Tag Archives: Topps Comics

Slash Fiction: Jason vs. Leatherface

Greetings, Legions of the Unspoken!

Ol’ Dean Compton is back, and I do apologize for having been away so long.  Life has separated me from the 90’s comics I dearly love and treasure, and it has also separated me from all of you, but that shall happen no more!  We hope to be back on track around here in time for early summer, and my portion starts right here with the rather fun (and gory) Jason vs. Leatherface from Topps Comics!

I’ve been obsessed with Jason Voorhees (although not as obsessed as I am with some things) ever since I was about 4 or 5 years old.  I don’t recall which Friday the 13th movie it was, but one Saturday morning in the middle of the serenity that only Saturday morning cartoons can bring a youngster, the slasher invaded.  This had to be a mistake on the part of the station, but all of a sudden I was seeing a commercial for a Friday The 13th flick!  I was so scared that I had nightmares about it later.

Whether this had anything to do with it or not, movies like Friday the 13th and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre were banned in my house growing up.  The only Jason stuff that ever made its way into ComptonSpace was the NES game.  Ask Emily or anyone who knows me: I am goddamn obsessed with NES Jason and will purchase just about anything to do with him, from NECA figures to Funko customs.  For me, that game was Jason, in all of his purple and neon blue glory.  Later, as a teenager, I’d be able to watch some Friday the 13th movies, and whole some of them are scary, most are just funny and a blast to watch.

I didn’t have the same affinity for Leatherface.  I never got to play the Atari Texas Chainsaw Massacre game, although I am pretty obsessed with it now, to the point of having bought a NECA Atari Leatherface.  (I bet you’re starting to think NECA paid me to put them in here, but nah, they just have great stuff.  Of course, should they want to sponsor the site, come on, fellas!) I didn’t see Texas Chainsaw Massacre until I was 22.  It’s a good movie, but I always sort of thought of Leatherface as the least of the slashers until recently.  Thanks to various action figures, I have started to really dig Leatherface, so when I learned of this mini-series, I Just had to see how these two horror icons did against one another.

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The covers to this mini-series are excellently done by Simon Bisley, who displays from the get-go why he was the perfect artist for such a task.  Also, Jason’s machete sort of looks like the one he uses in Jason X, making this even more badass.

Published in the waning days of Topps Comics, Jason vs. Leatherface had a very low print run, making it highly desirable these days.  From what I can tell from my research (which is done on little sleep and a shoestring budget, so please correct me if I am wrong), this is the only time in any medium that Jason and Leatherface squared off in an “official” manner.  That sort of makes it sound like they had some sort of government sanctioned duel.  That is decidedly not the case; this is much, much more fun.

Nancy Collins writes a fun story in which Jason is caught up in corporate malfeasance.  A corporation has been using Crystal Lake (the perpetual home of Jason’s massacres) to dump toxic waste.  They are moving on from the area, and the EPA has confirmed that something must be done about the waste.  The CEO decided to just drain and dredge the lake and then use the land to build high-priced development housing.  AND THEY SAY JASON VOORHEES IS THE BAD GUY!

Of course, Jason is at the bottom of the lake from the end of one of his last massacres, and he’s just waiting for something or someone to free him.

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Remember that Southern Rock compilation CD “Going South”?  I bet Jason hates it.

The man in charge of the dredging makes it clear to all involved that he is not a nice man and that he is there because he works cheap.  While they are in the process of dredging the lake, a local arrives and warns them of the danger that is Jason Voorhees, but the contractor laughs it off.  Of course, as he is scoffing at the idea that a crazed and unstoppable maniac is at the bottom of the lake, what does his crew pull up with a large crate of toxic dirt?  If you guessed anything but Jason, turn in your badge; you’re off the force.

The dirt gets hauled to a train where it takes off for the desert. Joining the dirt on this journey is a hobo and his dog, and being honest, these are the most likeable characters in the entire book.  Sadly, Jason kills them rather quickly, and this is the moment that really reminded me that while we all like Jason, we really shouldn’t  He murders harmless and defenseless people for no good reason.  This hobo offers him some booze, which is like money to hobos in pop culture, and Jason hacks his arm off.

Of course, what will really get to most folks is when Jason hacks the dog right in half.

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Of course, the hobo was just telling his dog about how happy he was that they had been riding the rails together, which meant they were about to die.  Being happy in a horror comic or movie means instant death.

Jason proceeds to kill everyone on the train. Even without being an engineer,  I know a train can’t run without one, and it doesn’t take long before the train, toxic dirt and all, blows up with our favorite maniac walking away from the carnage.

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IS HIS MACHETE ON FIRE?  JASON IS THE COOLEST.

Jason’s train has crashed in Texas.  Sawyerville, Texas, to be exact, which just happens to be the home of Leatherface and family.  Jason comes upon one of their intended victims trying to escape.  The victim implores Jason for assistance, which is sort of like asking a demon for assistance with the devil.  Leatherface and family quickly make their way onto the scene, desperate to hold onto their meat.  The victim is terrified as Jason and Leatherface make first contact!

