The Indisputable Matt Maxwell Presents:
These weeks before Comic-Con are grueling. Particularly when the kids are home from school and need constant supervision so they don’t start monkeying around with the household chemicals as they attempt to answer the question “what happens when you mix the Comet with the liquid bleach?” Even worse is when your vacation gets turned into helping your parents move into their new house. Yeah, some people may just think of that as bad planning. Me? I think of it as a way to get acquainted with another old installment of FULL BLEED.
I’m pretty sure that this will be the last one before SDCC, and that we’ll just miss a week. I anticipate being there and maybe even having enough time to actually blog the show on a more timely basis than usual. Then again, I may decide that carrying around a laptop is about my least favorite thing to do and just write at night. Or I may get home from the show and collapse into the hotel bed and cry myself to sleep.
Either way, look for more, fresher FULL BLEED after the con. In the meantime…mmm…leftovers…
People often ask me, “What’s your favorite comic?” From now on, well, at least until I get bored of it, I’m going to reply “Jimmy Olsen Adventures, thanks for asking.”
That’s right. Jimmy freaking Olsen adventures. You heard me.
DC has been kind enough to grace us with the first volume of their planned two-volume edition that will collect all of Jack (the King, dontcha know) Kirby’s work on this series. Originally, it ran in the very early 1970s, when Mr. Kirby was back at DC working on what many people will argue was his magnum opus, the Fourth World (as it’s come to be known today.)
Kirby haters better just stop reading right now. And yes, I know that you’re out there. You hate his overblown ideas and fear his visceral grasp of mythmaking and iconic storytelling. You cringe from his bold pencils, dynamic layouts and the sheer power of his comic work. Turn away now and spare your eyes and brain the inevitable shock that will follow as we journey into superheroics as done by the master.
Oh yeah, and Jimmy Olsen (he’s Superman’s pal). And don’t forget the Newsboy Legion, who have crafted the Wondrous Whiz Wagon in their Bowery garage. Together with Jimmy and Superman, they face the threat of Intergang, The D.N.Aliens, spawned from the bowels of the Evil Factory (a dark mirror of The Project, where humanity’s greatest minds toil.) We’re assaulted with images of bizarre subcultures bred in the Wild Area and on the concrete ribbon of the Zoomway, where Hairies tinker with unimaginable technologies and the shadowy hand of Darkseid toys with lives the way mere mortals toy with chessboards.)
The weirdest part is that all of this takes place under the very noses of Metropolis and the world at large. Imagine a subterranean world of weird science and good versus evil writ larger than large. Now imagine that its happening just under your feet. Yes, it’s unbelievable. It’s totally unrealistic. It’s a mad fantasy that the wildest of mushroom-gobbling freaks wouldn’t dare to imagine. And yet there it is in front of your very eyes.
This is perhaps the apex of superhero comics. Here we get to see Superman pre-crisis (though post revamp, I think, historians are free to correct me), pre-death, pre-return, pre-reboot (if the rumors are to be believed.) Yes, he’s stiff. Yes, he’s overbearing and bossy, but dammit, he’s Superman. He rubs his hands together to generate electrical energy to free himself and the Newsboy Legion from the energy egg/prison of the D.N.Alien (four arms and a limited vocabulary are all you need if you’re a monster). It’s not realistic. It’s not believable. Sure, there’s pseudoscientific jargon to make you feel better about suspending your disbelief, but it’s just a veneer. What you really get to see is titanic forces in a secret war (some fifteen years before the eponymous Marvel series) for the very soul of the universe. And it stars Jimmy Olsen. He’s the hero. He’s not a clod, not a kid, not an irritating brat. Hell, he doesn’t even carry a camera. He’s every bit as heroic as the Big S. Sure, he doesn’t rip an atomic reactor out of the heart of the Project and hurl it down a tunnel to the earth’s core, thus saving Metropolis from The Big Boom (and uncountable four-armed monsters), but he stands up to Intergang and ends up running a biker gang that takes Superman down. No joke. Jimmy Olsen is one bad mammajamma in these books. And did I mention the giant green Jimmy Olsen that pummels the stuffing out of Superman?
It’s all true. Well, it isn’t. It’s fiction. But by thunder, what fiction it is! This is pure myth. This is gods and devils walking the earth and the stars and everywhere in-between. This is raw, primal storytelling. Vince Colletta’s inks (which are often and sometimes rightly maligned) look fabulous here.
If you’re looking for deep introspection and literary ruminations on the meaning of what it is to be alive, you’re not in the right place. There’s no signs of Vertigo comics to come, or of artists breaking the rules on page layout or ultimately doing anything really new. What is going on in Jimmy Olsen Adventures is superhero comics throwing caution to the wind and doing what they do best. Not gritty realism, because superheroes are in and of themselves utterly and completely unrealistic (no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves of that), but wholeheartedly embracing the fantasy of the superhero conceit. Sure, it’s goofy. Sure, there’s dialogue that’s overblown and by most folks reckoning, cringe-worthy. Sure, Mr. Kirby doesn’t think through the ramifications and long-term problems of building a city underneath Metropolis. That’s why it’s so great.
It’s fantasy and it doesn’t care. It’s not superheroes in the real world. Superheroes break the real world. They just break it. You choose to believe that they work in fiction or they don’t. Nobody’s holding a gun to your head. Jack Kirby and all those who assisted him knew they weren’t real and ran with it. And in doing so, they freed themselves of the confines of shoehorning superheroes into the real world. This is far wilder stuff than anything else that Mr. Kirby created for Marvel (and he was pretty out there back then.)
Like the back of the book says “Don’t ask, just buy it!” Buy. Read. Follow Jimmy Olsen to the greatest adventure this side of Apokolips. Jimmy freaking Olsen. Has to be read to be believed.
Copyright 2006- 2010 Marc Mason/Comics Waiting Room. All rights reserved