First in a series of posts, each one analyzing a single panel from a Jack Kirby-drawn comic book.
What made this panel from the very first issue of The Eternals (July 1976) so spectacular for me, at the time, was that it flips our perspective from that of the ostensibly good Eternals to that of the seemingly demonic Deviants. Throughout the issue, we have been listening to Ikaris, a beautiful, sculpted, superhero-like demigod, recount the story of how five million years ago, the Celestials performed genetic experiments on early humans. The results were two very different races. The Eternals, including Ikaris, look human and are practically immortal — immune to standard weaponry. The other, the Deviants, are a hideously deformed race — so uniquely ugly that no two are even deformed in the same way — who have been living all this time deep inside the Earth, developing technologies for their survival. Supposedly, the Eternals have been helping mankind while the Deviants would do bad things. The wars between these races accounted for all sorts of ’70s New Age tropes, like the sinking of Atlantis and the power of the pyramids.
As a somewhat emotionally mutant kid myself, I couldn’t help identifying more with the Deviants than the Eternals. And so when this panel came up, reversing the battle between impervious Ikaris and the justifiably angry Deviants, I felt vindicated by the change in POV — as if Kirby realized there were a lot of us already siding with these superficially flawed and deeply resentful creatures, who saw the Demigod less like a human than like some big emotionless robot.
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CHECK OUT “Cosmic Debris: Kirby in the ’70s,” a series running in tandem with “Kirb Your Enthusiasm” at the 4CP gallery of comic book details | Kirby cutaways and diagrams collected at the Comic Book Cartography gallery | Joe Alterio’s Cablegate Comix and HiLobrow posts about comics and cartoonists, and science fiction | The Jack Kirby Chronology | scans of rare 1940-50s Kirby comics at the Digital Comic Museum | Joshua Glenn on the New Gods generation
POSTS IN THIS SERIES: Douglas Rushkoff on THE ETERNALS | John Hilgart on BLACK MAGIC | Gary Panter on DEMON | Dan Nadel on OMAC | Deb Chachra on CAPTAIN AMERICA | Mark Frauenfelder on KAMANDI | Jason Grote on MACHINE MAN | Ben Greenman on SANDMAN | Annie Nocenti on THE X-MEN | Greg Rowland on THE FANTASTIC FOUR | Joshua Glenn on TALES TO ASTONISH | Lynn Peril on YOUNG LOVE | Jim Shepard on STRANGE TALES | David Smay on MISTER MIRACLE | Joe Alterio on BLACK PANTHER | Sean Howe on THOR | Mark Newgarden on JIMMY OLSEN | Dean Haspiel on DEVIL DINOSAUR | Matthew Specktor on THE AVENGERS | Terese Svoboda on TALES OF SUSPENSE | Matthew Wells on THE NEW GODS | Toni Schlesinger on REAL CLUE | Josh Kramer on THE FOREVER PEOPLE | Glen David Gold on JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY | Douglas Wolk on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY | MORE EXEGETICAL COMMENTARIES: Joshua Glenn on Kirby’s Radium Age Sci-Fi Influences | Chris Lanier on Kirby vs. Kubrick | Scott Edelman recalls when the FF walked among us | Adam McGovern is haunted by a panel from THE NEW GODS | Matt Seneca studies the sensuality of Kirby’s women | Danny Fingeroth figgers out The Thing |