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The moment you have been waiting for since you read the title.

Jason and Leatherface square off in a slash clash of terror titans!  Jason manages to overpower Leatherface and force the aberration to lose his grip on his famous chainsaw, but then rather than killing Leatherface and his kin, Jason kills their intended victim and then hands Leatherface his chainsaw.  Leatherface’s kin introduces himself to Jason as Hitchhiker, and he convinces a confused Jason to join them back at their house for supper.  Jason has never felt anything but hate and anger, even at that awesome hobo who just wanted to get him drunk, so the fact that he doesn’t want to kill these people immediately is foreign to him.

He goes along with them, and after being introduced to Cook and the rest of the family, he finds himself feeling a kinship with Leatherface.  The rest of the family, especially Hitchhiker, picks on Leatherface the way Jason was picked on.  Upon arriving at the house, Hitchhiker immediately makes fun of Leatherface for losing his saw to Jason, which is really not anything to be ashamed of, what with Jason’s super-strength and all. (It’s like a baby losing an arm wrestling match to Hulk Hogan.  That’s just how it is gonna go down.) The taunt leads Leatherface to run away to his upstairs bedroom and fling himself on the bed in the way that teenage girls do in sitcoms, although Leatherface has decidedly fewer posters of boy bands and kittens on his walls.  (He does have a sweet poster of what seems to be Conan or Franzetta’s Death Dealer above his bed.) Jason’s kinship with Leatherface grows, and he heads upstairs to offer his friendship and understanding.  Jason was tormented too, and seeing Leatherface in anguish is reminding Jason of his own torment and somehow making him show empathy and sympathy for another human being.

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This is the beginning of a very ugly friendship.

Cook tells Jason that he is glad that he and Leatherface have started to become pals, and he introduces Jason to the rest of the family.  Jason, being mute, reaches back into his memories and finds a way to reveal his name to his new “family”.

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For someone who gets a rap as being mindless, that’s not awful blood penmanship from Jason Voorhees.

The second issue centers around the Texas Chainsaw Massacre family settling in with Jason and Jason settling in with them.  Cook opens up to Jason about his desire to one day own a fancy restaurant (that I presume would serve people) while he just rakes in the cash and lives in a doublewide trailer.  Hitchhiker shows Jason his dog, which Hitchhiker killed but still keeps on a chain.  Hitchhiker doesn’t care for Jason for lots of reasons, including that he has taken up for Leatherface, but it seems to me that what bothers Hitchhiker the most is that Jason doesn’t eat.  This scene meanders back and forth between what seems like Hitchhiker trying to get to like Jason and Hitchhiker trying to intimidate Jason.  It makes little difference, as Hitchhiker has to head for the gas station where the family makes its income and meat.

A lost couple stops in for gas, and after Hitchhiker makes sure they won’t get far, Hitchhiker and Jason (at Cook’s request and Leatherface’s reluctance) set out to murder the couple when the car breaks down.  Hitchhiker loves the game aspect of this, but Jason is just brutally efficient.  After choking the wife in the couple to death, Jason gets chastised by Hitchhiker for not taking enough time.  Hitchhiker is somehow the most despised character in this book, as his love of sadism means that he wants to hear his victims scream and beg before he kills them.

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You’d think that in a comic book full of cannibals and mass murderers that you’d have trouble picking the one you hate the most, but it’s surprisingly easy.  Hitchhiker is the worst.

After returning from what they call “getting groceries,” Hitchhiker decides to show Jason his hobby, which isn’t collecting baseball cards or Pogs, you 90’s kids, but instead, he has this odd fascination with making things out of body parts. I guess that really isn’t too odd, seeing as how he is batshit crazy and a murderous cannibal, but you know for folks like you and me, we’re not so enamored with such things.  This fascinates his brother Leatherface, who is hiding among the macabre creations as Jason and Hitchhiker chat.  He tries to sit in a bone chair, and when he breaks it, he is discovered.  Hitchhiker goes to abuse Leatherface over this transgression, only for Jason to recall his own past as an abused youngster, and he also recalls when his mom cut his dad’s head in two with a machete, leading to a lifelong (and deathlong, I suppose) obsession with murder and violence for Jason.  This abuse, though, isn’t a pleasant memory for the Crystal Lake killer, and he decides to step in and spare Leatherface any more abuse.

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Jason knows that mass murdering icons gotta stick together.

