Thursday, August 31, 2017

Jack Kirby Premiering Mr. Miracle

It was quite a show back in the early 1970s when Jack Kirby came back to DC Comics, and no show was bigger than the performance put on in Mr. Miracle!  Scott Free made his first appearance in Mr. Miracle #1 (March-April, 1971).  Scott showed up on the outskirts of Metropolis to watch Thaddeus Brown and Oberon going through training for Thaddeus' Mr. Miracle escape act, except they were set upon by Inter-Gang thugs under orders from Steel Hand. 

Scott used miraculous technology to defeat the foes, and became Thaddeus' protege for a time, until another attack finished him off, prompting Scott to take up the mantle of Mr. Miracle to catch Steel Hand, and then, to continue the escape artist act with Oberon, as the show must go on!

Still, where did this mysterious Scott Free and his technology come from?

Apokolips

In the course of a few flashbacks of "Young Scott Free" (included in issues #5, #6 and #7 of Mr. Miracle of 1971/1972), readers followed the pre-Mister Miracle as he deals with the abuse of Granny Goodness in shock trooper training, first encounters Metron, who warns Scott not to eat the food provided (which has mind-numbing agents) and trains on aero-discs against Parademons...
...all part of the mundane existence of a minor soldier (and hinting that all this technology that Mr. Miracle uses is from Apokolips). 

So, why is Scott Free so important? 

Himon

In Mr. Miracle #9 (July-August. 1972), Jack Kirby finally gives us answers, as well as "Himon!".  In the last of the "Young Scott Free" tales (this one taking up the full issue), readers meet Himon, who sees a group of "lowlies" in Armagetto die for him, and counts on Scott Free to save him from accidentally phasing into a wall. 

Himon is the inventor of the Mother Box, and is creating rebellion amongst the lowest ranks of Apokolips, which gets him hunted by Darkseid's forces, including a young lieutenant Barda of the Female Furies (who grows up to be Big Barda, and later lead the Females Furies against Mr. Miracle, then defecting for him).  While Metron and Himon discuss if Scott Free has the strength to escape Apokolips himself, Darkseid troops kill all of Scott and Barda's friends, and Himon kills Scott and Barda's tormentor, helping Scott remember a woman who knew Izaya (a memory from his own youth on New Genesis...

....yes, Scott was Izaya's son, traded in "The Pact").  This forces Scott and Barda to dream beyond Apokolips, and try to escape, though Barda is held back by dog soldiers and Parademons, Scott presses on, straining to leave via a "Boom Tube" Metron and Himon created, while Darkseid himself appears, beckoning the lad to stay and bow to his will, yet the boy declares "let me be Scott Free...and find myself!", and escapes.

This breaks the Pact, allowing Darkseid to restart the war with Apokolips, as well as to try to find the "anti-life equation" which will allow no other will in the universe other than Darkseid's...while Himon and Metron warn Darkseid of the prophecy that he will face Orion one day in Armagetto...

...as well as showing how connected Kirby's Fourth World was simply with two flashback based issues! 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Jack Kirby Beginning The New Gods

New Gods #1 came out in February-March, 1971, introducing the world to the main concepts of Jack Kirby's Fourth World as "Orion Fights For Earth" (by writer/artist Jack Kirby, and inked by Vince Colletta) .  This was the first appearance of Orion, the dog of war, who uses the astro-force to fight the forces of Apokolips (like Kalibak, Darkseid's brutal son), working for Highfather (Izaya, who is connected to the mysterious "Source"), working with jovial Lightray (a young New God of New Genesis), and using Mother Boxes made by Metron....

...but, the beginning of the battle started before New Gods #1.

Darkseid

Leader of the forces of Apokolips, Darkseid had already appeared in Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #134 to #136 (also by Jack Kirby, from 1970/1971), and in Forever People #1 (February-March, 1971, by Kirby/Colletta), where he was the force behind Inter-Gang, a new group of gangsters that used futuristic weapons, and were fought by Jimmy Olsen, Superman, a new Newsboy Legion and the Forever People (a group of kids who came to Earth, but were from New Genesis).

But, this didn't tell where the war between New Genesis and Apokolips started, nor why it moved to Earth...

