Archive for Jack Kirby

R.I.P. Shel Dorf, Comic-Con Founder

Posted in Comics, Jack Kirby with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 5th November, 2009 by Adam Redsell
You will be missed.

Sheldon "Shel" Dorf (July 5, 1933 – November 3, 2009)

Sheldon “Shel” Dorf, founder of the San Diego Comic Convention, died on Tuesday 3rd November in a San Diego hospital, where he was being treated for diabetes this year.  A funeral service was held for Shel on Wednesday.

Since its inception in 1970, the San Diego Comic-Con International has grown from 300 attendees to over 125,000 comic book fans from across the world.

David Glanzer, a convention spokesman, had this to say about the man:

“Shel had notable foresight in not only believing these people needed some public acknowledgment, but that this truly was an American art form that Americans knew very little about.”

During his time as a letterer, freelance artist, and convention organiser, Shel befriended many creative figures in the industry, not least of which was Jack Kirby.  According to comics historian (and Kirby’s closest friend) Mark Evanier, Shel claims the rare honour of being made into a Kirby character, namely Himon, inventor of the Mother Box and Mister Miracle’s mentor in his landmark New Gods series.  He also made appearances as well-meaning football player “Thudd Shelley” in Steve Canyon, a comic strip which he lettered for twelve years.  He was also responsible for publishing ninety-nine issues of Dick Tracy in 1984, later collecting them as twenty-four graphic novels.

We at Bat-Shark Repellent salute Shel Dorf for his contribution to Comics.  Legions of comics fans and creators alike are forever in your debt.  Thank you.

[source]

Advertisements

My Tribute to Jack Kirby, King of Comics

Posted in Comics, Jack Kirby with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 2nd September, 2009 by Adam Redsell

So this week I was assigned Kirby’s Dream Land 3 for review on EveryGame. Problem was, Scott had already written a stellar creepy gangster story about Kirby for Kirby Superstar, which was gonna be my angle (not so much the street-level storytelling, more the Kirby-as-creepy-Dream-Eater-type vibe). So what did I do? I decided to write about comics legend Jack Kirby instead. Not once do I reference the videogame, aside from a name drop and the obligatory screenshot, like this one:

Those of you unfamiliar with the name Jack Kirby will no doubt be familiar with his work. If you’re a fan of the Manhunter, the Challengers of the Unknown, the Fantastic Four, Thor, the Hulk, Iron Man, the X-Men, Silver Surfer, Doctor Doom, Galactus, Magneto, the Inhumans, Black Panther, the New Gods, Mister Miracle, Darkseid, Kamandi, The Demon, and the Eternals – you have Jack Kirby to thank, because he created all of them.

Despite the flippancy of the subject change, I hope you find it a fitting tribute to the King of Comics. Inspired by Mark Evanier’s touching eulogy, I wrote it from the perspective of an old friend:

Let me tell ya ’bout a kid called Kirby. Wasn’t the name his mother gave him, but that’s what he settled on, so that’s what we called him, got it? Weren’t too long before we’d have another name for him: The King. “The King of Comics” we called him. Let me tell you ’bout ol’ King Kirby.

Indeed, having been energised by so many of his characters and stories, he really does feel like an old friend to me. I must confess to shedding the occasional tear whenever I read a first-hand account of a chance meeting with the guy, or even reading a comic book dedicated to him that I know he would have smiled at.

So, Jack Kirby – King of Comics – this is for you. I hope you like it.

We’ve really gotta stop calling these things reviews.

Wednesday Comics #1

Posted in Comics, DC, Wednesday Comics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 8th July, 2009 by Adam Redsell
The Ultimate Newspaper

The Ultimate Newspaper.

