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Posts Tagged ‘Jack Kirby’

  1. Kid Colt, Outlaw: When Westerns Got Weird

    July 29, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    Kid Colt Outlaw Vol 1 100.jpgUntil I took the time to research the entirety of Marvel titles from 1961, I would have given DC credit for inventing the “weird western” genre in the early 1970s with characters like Jonah Hex and the Scalphunter. I now think that honor should go to Stan Lee, Jack Keller and Jack Kirby for several stories and covers produced between 1960 and 1962.

    Kid Colt was no stranger to the “apparently” weird. In a 1949 story entitled “Curse of the Chinese Idol” (Wild Western #7) Earnie Hart and Russ Heath spun a tale about an object that brings death to all who come in contact with it. Kid Colt investigates and exposes it as a hoax.

    This type of “explainable” weird western plot was also used by Lee and Keller in Kid Colt, Outlaw numbers 93, 100, and 102. Kirby (who was mostly penciling monsters at this time) provided the cover art.

    “The Ghost of Midnight Mountain” in Kid Colt, Outlaw #93 (1960) is resolved with the Kid exposing the “ghosts” as cloaked members of the Caleb gang. There is, however, a slight “wink” at the end as the gang appears to be frozen stiff by a real ghost.

    “When the Witch Doctor Strikes” was the cover story of Kid Colt, Outlaw #100 (1961).  The Kirby cover shows the Kid being forced down a gauntlet of crazed Indians only to face a devil-like Warloo. Warloo is soon exposed to be the work of a stage magician named Rack Morgan and a Comanche usurper called Black Feather.

    Kid Colt Outlaw Vol 1 102.jpg“The Ghost of Silver City” in Kid Colt, Outlaw #102 (1962) has the Kid once again exposing a fake ghost; this time it’s the outlaw Johnny Ringo who fakes his own death in a plot to frame the Kid for his murder.
    Kid Colt Outlaw Vol 1 107.jpg

    Finally, in Kid Colt, Outlaw #107 (1962) we see the true birth of the weird western as Lee, Keller and Kirby jump the shark with a tale called “The Giant Monster of Midnight Valley”.  This one has an honest-to-goodness monster from another planet! Kid Colt readers may have been too jaded to suspend their disbelief in ghosts, but green men from outer space were still within the realm of comic book reality, coming on the heels of a Skrull invasion in Fantastic Four #2.

    In “”The Giant Monster of Midnight Valley”, a gigantic telepathic and telekinetic alien creature is castaway in the old west after its spaceship crash-lands on Earth. The Kid encounters the alien and decides to help him return to his planet. When the posse chasing them tries to shoot the monster the Kid takes a bullet for him. Moved by Kid Colt’s sacrifice, the alien uses a special lotion to bring him back to life. Just as the posse is moving in, a rescue party from the alien’s planet arrives and takes him away, but not before erasing the events from the minds of the posse and the Kid.
    Now, the kicker: The alien is so impressed with the daring-do of Kid Colt, he can’t abide that the Kid’s fellow humans will never know about his brave act. So, nearly a century later,  the alien visits the office of a comic book writer named Stan Lee and gives him the story so he can tell it in the pages of Kid Colt, Outlaw.
    Update: Somehow, I neglected a June, 1961 issue of Kid Colt‘s sister title Rawhide Kid. I have no knowledge of what the story entails but the cover is definitely in the realm of weird western. Without further comment, here is the cover of The Rawhide Kid #22:

  2. Atlas Monsters: Xemnu the Living Hulk

    July 28, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    Ask any “true believer” in 1961 who the Hulk is and his answer wouldn’t have anything to do with gamma rays or purple shorts. Hulk was the cover name of a mind-controlling monster from Titan named Xemnu who first appeared in late 1960 and again in 1961 within the pages of the pre-Thor Journey Into Mystery (#62 & 66). Like the later  Hulk, Xemnu underwent an evolution of hues through the years; first a rust brown, then gray, and finally a snowy white which makes him resemble the abominable snowman from a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Despite his fur, he is apparently made out of metal.

    In his debut, Xemnu is one of several inmates on a prison planet until he escapes on a supply ship. The spacecraft runs out of fuel and he is forced to crash-land on Earth. There his unconscious body is found in a swamp by an electrician, Joe Harper. Sure that he can revive Xemnu by repairing his robot parts, Joe brings Xemnu’s body to his workshop. There he revives Xemnu through a process called electrolysis (I’m not making this up!). While recharging, Xemnu reveals that he is a convict and then uses his hypnosis rays to take control of Joe. After confirming that his hypnosis works on humans, Xemnu brings Joe out of his trance and reveals his plan to enthrall all humanity in order to build a new ship to take  him home. The force needed to launch the ship would cause a chain of geological events which would tear the Earth apart. Since Joe was the one who revived Xemnu, he is to be taken along and spared the fate of the rest of Earth. Xemnu enthralls the entire human race with his hypnosis rays, and has them design and construct a new spacecraft. Joe saves Earth by sabotaging the spacecraft. When Xemnu prepares to depart, two crossed wires cause a short-circuit which send him into a state of suspended animation. Harper then launches the spacecraft, sending Xemnu into orbit around the sun. Released from the effects of the hypnosis rays no one on Earth but Joe remembers that Xemnu once controlled the entire human race.

