As the year 1972 began, Jack Kirby had only two issues left to go in his Jimmy Olsen run. According to Mark Evanier (one of Kirby’s two assistants at the time), the writer-artist-editor hadn’t been enjoying the assignment all that much, and it’s probably safe to assume that he wasn’t sorry to see the end of it. Nevertheless, before making his exit from the “Superman family” of DC Comics titles, Kirby would take the opportunity to deliver on an implicit promise regarding the Man of Steel which he’d made his readers at the end of Forever People #1, published a little over a year previously… Read More
In considering the last third of Jack Kirby’s run on Jimmy Olsen — a run of five issues beginning with #144 that starts out pretty well, but finishes up rather anticlimactically, with a number of tantalizing plot threads left simply dangling — it’s probably worth remembering that Kirby was never all that excited about chronicling the adventures of “Superman’s Pal” in the first place.
In a 2011 blog post concerning JO #144, Mark Evanier (one of Kirby’s two assistants in 1971) wrote:
Jack didn’t much like working on Jimmy Olsen. It was someone else’s character, someone’s else’s book…and when you worked on the “Superman family” comics then, you had to coordinate with a half-dozen other editors who also had Superman (and sometimes Jimmy) in their comics… Many at DC hated the way Jack drew Superman and Olsen and his renderings of those characters were being redrawn by others… and Kirby was just sick of the assignment.
The subject of today’s blog post is probably the best known issue of writer-artist-editor Jack Kirby’s DC Comics title Mister Miracle — or, if not that, at least the most referenced. Its contents are mentioned in most comprehensive histories of American comic books, as well as in the majority of biographies not only of Kirby himself, but also of Stan Lee, Kirby’s primary collaborator at DC’s main rival, Marvel Comics. Most of you out there reading this probably know the reason why; it’s all down to a certain character who, while he doesn’t actually appear on the comic’s cover by Kirby and inker Mike Royer, does have his debut heralded there: “Introducing.. Funky Flashman! Villain or Hero — You Decide!”
And why was — why is — Funky Flashman such a big deal? Because, as Jordan Raphael and Tom Spurgeon so aptly put it in their 2004 book, Stan Lee and the Rise and Fall of the American Comic Book, Funky represented Kirby’s “considered vivisection of his old creative partner.”
But, here’s the thing — back in November, 1971, my fourteen-year-old self didn’t get that. At all. Read More
Regular readers of this blog may have noticed, and perhaps even wondered at, the absence of Jimmy Olsen in recent months. After all, beginning with the advent of Jack Kirby as writer-artist of the adventures of Superman’s freckle-faced pal with JO #133, we’ve devoted an entire post to each and every issue of the series, sans one (that one being #139, featuring the first half of the “Goody Rickels” two-part storyline) — or at least we had done so, up through #141 (the second half of said two-parter). Since July, however, there’s been no sign of the red-headed reporter for the Daily Planet around these parts. So, well might you wonder: what’s up with that? Read More
Why Don Rickles?
That was the question I had, back in the spring and summer of 1971, as Jack Kirby devoted not just one, but two issues of Jimmy Olsen — the first two following the conclusion of his initial story arc for the series, a six-chapter saga that he’d begun in his very first issue — to a tale focused on the famous insult comic.
It’s not that my fourteen-year-old self had anything against Don Rickles; I actually thought the guy was pretty funny. But that didn’t necessarily mean that I wanted to see him — or any comedian, really — in my superhero comics. I certainly didn’t expect it, in any event. Read More
Behind an attention-arresting cover, which — like most others Jack Kirby produced for DC Comics around this time — was built around an imaginative photo collage (and which also, like the cover of the issue of Jimmy Olsen that had immediately preceded it, featured Neal Adams’ inks over Kirby’s pencils), the comics readers of April, 1971 — including your humble blogger — were treated to the thrilling conclusion of the first multi-part storyline (indeed, the first storyline, period) of the massive Fourth World project written, drawn, and edited by Kirby. Read More
Taken together, the first six issues of Jack Kirby’s run on Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen — beginning with #133, and continuing on through #138 — comprise one long story, which, for purposes of discussion, can conveniently be broken down into three discrete parts, each two issues long.