The Pact

The start of the war was revealed in "The Pact" in New Gods #7 (February-March, 1972 by Jack Kirby and Mike Royer).  Izaya the Inheritor was enjoying the peace on New Genesis with his wife, Avia, when their picnic was set upon by Steppenwolf of the Dog Cavalry and his nephew, Darkseid, and attacked, resulting in the death of Avia by Steppenwolf's hands.  Darkseid promised his uncle he killed Izaya, but he lied, allowing Izaya to lead New Genesis' forces against Apokolips, and kill Steppenwolf, which allowed him to take over Apokolips from his mother, Heggra, and give enigmatic Metron the "X-Element", which would allow him to travel anywhere in the galaxy in his Mobius Chair.

After killing Steppenwolf, and the terrible aftermath of the many battles, Izaya tired of fighting, and went to find himself, instead connecting with the all-powerful "Source", becoming the Highfather of New Genesis.  Darkseid, meanwhile, came up with "The Pact", where he and Izaya would exchange sons (with Darkseid angering his wife, Tigra) as they gave up their angry red-haired boy to Highfather, and Darkseid accepted Izaya's heir, giving him to Granny Goodness for soldier training.  Darkseid schemed, planning on angering the lad so much that he'd escape eventually, breaking the Pact, allowing Darkseid to attack (which eventually happened).

But, Darkseid didn't count on his own son, Orion, becoming such a loyal fighter for the forces of New Genesis, destined to face his father in a final battle, nor on what Izaya's boy would do after escaping to Earth (but, his story developed elsewhere, and will be revealed "soon"....).  

Monday, August 28, 2017

Happy 100th Birthday Jack Kirby

Sadly, Jack Kirby (born April 28, 1917, died February 6, 1994) is no longer with us.

But, a few of his friends wanted to celebrate...

...folks like Captain America and the Fantastic Four.....




....Bombast and Captain Glory....



....Machine Man and Devil Dinosaur (Moon Boy too!).... 


...to the Eternals and Black Panther....



...Kamandi, the Last Boy On Earth! and Etrigan, the Demon....


....the Sandman (and all sorts of things on the edge of dreams) and the Manhunter....


....the Dingbats of Danger Street and Atlas....


...OMAC, the One Man Army Corps and our fighting forces of the Losers... 








....the New Gods and Mr. Miracle (finding a whole Fourth World).... 


...to whole teams of heroes like the Avengers and the X-Men....




...including Avenger members like Thor and the Hulk....



...to Green Arrow and the Challengers of the Unknown....



...to the Boy Commandos and the Guardian and the Newsboy Legion....




....to Manhunter and the Sandman again (for the first time)....


...even this rare cover for a hundredth issue of Comic Reader, covering a few of DC's characters.....


...and so much more....




....this is why Jack Kirby is and forever shall be the King!



Sunday, August 27, 2017

Jack Kirby 100 Amazing Heroes

As what would be Jack Kirby's 100th birthday approaches, a quick look back at Amazing Heroes #100, from August 1, 1986, featuring a cover drawn by Jack Kirby and inked by Steve Rude.

Kirby, surrounded by the Guardian and the Newsboy Legion in the inset, and an action shot below, with Captain Victory, the Fantastic Four (Invisible Girl, Mr. Fantastic, Thing and the Human Torch), Thor, Darkseid, Mr. Miracle, Captain America and Bucky and the Silver Surfer....some of the King's best known creations at the time.

Included in the issue: A few comic creators thoughts/pictures on Jack Kirby (including Scott Shaw! and Michael T. Gilbert), Greg Potter going through Jack Kirby's comic career, Mark Evanier interviewing Jack and Roz Kirby, Richard Howell looking at 10 Jack Kirby stories, Greg Theakston looking at Kirby's art and R. A. Jones giving his overview of Jack Kirby's work.

Worth looking at, as it gives an overview of the King's work, while he was still producing more, and has the benefit of he and his wife commenting on it.

Also worth mentioning, Amazing Heroes #47 from May 15, 1984, that has Amazing Heroes' only other Kirby cover....with a focus on Jack Kirby's return to DC (and the New Gods) in the 1980s.  Ironic....that as the New Gods returned, so was Star Wars (see the upper left-hand corner)....

