Twenty-second in a series of posts, each one analyzing a single panel from a Jack Kirby-drawn comic book.
Comic-book panels are like suffocating rooms. Most of the time characters have no choice but to be trapped in them — except in Jack Kirby’s rooms everybody is punching, flying, kicking their way out. There is also a lot of screaming and let’s blast through this door. The panel above is a calmer scene from “Let Me Plan Your Murder,” in Real Clue Crime Stories v.2 #6 (August 1947), a story that featured secret rooms. Real Clue stories were reportedly based on true events, this one about the serial killer H.H. Holmes who built a “Castle of Horror” near the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition and confessed to killing 27 people — many of them young women who went skipping through the Fair saying, in high, ringing voices, “Oh, look at the advances in milking cows.” Holmes would lure them back to a building full of windowless rooms that had gas lines for asphyxiation, a bank vault for suffocation, and furnaces. In this panel, Holmes is doing away Pietzel, who was — oh, never mind.
Kirby grew up on New York’s Lower East Side where there are all those inky, brown brick, 19th-century tenements with dark-eyed windows and sometimes none at all. I’ve read that Kirby was always in street fights which was the pastime back then: “Gimme that or I’ll smash your head in.”
Kirby looks so still in his photographs. What was inside Kirby’s head? I only know what’s in mine, of course, as we all do. Though artists and writers offer a peek; they go public, sometimes, at least partly. Though even they don’t know entirely what is entirely in there. Because the minute they think about it, a new thought, a new monster appears.
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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 |