In the first part (#133-134), Kirby hits the ground literally racing, introducing such new characters and concepts as the new Newsboy Legion, Inter-Gang, the Wild Area, the Outsiders, Habitat, the Zoomway, the Mountain of Judgment, and the Hairies — oh, and some fellow named Darkseid — without giving Jimmy, his pal the Man of Steel, or us readers, a chance to catch a breath.
Moving into the middle section (#135–136), the writer-artist-editor slows things down a bit, as the headlong narrative comes to rest (at least temporarily) at the Project, a secret U.S. government initiative successfully experimenting with human cloning. In these issues, the majority of scenes function in an expository mode — though that mode is significantly interrupted at one point by violent action, in the form of an attack from the Project’s rival operation, the Evil Factory.
Finally, in the third and final part, the pace ratchets up again, as the Evil Factory unleashes a second, more deadly assault on the Project — one which threatens virtually all of the characters and locales we’ve met in the series to date, including the entire city of Metropolis. Read More
In early 1971, when the subject of today’s post blog first showed up on spinner racks, Jack Kirby had been producing new comic books for DC Comics for almost half a year. Not only had three issues of Kirby’s debut project, Jimmy Olsen, been released by this time, but so had the premiere issues of his three brand new titles — Forever People, New Gods, and Mister Miracle (the latter actually hitting stands on the very same day as Jimmy Olsen #136, January 14). He was becoming established (or, more accurately re-established) at the publisher, in other words. Perhaps that’s the main reason that this fourth Olsen outing, unlike the first three, didn’t feature Kirby’s name anywhere on the cover; after five months, DC may have figured they no longer needed to tell us readers that Kirby Was Here — by now, we must know that, surely. Read More
The month of November, 1970 brought comics readers the third installment of writer-artist Jack Kirby’s run on Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen — a book which also happened to be the third installment of the massive, multi-title, interconnected epic that we’d eventually come to know as Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, though few if any of us who were reading the comics as they came out fifty years ago had more than the vaguest inkling of that fact.
But it hardly mattered, because Kirby was giving us so much to thrill to and wonder at in each issue of Jimmy Olsen on its own, with no need for reference to any larger narrative. The “King” had come roaring out of the gate with his very first issue, #133, which set Jimmy and his new best friends, the Newsboy Legion, on a mission into the mysterious Wild Area, where they immediately got mixed up with a community of motorcyclists called the Outsiders, who made their home in a “tree city” called Habitat. The next issue, #134, found Jimmy and company taking their super-vehicle, the Whiz Wagon, out onto a subterranean drag strip called the Zoomway, joining the Outsiders in a quest for the Mountain of Judgement — which turned out to be an enormous, high-tech mobile home, the headquarters of yet another hidden society, the Hairies. In the issue’s climax, a bomb that had been surreptitiously placed in the Whiz Wagon was discovered and — with the help of Superman, who’d followed Jimmy and his colleagues to the Wild Area — dealt with just in time to prevent the Mountain of Judgement and its inhabitants from being blown to bits. The issue ended with Jimmy’s new boss, Morgan Edge — the man who’d built the Whiz Wagon for the Newsboys in the first place, and then sent them and Jimmy into the Wild Area — reporting in to his own, secret boss: a forbidding-looking fellow named Darkseid.
Quite a lot to take in for just two issues, wouldn’t you say? Read More
In August, 1970, when DC Comics released Jimmy Olsen #133 — the first new comic book produced for the publisher by Jack Kirby to make it to print — they marked the occasion with a “Kirby Is Here!” banner headline (a consummation of the “Kirby Is Coming!” promotional campaign they’d been running the last couple of months), topping a cover drawn (mostly) by Kirby himself.
Two months later, when the publisher brought out their second Kirby comic, they continued to use his name as a selling point, with the cover’s banner headline now proclaiming “A King-Size Kirby Blockbuster!” (“King-Sized” was in fact not an entirely accurate description, since both the physical comic itself and the featured story within were of standard length; perhaps DC was trying to evoke the “King” nickname that Kirby had acquired at his former employer, Marvel Comics.) But the cover illustration itself wasn’t by Kirby, this time; rather, it was the work of Neal Adams. Read More