Friday, 26 June 2009

Joe Simon and Jack Kirby - The Best of Simon and Kirby (Titan 2009)

Comics were so much more innocent in the 60s, during the ‘Golden Age.’ They oozed nostalgia, Americana and an innocence depiction of good versus evil. The only shades of grey were the suits the superheroes wore in their everyday guises. Everything was black and white, good and bad. Well, in Marvel’s case, everything was primal American flag colours versus green and khaki, symbols of Nazism and communism and pure evil. Marvel has always held a patriotic view of its all-American heroes, lacking the egoes, gold complexes and macabre elements of DC’s more nightmareish grey areas. Most heroes in the Marvel canon operate in the same red, white and blue costumes, spandex representations of their patriotic selves.

So, who were Joe Simon and Jack Kirby? Well, thanks to them we have superhero films and we have Marvel’s successful characters and we have the popcorn powerhouse of good and evil told in the fantastical. They were pioneers. Meeting in 1939, where Joe was an editor and Jack was a staff illustrator, they developed the costume, Blue Bolt, a mix of science fiction and derring-do. Football star, Fred Parrish, struck by lightening fights the nazis and the underground forces of the Green Sorceress. Blue Bolt set the tone for the slew of comic book heroes fighting nazis, developed by Jewish refugees practising wish fulfillment in their art, a device told beautifull in Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Joe Simon and Jack Kirby went on to develop the all-conquering Captain America for Timely Comics, a character who eventually ended up frozen and resurrected in the modern-age as a Marvel character, a super soldier with a belief in truth, justice and the American way. Simon and Kirby rocketed to fame, launching hit after hit, spanning sci-fi, superheroes, horror, even romance, with industry-beating characters like Manhunter, Captain America, Sandman. They set the standard for superhero action.

And now Titan has lovingly collated some of their best issues spanning their most versatile genres for this new collection. With issues from the Fly, Stuntman, Fighting American, Bulls Eye, Private Strong, we are treated to some of the most memorable and lovingly regarded comics America ever produced before eventually commanding the entire market with the template Simon and Kirby created. This is the perfect introduction to their brand of imaginative yet simplistically themed good ol fashioned funnybook stories. Definitely worth picking up for anyone wanting to know their comic book history, for any Americana nostalgia freaks and for anyone who likes a good yarn about the never-ending battle between good and evil.

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