Saturday, December 11, 2010

My run with Jack Kirby: Machine Man, CORIN and Velveteen Lives

Move over, Tracy; Machine Man has a new friendship, with a newly-created female cast number, the empathic creation who is truly "the living robot" in the two part "Velveteen Lives." Here, my imagining has given me three original characters and now I must mention this one, for I have settle upon thinking of her as Vel.

This was a living robot designed for espionage, with great empathy rather than Superman weapons. But her intelligence quotient and enormous feeling led to an enthusiasm for life that led Velveteen to abandon her programming to be manipulative and run away.

She lives beside the sea and takes pictures all day, and draws, and trains her sensors on her surroundings, and grows.

Now, imagine this character meeting Aaron Stack. VEry good stuff! Then throw in Klaw and then Next Issue: the Black Panther. This would 've made a nice 17 and 18 for Jack to draw and write (with a little help from his friends from the future alternative reality, us!). This was the storyline where I first thought about including Klaw, who is after all a Kirby villain from the meat of his Fantastic Four run. I'd thought about moving both characters to #13 to face Machine Man and the Defenders. Right now, I wonder how we would avoid cliches in creating the meeting and the destiny of Velveteen, the Feeling Robot. It's too easy to simply make her Machine Man's girlfriend...that should take work. It needs to spurn cliches.

I think once you spawn some of these ideas, the strip starts taking on its own direction. I have other inspirations for pouring the Marvel Universe into the strip, and definitely would have Kang and CORIN as part of a subplot...but they're just wild brainstorming ideas. It'd take time to make plots with strong characterization.

However, this is not 1980 and I am not working with Kirby at Marvel. I was only a wee lad and definitely didn't know who Jack Kirby was at the time when he did leave Marvel for animation. Still, Velveteen would not be so great a contrast with the inherently gentle CORIN character, but the idea that she was created for a life of duplicity that she forsakes makes her genuinely interesting. One is tempted to forego the super-villains somewhat necessary for 1980 comics stories in creating the modern day versions. Her story somehow echoes the remaking of Mary Magdalene into a prostitute in later workings of the Biblical lore; it is a role that, 2000 years later, that particular saint seems to relish outgrowing, as the Gnostic gospel from the Dead Sea Scrolls suggests a different Mary. It's significant in that CORIN is an avatar figure not unlike Christ.

Finally, about CORIN: I like to think he can access and has accessed the world wide data available on the Internet, but in the search for truth he's gone out to experience the world personally and to share his logical message of Love and Peace. His will not be the most traditional of superhero roles---but then, inventing something new is the name of the game.

I think what's come of this experiment, since I can't travel back in time (yet) and work with Jack on revitalizing his title, is that I have some far-flung science fiction ideas of my own to play with. I hope I grow from the experience of imagining working with Jack Kirby and someday flesh out these ideas on my own!

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