Wednesday Comics is the product of DC’s continued experiments with the weekly comic format, and in many ways I think it’s the culmination.  For many people, this will be the Ultimate Newspaper.  It’s certainly mine.  There’s something about opening it out that makes the experience that much more exciting.  And while the whole format is a throwback to the Sunday comic strips, and the stories themselves a throwback to the Silver Age; it’s just so brimming with comic magic that it can’t help but feel fresh and new.  Each page is devoted to a DC property, written and illustrated by a star-studded roster including the likes of Brian Azzarello, Dave Gibbons, Kyle Baker, John Arcudi, Lee Bermejo, Kurt Busiek, Neil Gaiman, Paul Pope, Adam Kubert, Joe Kubert, and Walter Simonson.  The hook is this: these creators get to tell stories of whichever character they damn-well please.   The plan is virtually fool-proof.  Here’s how it went:

Batman
Author: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Eduardo Risso (with Robins & Mulvihill)

Not a whole lot of action as yet, but we have a good setup here.  Batman finds out he has until midnight to save an investment banker from being murdered.  Problem is, it already is midnight.  Azzarello makes an interesting observation on Commissioner Gordon’s relationship with Batman.

Kamandi
Author: Dave Gibbons
Artist: Ryan Sook

The opening shot is classic Kamandi, but I’m also getting hints of “Tales of the Black Freighter”, which is interesting because this time Gibbons is writing, not drawing!  Gibbons highlights the awesomely clever origin of Kamandi’s name too.

Superman
Author: John Arcudi
Artist: Lee Bermejo

Bermejo’s Superman is absolutely gorgeous.  This has got to be the most intriguing story of the bunch as well…

Deadman
Authors: Dave Bullock & Vinton Heuck
Artist: Dave Bullock
Letterer: Jared Fletcher
Colorist: Dave Stewart

Deadman is too talky and too simple for my liking.  As far as noir goes, though, it does talk the talk, especially in the art department.

Green Lantern
Author: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Joe Quiñones

Busiek and Quiñones revisit the Hal Jordan of the 50s, and if Darwyn Cooke’s New Frontier was anything to go by, this should fit like an old pair of shoes.  (Comfortably, that is.)

Metamorpho
Author: Neil Gaiman
Artist: Michael Allred
Colorist: Laura Allred
Letterer: Nate Piekos

This was probably the funniest of the fifteen comic strips.  Gaiman has put himself right into the Silver Age for this one, forcing foibles and attitudes of the time period to great comedic effect.  Michael Allred also channels Jack Kirby with his bold, no-nonsense approach to the panels.

Teen Titans
Author: Eddie Berganza
Artist: Sean Galloway

Loved the art style.  The writing – not so much…

Adam Strange
Author & Artist: Paul Pope

The biggest surprise for me was Paul Pope’s choice of character in Adam Strange.  I had him pinned as a Batman-only writer, but boy, was I ever wrong.  This pulp-style sci-fi is probably the coolest of the bunch.

Supergirl
Author: Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Amanda Conner

This is pretty much just an intro, but a cute and funny one nonetheless.  After all, isn’t that what these Sunday comic strips were all about?

Metal Men
Author: Dan DiDio
Artists: José Luis García-López & Kevin Nowlan

Anyone who’s ever read a ‘DC Nation’ column was probably as surprised as I was when they realised that Dan DiDio’s Metal Men is actually quite funny.  And clever!

Wonder Woman
Author & Artist: Ben Caldwell

While I found Wonder Woman’s conversation with the pigeons to be quite amusing, I thought the rest of the page was cluttered and confusing.  I think Ben Caldwell is trying to cram too much in here.

Sgt. Rock and Easy Co.
Author: Adam Kubert
Artist: Joe Kubert

Kubert and Son join forces for a striking first effort.  Joe’s depiction of Sergeant Rock’s brutal interrogation is all kinds of visceral.  I’ve never read Adam Kubert’s writing before, so it’ll be interesting to see where he goes from here.