....and may "the Source" be with you if you know of the similarities between Star Wars and the New Gods (ultimate evil leader of the bad guys, who regularly tortures and kills his followers, secretly being the father of the most notable fighter on the good guys' side, a mystical power that surrounds us all and the most adept can use, including the old man who trains the secret son....).

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Superboy's Bad Dog Days

Superboy lucked out and got himself a good dog with his buddy, Krypto, who premiered in Adventure Comics #210 (March ,1955 by Otto Binder, Curt Swan and Sy Barry).  Krypto was a superdog, and battled evil along with his master....but, as Superboy had foes of his own, so, too, did Krypto develop his own little four-legged rogue's gallery.

Here's a couple of the evil pets that arrived to menace the Dog of Steel!

Kryptonite Dog

Superboy was weakened by Kryptonite...so he would have no more dangerous foe that a kid who could turn ordinary objects into Kryptonite...like the Kryptonite Kid!  The Kryptonite Kid premiered in Superboy #83 (September, 1960,  by Jerry Siegel and George Papp) with "The Dreams Of Doom", where Superboy and Krypto had dreams of a Kryptonite Kid and his dog, causing trouble for the duo....and then appearing in reality to really cause trouble!  The Kryptonite Kid had been a criminal sent into space as part of an experiment, and he and his dog were exposed to a cloud of Kryptonite, changing them into beings which could change other things into Kryptonite.  The Kid wanted to settle on Earth, and thus Superboy and Krypto had to go.  Things looked bleak for the Boy and Dog of Steel....until a young Mr. Mxyzpltk showed up and banished the Kryptonite duo to the 5th Dimension for a time (which also changed all the items back from Kryptonite), saving the Smallville super-hero and his best friend.  Why would his enemy save him?  Because....if Superboy and Krypto died, who would Mr. Mzyzpltk torment?

The Kryptonite Dog and his master return in "The Kryptonite Kid" of Superboy #99 (September, 1962, by Jerry Siegel and George Papp), having gotten out of the 5th Dimensional prison. The Kryptonite duo attack Superboy, paralyzing him, but Superboy does escape....but has to turn Krypto over to the Kryptonite Kid.  Superboy does, but on board his ship, Krypto seems unaffected by Kryptonite....and when the Kryptonite Kid and his dog come out of a red cloud, they appear much nicer, returning to Earth to congratulate Superboy, and return Krypto (who was really a Krypto robot....Superboy had robots of himself at this time, so why not Krypto too?).  The red cloud changed Kryptonite Kid and his dog into Red Kryptonite, which has strange, temporary qualities, and in this case, turned the two good for a time. 

Would that it had lasted.....

The Kryptonite Dog never returned, but the Kryptonite Kid did, appearing in Adventure Comics #454 (November-December, 1977) and later, grown up, to menace Superman, in Superman #299 (May, 1976), and both of those times, Lex Luthor was present....


Destructo

Luthor is Superboy's greatest menace, but, he's only human, and would have a pet of his own.  Destructo premiered in Superboy #92 (October, 1961 by Otto Binder and George Papp, and a cover by Curt Swan and Stan Kaye) as "Krypto's Arch Enemy".  Luthor made a machine to give himself super-powers, but his dog got in front of it instead.  Luthor, ever the schemer, made his dog look like Krypto, and sent him to cause mischief, getting Krypto blamed, causing the Dog of Steel trouble in Smallville.   Krypto brings the police to Luthor's hideout, where they figure out the truth, but not before Luthor is able to remove Krypto's powers via the machine...which forces Krypto to be smart, using Kryptonite against Destructo, until Luthor returns Krypto's powers.  Then, Superboy returns from a mission in space, and uses the machine to remove Destructo's powers, and takes Luthor off to reform school (which also seemed to make Luthor abandon pets, as Destructo never appeared again...).

Superboy #83 was reprinted in 80 Page Giant #10 (May, 1965) and in the Superboy Spectacular #1 of 1980, Superboy #99 was reprinted in the Best of DC #7 (September-October, 1980) and Superboy #92 was reprinted in Superboy #138 (May-June, 1967) proving that even bad dogs get to have their day....at least twice!