After Jason’s siding with Leatherface, Hitchhiker gets really mad.  Like, 1990’s Nine Inch Nails Mad.  He then says he doesn’t care that Jason has taken sides with Leatherface (who Hitchhiker often refers to as a “retard” among other things.  In addition to being a homicidal cannibal, Hitchhiker just isn’t very nice.)  because Hitchhiker believes he cannot be hurt.  He demonstrates this to Jason and Leatherface by driving a pocketknife through his hand without wincing or grimacing.  Rather, as would befit the stature of such a madman, he just talked about he is invincible and how nothing can stop him.  Jason, never one to turn down a challenge, picks up a sharp piece of bone and decides to find out just how invincible Hitchhiker really is.  He picks Hitchhiker up by the throat and goes to stab him, only to be stopped by Leatherface.  Out of respect for Leatherface, Jason decides not to murder Hitchhiker.

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This is the first time in his life that Hitchhiker has known fear.

Hitchhiker thanks Jason by calling him chicken and then letting Leatherface know that he doesn’t care.  Things are building to a head between the members of the family that aren’t Leatherface and Jason, and Cook attempts to try and soothe matters by apologizing on behalf of Hitchhiker, but Jason’s newfound patience is just about at an end.  The third issue has Hitchhiker getting angry with Leatherface again, this time for reading his comics and leading fingerprints on them.  Of course, many comic book fans have felt rage over this, but Hitchhiker lashes out at Leatherface and slices his arm with a pocketknife.  I’ve been angry at my family for ruining comic books of mine, but I have never sliced anyone over them.

Jason’s had enough, and he tosses Hitchhiker across the room.  Now Hitchhiker has had enough, and despite Cook’s protestations that this conflict not occur at the dinner table, Hitchhiker stabs Jason in the heart with the pocketknife, which has about as much affect on Jason as a BB Gun would have on a tank. Cook defends his brother with a meat cleaver, but no one can now save Cook and Hitchhiker from Jason’s wrath…except Leatherface.

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CHAINSAW VS. MACHETE!

The family is able to overpower Jason due to their numbers and take him out temporarily.  Rather than eating him, they dump him in a lake.  Jason recovers and makes his way to the surface.  Rather than going to kill them, he decides to go home, as he’s had enough of the world outside of Crystal Lake.

This is a fun mini-series.  I wish there had been more of Leatherface and Jason actually fighting, but three issues of this was probably a risk at that time anyhow, and to get anymore fighting we’d have needed a fourth issue.  Nancy Collins tells a fun tale that actually is much deeper than anything one could have expected with this title, and the covers alone are worth the price of admission.  Simon Bisley does a great job.

The worst thing about the series is that it shows us how fun Topps Comics was, publishing everything from this to X-Files to the Kirbyverse (covered here and here, and we also look at another Jason appearance here) with a large number of really good comics that drew from all sorts of source material.  It’s a shame that Topps didn’t survive to do sequels to this or to keep their other great titles going.  Alas, such is the fate of many a comic book company, especially during the 90’s.

Hope you have had a great time reading about two maniacs trying to kill each other!  We’ve got more great stuff around the bend here at The Unspoken Decade, so stick around!!

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THE KIRBYVERSE! AN UNLIKELY SEQUEL TO THE HUNTING OF THE SNARK BY DARRY WEIGHT

“…a bunch of guys trying to get into Hell but the Devil won’t let ‘em, ‘cause they’re not all bad. So they try to go out and do bad things, which turn out to be good!”

That is Jack Kirby (on March 14, 1993) speaking about his new series, Satan’s Six. Not that there is any problem attributing that quote. Who else but the King of Comics could sell a premise like that? For more on that particular series see Emily Scott’s article focusing on these “rejects from Hades… because they couldn’t do anything bad!” This is “Indie Month,” so let us discuss the rest of the line that proved to be the last major work from the medium’s greatest creator and the chrome-foiled cards that came packaged with it.

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Can you tell this came out during the Gimmick Era? If you cannot then look agai- Wait, what…?
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THEY COINED THE TERM! I already respect this comic line more than the New 52.

This is one of the few occasions such synergistic marketing made sense, as the publisher was Topps, the trading card company, still in business today years after “Fleer” and “SkyBox” went the way of the Hologram Card. I was confused after learning that the King’s long reign ended at this company, but that was his greatest gift, always leaving the reader with no idea what would happen next.

Jack Kirby passed away in 1994. I imagine it was not just The New Gods’ Black Racer that greeted him but all of his characters, lined up to send off their curmudgeonly father figure. You have seen the movies, you have bought the toys. You know his work even if you have never seen it before. If you found this blog by accident and have decided to stick around, you probably have at least one friend who corrects you when you say, “Stan Lee created all of these characters, right?”

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“Look at Mr. Smiles over here. Where’s your wife, old man? What a Class A pre-vert.”

After years of toiling away for everyone else, Jack made his move. Topps Comics was the new guy on the scene, during the height of the comics boom, and they wanted to see what designs and characters the King had squirreled away during the years that came after he realized Marvel and DC were never going to cut him in on the real action. You may remember this tactic as exactly what is happening right now, more than two decades later. Every time you read Avengers or X-Men and realize that it has been a while since you have seen anything truly new, jot down the date and look at what that same creator had coming out from a company where they took home the rights to the books. I imagine the headspace was the same.