The Flash
Authors: Karl Kerschl & Brenden Fletcher
Artist: Karl Kerschl
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Colorist: Dave McCaig

It’s good to see Karl and Brenden really experiment with the form.  The Flash page is split into two parallel stories: a Flash action sequence in a race to stop Gorilla Grodd; and Iris West, about to leave that unreliable, good-for-nothing Barry Allen!  Can’t wait to read the next one.

The Demon and Catwoman
Author: Walter Simonson
Artist: Brian Stelfreeze (with Steve Wands)

What *appears* to be a rather wacky combination of characters proves to be rather dry, as Selina Kyle takes a tour of Jason Blood’s mansion.  Hopefully things will heat up when the Cat and the Demon come out to play…

Hawkman
Author & Artist: Kyle Baker

A great note to finish on.  The entire story is told from the perspective of a hawk as Hawkman leads his avian allies into battle.

I never thought it would happen, but I think DC may have finally nailed that magic weekly formula.  If each of these stories advance at a steady pace, then we should be in for a real treat.

A word to the wise, though: *probably* don’t carry this one on the bus, or out in the rain…

TMNT #1 25th Anniversary Reprint

Posted in Comics, Mirage, TMNT with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 10th May, 2009 by Adam Redsell
"Go check out the East Warehouse over at Lairdman Island."

"Go check out the East Warehouse over at Lairdman Island."

I’ll be honest with you, when presented with a second choice of free comic for Free Comic Book Day, I was fairly indifferent.  I was even thinking of picking up a second copy of Blackest Night #0 just to be a tool and sell it on eBay.  But being the considerate guy that I am, I surveyed the stand to see if nothing else would catch my eye.  My eyes stopped on a familiar image:

Is that the first issue of ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’?

I checked the corner of the cover art, and sure enough it was signed ‘Eastman ’84’.  Sounds about right.  Looked at the back cover: ’25th Anniversary 1984 – 2009′.  In my Sherlock-ian wisdom, I reasoned that okay then, this must be the 25th Anniversary reprint of TMNT #1.  “I’ll take it!”

Now, before I read this comic, I’d have proudly declared my intimate knowledge of the Turtles mythos.  I own 30+ Ninja Turtle action figures with weapons; the Turtle Van (or ‘Party Wagon’ as described on the box); four limited edition, fully-posable, hand-crafted Ninja Turtle figures based on the original comics still in their box; two copies of the Ninja Turtles Joke Book (which, you won’t be surprised to hear, is terrible); and a copy of their first (and best) live-action motion picture on VHS recorded from TV – NO ADS (it still hasn’t been released on DVD in Australia), among other things.  I memorised the ‘T-U-R-T-L-E Power’ rap!

I worked hard for my Turtles fandom.  When I was 6 years old and these mutant amphibian warriors set playgrounds alight the world over, my mother would not allow me to watch the cartoon because it was “too violent”.  So what did I do?  I watched it in secret.  Four o’clock, Channel 7, every afternoon after school.  I don’t even remember how I furnished such an elaborate lie, but I did, for an entire year before I was discovered.  After which, my mother, in her Sherlock-ian wisdom (which she has since passed down to her son), allowed me to continue watching it, as she deduced that I had not become (noticeably) more violent over the past year.  It took another year of wearing them down to get my first action figure.  In the meantime I had to settle on a handheld Game & Watch-style Ninja Turtles game (which I got a lot of mileage out of) “and that’s it”.

My parents' first Turtles concession - <em>"and that's it"</em>.

My parents' first Turtles concession - "and that's it".

Next thing I know, I’m 8 years old and I’m holding my very first Ninja Turtles action figure (Raphael) “and that’s it”.  This went on until I collected the whole set.  Eventually, I think my parents gave up.  They must have resigned themselves to the fact that Ninja Turtles and I were destiny.  They wouldn’t let me see the live-action film at the cinema because it was, well, live-action (you can watch the cartoon series, “and that’s it”).  When it aired on TV, my father recorded it for me and cut out the ads for me.  Bless his heart.  Bless both their hearts.  Hopefully now you have a fairly accurate picture of my TMNT pedigree.  Now, allow me to drop the megaton on you: I HAVE NEVER READ A NINJA TURTLES COMIC BOOK IN ALL MY LIFE. Until now.

