Monday, November 5, 2012

Return of the King: Captain America 193

Captain America #193 (Jan. 1976)
"Screamer in the Brain!"
Writer/Artist/Editor: Jack Kirby
Inker: Frank Giacoia

Karen: We usher in November with a series of four reviews featuring Jack Kirby's work upon his return to Marvel Comics in the seventies. Kirby really hadn't been gone all that long. He'd headed over to DC in 1970, where he generated the "Fourth World" stable of characters, as well as others, like Kamandi, Omac, and The Demon. But just six years later, he was back at Marvel, the company that owed so much to his creative capabilities and artistic style. Yet in that short time period, much had changed. Comic art had skewed towards a more realistic style. Kirby's art however, had  become even more bombastic and over the top than before. When 'The King' returned to Marvel, his artwork was somewhat jarring to see. It just seemed out of place, although he was back at the company he'd helped build. Of course, leading up to his arrival, we had several months of Frank Robbins on Captain America, so for me, anything was an improvement! Sorry, but it had to be said.

Doug:  I remarked to Karen when we were deciding to run this series that I am truly a tabula rasa on all four of these books coming your way on Mondays in November.  As a youngster I was really turned off by Kirby's art by the time he got back to Marvel.  I'd really only seen his Kamandi from DC, so really had no knowledge of the Fourth World stuff until many years later.  But as Kirby started to do a lot of covers at Marvel, I did not appreciate the blocky style of his fingers and the awkward linework for shading, etc.  To be honest, it somewhat jaded my perceptions of his Silver Age output being seen in Marvel's Greatest Comics, Marvel Double Feature, etc.  I've since come to really treasure that material, holding his runs on Thor, Fantastic Four, and Tales of Suspense among the best comic book art of any age.  But more than anything, reading his self-penned stories only makes me value Stan Lee all the more.

Doug:  And I will always second your appraisal of Frank Robbins.  Never, ever, a fan.  I know he has his apologists -- I would not be one of them. 

Karen: Comics had also continued to mature in storytelling, and Captain America had been a prime example of this in the early seventies. Writer Steve Englehart  put Cap  in a situation where he had to question his beliefs and his loyalties. When Kirby picked up the series, it was right after it had been revealed that Cap's partner, the Falcon, had actually been a criminal and had been brainwashed by the Red Skull to work with Cap. Cap had been trying to work through this in previous issues, but when Kirby came on the title, he never made reference to it, essentially starting his series 'from scratch'. While I personally thought this Falcon storyline was a bad idea, it was perplexing as a reader to see it dropped entirely from the book. Kirby's Cap seemed to exist in his own little universe. I suppose this worked best for Kirby, as he likely was not too familiar with what had been going on at Marvel while he was gone. But as a reader, it was noticeable. The Cap in this title seemed different from the Cap over in Avengers. It was as if Kirby was writing Cap circa 1969.

Doug:  Is it ego, or just clumsiness?  We've seen similar disregard for the past from John Byrne and of course Brian Michael Bendis (among others, I'm sure).  In this case I'd tend to side with Kirby's workload being immediately very heavy and his not taking the time to get current with the contemporary Marvel mythos.

Karen: This issue jumps right into the action. After a strange, symbolic splash page showing Cap and the Falcon standing in front of a giant screaming mouth, covering their ears in agony, we see Cap and the Falcon arm-wrestling in someone's kitchen while Leila, Falcon's girlfriend, makes them coffee! OK, if you had read any previous issues of Captain America, this scene would come across as highly incongruous.

Doug:  I was not a full-time Cap reader in those days but I'm thinking that Englehart's Leila wouldn't have been making anyone a cup of coffee.

Karen: In the midst of all this, Cap and Falc are zapped in the heads by some sort of ray and attack each other. Cap: "I'll break you, Falcon!"  Falcon: "Try it, Whitey!  Just try it, and I'll!..." The two trade blows but Cap is able to overcome this sudden violent urge, and Falcon does too. But then Leila goes bonkers! She grabs a kitchen knife and tries to attack them. Falcon attempts to disarm her when a brick comes flying through the window. Cap leaps outside and finds pandemonium in the streets. The captions tell us it is the work of the "mad bomb". To me, this seemed like a very clunky piece of writing. Why tell us what's causing the problem right up front?

