|Images copyright DC COMICS|
Wednesday, 6 January 2016
JACK KIRBY'S DC MAGS - FANTASTIC, OR FLOPS?
Back in the early '70s, I initially wasn't too impressed by JACK KIRBY's FOURTH WORLD output at DC COMICS. It took me a while to warm to it, and even after I did, I still preferred his stuff at MARVEL. To be honest, if it hadn't been for the fact that one of his mags was JIMMY OLSEN (and therefore included SUPERMAN), I may might never have bothered taking a second look at his other DC titles, resulting in me somewhat revising my opinion of them.
Despite the rewriting of history that some people are prone to these days, Jack's DC books were, in the main, flops. Which is not to say that they were completely without merit (or entertainment value), but looked at in the context of the times (and measured against the expectations of their commercial performance), they failed to hit the bullseye.
Look at the facts: Jimmy Olsen, 15 issues; NEW GODS, 11 issues; FOREVER PEOPLE, 11 issues; MISTER MIRACLE, 18 issues. His other mags didn't fare much better, with The DEMON lasting 16 issues, and OMAC a mere 8. The one exception was KAMANDI, which lasted for 40 issues before Kirby left, although #38-40 were scripted by GERRY CONWAY. (The series ended with #59.)
So what were the reasons for the lacklustre reception of Kirby's DC books then? Part of the problem, I believe, is that there was a popular misconception being promulgated at the time that the 'King' was solely responsible for everything good at Marvel. "Forget STAN LEE" seemed to be the cry in some circles - Jack was 'the man'. Deprive Marvel of Jack and it would inevitably crumble, employ him at DC and sales would surely soar. I'm reminded of the proverb about building one's house on sand. If that was DC's motivation in luring Jack over to their ranks, it was doomed to failure from the start, being based on nothing more than an illusion, spread by a handful of Kirby sycophants.
Some people point to the fact that Jack's DC creations are still around today in some form, either in reprints or 'reimaginations', but the present situation doesn't necessarily contradict the realities of the past. None of his DC characters under other hands have attained any kind of longevity in their various revivals, and seem to spring more from a nostalgic affection on the part of people who want to play with Kirby's toys (and relive their own youth in the process) than any patent appeal. There's also a voracious appetite for collected editions nowadays that needs to be fed, and hey - Jack's stuff was bought and paid for years ago, so one assumes it's a cost-effective enterprise.
Don't take me the wrong way though. Jack Kirby was one of the most important creative forces in comicbook history, and when he was at the top of his game, there was no one who could touch him. However, he didn't remain at the top of his game for his entire career, and much of his later work - measured against the standard of his own earlier accomplishments - didn't really cut the mustard and were hardly the finest examples of the medium.
Rabid Jack Kirby fans will disagree with me of course, as the object of their deification could do no wrong in their eyes, but to those who are more discerning in their evaluations, the King's reign was chiefly during the '60s, when, along with Stan Lee, he ruled a comicbook kingdom containing magic without measure.
Posted by Kid at Wednesday, January 06, 2016