Comic Review: Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen, Issue #134 – First Appearance of Darkseid

Published: December 2nd, 1970
Written by: Jack Kirby
Art by: Jack Kirby, Vince Colletta, Neal Adams (cover)

DC Comics, 22 Pages

Review:

Man, this was a weird ass comic book! But it was also done by Jack Kirby during his stint at DC Comic, where he did some really outside of the box stuff that led to the creation of his Fourth World universe within the larger DC Universe.

This issue of Jimmy Olsen was tied to all of that, as this is the first appearance of Darkseid, one of the greatest villains in the entire history of DC Comics.

I wanted to read this, as I’ve been reading a lot of the first appearances of some of my favorite villains. That being said, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this comic but it was pretty insane.

This issue is trippy as hell! I’m not sure if that was normal with Jimmy Olsen but I really dug it, even if it was hard to make sense of the proceedings, as I don’t have the issues around this to give it more context.

Superman even shows up in this but he was a pretty regular fixture in this title. Sadly, we don’t get to see Supes square off with Darkseid. In fact, we only get a peek at Darkside in one panel. That’s it, his big debut was just in a single panel where he was a talking head in a TV set, giving commands to one of his minions.

This is creative, kind of nuts and it flew by. I can’t say that it’s a solid comic as a standalone issue but reading it was interesting, as it was a quick, small sample of Kirby’s earliest work at DC.

For Jack Kirby fans, this is worth checking out.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: any of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World titles at DC Comics.

Documentary Review: Jack Kirby: Story Teller (2007)

Release Date: June 5th, 2007
Cast: Neal Adams, Jim Lee, Stan Lee, Jeph Loeb, John Romita Sr., Alex Ross, Tim Sale, Walter Simonson, Bruce Timm, Len Wein, Barry Windsor-Smith, Marv Wolfman

Marvel Studios, Sparkhill Production, 20th Century Fox, 64 Minutes

Review:

I’ve been watching through a lot of comic book documentaries on YouTube, lately. I came across this one that discusses the work and legacy of Jack Kirby.

I’m not sure if this was made as a special feature on a DVD, as it was produced by Marvel and 20th Century Fox. Maybe it was included on one of the Fantastic Four DVD releases a decade ago.

Anyway, if you appreciate and admire the great work of Jack Kirby, this is a really engaging documentary.

It is rather short, considering the long career of the man but it does cover a lot of ground. It also interviews a lot of other comic book greats that worked with Kirby or were inspired by him.

This feels like a quickly thrown together low budget fluff piece and if I’m being honest, Jack Kirby deserves a proper documentary or a real biopic. As much as this does talk about how much Jack did, I still don’t feel like it captures the real importance and scale of it all.

But this is still a worthwhile watch because there really isn’t anything better… yet.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other comic book industry biographical documentaries.

Comic Review: 2001: A Space Odyssey (Series)

Published: 1976-1977
Written by: Jack Kirby
Art by: Jack Kirby
Based on: 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke, Stanley Kubrick

Marvel Comics, 180 Pages

Review:

This comic book series took me a really long time to track down. There are ten issues and they’ve never been reprinted and probably never will be due to the fact that Marvel hasn’t owned the comic book publishing rights to 2001: A Space Odyssey since… well, 1977 when this series ended.

But who the hell wouldn’t want to read Jack Kirby’s version of what happened after the movie finished? And this is all Jack Kirby. He wrote it, he did the art and he had a love of the Stanley Kubrick film that was truly a masterpiece.

This comic follows up the adaptation Kirby did of the film earlier in 1976. This series sees Kirby take the concepts and ideas from the movie and apply them into new stories. This really is an anthology series in the beginning but larger, multi-part story arcs come out after the first four issues.

Now those first four issues are different versions of the same story. Each follows an ancient character that comes into contact with the Monolith. Then they flash forward to one of their descendants in the future, usually an astronaut, and show what happens when they also come into contact with the ominous Monolith. Many characters evolve into a different version of the Star Child or as Kirby refers to them, “Seeds”.

The fifth and sixth issues deal with a larger arc and starts as a bit of a superhero story featuring a heroic character named White Zero and a villain named Death Master. There are twists to the plot but this is where Kirby really finds his footing and starts turning 2001 into something closer to his work for DC Comics on The New Gods, The Forever People and Mister Miracle; collectively known as his Fourth World saga.

The seventh issue is really interesting as it follows the journey of a Seed through the cosmos, space and time. It’s bizarre, it’s cool and it’s 100 percent Jack “The King” Kirby.

In the final three issues, we get a big surprise. Well, it was at least a big surprise for me, as this three-part arc is the origin story of the character that would go on to become Machine Man in the regular Marvel Universe. Which, I guess makes Jack Kirby’s 2001: A Space Odyssey part of Marvel canon, even though I didn’t see it that way for the first seven issues.

This was a solid series by Jack Kirby. It’s not quite a masterpiece, as it is a bit bogged down by the first four issues and their repetitiveness but once it found its footing, it was some of the best work that Jack Kirby has done.

And I can’t end this review without mentioning how dynamic and beautiful the art was. You could tell that Jack Kirby put a lot of passion into this and I’m glad, as a Kirby fan, that I now own the complete saga.

Now I just have to track down a copy of his film adaptation.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: other Jack Kirby works that dealt with the cosmos.

Documentary Review: Comic Book Confidential (1988)

Release Date: September 10th, 1988 (Toronto Film Festival)
Directed by: Ron Mann
Written by: Charles Lippincott, Ron Mann
Music by: various
Cast: Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Frank Miller, Sue Coe, Robert Crumb, Will Eisner, Al Feldstein, William M. Gaines, Harvey Kurtzman, Harvey Pekar

Sphinx Productions, Cinecom Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

This might be the best documentary on comic book history ever made, even if it is thirty years old and might feel a bit dated now.

