Thursday, October 01, 2015

Countdown to Halloween: Jack Kirby's Monsters! Night One: Close Encounters of the Kirb Kind

BWAHHHHHHH! (In my spooky vampire voice.) It's once again time for that orangy-and-blackiest holiday of them all, Halloween! Which is coming up in only thirty-one short, chilly fall nights, so you'd better stock up on candy to hand out now. I really mean it. Do not run out of Halloween candy! This month, all month, you should be checking my humble little puppet-town cow-blog for titanic tales of those terrifying titans, those Kingtastic Colossuses (Colossi?), those masters of the macabre month: Jack Kirby's Monsters! Every day, a new Kirby Monster from the Atlas Age of Comics! Also, as in previous spine-tinglin' Octobers, I'm once again part of the Countdown to Halloween web ring of Halloweeny horror! Be sure to visit the other 170+ (!) members of Countdown to Halloween for lots of other fun stuff leading up to our scariest day, because I'm pretty sure you'll find witches, goblins, ghouls, vampires, and a Frankenstein or two in there.

Over here, I'm pretty sure we'll run into the Plant Thing from Venus, the Stone Men of Halloween Easter Island, the Molten Man-Thing, not to mention Fin Fang Foom (brother of the illustrious Doctor Victor von Foom), all of 'em in living color by K-I-R-B-Y, King of the Monsters! (Actually, he was an elected official, but we still call him king.)

But first up, one of Jack's first Atlas Monsters: the Flying Saucer! (Not to be confused with the delicious, cold, creamy Carvel treat.)

Cover of Strange Worlds #1 (December 1958), pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Christopher Rule, colors by Stan Goldberg, letters by Artie Simek

Now just w-w-w-wait one doggone minute, Mister Bull! (you might say in your Jimmy Stewart voice, and a very fine impression it is too.) Just how the Sam Scratch can a flying saucer be a monster? Well, you just wait an' see! See if I don't show you! Yah boo!

Splash page from "I Discovered the Secret of the Flying Saucers!" in Strange Worlds #1 (December 1958), script by Stan Lee (?), pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Christopher Rule, colors by Stan Goldberg, letters by Artie Simek

Witness the shame of this pre-Reed Richards professor, who has just been turned down for membership in the Legion of Super-Heroes…hilariously! Also, everybody thinks his UFO stories are pretty funny. Even, sitting on the extreme right, The Joker! Well, he thinks everything's funny.

His quest to find out the secret truth behind flying saucers knows no boundaries! It also apparently knows no panel borders! Yow, Mister Kirby, that's dramatic! But did you lose your ruler that day?

Suddenly, swamp gas! No, wait, it's an actual livin' breathin' OO-EFF-OH!

Check out the alliteration in that first panel! (If that ain't Stan Lee, it's an incredible simulation.) Kirby gives the flying saucer just enough detail to make it looks like it actually works, mechanically, and yet not too much to overwhelm the inker. He was already prepping for dealing with Vince Colletta, wasn't he?

The flying saucer beams images of its home world into our hero's head, thus giving humanity a look at alien technology (or, as we like to call it, Kirbytech!) while simultaneously creating progressive rock.

Again, check out the first caption. Oh, that explains the whole thing! This story takes place on the Planet Garth! Currently being seen in the Secret Wars miniseries Battleworld: Wayne and Garth's World! Anyway, the Incredulous Hunk demands to see what the life form inside the flying saucer looks like before it returns home! Can you spot the surprise twist ending barreling around the corner at warp speed towards us?

Surprise! Twist Ending! (Told ya.) The Flying Saucer is the Kirby Monster! It has legs, and eyes, and a tongue made out of a staircase, I guess. Also, dig that swepy-back metallic hairstyle! It's groovy, man, far out of this world!

Perhaps mankind was not yet ready to make that leap into the unknown…to conceive that a being which could travel through space might not look like us at all…but might resemble the very craft which have buzzed above us in the sky, inspiring in hushed whispers tales of unknown alien worlds. All we know is that this flying suacer's existence must remain a secret to man, even in…the Twilight Zone.

Special extra-bonus Comics Did It First section! Stan 'n' the Atlas were not averse to re-using a plot from now and again (what, you think only Archie Comics did that?), and here's an earlier version of O. Henryesque ending of a flying saucer turning out to be an alien being from five years before, with a decidedly New England seafood flavor!

Panels from "The Secret of the Flying Saucer!" in Men's Adventures #21 (May 1953), script by Stan Lee, pencils and inks by Fred Kida

And before Captain America and Iron Man barged in rudely and took over the pages of Tales of Suspense for themselves, Steve Ditko — the second pillar in the Grandmaster of Art Pantheon at Marvel — illustrated a very similar story:

Panels from "I Know the Secret of the Flying Saucer!" in Tales of Suspense #11 (September 1960), script by Stan Lee (?), pencils and inks by Steve Ditko, colors by Stan Goldberg, letters by Artie Simek

Enough versions for you yet? Of course not! Here's a strangely familiar twist-ending story drawn by Don "Why won't Marvel give me credit for co-creating Iron Man?" Heck! (Seriously, how did I become the guy who has to remind Marvel about that?)

Panel from "The Impossible Spaceship!" in Strange Tales #101 (October 1962), plot by Stan Lee, script by Larry Lieber, pencils and inks by Don Heck, colors by Stan Goldberg, letters by Terry Szenics

If you don't care for the original cooked-lobster-red (hey, seafood again!) coloration of the Strange Worlds spaceship alien, well, just wait sixteen years until the story is reprinted and recolored in the pages of a 1970s Marvel monster comic! Behold: the blue and grey Batman Color Scheme Flying Saucer Alien!

Panel from reprint of "I Discovered the Secret of the Flying Saucers!" in Where Monsters Dwell #32 (November 1974)

Finally, leave it up to those crazy Brits to not only charge a shilling for a comic with big sixty-eight pages but to recolor the flying saucer! And leave out the blurb on the bottom. Eh, knowing British comics, there was probably a free prize glued there. Maybe a clam!

Cover of Race for the Moon #5 (Thorpe & Porter, 1959)

I'm pretty sure that's the most exhaustive examination you're ever gonna get about a Kirby space alien in which you can comfortably sit inside and zoom around the universe.

1 comment:

Blam said...

Thorpe & Porter's Race for the Moon #5: 1st app. Lisa Simpson (cover; back of head only)
[Great post, Bully!]