Doug:  This scene between Cap and Falc came right out of Beneath the Planet of the Apes, didn't it?  And again, why are our heroes in costume on their leisure time?  Can't anyone ever just chillax in a pair of jeans and a hoodie?  And are you seriously trying to tell me that if you were going to set off some awesome mind-control gizmo that you wouldn't stick it just off the sidewalk, between two buildings where any shmoe could find it?  C'mon -- that's where I'd hide it!

Karen: Cap is overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of the mob. Trampled and battered, he picks himself up off the ground, and spots a strange device between two buildings. It is the mad bomb. As he makes his way towards it, the emanations grow stronger and start driving Cap crazy. He struggles to reach it. He grabs it and laughs maniacally, saying that the bomb is ugly and must be destroyed. A fellow lunatic comes up behind him and says he wants the bomb, and just as he is about to bash Cap's brains in, Cap crushes the bomb with his shield, and they both sink to the ground.

Doug:  The scene goes apocalyptic pretty quickly doesn't it?

Karen: Cap slowly regains his strength and looks around, to see the neighborhood in utter ruins. He spots a sign about to topple onto a woman, but luckily the Falcon comes swooping down to save her. The two heroes begin to discuss what's going on, agreeing that it seems that the madness was artificially induced, when a mysterious man appears and shows them a fragment of the "mad bomb" that caused it all. Now why couldn't we get our first reference to the mad bomb right here? Anyway, we see the inner workings of the device, complete with "simulated human brain"! Cap guesses that the man is a SHIELD agent and the man doesn't respond but simply insists that their country needs them and they must come with him right away. Coming off Englehart's "Secret Empire" saga, Cap's quick acceptance of this is a bit hard to swallow. The two heroes board a plane with the agent, who tells them that the government is aware of more mad bombs but not who is responsible for them. However, they've clamped the lid down on the media so that they are only reporting the incidents as riots.  Gotta love that repressive government in action! The plane lands at a secret base that is coordinating all efforts against the mad bombs. The place is under high security, and once they land, the two heroes are told to enter a corridor and keep on going. Falcon starts to question this, but Cap says, "Let's just follow instructions, Falcon." This was just really hard to swallow at the time! It didn't sound anything like the Cap I had come to know and love from 1973 on up.

Doug:  What sort of commentary was Kirby making about the government in this part?  We all know he had been a soldier, and soldiers follow orders, but Cap's blind obedience belied (as you say) what had gone on recently in the book.  And I don't think Englehart was any sort of counter-culture hippie for having penned "Secret Empire"; I think he was reflecting on the views of many Americans.  So for this suit to just show up and never identify himself (remember, Cap had been a member of SHIELD at one point) was just silly.  And neither Cap or Sam thought this could be a machination of AIM, or the Skull, or Dr. Faustus?  Duh...

Karen: Of course, the heroes then face a gauntlet of gas, hurtling metal rods, and walls closing in on them.  Cap finally locates a hidden switch and they escape, only to come face to face with -- Henry Kissinger! Upon seeing Kissinger, Cap says they should get some answers, to which the then-Secretary of State responds, "Hah! You dreamer you! The test isn't over yet! We'll have our chat -if you survive the final hurdle!"  This story is definitely veering off into realms of the absurd!

Doug:  As if this wasn't a dubiously-told tale, the entrance of Dr. Kissinger sent it heading south in a hurry.

Karen: The second phase of the test has a room full of thugs attack Cap, but he quickly batters his way through them. Satisfied, Kissinger calls them off.  Kirby tries to mimic Kissinger's heavy accent but it is more distracting than successful. When he has the secretary tell Cap to call him "Henny"  my jaw nearly hit the floor. 

Doug:  I tried to quit "hearing" Kissinger's accent, but it was tough.  Agreed -- totally distracting.  And "Henny" -- well, you've already said it.  Oh, and after all of the projectiles and collapsing walls, a bunch of goons were needed to "prove" these guys?

Karen: Kissinger activates a video screen and shows the pair previous mad bombs. The first, "Peanut," was a tiny bomb that wiped out a small town. The next one, "Dumpling," devastated a town of 200,000 people. The one the heroes faced in New York was larger still. Falcon speculates that the next one could be the size of a barrel, and possibly wipe out the rest of New York, or other big cities like Chicago or Los Angeles. "Guess again Mister Super Duper!" Kissinger says, in another cringe-inducing bit of dialog. Kissinger shows them a photo of the next mad bomb that was secretly taken by a spy and smuggled back to SHIELD. It is "Big Daddy" -- a towering bomb easily two stories high, capable of wiping out the entire United States. And just for extra fun, Cap says, "And my guess is that he's timed to go off at the start of the bicentennial year!"