I first found this as a kid around 1990 or so. A guy that used to work at my local video store gave me his personal copy to borrow and I had to copy it, which I did and then enjoyed for years until the tape warped to shit. I then got it again via a torrent site but finally, all these years later, I now own an actual copy of it.

I was inspired to watch this again, after checking out the commentary done by Ed Piskor and Jim Rugg on their Cartoonist Kayfabe channel on YouTube. Everyone that’s into comics should check them out, by the way. It’s one of my favorite channels to watch at the moment and I’ve thought about writing about it, as well as a few other channels I enjoy.

Anyway, I love everything about this documentary. All the interviews are pretty engaging and pull you in. It spends time on a bunch of comic book creators from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. Everyone gets their time to talk about their work and their creative style.

This also has great music sprinkled throughout and fantastic editing techniques that still look great and that more documentary filmmakers could benefit from using. Creatively, the execution of this documentary felt ahead of its time and honestly, that’s probably why it sucked me in when I was eleven years-old.

Comic Book Confidential also came out in a time when I was drawing my own comic books. This, along with The Comic Book Greats video series, which I’ve also been reviewing episode by episode, were great resources for me as a kid that was trying his hand at the comic book medium.

The highlights for me were seeing Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Will Eisner and Harvey Kurtzman talking about their craft. This also made me a fan of the work of Frank Miller, Harvey Pekar and Robert Crumb. It was also my introduction to Sue Coe, who a lot of my straightedge and vegan friends in my teen years were hardcore fans of.

Comic Book Confidential is, hands down, a must own or at the very least, a must see documentary for long-time fans of the comic book medium. Solid, through and through, and its also a fun and interesting experience.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other comic book documentaries reviewed on this site: In Search of Steve Ditko, The Image Revolution and Chris Claremont’s X-Men just to name a few.

Book Review: ‘Kirby: King of Comics’ by Mark Evanier

If you love comics and you’re not a fan of Jack Kirby, you might be an evil alien from Apokolips.

Jack Kirby was the King. While this book actually tells you the tale of how Kirby got this name and how it bothered him, it’s hard to argue that he isn’t the King, as far as the art side of comic book creation goes.

He’s a man that’s been around since the beginning of superhero comics and was instrumental in creating dozens of characters that people pay billions of dollars to see on the big screen, several decades later.

I have always loved Jack Kirby and this book is truly invaluable for fans of the man’s work.

The book is a biography but most of the pages are full of Kirby art, throughout his entire career, and this is almost more of an art book than it is a straight biography. But I love that this is really a hybrid of the two, as it’s nice to read the stories behind his creations while also getting to soak in the art associated with it on large pages.

This is a thick, over-sized book that presents Kirby’s work nicely. It feels good in your hands and I know that it is a book that I will always look through for years and years. I may even scan and blow up a lot of the art to make prints for my wall.

What I loved most about this, is it delves deep into Kirby’s life and his work and doesn’t put all of the focus on his time at Marvel and DC. There’s so much here that I wasn’t aware of and a lot of stupendous Kirby concepts and comics that I never knew existed and have never seen until now.

This is a book that all real comic book fans should own.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other biographies of comic book greats, such as Stan Lee’s “Exclesior” and “Will Eisner: A Spirited Life”.

Comic Review: Mister Miracle by Jack Kirby

Published: September 26th, 2017 (this collected edition)
Written by: Jack Kirby
Art by: Jack Kirby, Vince Colletta, Mike Royer

DC Comics, 442 Pages

Review:

I used to pick up issues of Mister Miracle during his run in the late ’80s/early ’90s. I never read the original Jack Kirby stuff though but I always wanted to check them out. Now that they have all been collected into this awesome, thick volume, I had to pick it up and give it a read. Also, I enjoyed the first issue of Tom King’s current run on Mister Miracle and wanted to finally read the original stories to have better context and more understanding of the character and his universe.

One thing that stands out the most on the classic run is the story. Yes, every comic book fan should know that Jack Kirby is a bonafide legend for a reason. But this here is some of the best Kirby stuff I have read during his DC Comics run. Man, I just love these stories and it actually took a lot of time for me to get through this, as I didn’t want to rush through these great tales. I sort of just read this slowly, soaking in the great art along with the magnificent story, letting this series marinate in my mind.

In the end, I love Mister Miracle as a character and the whole mythos he brings to the table for the entirety of DC Comics. Without Kirby’s work here and on similar titles around the same time, New Gods and Fourth World especially, the DC universe would have evolved much differently. Without these creations, Superman and Justice League stories would have been drastically different. There would have been no Darkseid or Apokolips, DC’s biggest villain and his treacherous homeworld that has been the focal point of many major stories (and now movies).

Mister Miracle along with Kirby’s other early ’70s titles are what made the DC universe what it is today and out of these multiple titles, this one is my favorite. There is something magical and wholesome about Mister Miracle. And even though he was born on Apokolips, the character taps into old school Americana and is a throwback to yesteryear icons like Harry Houdini and P.T. Barnum.

Adding to the magic of this series is the use of colors. Kirby’s art was as magnificent as his characters but the use of vibrant and vivid colors, especially in the character designs, made this comic visually enchanting and it still maintains its allure today, even when modern comic book art has evolved into the digital realm where anything is possible.

This collection is truly a must own. That is, unless you don’t like superhero comics, Jack Kirby, imagination, creativity and beautiful art. If you don’t like those things then why did you even read this far?

This is a masterpiece and this collection is beautiful.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: Other Jack Kirby works while he was at DC Comics, as well as other runs of Mister Mircale, excluding the terrible run Tom King had from 2017-2018.