Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Well, I've been tagged. Tagged by the estimable Plok, of A Trout in the Milk fame- and this is what I've been charged with: The Jack Kirby Meme. And it goes like this:

Forget Jack's overall storytelling, forget his characterization, just look at the visual representation of his characters -- the actual drawings themselves. Now tell us what YOU think is the best character design Jack Kirby ever created and why.

Started by a fellow named Sean Kleefeld, another of those unlinked-to-by-me bloggers I was mentioning the other night, by the way.

So...my choice? You may be surprised.

First, let me preface this by saying that choosing one Kirby creation for this honor is a Herculean task at best- the King's fertile imagination gave us a million and a half great characters (and perhaps 500,000 not-so-great ones), and choosing between them is like choosing which star in the sky is the prettiest, or something like that. So what I'm going to do is cite a Kirby character whose appearance has always struck a chord with me personally, although he's not exactly one of the King's most celebrated characters. I'm talking about...


First appearing in Fantastic Four Annual #5, there was just something that grabbed me from the start about his appearance- the modified moon-suit, which is crowned with headgear featuring a mask that features a scored, deadpan orange face, with a look that only Kirby and few others could conceive of. It pointed out to his ironically emotionless, almost alien, clinical nature, befitting a Lee and Kirbyesque mad psychopathic scientist. Plus the typically nutball touch of the device he's holding below, in this illo by John Byrne (I think)-

Which controls his emotion-manipulating rays, helpfully marked "Doubt", "Fear", "Hate", and so on. He was an evil scientist from another of the King's hidden worlds, this one named Sub-Atomica, and he was part of a later extravaganza, cover below, which also featured the Silver Surfer and the threat of Galactus as the FF were stuck fighting Psycho-Man in the miniature world. Thrilled me as an 8-year-old, it did!

And that's my choice. I freely admit that ol' Psychie never attained the status of Doc Doom, the Frightful Four or even the Mole Man in the FF rogues gallery, but for my money there was no one that had a more unsettling visage, thanks once more to Kirby's excellent imagination.

Runner-up? Why, none other than the star of one of my all-time favorite comics, Fantastic Four #35 ("Calamity on the Campus!"): Dragon Man! Basically an update of the giant monsters he had paid the bills with not five years prior, Kirby's design was simple, but allowed room for a lot of expressiveness in the howling, childlike, fire-breathing homonculus of Diablo. Even with the ubituquous Code-approved trunks.

Those were the days.

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