Doug:  As far as set-up goes, and I'm not speaking here of execution -- only substance -- this issue served Kirby's purpose.  We are left with a sense of impending doom, a whole lot of unfinished business, more than a few head-scratchers, and a big brain in a hot water heater (well, that's what it looked like to me).  And you know what?  Everything I've ever read about Jack Kirby talks about his energy and his wild and crazy imagination.  Well, the energy shines through, but that imagination could have perhaps used some boundaries.  Being one's own editor isn't always the best thing it would seem.

Karen: I'm just gonna say it: I thought this story was terrible then, and I think it is terrible now. Kirby's art went from dramatic to being a caricature of itself. Every single scene is hyped up; people are always screaming it seems. And the writing... where to begin? The dialog is stilted, the captions pound us over the head with things that we don't need to know. There's no subtly here whatsoever. As mentioned before, the characters also are off. After everything Cap has been through in the last few years with his government, the last thing he's going to do is jump on a plane no questions asked and just follow orders. I thought this was a real low point for the title. The sad thing is, if Kirby had been brought back just to draw the book, it might have worked. But his writing, and the fact that he completely ignored significant changes to the characters since his time at Marvel, were huge blows to the title.


J.A. Morris said...

Nice writeup, I've been thinking about getting the tpb of these stories, I might skip it.

Kirby's lack of subtlety (here and elsewhere in the 70s) is why I never bought into the idea that "Stan Lee was an editor, he never wrote anything".

Anonymous said...

I had the opposite experience with these issues. Firstly, this period (75/76) was when I very first started collecting Marvel and getting Cap monthly (I had sporadic issues before that) and here in the UK we were still reading Silver Age reprints which were either all Kirby or other artists imitating his house style, so it didn’t jar at all. And secondly, I didn’t notice this as being different to his previous style.....I just thought it wasn’t a great inking job (Giacoia vs the Sinnott FF’s I’d read in reprint).

Post Robbins, yup, anything would look better. Anything that didn’t look like an osteopath’s dream client.

Ref. ignoring recent past issues, it wasn’t just that. This Kirby run pretty much ignored the whole of Cap’s history and the rest of the Marvel Universe. This issue is even called ‘Captain America’ (NOT ... ‘and the Falcon’).

Ref. Kirby’s dialogue...Sweet Jesus, yes, but this wasn’t a new thing. I just read his last Marvel work in 1970 on the Inhumans and the writing is terrible. The plot is OK, but the dialogue is awful. What makes it really incredible is that its biggest flaw is the exposition: characters keep describing what is happening rather than artwork showing it. This would be crap writing from a WRITER, but from an ARTIST turned WRITER, it’s the last thing you’d expect.

Like JA, I agree that nothing makes you appreciate Stan Lee quite so much as Kirby’s writing. He said many times (esp. towards the end) that Stan was just an office boy, an administrator not an originator, but I think it was Jack’s wild & wide vision and artistry coupled with Stan’s ‘realism’ that made it what it was. (OK, not really realism per se, but Kirby would never have written super heroes bickering or forgetting to pay the gas bill, or getting flu, or having random thoughts or self doubts).

Ref. the art, yes as well. His action is fine and things look perfectly 3D as long as they’re being smashed to bits, but otherwise everything looks 2 dimensional. Fingers, as you say, look flat. They look like Cap forgot to put his hands inside his gloves and it’s just the empty gloves flapping about.

I remember really enjoying these issues at the time, as I loved run on stories and this one was clearly going to link Cap 200 to the Bicentennial. Honestly, I really enjoyed it.....but I was nine at the time. I have consciously not re-read it since.

I do still like the fact that the mad bomb is like a living brain. About 10 years after this, just at the time I was giving up comics, DC came out with a limited series where the bad guy destroyed New York with a giant mutant brain and it reminded me very much of the Madbomb. Whatever happened to that story???


Edo Bosnar said...