What did Topps get to spend all of that hard earned trading card money on? The Secret City Saga! The sprawling, four-colored epic that would usher in the next era of superhero comics. Or at least that is what everyone hoped. The end product itself is remarkable but not for the reasons it should be. Comprising a five issue mini-series (beginning with a #0, which I imagine someone had to explain to Jack without coming across as Funky Flashman) and three one-shots, each of which introduced a new character of Jack’s own design, the saga is one complete story with the promise of more that, technically, never came. Kurt “Maximum Security” Busiek (because of that book I own every single Marvel issue from December 2000) attempted a few follow-ups including, “in the tradition of the X-Men,” the “TeenAgents” and Dynamite’s “Kirby Genesis” from a few years back.

The original issues boast talent on an unprecedented scale. Though the designs (and most importantly the copyrights) are Jack’s, the first thing you see is Walt Simonson’s cover for the inaugural issue. He is joined by Roy Thomas’ script and Steve Ditko’s pencils. They were not just successors in the industry that were honoring the work of their hero but were Jack’s peers getting another shot at storytelling in the way they knew how, an oasis amidst the grime n’ grit that we all recall fondly. Even the next generation gets in on the action with the daughters of Marvel Bullpen regulars Artie Simek and Sol Brodsky showing up in the credits. This thing reads as if it were a pitch for a series about the Third Act of the greatest creators from the Age of Marvel Comics that are not Stan Lee. Even “The Man’s” presence was felt in the form of Jim Salicrup, the series’ editor, doing his best Stan impression on every non-story page. Have to fill those pages somehow and there certainly were no outside advertisers in these things. Plenty of house ads though (I may hunt down Jurassic Park before I watch Star-Lord take down Devil Dinosaur next Summer).

So why did it fail so miserably?

To say that the Secret City Saga detonated on the launch pad would not be fair, but when the first character we meet in 1993’s Bombast #1 is a black teenage junkie running from “The Crack Man,” you can see why this does not appear on anyone’s Top Ten Lists for the decade in question (not that it has ever been collected). He is joined by the manipulative, careerist newscaster, one of two female characters, and the heroes themselves, who are as white (and in at least one case, as blonde) as any of their European descended super-peers, regardless of the fact that they are from Chicago 15,000 years ago (a fact we are reminded of again and again in case that is something you are likely to forget). Glimmers of what could have been show through with Glida, the Nightglider, drawn and dressed more practically than her peers at any other company at the time.

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Not “The Crack Man” but I am pretty sure someone grabbed one of the reimagined NFL designs Jack did in the seventies. At least I hope they did.

Here is where the reach of the King is felt. I am not sure where the line between Thomas and Jack’s contributions is, but some of the ideas feel quite familiar. Every fifteen millennia the Human Race is replaced. We men of today are the Tenth Men and the superpeople of the story are of our forebears, the Ninth Men. No civilization yet has been spared the ravages of “The Darkstorm,” but the last one at least tried to save whatever came after. Without getting too muddled in the nonsense, the Greatest Military Heroes and the Finest Scientific Minds were sequestered away, in a Secret City built far beneath what is now Chicago, to wait for the next inevitable collapse. Big ideas, sprawling across the page, with more new characters and gimmicks than you even realize upon first read? That’s Jack Kirby. This story sits on my shelf next to “The Fourth World” and “The Eternals” where it feels right at home. There is a sense of grandeur, a broadening of scope, on display here that most superhero stories simply do not bother with (either because their creators cannot or will not for fear of leaving us poor readers behind). To explain what I mean, I should begin with my entry point, Captain Glory.

Captain Keltan was an epic warrior of the Last Age. He fought “The Primitives” (by which I think he means whatever we are descended from) and won Glorious Battles! He was, as the Ben Grimm-esque Bombast keeps reminding him, a Commissioned Officer, and so a little of the Lower East Side kid bleeds through once again. Keltan means “glory” in the sing-song language of our garishly garbed antecedents. This is also the name the aforementioned newscaster christens him with. Such discrepancies, the origins of the characters’ names and what exactly they are trying to accomplish in the modern world, are commonplace. I am not sure how tight a ship was being run, but Topps Comics did not survive the nineties, so that may have something to do with it. Keltan is the type of Captain America figure that Jack has been peddling since the forties, and that is not a bad thing. Keltan wants what he wants and that is the best for everyone no matter what the personal cost. He understands the burden of leadership and of wearing that sweet freakin’ mask.

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If this image had not been the cover to a Jack Kirby Collector magazine I would think that someone had just penciled over an old Captain America cover.

The Ninth Men’s principal city-state was Gazra, a wonderland in complete harmony with the natural world, though in relative isolation. This is not the case for all of the Other Previous Men, some of whom were far more advanced than us. Jack always reminded us how small we can be and how to strive for more. This particular ancient civilization had no time for mechanical or artificial structures. They did just fine without them, providing ongoing conflict when the heroes are thrust into the Modern World. They did have vibrant, beautiful colors that we apparently shun. The type of bold, primary colors that only seem to work in the world of comic book superheroes (even their movie counterparts never seem so bright by comparison).

