The names of Jack Kirby and Joe Simon are stellar in the world of comic books. We remember them primarily as the co-creators of Captain America, Blue Bolt, The Newsboy Legion and the Boy Commandos in the days of World War Two, but between then and today their work became the prototypical comic-stuff that DC and Marvel were born on.
The latest volume in the Simon and Kirby Library from Titan Books is absolutely beautiful, and it offers a slice of comic book history that still resonates in the storylines of today’s comic books. Simon and Kirby Library: SCIENCE FICTION is an anthology of comic book stories from the forties and fifties — the formative years where writer Simon and artist Kirby honed their craft on short and simple tales of horror, sf, superheroics and even young love.
These tales don’t have the narrative strength or the clean, fine lines that typically drive contemporary sequential art, but the old-fashioned stories have never looked better, printed here on oversized, premium paper and in bright, vibrant colors.
What we have are the precursors to Simon and Kirby monsters from Timely Comics, which was later bought by Marve, and reprinted many times over the years. Goom . . .
. . . Grogg . . .
. . . Groot! . . .
. . . and my particular and alliterative favorite . . .
Speaking of alliteration, a brief interruption brought to you by The Big Bang Theory (starts at 1:54) . . .
Simon and Kirby Library: SCIENCE FICTION is a book of Twilight Zone-esque stories before there was a Twilight Zone. Not surprisingly, the stories here read as though they were influenced by the pulp magazines of the ’40s, replete with heroes, villains, villainesses, aliens, robots and monsters. One, “A Hole in the Wall,” may even have been influenced by Richard Matheson’s 1953 short story, “Little Girl Lost,” which Matheson later adapted in 1962 for a classic episode of Twilight Zone.
More importantly, the stories here show a direct influence on the comics Jack Kirby later created. Stories here have talking animals (Kirby later expanded on this concept in DC’s Kamandi). One story foretells the creation of Marvel’s Ant-Man. There’s a flying chair, which Kirby later repurposed in his New Gods series for DC. Cadmus is referenced, which Kirby later transformed into a super-science lab in Superman and New Gods. The Ancient Astronauts in one tale here shadow the Immortals, which Kirby later created for Marvel. There’s also the precursor of Marvel’s Ego, the Living Planet, and perhaps the inspiration for the toy, Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots.
This is a fascinating collection, starting off with Simon and Kirby’s early space opera tales of the Solar Patrol and their caped space hero, Blue Bolt. Simon and Kirby Library: SCIENCE FICTION is comic book history — an era of simple ideas and pure storytelling that is deservedly still celebrated with volumes like this.