Kirb Your Enthusiasm (16)
By: Sean Howe | Categories: Read-outs

Sixteenth in a series of posts, each one analyzing a single panel from a Jack Kirby-drawn comic book.

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Ragnarok.

Tucked away in the back half of Thor #128 (May 1966), in the “Tales of Asgard” backup strip, is a nightmare vision, shared by the prophetess Volla, about the end of the world. It’s not a warning, really — it’s “that which no force in all the universe can prevent.” It’s what is going to happen.

“Nothing remains… but silence!” That’s almost true. But when you look at the panel, you also smell the sulfur, and hear the crackle of flame and the occasional sound of debris shifting as it burns. (You see some of that debris, too, falling just above the center smoke.) There’s majesty, too: in that almost-futuristic glove, of course, but also in the ornamental work on the quillon and grip of the fallen sword, and in the steel-beam cross, just above the corpse with the now-useless shield.

It was about five months after Jack Kirby rendered these visions that they finally made their way to unsuspecting readers, in the first days of March ’66. In that time, Kirby’s feelings about Marvel Comics, about Stan Lee, had started to irrevocably transform. A New York Herald-Tribune profile published in January had lightly mocked him while revering Lee. Steve Ditko, already tired of Lee’s meddling with his stories, wasn’t happy about the article either. He walked away from Marvel for years — and from Spider-Man and Doctor Strange forever. He tried to get Kirby to go with him.

That wouldn’t happen, not yet. For Kirby, it would be another four years of silent resentments and dashed hopes, of rising and falling expectations. “Goaded by nameless fear,” quoth Volla, “friend turns against friend, brother against brother, in a senseless orgy of savage combat!” Thor #128 had been conceived and delivered by Kirby in a more innocent Merry Marvel Marching Society era — it was like a last light from a distant star that had already died — but it carried a dire prophecy that had started to become reality by the time it left the printer.

The pages following the above panel are the salve, sort of: Volla speaks of a new civilization that will emerge, built by “the young, new race of gods… a new golden age… a new rebirth, as glorious as any the world has ever known!” There will be New Gods to replace the old. But Heimdall, Balder, Thor and the others are speechless, hardly relieved.

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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 | Btoom! Rob Steibel settles the Jack Kirby vs. Stan Lee question | Galactus Lives! Rob Steibel analyzes a single Kirby panel in six posts | Danny Fingeroth figgers out The Thing |

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Sean Howe is the editor of Give Our Regards to the Atomsmashers and DEEP FOCUS, a new series of film books (including They Live, by Jonathan Lethem; Lethal Weapon, by Chris Ryan; Death Wish, by Christopher Sorrentino; and The Sting by Matthew Specktor) from Soft Skull Press.