Since I’m polishing off the finale of Kirby Five-Oh!, specifically reading through the list of creators influenced by Jack’s work, I’ve been thinking about how Kirby’s work is interpreted by other creators. Thus, this week’s Top Five, Jack Kirby characters done by creators other than Kirby himself.
5. Captain America, by Mark Waid and Ron Garney.
The current Cap series by Brubaker and Epting is, from what I’ve read of it, sharp and engaging, but when I think of Captain America, there’s a certain relentless vigor that I imagine. Mark Waid and Ron Garney’s too-brief first run on Cap’s title captured that frantic energy, coupled with solid characterization and twist-filled plots. The pair reunited for a second – again abbreviated – run that nearly lived up to their first effort, but Garney was moved off the title and Waid’s Cap run wasn’t able to maintain its charge, but those initial eleven issues remain the most bombastic and fun Cap series since Kirby’s Madbomb stories.
4. Fantastic Four, by John Byrne.
Lee and Kirby defined the Fantastic Four’s personalities so well that I often feel that creators since them have simply plugged in generic lines of dialogue and been done with it. Consequently, nearly every post-Kirby creative team has left me cold and indifferent. John Byrne’s Fantastic Four popped off the page, however, and his version of the team felt as if anything could truly happen. Pregnancy, new members, and some of the most memorable Dr. Doom and Galactus stories since Stan and Jack, Byrne’s FF was a thrill-ride comic book adventure.
3. Incredible Hulk, by Peter David and various artists.
While Byrne is one of the few creators since Kirby and Lee to make the FF click, David might be the only creator – including the Green Goliath’s creators -who’s made the Hulk dramatically appealing to me. Working with top-flight artists like Dale Keown, Gary Frank, Liam Sharp and Adam Kubert, David dove into the mind of Bruce Banner, peeling back layers. The result was a Greek tragedy of man and monster, showing how much they could accomplish together, yet ultimately tearing them apart. Joe Fixit and Marlo remain outstanding additions to the Hulk mythos, and David explored Banner, the Hulk and supporting players like Rick Jones and Doc Samson in ways nobody else has matched.
2. Orion, by Walter Simonson.
A continuing trend here, Simonson is the only creator that has managed a series with the scope, majesty and drama inherent in Kirby’s original Fourth World comics. Bigger and bolder than anything else in DC’s line at the time (or perhaps since), Simonson explored the conflict of fathers and sons. Simonson pushed Orion in directions that not even Darkseid himself could’ve imagined, scarring Orion’s soul with the Anti-Life Equation, adding a layer of tragedy to Scott Free, and even allowing Orion to comment on the nature of the New Gods. How good was this comic? When I quit monthly titles midway through its run, I made an exception for Simonson’s Orion. It’s simply the best superhero comic I’ve read in the last ten years.
1. Thor, by Walter Simonson.
He got the Fourth World right, and he excelled in the Third as well. From smaller tales such as Thor’s (unknowing) meeting with his grandfather to TWO Ragnaroks, Simonson challenged the god of thunder like nobody had ever done before. Odin’s death, Thor’s journey to Hel, the brittling of his bones, and even his epic quest as a frog in New York City’s sewers remain some of the most memorable and exciting Thor comics in history. Simonson also gave us the great Beta Ray Bill character, and with the top two titles on my list, I guess you could say that nobody does Kirby better than Simonson.
So, readers, after Kirby left his toys for others to play with, which creators gave us the most satisfying versions?