Other Nexus Graphica Columns
For more information, you can try the following:
Kirby's Fourth World
Jack Kirby's The Losers
An examination of Kirby's Losers
Jan's Atomic Heart
Chicken with Plums
Showcase Presents Ambush Bug
Recent Books of Interest
Jan's Atomic Heart by Simon Roy (New Reliable Press)
Simon Roy's near-future thriller of robotics and terrorism ushers in a major new
talent. Following an accident, the mind of Jan, a computer analyst, is downloaded into an
outmoded Lunar robot. In this reality, the Earth holds a very tentative peace after a
war with the Lunar colonies. Jan discovers that similar Lunar models have committed
acts of terrorism. Roy populates his red herring-laced plot with multi-faceted,
realistic personae. Top all that off with his magnificent Tardi-influenced art
and Jan's Atomic Heart emerges as this summer's sleeper hit.
Chicken with Plums by Marjane Satrapi (Pantheon)
The creator of the acclaimed Persepolis returns with a new family
story. After his wife destroys his beloved tar (a Persian lute),musician Nasser
Ali Khan decides to die. Satrapi recounts the eight days until his death, manipulating
time as she relates the futures of his children and grandchildren. Along the way,
Satrapi accomplishes the seemingly impossible by turning the bitter, unlikable
Nasser into a truly sympathetic character. Through her masterful use of layout,
design, and shadow, Satrapi creates an extraordinary family memoir.
Showcase Presents Ambush Bug by Keith Giffen, Robert Loren Fleming, and others (DC)
Initially, a goofy teleporting villain dressed as a green bug, Ambush Bug
came to embody the silliness inherent in super-hero comics. From 1982-1992,
creator Keith Giffen and scripter Robert Loren Fleming, through their proxy
Ambush Bug, parodied nearly every corner of the DC publishing empire. The
lunacy ran roughshod through two eponymous mini-series, two specials, and
several other DC comics. For the first time, Showcase Presents Ambush
Bug collects these hilarious, metafictional adventures.
War on Two Fronts
Following the success of their EC-inspired horror anthology Creepy,
publisher James Warren and editor Archie Goodwin began Blazing Combat
in 1965. The new magazine employed a similar format, using many of the same artists
of the previous Warren publication -- Joe Orlando, Reed Crandall, John Severin, Al
Williamson, Gray Morrow, Russ Heath, Alex Toth, and Wally Wood. Like
Creepy, Blazing Combat also featured Frank Frazetta
covers, and Goodwin scripts in a magazine format. But unlike its predecessor,
Blazing Combat died a ignoble death after just four
issues. Fantagraphics collects the complete run and outlines the whole
sordid history via interviews with Warren and Goodwin in the handsome
hardback Blazing Combat.
Modeling the content after Harvey Kurtzman's legendary EC comics
Two-Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat, Goodwin
focused on the grim realities of war. The American public in 1965, a broad
majority of which supported the newly-escalating involvement in Vietnam,
proved ill suited for the new comic.
The first story of issue one ("Viet-Cong!") focused on the mistakes made by
American soldiers in Vietnam and included scenes of torture and killing of
villagers. Goodwin and artist Orlando teamed up for two more Vietnam stories,
both well-rendered morality plays. Their most famous and controversial
tale ("Landscape!" from Issue 2) related the tale of a Vietnamese rice farmer
whose life is inextricably altered by the ongoing conflict.
[War is] a crazy way to settle things and you could be very sympathetic to the
people who were stuck with having to fight them.
After the second issue, the military banned Blazing Combat from bases citing the
anti-war stance. The American Legion also protested, and most distributors stopped
carrying the magazine. The quarterly publication limped on for another two issues.
If the censors had delved beneath the perceived bias, they would have discovered
some of the finest war stories and illustration in the medium's history. Goodwin and
his cadre of contributors detailed the uniquely personal views of soldiers and
civilians through several engagements: the Revolutionary War, the U.S. Civil War,
Indian Wars, both World Wars, and the Korean War, with a side trip through the
Ancient Greek battle at Thermopylae. The dynamic art leaps off the pages
throughout. In particular, Toth and Morrow created some of the best works of
their long careers. Goodwin actually celebrated soldiers, sailors, and airmen
rather denigrated them. Without leaning on glory and sensationalism,
Blazing Combat focused on heroism, sacrifice, and dignity.
Archie [Goodwin] was a prophet in his own time. He knew. He didn't have to wait until
1973 to find out that the war was a mistake.
Following the 1973 cancellation of his Fourth World titles (New Gods,
Forever People, Mister Miracle, and Jimmy
Olsen), Jack Kirby created several new titles for DC (Kamandi,
The Demon, and OMAC). In 1974, he also assumed the
mantle on one existing title: Our Fighting Forces. Beginning
with issue #151, Kirby rendered the chronicles of a dysfunctional WWII
fighting troop, code-named the Losers.
In 1969, famed war comics creator Robert Kanigher (Sgt. Rock,
Enemy Ace) cobbled together this band of archetypes from four
existing DC characters that formerly headlined their own titles. Navajo air
ace Captain Johnny Cloud, the fighting infantry duo of Gunner and Sarge, and
Navy man Captain Storm compromised the Special Forces quartet. The Losers,
who always drew the short end of the stick, primarily tackled the seemingly
No stranger to war, Jack Kirby served as a Private First Class in the U.S. Army
on the European front during World War II. Throughout his storied career, he
called upon on those experiences to inspire numerous comics most notably
Boy Commandos, Foxhole, and Sgt Fury. The
Losers were far more ordinary than Kirby's usual characterizations -- no super
deeds nor powers. Therefore, his portrayals of the four lacked his usual
originality and flair.
On the other hand, Kirby's art promised a series that would soar past the
limitations of a typical 70s comic. His use of outlandish illustrations and
innovative storytelling revitalized the title and resulted in a memorable and
unusual war comic.
Though lacking the social and political gravitas of Blazing Combat,
Kirby's exciting twelve issues on Our Fighting Forces typifies the
creative power and dynamism of this artistic genius.
[T]he Losers are Kirby at his best. Distilled essence of Kirby, if you
will. No gigantic, world crushing machines (well, if you ignore Big Max and
the Devastastor). No superheroics. Just ordinary people, with the whole of the
Second World War as a playing field.
—Neil Gaiman, from his introduction to Jack Kirby's The Losers.
Copyright © 2009 Rick Klaw
Rick Klaw produced four years of the popular monthly SF Site column "Geeks With Books", and supplied
countless reviews, essays, and fiction for a variety of publications including
The San Antonio Current,
The Austin Chronicle,
The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Moving Pictures
With Texas Writers, Electric Velocipede, Cross Plains
Universe, and Steampunk. MonkeyBrain Books published the collection of his essays, reviews,
and other things Klaw, Geek
Confidential: Echoes From the 21st Century.