Tuesday, February 26, 2013



This was a bit of a breathing space for Jack Kirby. A moment to pause and catch his wind.

After the unparalleled explosion of creativity between issues numbers #44 and 53 of FANTASTIC FOUR, Kirby did a couple of stand-alone yarns, as if to give himself a much-needed rest. What's interesting during this time is that even his one-issue stories are superlative. Whether he was showcasing Ben Grimm (obviously his favorite character), or trying once more to make a superstar out of Johnny Storm, the Human Torch (it never worked), he was writing and illustrating some genuinely memorable stories without resorting to long story arcs.

Issue #55 brings back the Silver Surfer who we had not seen since he took his leave of the Fantastic Four at the end of the Galactus story-arc (#48-50). What had he been up to? Where had he been? Kirby fills us in, showing us what it must be like to be--for all intents and purposes--a god who is imprisoned on one tiny speck of rock when he had been accustomed to exploring the wide expanse of the galaxy. If Kirby had initially created the Surfer as a herald (Gabriel) to Galactus (God), now the Surfer was more akin to Satan, God's angel fallen for daring to challenge God.

But this was a more sympathetic figure than Lucifer. Here was a genuinely saintly figure, lost among men and feared by even the demi-gods among those men.

Of all of the super-folk that Jack Kirby created alone during this time, the Silver Surfer stands out. And he stands out because, like Ben Grimm, his misled foe in this story, he is a character packed with sadness, the very image of pathos.

My copy of FANTASTIC FOUR #55

Kirby's creation, the Silver Surfer. Stan Lee had absolutely NOTHING to do with the creation of this character. Nothing.

Superheroes in regular clothes who don't have to hide their "real" identities. Wotta world! A Kirby World!

Kirby illustrates just what it is that makes a superhero a superhero.

Dark analog of the panel of the Surfer from the previous page. Perfect storytelling on Kirby's part. You don't have to see Ben Grimm punch the Surfer. But you know it happened.

The Surfer tries to reason with the emotional galoot.

Man! Nobody drew comics like Kirby drew them! Richards the stern father figure. Grimm the petulant kid.

Again...I'm left to wonder how much Lee deviated from and mucked about with Kirby's dialog and script. That last panel just doesn't align with the story told in the previous six panels. If anything, Ben would be lamenting his behavior since the story began. Instead, his mouth is filled with dialogue of dark warning, as if he learned nothing from his mistakes and from the gracious actions of the misunderstood Silver Surfer. Grimm was no dope, so I assume Lee messed it up once more.


Kirk G said...

You've hit the first comic book I ever bought off the rack. I was not aware that they were ongoing, until I saw the issue number 55 in the corner box, and realized that my latest copy off the FF was numbered #50. So I was perfectly positioned to continue the Silver Surfer story. Wottta tale!

Kirk G said...

Notice the "Thwipp" panel in the lower left of page 17, when Reed lassos Ben's arm with his rubbery arm. This particular panel was later pirated/aped/copied by the artist Rich Buckler in about FF #147 when he was "lightboarding" to lift familiar/popular images from Kirby's golden era...trying to re-imagine those classic images. Fan's spotted them and "called him out" on it. The editor defended him but the practice stopped.

James Robert Smith said...

I have no problem with the occasional swipe from an artist. However...Buckler seems to have based his entire career on swipes. When he wasn't swiping,his already uncomfortable style descended into genuinely bad territory.

Still...there were issues of FF that he did that made me happy. I will assume that they were inked by Sinnott (and many artist friends have told me that Buckler employed a host of assistants to help him do the work). It's been a long time since I read them, and I don't collect any issues of the book that weren't done by Jack Kirby.