Glory is a man who is, just about, the last survivor of a way of life everyone he meets from here on in will never understand. He dresses as if he were wrapped in a nation’s flag, its ideals and hopes. He is the best of what was, and even the tone of his voice is enough to sway characters who cannot understand him to his cause. He even has incredible “super” strength from all that time spent in “genetic hibernation.” Jack may not have had the chance to really develop Superman while he was working at DC but some of what he could have done seems to have made its way here. One of the interesting storytelling devices used is that the three main characters never learn English. There is no throwaway line about why the language barrier has been breached nor is it merely ignored altogether. It is acknowledged and dealt with in some creative ways. The alien nature of superpower is retained.

Though this is a new shared universe, Officer “Savage” Dragon makes an appearance, and a few of his early adventures are mentioned in passing. Dragon, for the uninitiated, has met damn near everyone in his long superhero career. Taken holistically, in a St. Elsewhere snow globe kind of way this would mean that a fair chunk of this universe has been witnessed since. Salicrup actually mentions, in one of his off brand Stan’s Soapboxes, that he personally believes there to be only one “uni”verse (hence the name), and as far as he is concerned nothing should bar the Ninth Men from meeting the Justice League or the Avengers. Being an avid fan of The Multiversity, I prefer packing away each world into its own little box. The first brush with superpower this world has comes from a variety of age-old superpeople showering the world with naturally grown super-weapons and technology that dwarfs our own in creativity and brilliance. The characters we are introduced to are only a small cross-section of the ones that have survived, and an entire Super City resides beneath Grant Park.

The potential here is as much a Genesis story as anything in ongoing superhero stories. As much as I would have liked to have seen this world again, either in Image or some expanded Dynamite verse, I wonder what these ideas would have been like had they found their way into an issue of Fantastic Four or Jimmy Olsen. I would never decry Jack and his heirs the chance to profit from the work that, literally, consumed his life, but years later I feel bad that these ideas are unused with no one to speak for them. They could just as easily be ignored by Marvel along with the First Family over in that sandbox. At least there we would have had a chance to see where this would have gone.

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We hardly knew ye. To think, you could be getting Converged into Battleworld if you had played your cards right!

The Democrat pictured here was revealed to be a shape-shifter (named I-kid-you-not “Shiftor”) who collapsed beneath the burden of having to impersonate a man occupying such a potentially duplicitous job. Shortly after he sacrificed his life in a noble gambit to stave off an awful, prolonged death and get back at the man who cursed him. I imagine this made cover artist, and noted Objectivist, Steve Ditko quite content. This series is a product of its times no matter how much it attempted to call to mind an earlier era and still remain timeless. President Clinton plays a major role in the story and each issue comes packaged with Collectible Trading Cards. I know this because that fact was advertised on each cover. That was the selling point here, as much as the creators and promise of “Action Adventure!” in case you were wondering why this series did not recently celebrate a Milestone Triple Digit Issue Number alongside its peers Spawn and Savage Dragon.

The villains and heroes alike look as if they were designed for a toy line that was never made. Each villainous member of “The Renegades” makes sure to shout his name and remind the boys and girls at home what his special ability is. Bombast can throw things “really well” and even Nightglider has her patented glide-suit. They come off as toy ideas that even Masters of the Universe would have passed on, and I am pretty sure the primary foe, General Ordiz, is supposed to have the lost hidden technology of an eighties recording devices on his chest.

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He cuts well is what we are saying, and, yes, that is Dave “Watchmen” Gibbons’ sign-off just beneath.
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Yeah, that is Bill Sienkiewicz. These issues are worth hunting down with their original polybags just to see whose name is attached to the trading cards.

Another problem is that not enough time had passed so that the bad could be forgotten. There are many adaptions of Darkseid’s invasion of Earth and “The Coming of Galactus!” but what we never see is a bold retelling of the time the New Gods went up against Don Rickles or Reed Richards berating Sue Storm for “being a woman.” Context is important because as it enters into its Act 3 the Secret City Saga goes completely off the rails. Not content with merely hinting at the advanced back stories of the characters we meet briefly (more than I have ever seen in an issue of Youngblood), and making sure that I had to read the Wikipedia entry on Mayor Daley, the Secret City Saga decides to plug a longstanding plot hole in Western Literature when it answers, as an issue’s cliffhanger no less, what exactly Lewis Carroll meant by a Boojum.