I had a few of these Cap issues, since Kirby took over the series just as I was getting into comics - and I have to say, I didn't become a regular reader at that point, just because like so many of us who started reading comics in the '70s, I really didn't like Kirby's art at the time. (However, I also had that Bicentennial Battles Treasury Edition, which I really liked.)
Based on what I've read of Kirby's second tenure at Marvel, I think Karen's final assessment can pretty much be applied across the board. And as for Henry Kissinger - ouch! But I suppose it's a step up from Don Rickles...

david_b said...

Yeah..., I recall getting this issue on the stands, and after months of being sickened by Robbins art, it felt like a step up.

I had heard so much about how great Kirby was, and had a few reprint FF and TOS issues, but this felt very 'underwhelming' (not even addressing the caricature lament yet..). Panels such as their entrance to meet Kissinger (shown here..) unfortunately forebode just how disappointing the art would become. You almost wish a young Perez or someone would have taken over instead if you couldn't grab Sal back.

As mentioned, energized..? Yes.
Anywhere near previous CA&F art quality..? Woefully no.

Yep, Cap was back in his own world, same complaints as back when he got his own title before Steranko came in. Just look at the letters pages by ish 109 and 110..: Whatever gains Cap had near the end of his TOS tenure was lost and looked silly in the first few issues of his own mag.

I felt like I was the biggest CA&F fan in the world by the time the 'Secret Empire' had concluded and the Rogers 'Nomad' storyline was in place.

It was a pretty crushing experience when Steve and Sal left.

I may have picked up a few issues since for curiosity, but essentially 'my Cap' was gone.

david_b said...

Incidentally, ANOTHER nail in the coffin was losing the awesome Sal Buscema cover masthead image of Cap, replaced by the silly running Kirby one by the next issue or so.

"oh, the pain.."

Garett said...

I picked up the '70s Kirby Cap TPBs a few years ago, and moderately enjoyed them. I hadn't read much Cap, so I didn't have the continuity problems.

Last week I picked up the new softcover TPB of Tales of Suspense 82-99, Cap 100--and can't get enough of it! Lee's scripting is much better, Kirby's art is better. Exciting and fun comics. I've already read through it twice! My favorites are the run from #82-85 with the Adaptoid, the Tumbler, the Super Adaptoid, and best of all, the all-out slugfest with Batroc.

Also recently read Thor Essential 3--very good. I didn't see much Lee/Kirby as a kid, but I'm digging it now!

david_b said...

I strongly encourage everyone to reach out for the CA&F issues from around 157 to 181.

A few good stories before that like the 2nd Cap, but from the added team pressure of Cap getting his super-soldier strength back through the Secret Empire to becoming the (1st) Nomad, it was Sal and Steve (and Cap) at their creative zenith.

'Nuff Said.

Inkstained Wretch said...

Let me second Karen's comment that if only they could have gotten someone else to write the title then it could have been a classic. Kirby's writing is all over the place with great ideas scrunched next to terrible ones along with awkward plotting and tin-eared dialogue.

Comics like this were my introduction to Kirby and they had me wondering for years afterwards why so many people made such a fuss over him. He wasn't that good, I thought. In fact, he was kind of awful. It wasn't until much later when I got into the Silver Age stuff that I changed my tune on him.

What a pity his ego refused to let him work with another writer on Captain America. What might have been...

Having said that, I have Essential Captain America #1-6 and I gotta say none of it really excites me. Cap's solo title struggled for most of its existence with only a few brief runs -- Steranko and Byrne -- really shinning.

I never thought Cap had a particularly strong characterization or the writers came up approach to him. Most of the time he seemed to wringing his hands over America and his place in it. It was too emo for me.

Anonymous said...

This is a low point for Kirby and Cap. And I'm betting the Falcon left this issue off his resume, too.

I agree with David_B on Cap's high point. Along with Steranko's three issues, Englehart and Buscema's run was the best.

Marvel made some strange choices for assignments to Kirby when he came back. Cap, Black Panther, and 2001? One look at Kamandi or Mr. Miracle should've been all took to realize that he was ill-suited for anything even remotely realistic. At least with Devil Dinosaur or The Eternals (neither of which I followed much), he came off better by not following up Englehart, MacGregor, or Kubrick. Even his goofiest DC books were better than this mess.

I did like Machine Man, and bought it faithfully through the Ditko run. I don't remember much about it now, but I did love the endless amounts of gadgetry (one of Kirby's strengths). Kirby's writing, always his weak spot, at least worked better with characters that were 100% his.

I like most of his DC work. Terrible dialogue, but so much energy. Every issue of Kamandi, The Demon, or any fourth world book has enough ideas and action to fill a year's worth of Action Comics.

