March 09, 2004


Another wonderful post from Nick Gutterbreakz. All kinds of interesting stuff to take up there, but for now, and since Nick mentions Mighty Marvel - this site is my latest FAVOURITE THING EVER. Monsterblog is devoted to the pre-Superhero monster work of the incomparable Jack Kirby. For those who don't know, Kirby was the unsurpassable genius responsible for the first Incredible Hulk and Fantastic Four strips - in other words, one of the greatest visual artists of the twentieth century.


Check the way Kirby almost dispensed with perspective, flattening out everything onto a Bosch-like single plane. Kirby's art was literally awesome: his habitual mode was the cyclopean, the sublimely vast. He conjured enormous machinery, cities of dizzying scale, and most of all, gigantic, lumbering beings, all rendered with an expressionistic crudity.

Monsterblog is a lovingly compiled compendium of Kirby's early strips, some of them never previously reprinted. The 'meet the monsters' page is a stunningly well-researched index of all the monsters, boasting a taxonomy worthy of Borges. 'Alien Conqueror ... Atomic Freak.... Lab Experiment Gone Wild... Subterranean Creature....'


Could THIS be the origin of the line 'I laughed at the Great God Pan' from The Fall's 'Leave the Capital' off Slates?

Posted by mark at March 9, 2004 07:03 PM | TrackBack

Oh, hell yes! Thanks for the Fall trivia sleuthing!

Posted by: Dixon at March 9, 2004 10:32 PM

Yay! Back in my school days all the uncool kids (like myself) who were into Marvel comics were devided into two camps: The Kirby Lovers and the Kirby Haters. I was in the former. By the 1980's his style had become so stylised it was bordering on abstract. Big up to 'King' Kirby and thanks Mark for bringing him onto the agenda...

Posted by: Nick at March 9, 2004 10:38 PM

No-one else was into Marvel when I was at school; those who were into comics (a rare enough breed) were into British war comics (boring). I think I took Kirby for granted when I was younger; I only appreciated his genius later. But what a genius.... What I love about it is there's no attempt to be realistic; it's completely expressionistic, and, as you say, verging on the abstract. There's a definite Kirby universe, adjacent to our own, but more massive, gnarled, sinewy, in which all living forms are almost neantherdal, troglodytic. Thing about Kirby is its genuine pulpy: his figures seem almost to be made of some strange pulpy substance don't they? I love Ditko too, though he was much more straight-laced. None of the experimentation with panels and layout that you got with Jack. Steranko is a favourite too: the preternaturally fine LSDetail of his Nick Fury books. That sixties period was the high water mark for me; as soon as comics became 'serious' the writing was on the hall, with the arrival of what Robin Undercurrent calls, in an especially apt phrase, 'Marillion-headed pseudofreudianism'. I remain decidedly ambivalent about the 'British' influence on comics - Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, that lot. They've contributed to the depulpification of comics.

Posted by: mark k-punk at March 9, 2004 11:24 PM

The weird thing is though the Brit Invasion came straight from UK comics' own golden pulp era - Action! / early 2000AD / girls' comics - really addled, sensation-rich scripting and lots of garish cheap South American art. So the problem was that they maybe saw US comics as their opportunity to stretch out a bit and do 'serious' stuff (also the crank-it-out mentalist UK writers like Wagner and Mills never really got a good run in the US).

I served Mark E Smith in a comic shop once - a few Mighty Thors.

Posted by: Tom at March 9, 2004 11:38 PM

Steranko is a bit proggy though - gorgeous images on occasion but it's all a bit student bedsit. Ditko's oddnesses are all the more striking for being drawn in that terse style - all the Dr Strange stuff for instance.

Posted by: Tom at March 9, 2004 11:40 PM

Steranko is a bit proggy though

Yeh, but I thought we'd rehabilitated Prog now, Tom! Not sure that Prog's quite the right analogue for Steranko, though. Something druggy and hyper-finessed, for sure. Some of those Strange Tales and Nick Fury that he did are just about the favourites in my collection.

I served Mark E Smith in a comic shop once - a few Mighty Thors.

Well, comics were obviously a big if largely surreptitious influence on The Fall...

Posted by: mark k-punk at March 9, 2004 11:52 PM

No you're right, proggy's not the right word - also comics prog squarely equates with METAL HURLANT etc (except it's actually a prog/porn crossover oh no!!). There's something 'cult books' about him - that kind of cool-and-he-knows-it stuff, maybe I'm offended by that cos I'm a nerd!

Posted by: Tom at March 10, 2004 11:53 AM

Interesting that Mark slags off the 'British Wave' that kicked-in from roughly 1978. As an aspiring comic artist at that time, I took great strength from them. Their small but hard-won successes spurred me on, giving me the belief that maybe I, some english kid, could break into that previously American-dominated world. The partnership of Alan Moore & Alan Davis in particular took the previously laughable Captain Britain into whole new dimensions of characterisation and sophistication. It's little surprise that both these guys would go on to dominate in the US market. Sure, Marvel's silver age stuff is what turns us on now, but I can never forget the excitement that the Brits were generating in me at that time.

Posted by: Nick at March 11, 2004 12:02 AM

Another comic-influenced Fall song was 'How I wrote Elastic Man' (which is actually 'How I wrote Plastic Man' but was changed for Legal reasons)'s origins lie in Marks incredulity at the content of Plastic Man comics and wondering how anyone could write such nonsense. The lyric of the song concerns Plastic Mans author going incommunicado to avoid people stopping him in the streets to ask him how he did it.

Posted by: Robinson Speedo at March 12, 2004 07:51 AM