I cannot speak for the man but I am pretty sure this is the best comic to ever feature his work, though its main competitors are whatever covers Zenescope Entertainment produce and Alan Moore’s Victorian Era fanfic The League of Extraordinary Gentleman (which has devolved into clever tricks to get around paying for the use of copyrighted characters, because why would he of all people have a problem with that?). The intentionally nonsensical creature is actually a mythical creature of the Ninth Men’s age whose sudden appearance shocks them as much as the normal humans watching the spectacle unfold. Someone mentions a famed “Dr. Snark” and his psychic abilities and then, in typical Kirby fashion, an unimaginably powerful shape-shifter speaking gibberish takes down a living machine that has existed since the dawn of time that has transformed into robot named Genetitron.

For all its faults, I will miss this book.

The Secret City Saga is only part of the larger Kirbyverse which went on to include other properties that Jack held onto. Silver Star, late of Pacific Comics, joined the fray as did Captain Victory. You may remember him from such series as that one where the writers involved tried desperately to retain his greatest selling point (he is Orion of New Genesis’ son, Darkseid’s grandson) without incurring the wrath of the Gentr- I mean DC! Silver Star’s new series had one issue see the light of the day, same with the re-titled “Victory,” though both promised more to come. The artwork is a clear departure from the SCS. Maybe this was a move meant to increase sales but I am not sure. To go along with the theme, the latter title even had an honest to goodness variant cover, hallmark of a book that no one will ever regret buying. The artist is one of the few that needs no introduction and can, literally, be recognized instantly from afar.

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I did not have the heart to remove the watermark as sadly my copy is the standard issue and only that site seemed to be aware of this.

This issue saw print at about the same time that Jack Kirby passed on, leaving behind a richer legacy than any I have ever come across in fiction, regardless of genre or medium. We cannot know how involved he was with any of the “Kirbyverse,” never mind the Secret City Saga, but what we do know is that the last comic the line published had a variant cover by Rob Liefeld. This issue promised “the end” on its cover, but it is a poor one (my favorite sendoff is the Jack inspired portrayal of Dan Turpin in 1998’s “Apokolips… Now!” from Superman the Animated Series). If you can see past the trappings of the series, there are a few gems worth knowing about, but if nothing else look upon these books as a cautionary tale. We have no way of knowing where we will arrive but it is not always a place of our choosing.

When the King Was Topps!!-Bombast #1

When The King Was Topps

The last installment of The Unspoken Decade focused on one of the primary architects of the Marvel Universe, Stan Lee, returning to the playground of comic books in the 1990’s with at best mixed results, and at worst, a bad comic book.  This time, let’s go to the other (some would say only) primary creator of the 1960’s Marvel Universe, THE KING JACK KIRBY!!!!!

I have always been a Kirby fan, even when I had no idea who Jack Kirby was, what he had done in comics, and how he had gotten screwed over left and right by the companies he had deigned to make rich with what may very well be the greatest imagination of all time, or at least the 20th century.  I was first exposed to his work in the comics, Kamandi and Super Powers.  I didn’t know that was Kirby art then of course; I just knew that I liked what was going on.

When I got heavily into comics in 1992, Jack Kirby’s name was one of the first I learned.  As I stated last time around, I intensely study the history of my interests partly to sate my insane curiosity and partly to have tons of inane facts so that I can annoy the folks around me.   Then again, if I hadn’t gone on and on to my girlfriend about Gangbuster, WHO WOULD HAVE?  Basically, I’m a hero and deserve a mention in a Budweiser commercial.

I learned all of the things that most of the folks reading this blog totally already know, and by most of you I mean everyone except you, Brandi Burgess Battles, which is that Kirby was at the helm of the creation of some of the most memorable, loved, and recognized characters in superheroes, such as Captain America, Sandman, The Fantastic Four, the X-Men, the Avengers, Nick Fury, the New Gods, and many more.  He’s also one of the very few entities in any medium of which I am aware that actually lived up to his hype.  He’s as good as we think.

 Superman's Pal #142 - Page 1

(Don’t let the big-headed vampire distract you from the fact that Jack Kirby created were-lions as well, and one is about to devour Jimmy Olsen.)

Don’t feel bad; I looked at that cover about 5 times before I saw the Were-Lion.  That’s sort of the thing about Kirby, though; no matter how much I look at Kirby’s work, I just cannot help but keep looking at it.  His art works as an entire entity that is larger than life, but one can also just stare endlessly at a nook or a corner and dwell upon the minutest of details and the beauty of its nuances.  Just in case you don’t get it yet, I love Jack Kirby, so here’s another cover.

Superman's Pal #145 - Page 1

(I think either Briggadoom or Paradise Prison would have been worth 25 cents, but you’re getting both here for the same quarter!  Everything was better in the 70’s.)

                By the time I was getting heavily into comics, Jack Kirby was more or less done as a regular creator.  I would hear of his greatness, and I was able to see a few pieces of Kirby’s works via reprint or in an original or two hanging on the wall at The Paperchase (LCS).  I was entranced with their copy of Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles.  Maybe one day I will spring for that treasury edition.