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Jack Kirby's Manhunter

Jack Kirby had a few last surprises for DC Comics fans in the 1970s, as First Issue Special #5 (August, 1975) hit the racks.  This issue introduced readers to lawyer Mark Shaw, whose uncle, archeologist Bradford Shaw, introduced the public defender to the organization of the Shah, an ancient order dedicated to justice....whose current member was soon to face retirement after barely defeating the Chopper (as he related to his leader, the Grand Master).  The Grand Master heard Mark's pleas for justice, and sent him a uniform and power baton of the Manhunter, which he used to defend his uncle and himself from the thugs of Al Beefer, the Hog.

But, alas, Kirby was leaving DC, and readers never saw the follow up battle of Shaw's Manhunter and the Hog...

Justice League of America

Manhunter did finally return in Justice League of America #140 and #141 (March and April, 1977), in two stories ("No Man Escapes The Manhunters" and "No World Escapes The Manhunters") by Steve Englehart, Dick Dillin and Frank McLaughlin, with Mark Shaw returning to bring Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) to justice, because it appeared he destroyed a planet full of people.  The political leader of that planet, Governor Tozad,  survived, and was leading forces of a neighboring planet against the Guardians of the Universe (one of whom was on that planet of Orinda), and that Guardian helped Green Lantern break free from the Manhunters, revealing the Manhunters to be organized on many planets, with many agents working for them (and against the Green Lanterns, including faking the destruction of Tozad's planet, which he arranged as he was also a secret agent of the Manhunters).


The Guardian of the Universe reveals that the Manhunters were originally robots they used to protect the universe, but the Manhunters proved too single-minded to work (and they rebelled against the Guardians), so the Guardians retired the robots (and started to use humanoid agents, which eventually became the Green Lantern Corps).  Both Superman and Flash related their encounters with Guardians of the Universe in passing, as Batman also mentioned how he met a Manhunter (Paul Kirk), who died fighting the Council.  The Manhunter Mark Shaw was to replace also resurfaced, and Mark Shaw lost faith in the Manhunters (who also were prepared, having a "Supermanhunter", a Manhunter with Kryptonite armor, to face Superman).  The Manhunters were a thread to the whole galaxy, but disappeared again after this encounter (though Mark Shaw stuck around, taking on the identity of the Privateer until Justice League of America #150, where he eventually was brought to justice).

Millennium and More

The Manhunters revealed in the Justice League story waited for a while, but came back with a vengeance, menacing the whole DC Universe in the Millennium 8-issue mini-series of January and February, 1988 by Steve Englehart, Joe Staton and Ian Gibson, which also crossed over into most of the titles of the time, as members of heroes supporting casts were revealed to be Manhunter agents....and, in the Suicide Squad (#9), they recruited Privateer Mark Shaw for help against the Manhunters, with him surviving the mission, thus allowing him to go free when it was over.

Manhunter Mark Shaw ended up with his own title, which lasted 24 issues, where he acted as a super-villain bounty hunter, capturing villains that would be used for the Suicide Squad (like Count Vertigo), invading aliens, the Janus Directive, along with dealing with his own issues (enhanced by shape-changing hitman, Dumas), in issues by writers John Ostrander and Kim Yale, and artists Doug Rice, Sam Keith, Kelley Jones, Mary Mitchell, Romeo Tanghal, Pablo Marcos, Frank Springer, John Koch, John Statema and Grant Miehm.

Mark Shaw survived that series, working with the Suicide Squad for a bit, then having a complex connection to other Manhunters (partially thanks to Eclipso, and Chase Lawler, Kirk DePaul and Kate Spencer)...

.....but, all of which was pretty impressive for a character created by Jack Kirby!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Jack Kirby On Green Arrow Island

Jack Kirby had a brief return to DC Comics in the 1950s, working as an artist on the Green Arrow series in World's Finest Comics (from issues #96 to #99), and Adventure Comics (including issues #250 to #256) with writers Bill Finger, Dave Wood, Robert Bernstein and France Herron (and these stories were reprinted in Green Arrow by Jack Kirby in November, 2001).

One of these stories would have an effect on the Emerald Archer for decades after it was written....

