As a young kid I didn’t really get Jack Kirby. His work seemed too “far out” and “wild” for a “liitle tyke” such as myself. I wanted entertainment, not big ideas, and Jack’s book were full of them.
Most of what I read were the Marvel stuff he was going in the mid-seventies. Books like The Eternals, and his amazingly weird Captain America series.
As I grew up I started to realize how much my own mind had been “blown open” by those Kirby comics of my youth. Ultimately I got a chance to meet and interview the man himself back in 1992, getting to discover in person just how much enthusiasm he could still project, and how excited he was about new possibilities, even when he was in his seventies.
But one thing I had never had a chance to experience were the comics that were supposed to be his magnum opus, a series of interconnected comics called the “Fourth World” that laid out a tale of the “New Gods”, and their battle against Darkseid, the lord of Apokalypse. They’d come and gone by the time I’d gotten into comics, and I only managed to get my hands on some of them in the early nineties when the New Gods comics were reprinted.
The remaining books went uncollected for years, showing up in bits and pieces in occasional reprints, but it was only last year that DC undertook a definitive reprinting of the saga. It’s a gorgeous edition, with a new printing process that seems to capture the magic of the old newsprint without its frailty.
Yes, the plots can be corny, and the dialog often almost defines wooden. But at the same time Kirby manages to transcend all of the cliches that he revels in with the sheer amount of power in his art, and creativity in his ideas. That is, after all, his super-power.
This new edition seems to have opened a place in the greater culture for the appreciation of Jack Kirby to start to flourish. Part of that is an entire generation of nerds, like myself, who have constantly reminded people how awesome he is. Another part is the heavy influence that the Kirby canon had on other superhero projects, and the penetration of comics in general into the mainstream culture..
But there’s a special feeling that comes with seeing the Fourth World Omnibus reviewed in the New York Times, by notable nerd John Hodgman. It’s as if the final walls have come crumbling down.
In one moment, Highfather of New Genesis turns to one of the young boys in his care. “Esak,” he asks, “what is it that makes the very young — so very wise?”
“Tee hee!!” Esak replies. “It’s our defense, Highfather — against the very old!!”
This is probably the only passage in the English language containing the words “tee hee” that has actually moved me.
It’s good stuff, and well worth the read.