Friday, May 23, 2008

Jack Kirby's Atlas

From the cover for the upcoming Superman 678, it looks like new Superman writer James Robinson is going to be reviving this Jack Kirby creation:

Atlas, from the very first issue of First Issue Special (April 1975). To my recollection, this will be the first time this character has been revived since his one-issue debut 33 years ago. First Issue Special was a series designed like DC's earlier Showcase to introduce new characters in the hope that they would prove popular enough to launch their own books. First Issue Special, however, proved to be a failure on this end, launching only Mike Grell's Warlord and a revival of Jack Kirby's New Gods (sans Kirby) as ongoing series and featuring the one and only appearance of many characters, like Codename: Assassin, The Dingbats of Danger Street, The Green Team, Lady Cop, and The Outsiders. Some of these characters have made brief appearances since their debuts--most notably, the version of Starman that James Robinson revived in his classic Starman series, and who is also returning in Robinson's Justice League spin-off.

With the revival of Atlas, the appearance of Beowulf in the most recent issue of Wonder Woman, and the return of Joe Kubert's Tor, DC is bringing back a lot of short-lived properties from the 70s, which is all right by me, since I fit squarely in the target audience for this kind of nostalgia.

Just looking at the cover, one can tell that this lone appearance of Jack Kirby's Atlas is a kick-ass comic. In the opening pages, Atlas takes a stage in the kingdom of "Hyssa, the place of the winged lizard," and offers to fight anyone who will stand against him. Kargin takes the challenge, claiming to be the strongest guy around, and the crowd backs him up. I think we can all guess what happens next:

In one punch, Atlas drives Kargin right through the stage, and the fight is over. That is one awesome Kirby splash page.

The people of Hyssa can't believe that their beloved Kargin could be so easily defeated, so they call shenanigans on Atlas. This draws the attention of a local nobleman, who sics his soldiers on Atlas.

"Try it ... and regret it!" is some kick-ass dialogue. And what happens next?

Trying it.

Regretting it.

Not taking the hint, the nobleman starts mouthing off to Atlas, causing Atlas to administer a lesson in Marxist dialectics by kicking over the nobleman's litter or, if you prefer, palanquin:

The local army soon arrives with a team of archers, and Atlas casually holds out the nobleman in front of himself to block the arrows.

And that's just the first few pages. While Atlas faces down the firing squad, a voice he hears serves as the madeleine cake that launches him into a Proustian reverie through his own past. However, like most stories in the First Issue Special series, this one ends with a cliffhanger, as Atlas faces down the king of Hyssa himself. Nonetheless, the inconclusiveness of the story should not detract from the fact that this is one kick-ass comic.

With the upcoming Omac and Demon collections and the recently completed Fourth World Omnibi, DC is doing a good job of reprinting Kirby's great work from the 1970s. Once the major work is completed, I'd like to see DC put together a nice anthology of the more random stuff Kirby did in the 70s, like this, Manhunter, Dingbats of Danger Street, Sandman, Kobra, and Justice Inc. (though the rights to the latter may be unavailable).


Anonymous said...

Damn straight! Kirby pumped it out for DC in the '70's. In addition to the previously mentioned gems, how about reprints of In The Days of The Mob, Spirit World, his inspired Losers run in Our Fighting Forces or his other 1st Issue Special revamp Manhunter?

Chris Sims said...

The Dingbats of Danger Street is maybe--MAYBE--the best thing ever.

Harvey Jerkwater said...

Atlas is "Krazy Kirby Konan?"

That is righteous on so many levels.