February 6th, 1994 really sucked for comic lovers. It was the day Jack Kirby, the man who should always be referred to as King Kirby, shuffled off this mortal coil. Today, August 28th, 2012, would have been his 95th birthday, and all of us who have been part of the comic book community should take a minute and bow down to the power of Kirby.
This man’s art completely revolutionized comic books, and his singular vision of excellence gave us the Fantastic Four, Captain America, The Hulk and The X-Men. If you’ll notice the bulk of these characters still carry Marvel today. It’s not just the main drag of creative choices that elevated Kirby to his legend status – there are also the lesser known Gods, robots, heroes and villains that helped shape an entire generation of comic lovers. Here are, at least to me, The Twelve Most Awesome Kirby Characters.
12. Lo-Karr (Fear #4, 1971)
Before hitting his stride with Marvel, Kirby was known for creating random monsters doing random things for random reasons. There were lots of them, ranging in names from Grr to Groog or any kind of sound a monster might utter during a particularly harsh freak-out. What makes Lo-Karr so interesting is he appears to be an early incarnation of The Thing, with the rock body and the blue pants. Unfortunately, The Thing never got to rock the fur collar, but so what? We always have Lo-Karr.
11. Fin Fang Foom (Strange Tales #89, 1961)
Sure, Fin Fang is an old buddy, a dragon type villain that we’ve all come to know and love. His first appearance was just before Fantastic Four and, while Marvel would reach deep into the Kirby Monster Bag in later issues, few would carry the weight Fin Fang Foom would. This dragon with the humanish face, the long neck, and (best of all) purple shorts would go on to slap out with Hulk, Thor and many others. Not only does Fin Fang Foom have the best dragon name EVER, he’s also intelligent and straight up brutal. I also like how his bizarre structure makes total sense in the Kirby world.
10. Mangog (Thor #154, 1968)
Mangog is fucking awesome. Part minotaur, part alien, part living totem pole; this enemy of Thor is pure Kirby penciling bliss. Not only is Magog one of the best looking villains of Kirby’s illustrious career, but his origin is balls out amazing. Mangog was created from the pure hatred of the billions of beings killed by Odin. Really? REALLY? Kirby decided to take his most insane looking creation and walk it down a road of being the bastard child of pure dead hatred. Stand there and tell me Kirby wasn’t a genius. I defy you!!
9. Awesome Android (Fantastic Four #15, 1963)
Hmmm, I need an evil henchman for a Fantastic Four villain named The Mad Thinker. What do I do? Well, if you’re Jack Kirby, you create an android that looks a slab of concrete atop a thick body builder. Then I’ll color him a solid grey and give him a loincloth. Not enough? Okay, how about also referring to him as Awesome Andy and allowing him to mimic superpowers whenever he touches another hero. This is a great representation of the powerful lines and raw power of Kirby’s ability.
8. Ego The Living Planet (Thor #132, 1966)
Nope, this isn’t a comic book representation of Rob Liefeld – this is an actual character that Kirby created to battle Thor. Ego was a planet with a face, an entire planet that, like the mighty Galactus, fed off of other planets. Thor helps Ego fend off Galactus, who shows up to eat him in a massive nod to "turnabout is fair play." What else can you say that illuminates how much awesomeness oozes from this drawing, then to reiterate that it is a planet with a HUMAN FACE. Apparently, if a planet is given sentience, it must have a human looking appendage. Eat your heart out, Mogo.
7. Brute That Walks (Journey Into Mystery I #65, 1961)
People hate on this character, but I love him. First of all, we have to admire that Kirby was kind enough to let us know Brute can walk. Just in case we were scared he’d be the less terrifying Brute That Skips or Brute That Giggles. The story for Brute is simple. A scientist pines for another scientist who rejects him. In order to win her love, our scientist turns himself into a giant ape and chases her around an amusement park. When the serum wears off, it looks as though the scientist chased off the monkey so all is well. Yep, and Jack Kirby never did drugs.
6. Murder Machine (Fantastic Four #76, 1968)
It’s staggering to me that no hip-hop band has syphoned this name for themselves. Perhaps it’s that Jack Kirby’s muscle man with a deep tan is a little too goofy to take seriously. Sure, the hot pants are scary and the dental head gear gives us a moment to pause, but overall, Murder Machine is about as scary as the guy who beat me up out in the Denny’s parking lot for being into punk rock. I guess Jack hated sports jocks as much as we did, because he brought to life the ultimate one and made him an evil god.
5. The Dingbats Of Danger Street (1st Special Issue #1)
There was a time when a gang of kids was the coolest thing you could have in comics. One of those groups was Kirby’s Dingbats Of Danger Street. While the king loved to stretch his imagination into the cosmos, his heart belonged to the city streets. The Dingbats didn’t have much of a go. They appeared in one issue, battling the villains Jumping Jack and The Gasser. Kirby had two more issues in the bag but they never saw the light of day. In modern comics, the group was made famous when Batman’s Brave And The Bold was being cancelled and Batmite, pissed about the cancellation, talks about all the great crossover ideas, including the Dingbats.
4. Devil Dinosaur And Moon Boy (Devil Dinosaur #1, 1978)
A red Tyrannosaurus Rex that lives on Dinosaur World, a parallel of Earth in another dimension where dinosaurs live with humanoid creatures, Devil Dinosaur’s best buddy is the ape-man creature Moon Boy. The two met when Moon Boy saved Devil Dinosaur from the Killer-Folk who set him on fire. The fire made Devil Dinosaur all red and gave him intelligence and super powers. Well, how can you fuck with it? DD has a classic Kirby look, as does Moon Boy, plus he was given powers through the fire of Killer-Folk, which sounds like a beatnik party gone horribly awry. After being cancelled, DD gets into some beef with Godzilla. Any dinosaur that can step to Godzilla is down by law forever.
3. Monster At My Window (Tales To Astonish #34, 1962)
An alien Monster comes to Earth and stands outside the window of a science fiction writer, telling him tales of how this alien Monster’s race is all powerful and everyone should fear them. Unfortunately, the writer Monster chose is a monster as well, and the two battle it out on the roof.
Just let that resonate for a bit.
2. Darkseid (Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #134, 1970)
Putting it simply, there is nothing as ass-kicking and straight up evil as Darkseid. This character is not only one of Kirby’s coolest looking creations, he’s also one of the longest standing villains in DC history. The story behind this character is way too involved to get into, but trust me, we’re talking Jack Kirby’s serious foray into Shakespearean levels of tragedy. Darkseid’s origin has so much death and betrayal in it that you can hardly believe this is a comic book. Forty plus years later and Darkseid is still the baddest of the absolute bad asses.
1. Silver Surfer (Fantastic Four #48, 1966)
I know, I know, this is too easy. Yeah, well, fuck it, this is my absolute favorite character created by Jack Kirby. Not only is Silver Surfer cool looking, not only does he stand up to Galactus and win, he’s also born of a level of suffering and tragedy that the Greek playwrights could only dream of creating. Surfer came into being by sacrificing himself to protect all that he loved, and accepted a life helping Galactus find worlds to consume. Surfer’s level of power is coupled with his feelings of compassion and of guilt over his service to Galactus. In the history of Marvel Comics, not one hero has come close to Surfer’s power or depth. He is a magical creation that we owe Jack Kirby so much for.
There you have it, my twelve. What are yours? Who did I miss?