This comic grabbed me, shook me violently, slapped me in the face multiple times, and rebuked me in a terrible, Shredder-like voice, “YOU KNOW NOTHING OF THE TURTLES FOUR!!”

When I read in words and pictures, black and white, the true origin of the Ninja Turtles, and their greatest foe, Oroku Saki, I was surprised by the marked differences between the comics, the cartoons, and the live-action film.  To their (and their characters’) credit, Eastman and Laird have been more than flexible, adapting their creative property with a clear sensibility for medium and audience, but by the same token, I empathise with the true Turtles fan’s impossible task: to reconcile these clearly contradictory continuities into a cohesive mythology.  I suppose it’s really no different to the task of any comic book reader (Marvel’s 616 Universe vs. the Ultimate Universe, DC’s pre-crisis Multiverse vs. the post-crisis Universe vs. the post-post-crisis Multiverse, etc.), but these continuities contradict and parallel each other to this day.  For me, it’s simply a case of picking and choosing the bits that I like, and willfully ignoring the parts that I don’t.  More ardent fans likely have to settle with juggling three or more separate Turtles universes in their heads at the same time!

To begin with, Hamato Yoshi was a member of the Foot clan in Japan, a guild of assassins by trade.  Secondly, it was not Oroku Saki who competed with Yoshi for the love of the woman Tang Shen (a surprisingly Chinese name), rather his brother, Oroku Nagi (that’s right, ‘Oroku’ is the surname, and it is spoken first as is the custom in Japan).  Oroku Nagi assaulted Tang Shen when she refused his love, and Yoshi in turn beat Nagi to death in his blinding rage.  Yoshi, disgraced for having killed a fellow clansman, flees to America with his wife Tang Shen, while Saki swears vengeance for his brother’s blood at Nagi‘s funeral.  Saki becomes the Foot’s most accomplished assassin by the age of eighteen, and is sent to New York to found their new base of operations in the U.S.  As the Shredder, Saki tracks down and kills Shen and then Yoshi.  And the rest, as they say it, is history – Splinter sends out his fully-trained Ninja Turtles on their first mission to avenge the death of his Master.

That’s right, the Ninja Turtles fight and kill their greatest foe – The Shredder – in their very first encounter; in the very first issue!  That this one-and-done story spawned a series and a franchise is nothing short of amazing, and yet, at the same time, it isn’t.  Laird defends the hasty disposal of one of comics’ most notable villains in his opening letter, and rightly so.  It lends the story a raw power and urgency – as Laird confides, he wrote as if there was no second issue.  He also mentions that Eastman and himself simply wanted an opportunity to play on the same field as their heroes Jack Kirby and Frank Miller (an odd couple if ever I heard one), and the two influences shine through in this issue.  On the Kirby side of things, I could feel the energy and vitality of a story that may never be told again.  In the Miller corner, I could see the grim and gritty visual style; the heavy line-work; the fascination with Ancient Japan; and even the *suggestion* of an intersection with Daredevil’s origin story (could the ooze that transformed the Turtles be the same chemical that blinded and empowered Matt Murdock?).

Daredevil: The Secret of the Ooze.

Daredevil: The Secret of the Ooze.

It’s indie; it’s lo-fi; it feels like rare vinyl and vintage jeans.  The lettering and panel layouts are very rough, but all in all, I could really appreciate the inherent, visceral power of what is essentially a classic Japanese revenge tale.

Certainly the Ninja Turtles have since taken on a life of their own, larger than Eastman and Laird’s original vision, but damn if this comic wasn’t a great place to start.  Otherwise 25 years would have been a bit of a stretch.  Happy Birthday, boys!