Thursday, October 8, 2009

Superman vs. Don Rickles

The Adventures of Jimmy Olsen Volume 1 by Jack Kirby and Vince Colletta (1970-71): One of the strangest occurences in 1970's comic books consisted of DC wresting writer/artist Jack Kirby (co-creator of Marvel's Captain America, the Fantastic Four, Thor, Iron Man, the Avengers and a slew of other characters) away from Marvel and then apparently having absolutely no idea what to do with him.

This led to a number of fascinating Kirby series that always seemed to get cancelled just as they were shifting into high gear (The Demon, The New Gods, The Forever People, OMAC...). It also led to DC putting Kirby not on the core Superman books but on the failing Jimmy Olsen book for close to two years. Kirby created stuff there (the Cadmus Project chief among them) that would go on to become crucial elements in Superman mythology...more than 20 years later, during and just after the Death of Superman storyline of the early 1990's. Maybe Mark Evanier is right -- Kirby was always ahead of the curve.

The oddest thing about Kirby's run on Jimmy Olsen was that DC, apparently traumatized by a Kirby Man of Steel, got other artists to redraw Superman's face so that it "fit" better with the company-wide portrayal of Superman. Why did this happen? Good question, because Kirby's unedited Superman is as much or more "on-model" as Mike Sekowsky's Superman in Justice League during the 1960's and early 1970's. For whatever reason, what one gets is a lot of characters with Kirby heads and Superman and the occasional Perry White with an Al Plastino or Curt Swan head. Bizarre.

The Jimmy Olsen stuff Kirby did is mostly fun, and it offers glimpses of what Superman would have been like had DC handed the reins to the character to Kirby (hint: dynamic and somewhat offbeat). Clashes with genetically engineered super-mutants abound, including one with a four-armed yellow-guy who wouldn't look out of place in Hellboy. This volume also contains the famous/infamous Don Rickles two-parter. Yes, Don Rickles guest-stars alongside Jimmy Olsen and Superman, though Superman and Rickles never actually meet. Again, bizarre. To quote the tremendous cover blurb on the second part of this team-up, "Don't ask! Just buy it!"

Hellboy Volume 8: Darkness Calls (2006-2007) by Mike Mignola and Duncan Fegredo: Fegredo nicely combines the moody and the action-packed in taking over for Mignola on Hellboy's art here. Various supernatural nasties -- chief among them the Russian Baba Yaga and Koschei the Deathless -- take their shots at Hellboy while armageddon continues to move closer. That Hellboy occasionally generates his own sound effects -- yelling 'Boom!' as he punches somebody -- continues to amuse me way more than it probably should.

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