The Origin

That story was "The Green Arrow's First Case" from Adventure Comics #256 (January, 1959) by France Herron, Jack Kirby and Roz Kirby (though it would be hard to tell under the Superboy cover by Curt Swan and Stan Kaye.....Superboy dominated the Adventure Comics covers at the time, though did share it with Oliver Queen once....).


This story changed the origin of Green Arrow, having him be millionaire Oliver Queen who became Green Arrow after falling off of a yacht, ending up on Starfish Island, which he was unable to escape, so he had to learn archery, make "trick arrows" and a green outfit, then faced off against pirates on a ship to be found by authorities to get off the island. 

This ended up being Green Arrow's Earth-1/Silver Age origin, different from his Earth-2/Golden Age one, which he shared with Speedy/Roy Harper, who both also joined the Seven Soldiers of Victory, and didn't involve an island....

The Island

This island was called Starfish Island, and was very threatening (even more so as in the modern part of the above story, Green Arrow and Speedy had to use a "fake uranium" arrow to scare away explorers who would have found Oliver's on island log of his time there, and figure out Queen was Arrow).  Oliver and Roy enjoyed a mini-vacation on the island after (missing an early meeting of the heroes who would form the JLA).  This origin was expanded upon in Green Arrow Annual #7 (1995) by Chuck Dixon, Rick Burchett, Chris Renauld, Eduardo Barreto and Gary Fernandez, adding a serial killer, Nicholas Kotero, to the mix....

In the Silver Age, Oliver really didn't return to the island, but decades later, Ollie did return to the island to center himself in Green Arrow #66/#67 of 2006 by Judd Winick, Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens, and Ollie's origin was expanded again (adding China White to the mix on the island with Green Arrow: Year One, a six issue mini-series in 2007 by Andy Diggle and Mark Simpson).

The island gained new life, being almost a supporting character during the first five years of CW's Arrow program, gaining a name (Lian Yu in Mandarin, which translates to Purgatory, where Oliver Queen learned the skills he needed to become Green Arrow, as well as gaining enemies like Deathstroke/Slade Wilson, encountering magical forces, and eventually using it as a prison for criminals, as well as being the home of a final explosive confrontation between Green Arrow and Prometheus.

But, it all began in the 1950s with that Adventure comic by Herron and the Kirby's....


Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Fifth Super-Team Family

It's time for another look back at the classic title of Super-Team Family, this time, being Super-Team Family #5 (June-July, 1976), with stories featuring Superman, Superboy, Batman and Eclipso....


...all under a cover by Ernie Chan!


Brave and the Bold #64

First up is the story from Brave and the Bold #64 (February-March, 1966) by Bob Haney and Win Mortimer, featuring "Batman versus Eclipso", under a stunning cover by Gil Kane.

Eclipso comes to Gotham after splitting from Bruce Gordon during an eclipse in Solar City, thanks to the Queen Bee (Marcia Monroe, who also got Batman thrown in jail, as part of a master plan to join the super-secret criminal organization, C.Y.C.L.O.P.S.), with Bruce Gordon, Mona Bennet and her father consulting with Com. James Gordon to help take down Eclipso, resulting in a battle between Eclipso and Batman on the HIVE (the building which housed the criminal organization....).

After the cancellation of Eclipso's House of Secrets series (which this original Brave & the Bold tale took place during), he next showed up in Justice League of America #109, where Batman was aware of his activities....  

Superboy #47

The second story reprinted in this issue is Superboy #47 (March, 1956) by Otto Binder, Curt Swan and John Giunta, where "Superboy Meets Superman", with a original cover by Curt Swan and Stan Kaye.

Superboy had the idea of going back in time to find out when Metropolis was founded, but was sleepy and failed to take into account an eclipse, so he instead ended up in the future...and met himself!  Problem was, neither Superman nor Superboy could travel in time now, so they seemed to be trapped (and Lois Lane had proof that Superman was Clark Kent, so the Kryptonians were doubly doomed).  Thankfully, Superboy was there to save Superman's secret....and then the two super-heroes put their head together (in a style suggested by the cover, as an irresistible force and an immovable object couldn't exist at the same time (and it worked, hurling Superboy back to his own time in Smallville, where he fell asleep after the effort, then awoke to wonder if it was all a dream....

....or an imaginary story, but hey, aren't they all?).