Monday, August 23, 2010
Whatever a superman is NOT (and creating silly hidden races at home)
Once upon a time, around 1970, the man called the King of Comics, Jack Kirby briefly worked on covers for the hero called the grand daddy of super heroes, Superman.
DC Comics did not put Mr. Kirby directly on Superman's titles, perhaps concerned with his strong style taking over the character's look, for whatever reason. In fact, he worked on Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen.
Well, the man who co-created so many of your favorite Marvel characters eventually went back to the company where he had that break through. Generally speaking, his creations of this second time have never quite become as mainstream as their predecssors from the 1960s like Hulk, Mighty Thor, and the Fantastic Four.
I'm reading about a couple of variations on Superman, created around the same time, before the Man of Steel came out in his first big motion picture, which is to say 1976-1978. Then I'm going to mention how they inspire my present work.
Lately over in my Integr8dfix.blogspot.com I've been chronicling an effort to merge the space born powers of Superman with the high school troubles of Spider-Man. That hero was The Man Called Nova---created by Blade the Vampire Hunter's maker, Marv Wolfman. His series burst on the scene to vanish over two years---all too literally, the comic went Nova. The recession of the late 1970s hit Americans of all ages. It was a very optimistic, very straight super hero story, and if it had become a film of its day, I believe the Industrial Lights and Magic could've made a classic.
All of this effects my out look on Sun Strike, a character whose fictional history is largely inspired by the Human Rocket, Iron Fist, and solar technology's break through at the time.
In some ways that hero's fictional history fits beautifully into the UFO phenomenon, coming out the same year, 1974, as a UFO incident investigated by the French government. It so happens a new book, UFOs by reporter Leslie Kean, was featured on The Colbert Report tonight as well! Sounds like a fairly definitive work in the field...but back to the mid-1970s and Kirby's eye for the mysterious and pop culture.
Asked not to take too great a hand on classic Superman, Jack Kirby decided to invent his own. This week I'm going to dive into his stories of a race of super-men, the Eternals,related to the massive UFO phenomenon of the times, and an Earth-made, solitary super man, the robot that thinks as a man. He was created X-51, to be an obedient super soldier, merging the military industrial complex with a break through. As another writer would put it, "the super-man exists, and he is American."
But he is godlike, not God, and one thing over which he has no control is whether others believe a Machine Man could also have a sacred soul, or even a place in the feeling, reacting, living breathing world of Men. Outside of a world crammed with super heroes, one can appreciate the stunning existence of a being made to think like us, believe he is us, ultra-capable, the last of his kind marked for destruction. And while he is not God, perhaps not even one of us, he is asked to save the world.
Over in integr8dfix.blogspot.com, I'll introduce you to these lost comic book gems, and over here, we'll have a great laugh composing our mock epic of the People who Always Smile. It really says something about people, because you can't have people without Crazy.
I'll speak of the Eternals more later in the week; though I have only recently found these issues to read for myself, I'm struck by how much his hidden race inspires the parody hidden race once called the Uglies, as created by my sister Debra and i around 1982, as I re-introduce them as the Stuckwayze.
They don't die, but their lives of mimicry and silly confusion make them a counter point reflection. I'll be revisiting one of the last comic books I made before I dumped them for a while to try to get more into getting a girl friend, as comic book characters weren't as popular with teenagers in those macho days of the 1980s.
At the time, I was even more inspired by Machine Man, as I had a few of the only issues Kirby ever made for the character, writing and drawing him. What made him so human was the way his body had amazing abilities, but he's an outsider emotionally involved with the fond desire to live on the fringes, yet still have an acceptable place among people. Our Uglies were also artificially made by someone to be mindless slaves, but the joke was on THEM. I'll share my inspirations for the look of the characters and the secret Crib of what passes for their civilization, as drawn from the world around me and interpretations of ancient UFO culture, ala Jack Kirby.
So off we go into fun of making our...uh...whatever a superman is NOT, really.