Thursday, July 17, 2008

Every Kid's Rabbi

As I said in a couple of earlier posts, a few years ago, having the disposable income and the leisure time to pursue it, I began a silly nostalgia kick to assemble some of the comic books that influenced me when I was a kid. Unlike most kids, I was surrounded by jillions of comic books for most of my life, since my dad had hundreds of thousands of them due to his used book shops. I consumed the hell out of them when I was in grade school. By the time I was an adult, they were just a business to me. They had become a commodity that I bought and sold and rarely thought about as anything to savor.

But those days of racing up and down the east coast and out to San Diego once a year are long over. A couple of years ago I found myself wishing and able to buy up some of the four-color fantasies that had such an impact on my early years. I don't go out searching for these books in high grade to hold onto as a collectible. I grab them up when I can in lower condition so that I can read them with no guilt and no thought of "harming" an investment.

For the past several months I've tried to find a copy of FANTASTIC FOUR #25. This was one of my favorite single comics when I was a little boy. There's not much to it, really. On the surface, it's just a big fight between Ben Grimm (The Thing) and the Incredible Hulk. It held quite a fascination for me as a kid, and that amazing cover grabbed my attention and spurred my imagination. This was a classic comic written and illustrated by Jack Kirby, every kid's rabbi (although most of us didn't know it at the time).

The Battle of the Century!

I've finally landed that extra-special issue of Fantastic Four, and it's as much fun as I recalled. Kirby is in top form as an illustrator and storyteller. Surface tale aside, Jack Kirby was teaching moral lessons to us in illustrated form. He was laying down the Law in such a way that every kid on Earth could understand the difference between right and wrong. There wasn't a lot of "good" and "evil" in the mix, because Kirby handed us some gray areas, and that was what made his comic books so special. The battle in this issue doesn't last as long as I'd always recalled it, but the basic message of courage is still there. I don't have any trouble at all remembering why Ben Grimm (the Thing) is my all-time favorite comic book character, and why Jack Kirby remains my favorite of the comic book creators of my fantastic youth.

Wot a slugfest!

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