Saturday, April 4, 2009

Pulp Hero Guide to Good Comics 1

Two things happened to me in/around January of 1977: on a Friday night, while watching Channel 20's "Creature Feature" out of Washington DC, with host Count Gore De Vol, the horror movie NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD burned itself into my seven year-old brain, causing a sleepless night and terrors for decades (even to this day, though I love them zombies!)

The next day, excrutiatingly freaked out by George Romero's movie and after Saturday cartoons I'm sure, I went to do my usual bike-riding around the front lot of my mechanic grandfather's business, Carter's Garage. At some point during the early afternoon, he drove me to a local 7-11. There, amid the wonderful smell of old coffee unique to 7-11 stores, I bought this comic:

This is the first comic in which I am mind-blown by Jack Kirby. I think it's pretty much the first time "Jack Kirby" becomes a brand I will follow through the rest of the decade, and well into this adulthood.

On the second and third page, as was Kirby's want at that time, he draws a spectacularly cool two-page splash of Captain America in a jungle, suddenly being attacked by an amphibious monster known as the "Man-Fish."

Unfortunately, I don't own my own scanner. Half of the page I found online, showing the creature.

Now, this is a typical example of Jack Kirby brilliance, and the entire splash remains my all-time favorite. It treated me to a desperate moment within mere seconds of opening the comic. The adrenalin pumped as my already sleep-deprived and terror-stricken zombie-plagued brain sought to handle the pressure.

Essentially, what Jack Kirby did was introduce me to Pulp Writing 101: ramp up the action and craziness and then keep topping it. By the time this creepy dude, Arnim Zola, shows up on the last page of the comic, I'm a mess.

This comic would begin the formulation of what should be called "taste." As in, I began at seven years to grasp what exciting experience through story-telling was. It wasn't just reading the comic, it was living in the moment of reading the comic. Much as the case with watching NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD...I believed, after about an hour of Romero's skillful increasing of the zombie threat against those poor people in the barricaded farmhouse, and the "news reports" informing people to seek emergency shelters, that what I was watching was actually happening. I was in the moment of the intense excitement perpetrated by a master story-teller. Suddenly, you couldn't tell me the zombies weren't coming. Hell, I still believe they're coming. While reading this CAP comic, I feared for Cap and the chick he's protecting in the story, Bella Donna. I perceived as a child as I'm incapable of perceiving now, swayed by the imagery and the excellence of George Romero and Jack Kirby.

The problem today is folks my age want to feel the same way they did then, only in order to do that, they have to change the superhero to become adults, like them, and have adult problems, like them.

But here is the beginning of my education in the Pulp pop culture, of which we'll continue to track. Jack Kirby was only getting started with me.

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