Agent of Change

A Blog by Cory!! Strode, who really should write something interesting here.

Archive for the category “Comic Book Review”

Bernie Krigstein

Last night, after recording next week’s show and putting up today’s, I read the Bernie Krigstein story Key Chain from Crime SuspenStories 25. It’s a simple story, where a thief breaks into a key shop to make a key to break into a house filled with diamonds. He then knocks a try of keys onto the floor, losing the key to the front door.

It’s a short 5 page story, with a typical EC twist ending and story-wise there’s nothing special here. Just a run of the mill anecdote that builds to a ho-hum twist ending. However, in the hands of Krigstein, it becomes a work of art. From the way he shows the desperation by shrinking the panels, and then having panels WITHIN panels, to the surreality of getting inside the mind of the man looking for the key by having the number of keys move from realistic to overwhelming to a virtual avalanche, the art conveys the story in a way that prose or narration could not. He took the ordinary and made it art on a grand scale and did it in a way that many artists couldn’t even think of doing, let alone pull off.

He left comics for commercial art and eventually became a teacher at an art based high school. I really wish he would have got on with Warren in the 60’s, just to see what he would have accomplished with Archie Goodwin, or even did some comic book related work in the 80’s at one of the many high end independent publishers.

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Personal thoughts on Kirby’s work today

One of the phrases I’ve heard a lot lately is that “Nostalgia is a longing for the past, almost a form of melancholy.”

I am the first to admit that I find myself in melancholy more often than not. The last 5 or so years have been pretty hard, and they aren’t getting much easier.

However, as I am reading older comics on my overnights, I’m feeling nostalgia, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing. For example, I’m reading Jack Kirby’s late 70’s series of 2001: A Space Odyssey. When I read it as a kid, all I thought was “COOL! New Kirby Comics at Marvel!!!” and now when I read it, all I can think is “Who in the flaming blue hell thought they could get a comic book series out of that movie?”

One of my overnight co-workers talked about how he watched the movie in his early teens and then went on a quest to try to understand what the movie was about and what happened in it. I had the same reaction when I watched it…what did the opening sequence have to do with the outer space stuff? What was the monolith? Why did HAL go crazy? What the hell happened in the ending?

Like him, I read the novel, but then I was able to read Kirby’s comics, and Kirby had definite ideas about all of it. At the time That Was What It Meant, but now I see that Kirby had brought in his own innate belief that humanity would triumph over its baser urges and become like until the mythic gods of old. Now, I see it as an alien intelligence that was looking to plant seeds in a primitive creature and then came back to see if those seeds had borne fruit.

Kirby and I have diverged. He grew up in the depression and while things got bad, they got better. I grew up in the recession of the 70’s and saw things get progressively worse. The rich have figured out how to hollow out the middle class and turn the whole of the US into a company store, like the robber barons had done in old factory towns. The workers who united and worked together in Kirby’s day can’t wait to sell each other out for a slight chance of maybe making it one step up and getting a few more months of security.

He saw humanity getting better and joining the forces that sent the monolith. I see humanity as a toy for the monolith.

Different worldviews.

Different times.

Back to the comics, Kirby’s art is still amazing, and when I look at it next to the comics that were more popular and “relevant” at the time…let’s just say I can still read and enjoy Kirby’s stories of cavemen learning to use tools, men fighting against their darker instincts and the big themes and ideas being poured onto the pages, while the more “cool” comics of the time read like bad pulp fiction, filled with purple prose and endless formula.

Kirby drew BIG. He drew BIG double page spreads. He drew BIG characters who did larger than life things. He showed how the wheel was invented, the first tools and spacestatiosn that were pounded to oblivion by massive meteor showers. All of it done in a way that you can’t turn the page fast enough to get to the rest of the story.

Nostalgia. Comics that rocked my brain when I was 13, and still hold ideas that keep me thinking when I’m in my 40’s.

Not all nostalgia is melancholy. Some of it is there to remind you that you can still reset yourself and go back to thinking that may have escaped your for a while.

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Kirby Comics: 2001 1 – 4

I have recently read the first four issues of Kirby’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, and am really impressed with what Kirby was doing with the book. Let’s face it, after Kirby adapted the movie in a Treasury edition, the idea of a comic book series based on the movie seems like a REALLY odd choice. However, Kirby dived in, and as he did it, it played into his ideas about space gods, as well as humanity growing beyond its violent and destructive roots.

The first issue sets the tone as he mirrors the structure of the movie (in a 17 page comic!). We first meet a caveman who is a small step above his bestial companions, and in meeting the monolith, learns to create the first edged weapon. We switch to the future where his supposed descendent is trapped on the moon… Issue two follows the same structure with a female protagonist. The highlight of these two issues is getting a Kirby story of ancient man, and then followed up by Kirby’s version of the Kubrich future. His art is powerful, and while I’m not the biggest fan of Royer’s inks (I feel he followed Kirby’s pencils a little TOO slavishly, rather than bringing his own influence to them like a Joe Sinnott or Joe Simon did), Kirby’s art is strong, filled with action and does an incredible job of leading the reader from panel to panel.

Issues three and four are a leap forward as he leaves behind the format’s structure and tells the story of Barak who uses the knowledge from the monolith to create the world’s first army. Kirby is at a peak here with some incredible two page battle sequences, wonderful end of page reveals and excellent pacing. We also go from fearing Barak’s barbarianism to understanding his shift from brutal leader to a man who is bringing humanity forward in his own drive for both conquest and love. It shows that Kirby really enjoyed the fantasy/prehistoric style adventure he did in Kamandi, and his…well…quirky dialogue works perfectly in this type of story (as it did in The New Gods).

It was not a huge hit at the time, and I see it as some of Kirby’s most under-rated work.

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Trio by John Byrne – Comic Book Review

I picked this up really wanting to like it. Byrne CAN do work I enjoy and it’s been a while since he did something I liked.

This was NOT it.

The characters don’t have super-hero names…OK, not clear ones. They are called One, Two and Three as well as Rock, Paper and Scissors by different groups making it very confusing to follow. We start in the middle of a fight, which is a nice way to get things off to a big start, but we don’t know much about the group other than they all know each other, have known each other for a while and work as a team.

Is this a world where there are a lot of super-heroes? Only a few? Only these three? Is this a normal occurrence?

Paper/Two is injured in the fight and the team doesn’t know if she is dead, so she is whisked off to a high tech headquarters, and MORE confusion ensues…is this a HQ they they own, or if they don’t who has all the high tech equipment? Rock/One doesn’t go the HQ and instead turns into human form, without any clothing (but has a big wad of money to pay for a cab making me wonder where he stashes the money if he can’t stash clothes….) is dropped off at home and greets his family where we get a revelation as to who Rock/One is when he isn’t smashing stuff.

Rock is pretty much The Thing with a different personality, Scissors may well be the goofiest looking character outside of a fanzine and Paper seems utterly worthless in a super-hero sense.

Byrne’s art looked better than it has in a long time, but the character designs of both Paper and Scissor was a mess, just amateurish and I don’t think anyone could make Scissors look good.

So…how did it work as a first issue?

DAMN this book needed an editor. I can understand a first issue having a “teaser” aspect to it, but this felt like an idea, not a story. There is a way to do the “you are in a new world” as a first issue that entices you. Think about the first issue of Transmetropolitan or the pilot episode of Lost and you’ll see how to use this technique.

Too many things just happen without any explanation, and there is NOTHING here that interested me enough to come back to get some answers next issue.

It’s a damn shame, since I am more than ready to follow a new John Byrne comic.

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