comic books that changed my life #5

Well, I’m doing it! I’m crossing over into DC Comics territory. I was a Marvel Comics kid who would rarely pick up a DC title back in the early days of my collecting. For some reason, Batman and Superman and all those other DC characters didn’t interest me back then. I took the motto “Make Mine Marvel” to heart in those days. As I got older and more serious about collecting, I worked my way into the DC Universe. That, as they say, is a story for another time.

This was when I mainly bought comic books with exciting covers. But, I also liked the monster stories. (The first title of this blog series was Werewolf By Night, after all.) Because I liked monsters so much, I laid down my hard-earned 20 cents and purchased this DC comic book, The Demon #13 (Oct. ’73).

The Demon was a series created, drawn, and written by the great Jack Kirby. Kirby was king. He was the major talent behind the creation of the language of comic book art. He was a pioneer. He is probably the most influential artist in comic book history and, for years, I thought he sucked.

That’s right. I couldn’t stand his stuff. In my formative years as a cartoonist, I couldn’t understand why he was the king. As I worked to improve my drawing skills, I kept looking at his work and thought it was crap. “He can’t draw!” I would think.

Kirby couldn’t draw anatomy well. Look at the hands he’d draw. How many knuckles does a human hand have? How long is a thumb compared to the fingers? Who has squared off fingertips?

I could go on, but I’m saving my Kirby dissertation for a favorite comic book artist blog series.

Suffice to say, I did eventually come to appreciate the greatness of Jack Kirby’s art.

The Demon #13 might have been the first DC Comics title I’d ever purchased. It was certainly one of the very first. As far as I can remember, I bought it to take on the family vacation. Each year, my family would head out to a lake cabin resort near Spooner, WI for a two week vacation. This issue was one in the stack of comic books that I brought along to kill time during the long drive from St. Paul. I don’t recall any of the other issues.

The Demon is one of my favorite characters and issue #13 is from his original series. This was long before the Demon started speaking in rhyme. That’s the one thing that annoyed me about the later incarnation of the Demon. I like the Hell aspect and that the Demon is kind of evil while still being a good guy. I like his alter-ego’s name, Jason Blood. So cool.

The art I’ve selected from this issue are all full page illustrations, with one exception. In fact, one is a two page spread!

The cover (see above) has an interesting use of color to help direct the eye. Your attention is drawn to the Demon and his two adversaries. The monsters are less significant, but still important. And the Demon’s declaration, “I’m unleashing every terrible thing your mind can think of! Can you take it?” makes one wonder if he talking to his adversaries or is he talking to us? Perhaps both.

The two page spread is chock full of Jack Kirby goodness. Some of his best work is this big drawing stuff. It’s big, spectacular! And Kirby was very good at making sure that the design didn’t leave the reader confused. The storyline continues to flow through the dramatic art.

There’s also that black dotted cosmic fire thing the Kirby was so fond of using. I don’t know if he invented it, but it sure seems like a signature tool of his. And countless Kirby-influenced artists (myself included) have used the same effect.

Incidentally, note the name of the villain, Baron Von Evilstein. That’s fantastic! With a name like that how could you not be evil? That name can’t help but pigeon-hole a fellow. Even if he wanted to be a philanthropist, how could he while named Evilstein?

So, the next page I’ve selected is the first page of chapter two. It introduces “the Monster”. A not so subtle take on the Frankenstein legend. Kirby’s version was created by Baron Von Evilstein.

The Monster is huge. And I love the metal bars that protrude from him. Maybe not quite the same as the flat-headed creature that Boris Karloff brought to life, but the similarities are there.

There’s a single frame that I’ve included that has its focus on the creatures hands. The hands are stretched out imploringly to a woman he sees as a friend. It brings to mind Karloff’s so expressive use of his hands in his portrayal of the Monster. No other actor who played the Monster ever came close to Karloff. Part of the reason for that, I think, is due to the way Karloff used his hands.

Speaking of hands, this brings me to the final piece I’ve included. It’s the first page of chapter three. Kirby sums up the action of the scene while deftly bringing in the Demon. That’s a pretty cool hand there. We’re in for some action!

So that’s the first DC comic of this series. There will be others. The one that convinced me to start collecting DC. The one that hooked me into Batman. The one that got me interested in Superman. And more. But you’ll have to wait.

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