But before this becomes Longbox Graveyard, let’s get back to the 90’s.  Two years deep into my heavy collecting days, Topps Comics launched the Kirbyverse.  I couldn’t believe it.  Topps was one of my older loves.  I grew up a hardcore baseball fan, and I still deeply love baseball to this day.  I used to buy baseball cards every summer and Topps was one of the companies that made cards, so they and I were old pals.  They had made some comics that I wasn’t interested in up until that time, including an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  I had the first issue of that, and I am unsure why I had such a boring adaptation of such a boring movie.

Then something exciting came!  THE KIRBYVERSE!  Although Kirby wasn’t going to do much art besides a few covers and some of Satan’s Six, I didn’t care.  These were Kirby’s concepts, man!  If anyone could deliver grand concepts on a larger-than-life scale, it was Kirby!  How did they do?

Jack Kirby s Bombast #1 - Page 1

(Sometimes I sing “Kirbychrome” to the tune of “Kodachrome.”)

The Secret City Saga centered around an idea that there was an ancient society that was based on organic technology.  This society was that of The Ninth Men, and it was destroyed by an apocalypse.  Modern 90’s society, the society of the Tenth Men, could be saved by putting a few of the toughest and best heroes of that day into pods and then allowing them to emerge at the right time to prevent that cataclysm from occurring again.  Sort of like Terminator, but in reverse.  Of course, some power players from The Ninth Men decide to save themselves as well in order to conquer The Tenth Men.

Three heroes, Captain Glory, Night Glider, and our hero of the day (90’S METALLICA ARGUMENT BEGIN PLEASE) Bombast!

First thing, I love how Bombast looks!  He may not be as cool as I believe him to be, but I am a sucker for the Helmet Shades combo, as popularized in my 1980’s world by GI Joes Thunder and Sci-Fi.

char_9782

(He’s sort of doing the Norm MacDonald “Note to Self” thing.)

Sci-Fi1195

(I wonder if his helmet has the 1986 equivalent of Google Glasses in it.)

                Bombast’s story begins with an Earthquake striking Chicago, which LITERALLY CAUSES A RIFT between a young man and his crack dealers.  How do I know they’re crack dealers?  He thanks said rift for saving him from said crack dealers!

Jack Kirby s Bombast #1 - Page 4

(Notice how in tune Roy Thomas [plot] and Gary Friedrich [script] are with young 90’s African-Americans.  I can hear it now. “Spike Lee makes the movies the young black folks like!”)

                You can’t also help but see the use of “Yo Momma” as some sort of interjection, when even a young white man who lived in rural Arkansas then knew that this was an insult.  I do have to agree with the assessment that quiet white dudes are pretty cool, which is basically an admission that I am uncool because I am a LOUD white dude.  Caps so you know just how LOUD I can be.

Next page, ACTION!

Jack Kirby s Bombast #1 - Page 6

(It’s good that these two cannot understand one another because I am pretty sure that the yet to be named young man would take offense to being called “brown man.”)

                The picture on the left above isn’t done by Kirby, but there is a smidge of that magic of motion that Kirby had there.  I do appreciate that Bombast does not emerge from that pod speaking English easily.  That’s a nice touch that makes for fun misunderstandings.  Heck, even if he knew a word or two of English, that would still make for fun misunderstandings.  I mean we have all seen Perfect Strangers, right?

I just made a Perfect Strangers joke; dude, I’m old.

Bombast emerges from the pit, kind enough to let us know on his way up that carrying the yet to be named man is easy because he has “arms genetically engineered for superhuman strength!”  Bombast sees the new world and is dismayed because it is mechanical instead of organic.  Speaking of mechanical instead of organic, our subplot with the yet to be named young man against his crack dealers continues, with two good things coming out of it.  We learn this young man’s name is Darren, and we also get this:

Jack Kirby s Bombast #1 - Page 10

(“You Can Stay in Your Jammies Forever” is what I will now say when threatening people.)

                Bombast then starts to attempt to make his way in the 90’s world, where he is almost hit by a car.  Insulted, he does the only obvious thing he can, and tosses a rock to plug its tailpipe.  Since this is Chicago, someone in a hat who appears to be a baseball scout makes mention that he plugged the tailpipe at 100 yards, and it was lefty!  Of course, the driver of the car isn’t down with that.  Baseball Scout guy, instead of attempting to help, remarks that Bombast “better punch as good as he throws!”  All the commotion brings in Chicago’s own Super-Cop, The Savage Dragon!

Jack Kirby s Bombast #1 - Page 14

(Baseball Scout guy not only is weirdly invested in Bombast having only just seen him, but he also seems creepily concerned when the ginger guy punches Bombast.)

                One of the reasons I chose this comic from the Secret City Saga first (I do plan to do them all someday!) was this appearance.  The Savage Dragon is still going strong today, but he started with Image Comics when the biggest names in comics broke off from Marvel to found their own company where they would all own their own characters.  Little epitomizes the 1990’s in comic books, particularly superhero comics, more than the Image Comics logo.