Anyone checked out his unpublished pages for The Prisoner? Ye gods! Another book that he was completely unsuited for.

James Chatterton

Fred W. Hill said...

I was 13 when this came out and had been collecting CA&TF regularly since the beginning of the Secret Empire story (although I did miss a few issues here and there). I loved the Englehart/ Buscema team and wasn't too happy when Robbins took over from our pal Sal and then .... Well, Kirby's return was rather jarring. I loved the reprints of his classic Silver Age material I was reading in Marvel's Greatest Comics and elsewhere. But I knew that was "history" and, anyhow, Stan Lee "wrote" those (at that time I had no clue as to the controversy over who really wrote those stories, but at the very least Stan wrote the dialogue and edited them. From what I've read, when Kirby came back he really didn't want to be shackled by past continuity and wanted his stories to be self-contained. That worked, up to a point, on The Eternals, something completely new and different. Not so much on either Captain America or the Black Panther. Hell, his version of T'Challa didn't even seem to much resemble the character as he introduced him in FF #52 and his take on Cap in '76 seemed more akin to the character as depicted in his earliest appearances in Tales of Suspense, of which I picked up the Pocketbook reprints circa 1978. Those stories were consciously written in the "Golden Age" style, just gung ho action, action, action, and little or no attempt at realistic characterization. Cap was far more interesting as the leader of the Kookie Quartet than he was in his own series in '65 & '66 and apparently it wasn't until Kirby left for a bit that Stan & other artists started adding at least a little more depth to the series, which leads me to believe that Stan pretty much let Jack do whatever he wanted in those earlier stories and when he came back later on, although perhaps to a lesser degree. With Jack back in full charge again, this Cap might as well have been in an alternate universe as none of the characters seemed at all like their former selves and in the 2 years and a few months that Kirby was on the title, I don't recall that any characters from other titles made so much as a cameo and the only old villain to show up was the Red Skull (at least Kirby was coming up with more original stuff than just about anyone else).
I wasn't all that keen on either his blocky art or his stilted dialogue, yet I stuck with Kirby on Cap and it was a wild ride. I was also obvious, however, that Kirby's work no longer fit in with the fictional universe he had done so much to create. Rather sad to contemplate. He was still regalled as the King but he no longer reigned. Sort of like Presley in the Beatles' era.

Karen said...

This was not an easy review to write. I did not relish ripping a comics legend. But I had the same experience reading this issue now as I did back in 1976: deep disappointment.

Captain America had become one of my favorite characters and titles. Now granted, by the time Kirby returned, Englehart had left and so had Buscema, so things had started to slide downhill, but Kirby's tenure took place in an entirely different universe. On top of that, it was painful to see this once-great talent producing such sub-standard work. It bothers me more now then it did then, since I have the lens of time to look through. But it's well known that Kirby wanted to write as well as draw, so I suppose the people in charge at Marvel felt they had no choice but to let him do his thing. Honestly, it's not such a big deal on the books he created, like the Eternals or Devil Dinosaur. We've just started reviews for those titles, but I can say already that while the dialog is still rough, things are not nearly so bad as they were here on Cap.

But I still can't help but think that somehow somebody should have found a way to work with Kirby to help smooth out the rough spots. How could they put out this issue and not cringe? It's been said that many of the younger artists and writers at Marvel began to make fun of Kirby -wrong-headed and crass, but when he was allowed to produce garbage like this, is it any wonder?

Who knows how much better this Mad Bomb story line might have been with a little editorial input? I hate that crap like this is around to mar his record. And I'm not even a big Kirby fan, but the man is responsible for so much of the super-hero mythology we all love, it's a shame that so much of his second turn at Marvel had to go so badly.

Karen said...

I'd also like to add I am shocked that we are pretty much all in agreement on this! Thought for sure we'd see some ardent Kirby supporters take umbrage at this review, but apparently that's not the case.

Lots of good points.Fred, your Elvis in the Beatles era image is stuck in my head now.

Kid said...

I'm surprised that your review garnered so much agreement. Whenever I write anything even mildly critical of Kirby, most of the feedback seems to disagree with me. I think I agree with just about everything in your post and the responses to it. That said, whenever I read Kirby, I place him in his own little box and enjoy his stories for what they were - an uncomplicated way to pass twenty minutes or so in undemanding reading.