    In Journey Into Mystery #66 Xemnu awakes to find himself hurtling towards the sun.  He uses his telekinesis to bank shot an asteroid off the rocket changing its course back towards Earth. Once he arrives he sets about hypnotizing the residents of a small town to build a mass hypnotizing device. When the electrician, Joe Harper from the first story, cannot detect Xemnu’s rocket, he figures out the alien must be back on Earth and deduces his location from the blackout Xemnu has imposed on the town while his device is being built. When Joe confronts him, Xemnu pursues him to the top of an oil tower where he threatens to  ”hypnotize your atoms to fall apart”.  Joe outsmarts the metal furball once again by pulling out a mirror so Xemnu disintegrates himself.

    Something as minor a not having a body anymore didn’t keep Xemnu from returning in the pages of The Incredible Hulk, The Defenders and The Sensational She-Hulk.

    Sensational She-Hulk Vol 1 7.jpgIn the She-Hulk story entitled, “I Have No Mouth And I Am Mean!” Xemnu has taken to kidnapping pregnant women so he can take over the mailable minds of unborn children (apparently the whole enthralling thing gets harder with each appearance).  Even Xemnu must have smelled the stink on this latest plan and soon abandoned it for Plan B: Transform She-Hulk into The Bride of Xemnu! She-Hulk and her friends thwart this plan and decide to turn the defeated Xemnu over to a teddy bear loving alien called Big Enilwen who promises to ”hug him and hold him and love him forever!”
    You may remember how Fin Fang Foom had also become satiric fodder for the chuckleheads at Marvel. May the ghost of Jack Kirby haunt them forever…

  3. Atlas Monsters: Fin Fang Foom

    July 26, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    When Fin Fang Foom first appeared on comic stands in the late summer of 1961, not even the most enthusiastic fan of the speedo-sporting space dragon had any expectation that the character had much of a future beyond his first appearance in Strange Tales #89. ST-89.jpg

    In the cover story for that comic book, Fin Fang Foom was merely an ancient hibernating dragon  who is deliberately awakened from his slumber in a cave by an anti-communist Taiwanese man,  Chen Liuchow, whose homeland is under threat from the Red Chinese. Chen uses a special herb to awaken the dragon, and taunts Foom with the threat of another herb that will put him back to sleep. Chen goads Foom into chasing him, and leads him straight into the Communist invasion force, which Foom destroys. With the Red threat eliminated, Chen leads Fin Fang Foom back into his cave, where the sleep herb returns Foom to his hibernative state.

    Fin Fang Foom’s story would have to wait another 13 years to be continued  in Astonishing Tales #23 & 24 (1974).  In that story, Foom is again awakened by someone who needs the dragon to eliminate a threat, this time a giant stone monster called “It, the Living Colossus” (who, like Foom, made his debut and previous appearance in 1961). Foom and the Colossus eventually join forces to foil an invasion from the planet Stonus V. Foom swims home and goes back to sleep.

    Not until a long story appearing in Iron Man #261-275 (1991) do we learn Foom’s full back story.

    It is revealed in flashback that Foom is an alien being from Maklu IV in the Greater Magellanic Cloud. Foom and his fellow Makluans arrived on Earth in ancient China, intending to conquer the planet. Using their natural shapeshifting powers to mimic human form, the aliens infiltrate human society to study it before beginning their conquest. The ship’s navigator (Foom)  is the exception, and acting as a reserve is placed in a tomb in a state of hibernation

    The Makluan vessel is eventually found  by a supervillain, The Mandarin who steals ten sophisticated rings from it. The Mandarin was guided to the cave in the  Valley of the Sleeping Dragon by a man called Chen Hsu, who is also an alien dragon and the captain of the vessel. The Mandarin finds and wakes Fin Fang Foom, using the dragon to threaten the Chinese government. Foom helps the Mandarin take control of one-third of China. With “Chen Hsu”, whose true form is also revealed, the pair begin to summon their fellows, who had been disguised as humans for centuries. Realizing he has been tricked, the Mandarin joins forces with the heroes Iron Man and War Machine to defeat the dragons.

    Foom would make further appearances in the pages of Iron Man until apparently being exiled to Monster Isle by The Fantastic Four. After a five-year legal battle, Fin Fang Foom and three other Atlas age monsters are granted release from Monster Isle. Foom decides to reform and becomes a Buddhist.  He enters a rehabilitation program with the other monsters,  the robot Elektro; the giant ape Gorgilla, and the alien Googam. Foom is shrunk down to human size, hypnotically stripped of all his powers and allowed to enter human society. Foom becomes the  head chef at a Chinese restaurant in the Baxter Building, taking time out to team up with the other monsters to defeat the size-changing warlord Tim Boo Ba. Foom also helps Doctor Strange’s servant, Wong to defeat a bunch of Hydra agents.

    And you thought Fin Fang Foom was silly in 1961…