Sunday, October 24, 2010

Can Anything by Jack Kirby be a Guilty Pleasure?

Here is "War with the Spider God!" from Devil Dinosaur #2 (May 1978). Script and artwork by the great Jack Kirby; lettered and inked by one of his finest collaborators, Mike Royer.

Devil Dinosaur gets kind of a short shrift when comic fans start listing their favorite works by Kirby. Sure, it's no Fantastic Four, but it wasn't meant to be. Devil is a kids' comic, and a great one. It's full of dinosaurs, apemen, and monsters. It's 17 pages of non-stop action, and page 2 and 3 is always a 2-page splash mini-poster. I loved it!

It's interesting to see the "rules" of superhero comics applied to a T-Rex. Devil has a huge jaw filled with razor-sharp teeth, but he doesn't rip his enemies to shreds in true Thunder Lizard fashion. Instead, he leaps around like Captain America, stomping and kicking his opponents into submission like the Hulk. Kirby also applied some Lassie Logic to the feature, making the "animal" smarter than the "people".

Finally, Devil is yet another example of Kirby's great ability to not only design cool looking characters, but somehow make sure only he could draw them correctly. Think of his most popular creations...the Thing, the Hulk, Doctor Doom, Galactus, Darkseid, the Demon, and so many more...the only way to render them right is to emulate Jack. Devil is a wonderfully realized freak of nature, with his tiny human hands, his massive bear-trap teeth, and his wacky duck feet. Who else could imagine that?


Jeff Overturf said...

I was one of those folks (1978 I would have been 16) who looked down their nose at Devil Dinosaur while still revering Kirby as The King. Reading this now in retrospect, I believe you're right. This is pure, good fun with all the Kirby dynamism of story and visuals we all adore.

Thanks for the post!

October 28, 2010 10:45 AM

Doug Gray said...

Jeff: I've been obsessed with monsters since very young, so I was probably a bit older than the intended audience (I was about 12 when this came out) but it was one of my favorite books while it lasted.

I highly recommend rounding up all nine issues for the exact reasons you listed; aside from the unusual setting and cast, these are prime Kirby comics!

October 28, 2010 10:47 PM

Gabriel said...

I'm not going to say a word about Kirby's art: it will be a truism. But dude, if I was an ol' days kid reading this stuff I would be on the edge of my seat as I follow the plot. As for the script, I've always found Kirby's fascinating. Despite not being a great writer, he managed to express in words what his drawings asked for. Something, basic, rude and pure. Epics in comics has just one name: we all know which one.

October 29, 2010 2:59 AM

Mykal said...

I have to admit, I have never see this much of this title (before I've only see a random panel here or there). This stuff is amazing! I love your observations on what makes this so Kirby (the tiny, human-like hands; the huge, three-pronged feet). I am so tempted to shell out the bucks for the Marvel collection, except I am sometimes turned off by Marvel's need for shiny, hard paper that makes all the colors blobs. But, wow, is this swell stuff. Thanks for the post!

October 29, 2010 7:15 PM

Doug Gray said...

Gabriel: I agree with you on Kirby's scripts...his minimalism fit nicely with his expressive art; no need for subtlety in a Kirby story! "something basic, rude and pure"...well said!

Mykal: I would actually recommend looking for the comics on can sometimes find the whole run for less than $15 in original comic book form (the best way to read it!)

October 31, 2010 12:39 AM

Michelangelo said...

Hostess ad art is by Sal Buscema (p) and Joe Sinnott (i).

November 14, 2010 5:40 AM

Doug Gray said...

Michelangelo: Thank you!

November 14, 2010 9:19 AM

Chuck Wells said...

All of the Marvel books that Kirby worked on after he returned from his stint at DC are really pretty damn good.

The Eternals, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Machine Man, The Black Panther, Captain America, and Devil Dinosaur are "must haves" for bronze age collectors. I have mine!!

November 28, 2010 9:12 AM

Doug Gray said...

Machine Man! I forgot about that one; I'll have to go dig those issues up, they're due for a re-reading. Thanks, Chuck!

November 29, 2010 9:07 AM

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