Regarding his art, it had certainly become a parody of itself, the result of habitually taking too many shortcuts in order to meet his quota. When I say 'shortcuts', I'm not talking detail - Kirby put in lots of detail. What I mean is that he took shortcuts in ensuring it was realistic detail, resulting in abstract musculature and shadows which bore no relation to what cast them. Over time, these shortcuts became the norm, and his artwork suffered greatly for it.

For Kirby art at its absolute best, see his Wally Wood-inked Challengers of the Unknown pages. They really were something to shout about.

Fantastic Four Fan 4ever said...

While I don't agree with everyone on this board; I liked the Kirby run on Captain America. Kirby wasn't the best writer, however the 12 year old in me loved the artwork. I knew he wasn't from the Neal Adams school of photo realism. I just liked the raw emotional quality of his work. It took me almost 30 years, but now I appreciate his work now, more than ever.

There was a charm to his work that drew me in. I used to think that anyone could draw like Jack Kirby. That is until I got older and realized he helped create a universe of characters. He also created what is known as the "Marvel Style" of drawing comics.

The man had was in his 60's or late 50's and had it with Stan Lee taking full credit for the characters he helped co-create. If it wasn't for Kirby's battles with Marvel; Stan would known as the sole creator of the characters. You'll notice a lot of news articles now refer to him as the "Co-Creator" of Spidey, X-Men Avengers and the list goes on. In the 1970's it was only Stan Lee's name that appeared on the Marvel "Origins" books.

The reason he didn't want a writer was because concepts were taken from him (i.e. Silver Surfer) and handed to other artists to develop.

On the Frank Robbins issue: His artwork (on the Invaders) was paying tribute to the same artist who worked on Steve Canyon in the 1940's. At one point, Robbins ghosted for Milton Caniff's Johnny Hazard comic strip.

Roy Thomas was going for the 1940's look in "The Invaders". The trouble was, kids int he 70's didn't care about WWII or Milton Caniff's art.

Fantastic Four Fan 4ever said...

More on Kirby:

I still think his 4th World saga was the best of his work. You have one Kirby advocate on this board. Your talking to someone who just purchased all four trade paperbacks to the entire 4th World saga. This year I bought the hardcovers of his "O.M.A.C." issues, volumes one and two of "Kamandi" and "The Demon".

I have to admit his writing wasn't the best. However as a cartoonist, I love looking at his work again and again. It's just that the Stan and Marvel didn't pay him what he was worth. He wasn't just a man who pushed a pencil.

He was a founding father of the Marvel universe and all they offered Kirby was his page rate and a bad contract that never let him share the money Marvel made off his work.

Comicsfan said...

I had my own take on Kirby's run on Cap, and your frank sentiments here certainly echo much of the opinion out there on both Kirby's style as well as the uncomfortable Englehart/Kirby segue of the character. I tend to agree with Karen on Kirby's intentions for both Cap and the Falcon in terms of disregarding their prior development before his foot got in the door, and establishing a new standard for the book and characters. When Kirby has touched on character histories in the past on those occasions when he's scripted a story (e.g., his Inhumans tale in Amazing Adventures #1), it hasn't been done with any sense of alignment with past character development so much as some kind of effort to try to make the reader feel at ease with the shift in direction. Leila is the perfect example--we're made aware that Kirby hasn't forgotten the stable of characters we've become used to in the book (though Redwing is conspicuously M.I.A. for the duration), yet Leila's independence and fire have seemingly been jettisoned and she's now a supporting character, with emphasis on the "supporting." Englehart's Leila would want to pick up a baseball bat and take off with Falcon to boot the idiot who's messed with her mind; the role of Kirby's Leila is to exemplify the threat of the Madbomb and be Falcon's port in the storm.

This review was such interesting reading, and I'm definitely looking forward to the rest of the installments. The Kirby run on Cap certainly provides you with enough subject matter--you may be here awhile! :)

Edo Bosnar said...

FF Fan 4ever, I share your fondness for the 4th World, and most of Kirby's other DC projects. He just seemed to bring so much more energy and passion to this material than he did during his 'second coming' at Marvel.
By the way, did you read his Captain Victory series for Pacific? Sometimes I get the impression I'm one of a small handful of people who really likes it (or roughly the first 6-7 issues anyway) - much more than I like any of his Marvel work from the 1970s.

William said...

