Thursday, May 19, 2011

The 5,000 Hats of Jack Kirby: Jack's Favorite Customer

If you've ever been in a restaurant, diner, eatery or hash-house, take some time to look at the walls. No, past the chili splashed there because I was really, really hungry—look for a wall full of signed celebrity headshot photos given to the manager of the establishment singing the praises of its famous dishes like the Ritz Hotel's Peach Melba, the Waldorf Astoria's Waldorf Salad, Antoine's Restaurant in New Orleans' Oysters Rockefeller, or Brooklyn's own Mr. Falafel's Little Stuffed Gyro.

You'll find the same sort of photos at bars ("Great drinks! — Dean Martin"), tailors ("Best suit I ever wore! — Tony Stark"), and even dry cleaners ("Thanks for getting out the bloodstains — Alfred Hitchcock").

But step inside The 5,000 Hats of Jack Kirby...

...and you'll only find one celebrity headshot on the wall, from Jack's most faithful and famous client:

Yes, Jack's number one customer is the All-Father, Lord of Asgard, Old One-Eye himself, Odin. Odin's been a patron of The 5,000 Hats of Jack Kirby for going on two or three mythological ages now, and the story goes that when Odin walks into the shop, Jack himself gets up from his drawing table to shake his hand and wait on the All-Father himself. Meanwhile, Roz takes Odin's ravens Hugin and Munin out back to the alley so they can get themselves some rats.

Legend has it that the different hats personally designed by Jack Kirby for Odin number into infinity, as Odin himself, like Jennifer Lopez, never wears the same outfit twice.

So speculation still continues: when you take into account all the fabulous headgear doffed by Lord Odin, should it be the 5,000 Hats of Jack Kirby or the Five Billion? Nobody knows except the King and the All-Father themselves, and they're not talking. We only have the clue from that episode of MTV Cribs where Thor showed off his dad's haberdashery closet, revealing it to be even so very much larger on the inside that The Doctor got a little jealous and stamped his foot, and pouted for a few weeks, just like Rose had taught him.

Let's take a look at Wotan's wimples now, shall we?


Here's a modest and demure little number Jack whipped up for Odin sometime in between Frost Giant War I and Frost Giant War II. This classic toque combines elements of primal design of the gods of the ancient Mayans and Aztecs (Mrs. Odin had them over for dinner on Wednesday nights, generally right before bowling) and the galactic legend of that renowned, nay, infamous asparagus-cooker, the Phoenix. The fact that on the morning he designed the hat, Jack had for breakfast a bowl of Kellogg's Corn Flakes, is probably mere coincidence.


Even before he lost one eye in that unfortunate incident of Loki's gag telescope, Odin enjoyed surveying far and wide beyond the boundaries of Asgard, tended by Heimdall, the Guardian of the Rainbow Bridge, and the Asgardian Border Patrol seeking to keep out all those illegal immigrant trolls intent on taking away good honest Asgardian jobs like boar-cooking, ax-making, and mopping up after Volstagg. Not only did he watch events occurring on Asgard, but also Alfheim, Jotenheim, Vanaheim, Anaheim, Narnia, Middle-Earth, Oz, Shangri-La, Gor (shh, don't tell Frigga) and Metropolis of the 31st Century, from where he got the inspiration for this dandy edifice hat from the clubhouse of a bunch of super-powered teens.


Odin's many activities and hobbies also include reading the myriad of books found in the Magnificent Library of Asgard and the slightly less magnificent Book-Cart of Svartalfheim, or purchased for a few fine pigs from his local branch of Balder and Noble. Here, Odin enjoys the signed, limited edition of Bossypants, which only goes to show: he's not just ruler of Asgard, he's got great taste in comedy.


Here, Odin pauses for a moment from picking wallpaper for the Rec Room to show Thor and Natalie Portman a magnificently designed helmet-and-armor combination. Jack designed this after watching a few episodes of Transformers, so not only does it look like a bird, but the armor and helmet fold up and transform Odin into a mechanical flying falcon, able to soar the highest skies of Asgard, to pierce the untouchable boundaries of the Nine Worlds, and to fly over Olympus to drop loogies on Zeus and Hercules.


