Review: 3 Essays on Late-Career Jack Kirby

3 Essays on Late-Career Jack Kirby
Fanzine, Andy Brown, 32 pgs, Conundrum Press,, $5

Jack Kirby, the ‘King of Comics,’ was never treated like royalty in his lifetime. Despite co-creating The Fantastic Four, Captain America, Iron Man, The X-Men and The Hulk, he spent most of his career scrapping for his dues. Even his progeny, now dominating all of pop-culture, are stripped of their origins. His Eternals and New Gods are awashed of colour and style for their big screen debuts, sanded down so that no trace of a singular parent could be made.

Andy Brown, a scholar of Kirby and founder of Conundrum Press, has collected three of his essays regarding Kirby’s work after his bitter departure from Marvel Comics. In one essay he comes down on Kamandi, an imitative though influential post-apocalyptic series about a teen navigating a world conquered by humanoid animals. In another, Brown comes to the defence of Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers, a short-lived and maligned ‘80s comic made on piss and vinegar. Brown argues that Captain Victory, made in a time of structural upheaval in the comics world, was moreover Kirby’s attempt to give his legacy what it really needed: a character he could retain the rights to.

The most interesting essay, unsurprisingly, regards the Fourth World comics. The pocket of DC’s universe where the immortal New Gods of Apokolips and New Genesis clash in a never ending war. This saga is, in Brown’s view, Kirby’s most literary, historical and intertextual. Nestled in the 1970’s social uprisings, flower children and spiritual technology, the subtext of a fictional, cosmic proxy war fought on Earth gains depth in the shadow of a real one in Vietnam. For fans of Kirby who’d like to brush up on the cartoonist’s nicher pockets, or readers of The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay who could use a thorough supplement, Brown’s fanzine is an interesting read regarding comics’ greatest b-sides.