I agree with Karen's assessment of Kirby's return to Marvel and Captain America. (I seem to agree with Karen a lot). Anyway, I remember trying to read these issues when I was a kid, and even back then I thought both the art and writing were, let's say, less than good.

I like a lot of Kirby's art and I definitely respect his body of work and what he meant to the comics industry as a whole. However, he's not even in my personal top 5 of all-time favorite artists. I discovered Kirby for myself when I was kid, mostly through reprints of his run on the Fantastic Four with Stan Lee. I really loved that stuff, and thought that "The King" was at his peak of his powers during that time. However, I never cared for any of his "Fourth World" and other DC work. And when he came back to Marvel for a second run, his art had changed dramatically IMO. His lines were much to hard and angular and his shading gave everything an almost metallic look. For instance Cap looks like he's wearing a shiny metal costume. Also, every panel was too in your face and over the top. And speaking of over the top, Kirby's writing definitely "jumped the shark" on Captain America, and most of his solo writing projects for that matter. Let's face it, Kirby should have stuck to drawing and left the writing to those who could actually write. Nuff said.

Anonymous said...

Hi FF Fan 4ever – I don’t really get your point about Robbins. You’re undoubtedly right that RT wanted a 40’s look on the Invaders and Robbins could therefore claim to be homaging the 40’s artists, but his art on everything else (Cap, Daredevil, Ghost Rider, Fear, the Human Fly (God help us), Premiere #28, Tigra, Luke Cage, and I don’t know what else) was all the same twisted mess of limbs and detail-free faces.

And, let’s face it, for whatever mad reason Marvel heralded Robbins’s arrival as a big coup, they knew he was rubbish. He must be the only Marvel artist who never drew a cover unless he was the interior artist too, and even then there are precious few where they let him loose on the cover. He is...the Anti-Kane ! (Cue spooky chanting music).


Dougie said...

I like Robbins' work for exactly the reasons that most dislike it. But then I find naturalism in comics (and in movies) a faintly silly idea.

My favourite Bronze Age Kirby Marvel works are probably Eternals 1 and 2; I found them tremendously exciting as a kid.
I have to admit I'm not crazy about Bicentennial Cap. I prefer the Englehart/Nomad/Falcon era but there are ideas and beats I enjoy: the 1984 sequence and Cap's Love Story, for instance.

But presumably Marvel hired Kirby to generate new ideas and characters in the 70s. They must have known he wouldn't be interested in a "continuity" that was over a dozen years old by that point; he'd have thought it was restrictive and old hat, I imagine.

As for terrible dialogue, the faux-Beat poetry of Don McGregor or Marv Wolfman's attempts at humorous repartee offend me more than Kirby.

Anonymous said...

I actually prefer Jack's Cap to those that preceded and succeeded it. I don't like "realistic" (are you KIDDIN me?) super-heroes----I find "serious" (RelEALLY?) super-heroes ridiculous. Clearly a minirity view. I think some take comic books to seriously for my taste. This stuff was the (mad)bomb!

Bruce B said...

Just discovered your blog & I'm really enjoying it. Or digging it, as we used to say in the Bronze Age!

I'm with you, in that Kirby's 1970's return to Captain America often falls flat for me. At his best, Cap is pitted agains ideological rivals who challenge the beliefs embodied by the Sentinel of Liberty. Kirby takes Captain America into far more of a sci-fi direction, as we see in this issue. Those types of stories just don't serve Cap very well, in my opinion.

To me, the one Kirby Cap storyline that worked from this era was the Swine/Arnim Zola/Red Skull saga, which borrowed heavily from "The Boys From Brazil."

Mario said...

It's true that Kirby started writing Cap in the 70s as it did in the '60s. Cap is a kind of James Bond, who works for the government to save the world, fighting Madbomb, space zombies or mad doctor as Arnim Zola as once fought against the Cosmic Cube, AIM and Modok (and ideas and characters like this, in the books of Lee without Kirby have never seen).

If you loved stories of the 60s, you will like this, if you didn't like you don't like that either.

For me, the come back of Kirby on Cap was the return the main creator, the complaints about continuity seem to me as if Alan Moore returned to write "Watchmen" and someone argue that it is not in line with "Before Watchmen".

It's also true that here, everything is excessive, either you love it or hate it.

My only criticism of this Kirby run's is the lack of irony that I liked in the Black Panther and in the course of the Eternals.

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