be. For example, here's another instance of that same panel, this time from a retelling of the tale in FF #390.

Panels from Fantastic Four (1961 series) #390 (July 1994), plot by Tom DeFalco, script by Mike Lackey, pencils by Paul Ryan, inks by Danny Bulanadi, colors by John Kalisz, letters by Steve Dutro

(And I bet, altho' I couldn't find an example right now, that John Byrne has drawn the Matter Mobilizer at least once.)

'Round about now I imagine you're saying "Yeah, sure! How much could holographic rocks and fire in the sky frighten me?!?" Well, aren't you the macho man, bub? To give it another's what you would definitely be pooping your pants over.

Panels from Marvels #3 (March 1994), script by Kurt Busiek, painted art by Alex Ross, letters by Richard Starkings and John Gaushell

And I kinda think you would cry like a baby girl if this happened in the skies above you. Because I know I would be.

(Click picture to Rapture-size)

Yeah, I thought so. That thing works pretty dang well. The Watcher's Matter Mobilizer: several five star reviews on

To fill in some background on the future 364 days of thgs feature, here's a couple of the ground rules. This won't be a complete or exhaustive catalogue of Kirby's Kreations...I won't be able to list every device, or every appearance of the ones I do list...merely provide you with a slim sliver of the awesome devices of the King's endless imagination. On some days I'll attempt to give you a history and background of the KirbyTech (like today), but some days will just be a "look at this cool thing!" entry for a piece of KirbyTech that I bet even Tony Stark couldn't figger out what it does. Also, throughout the year, I'll try to do updates if I find new appearances or information about the KirbyTech featured in an installment.

So, hang around with me in 2014 and let's look at KirbyTech and have some fun! And if you're not careful you may learn something before it's done! Kirby says "Don't ask...JUST READ IT!"


-Peder said...

I fully approve!

Tim D. said...

I hope there's some actual prop building replicas of some Kirby tech in the future, too!

Bully said...

Tim, I've got a lot of Lego, but I will never have enough Lego to build four-dimensional objects.

Blam said...

"Principles of KirbyTech" for the win, as the kids don't actually seem to say.

Michelle said...

What an idea! This is going to be a great year.

Kate said...

Way cool.