Now obviously we are going to go deep into Image Comics during The Unspoken Decade, but for now the important thing to focus on is the fact that Erik Larsen owned Savage Dragon, not Image Comics.  That made is easy for Savage Dragon to appear here, as there was little red tape to clear; they just had to ask Erik.

Dragon makes quite a mark here, as he absolutely dominates Bombast in a fight.  Bombast throws everything possible at Dragon, who takes it all with little pause and wallops Bombast.  Bombast bounds away by crossing a drawbridge.

Jack Kirby s Bombast #1 - Page 18

(I’d actually like to see Baseball Scout guy and Bombast’s adventures.  Re-open Topps Comics, please.)

                I also like two more things about the above page.  The getting away by jumping that bridge is a nice little nod to Blues Brothers, set in Chicago, and the lady in the last panel that is so creeped out by guys in costumes THAT IT TURNS HER ON is my new hero of the day. (90’S METALLICA ARGUMENTS END)

Bombast keeps on trucking though, and he even manages to learn a lesson that we all learned as young children:  how to cross the damn street.

blindy

(I feel like the blind guy is a beatnik, and I wish Topps had done a series about his adventures. FOR MATURE READERS ONLY.)

                After mastering the nuances of being a pedestrian, Bombast decided to turn himself in to the police because he thinks they may “represent authority” here.  That’s funny because Dragon had a cop uniform earlier and he just slugged Dragon.  These white cops, though, are apparently safe to go with.  Between his denoting Darren “brown skin” and the disparity between his treatment of Dragon and the white cops, I am thinking Bombast may have subscribed to some questionable literature when he was with The Ninth Men back in the day.

The jaunt to the cop shop though is interrupted by a cyborg who speaks the same language as Bombast!

Jack Kirby s Bombast #1 - Page 20

(I’m not sure how seriously you can take a promise not to be harmed from a guy named Death Flash.)

                Death Flash and Bombast chat, and Death Flash drops the bomb (OH HAI PUN) that The Ninth Men who rose when he did plan to take the world over from the Tenth Men and remake it in the image of The Ninth Men.  You’d think Bombast would be totally down with this, what with his hatred of cars and technology, but instead Bombast stays true blue to the cause that gave him that great helmet and those sweet specs and fights Death Flash off.  Death Flash then engages in one of the oddest strategies I have ever seen.

Jack Kirby s Bombast #1 - Page 24

(I am unsure why Bombast wants to find more Ninth Men; the only one he has met tried to kill him.)

                Death Flash for whatever reason has decided that the best way to win a fight that one could easily win is to RUN THE HELL AWAY.  Whoever wrote The Art of War during the reign of The Ninth Men was not ¼ as good as Sun Tzu.  Bombast bounds away from the cops, and even though he doesn’t seem to need any help, Darren opts to help him anyhow and spouts off some banter at the cop that makes me love him unconditionally.

grace

(Darren is unlucky he tried to trip the world’s most coordinated cop, who somehow caught her gun and grabbed him MID-FALL.)

                Seriously, that line about his mother calling him grace made me laugh in 1992, made me laugh every time I would flip through it again, and I chortled again.  This is the moment of the comic for me.

UNTIL A BIG SUPER-HERO FIGHT AT THE END!

                I don’t know why I like to see heroes fight so much.  I mean, I want them to team up too, but they have got to fight first.  If that doesn’t tell you I am a Marvel guy, then perhaps I should just start a website with just my picture on it called IamaMarvelGuy.info.  The Marvel formula is on display here at the end of Bombast, and that is only fitting as Kirby helped concoct said formula.

Jack Kirby s Bombast #1 - Page 28

Jack Kirby s Bombast #1 - Page 30

(Captain Glory looks sort of like he is doing the twist as he separates them.  That’s Secret City Style right there.)

                That’s where our story ends for now!  All in all, I liked this.  I have certainly read better comics, but the zeal and the design of Kirby still shine through a bit even when other people are doing it.  Now, this is no masterpiece, but it does feature a promise and sheen not seen in Stan Lee’s Ravage 2099, so for those of you eternally enmeshed in the Kirby vs. Lee debate, it would seem that Kirby won the 90’s.

Sadly, Kirby would not live much longer.  After he passed, I named a calf after him because we had cattle and I was white trash and white trash do things like that.  That calf grew into one ornery cow, which seems appropriate for the King, whose creativity and sense of wonder knew no bounds.

One thing that was striking and that I made note of here frequently was the stark difference between how black characters were treated as recently as the 90’s and now.  I don’t think the creators here were trying to be racist so much as they came from a different era when terms were different and acceptable terms then are abhorrent now.  We still have a long way to go on that front, but we’re getting there.  Look at the big change in about 20 years.  Amazing.

Next week, my sister, Angel Hayes, will be doing a guest blog on Bad Girls of the 90’s!  I’ve conned her into doing a guest blog once a month, so get used to her voice too!  I will be back in two weeks with a look at Punisher:  War Zone!!!!!