During the Great Horned Helmet Craze that was all the rage throughout most of the fourteenth century, Loki looked to be an easy winner with his patented "You'll poke your eyes out" horned chapeau. Then Odin brought out the big guns. You can't best Odin, and the sons of the All-Father learned a valuable lesson that day. Then they all went to get iced-cream in Niffleheim, and play putt-putt golf until Loki got sick and threw up on the tenth hole.


Next year in Asgard was pretty much the same thing over again.


On the usual occasions when he and Frigga would have an argument, Odin would pack his old Troll War army bag and go stomping off to Don Blake's apartment in Manhattan, which required a more subtle hat designed by Jack to appear normal among the humans of Midgard. (He still could keep Pop-Tarts in it, though.) Odin slept on Blake's couch and persuaded Thor to take him at nights to singles bars, but all was well after Jane Foster arranged a blind date for Odin which turned out to be Frigga, and they danced to their favorite love song from their wedding reception and all was well, except for Loki's B-plot of refusing to move his car to the other side of the street for alternate parking. Heh heh heh! That's our Loki!


In the winter, every year, Odin offered to take Thor ice fishing with him and Fandral's dad and Volstagg's dad, but Thor preferred staying home and playing Grand Theft Asgard for hours at a time. "That boy of mine won't amount to anything," sighed Odin to his comrades as they huddled around the fishing hole in the ice on the frigid Sea of Fear, kept warm in his Kirby-designed combination polar fleece hat and bathmat. "Eh, don't fret, Odin," said Volstagg Sr., slapping him on the back. "My boy's going to grow up to be a skinny little twig. Won't eat a thing you put in front of him."

"I think my son's gay," confessed Fandral Sr. quietly.


Odin, as Snorri Sturlson, the ancient Norse myths, and the songs of the bards tell us, never missed an episode of CSI: Miami, so his instruction to Kirby to create him a hat that was also a television (with adjustable aerial antennae) was fairly understandable, even though the lightning storms, especially when Thor was just going into puberty, usually interfered with decent reception. On the same trip he also picked up this rather unusual mystical glove with transformation and regenerative powers. Picking up his clothes from the floor soon after his return from Midgard, Frigga enquired where her husband had obtained the strange gauntlet. "Oh, just some police officer," Odin said quickly. "Sar...Sal Pezzini in NYPD homicide. We were in 'Nam together."

That's only a handful (or headful, if you're The Lernaean Hydra) of Odin's hats designed and created for him by one of the few mortals he had the highest of regard for, Jack Kirby. (Also, for some reason, comedian/actor Jamie Foxx.) Everyone in Asgard knew Odin's hats were special and dear to him, and Loki and Thor were often warned that the hats not to be touched or taken from Odin's wardrobe, under penalty of a severe All-Father-Spanking. In his later years, however, Mrs. Odin began to sneak several of the infrequently worn hats into jumble sales and charity shops. "He's got so many of them," she complained, "he'll never even notice. Why, he hasn't worn this one since he fought Mangog, The Sum Total of the Hatred of a Billion Billion Beings." That's why, occasionally you'll find one of Odin's hats on Midgard, in a garage sale or flea market—check the price and act casual, because usually the dealer doesn't know what he's got there, and you can get away with it for fifty bucks and double your money on eBay the next day.

And occasionally—not often—you'll even see a mere mortal wearing one of Odin's castoff Jack Kirby hats.



BoffoYuxDudes said...

Hats off to you. Never thought of Odin's haberdashery products as a post, but there's plenty to talk about in his headwear.

However, even Odin would be caught dead wearing the last one. Didn't I see that in A.C. Moore as a flocking kit?

SallyP said...

Bully, you have such a KNACK for explaining things that NEED to be explained. Such as Odin's fashion sense. And parenting skills.