Like the "Manhunter" comic from a few days ago, our second Jack Kirby selection hails from DC Comics in 1975. This time around, we're looking at "Justice, Inc," a short-lived series written by Denny O' Neil and drawn by Kirby (except for the first issue, which had a nice Joe Kubert cover and featured artwork by Al McWilliamson). "Justice Inc." is based on a 1940s pulp hero, the Avenger, who originally appeared stories by Doc Savage creator Kenneth Robseon (in this case, actually a pseudonym for Paul Ernst, one of several authors to write as Robseon).
The Avenger is kind of an amalgamation of Doc Savage and the Shadow. He's a genius millionaire adventurer who, after the trauma of losing his family, is left with bone-white skin that is malleable to the touch, making him a master of disguise. The Avenger uses his fortune to start a crime fighting organization. He carries a tiny .22 caliber revolver named "Mike," and a dagger named "Ike" (and he never shoots to kill). This is perfect comic book fodder, and the pulpy tone is well serviced by Kirby's sense of action, shadow and texture, as well as his outrageous technology and monster designs.
Denny O'Neil is known for his late-1960s/early-1970s collaborations with Neal Adams which served to to reinvigorate and modernize several DC characters including Batman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow and Black Canary. He and Kirby make a great team. Like "Manhunter," there is a certain simplicity to the writing, but it works well. The story is straighforward but not stupid, and O' Neil manages to slip in a bit of social commentary as well (on race), in the second to last page below. It may not seem like much, but keep in mind this is like 2 years before DC introduced their first African American superhero. Actually, that's not really true- one of Kirby's New Gods, Black Racer, was African Ameircan and first appeared in 1971, but it wasn't until Tony Isabella's "Black Lightning" series in 1977 that a Black DC superhero starred in his own series. Anyway, it just goes to show that O'Neil and Kirby could take a pretty straightforward superhero/crime fighting tale and add some little extra touches to it to give it some fuller characterization and depth.
It's a bummer this one didn't last more than four issues. I love the vaguely pop art-meets-film noir style that Kirby adopts here, and the Avenger really was a cool character. Maybe it's time for DC to roll out "Justice Inc." for a 21st century revival...
Meanwhile, you'll notice I haven't gotten any Kinski-related film reviews up yet. I've been having kind of a weird and awesome week, and have been pretty busy (mostly in a good way, though I'm also still trying to find a fulltime job and a new roommate- ack. But the rest of my time, what little of it is left, has been occupied most pleasantly of late, I got no complaints even if it means not getting to spend more time watching Kinski). Anyway, I'm hoping to dig in to some Kinski tonight. Meanwhile, the next Kirby selection will be from one of his New Gods creations, "Mr. Miracle," and should be posted around Saturday or Sunday. Dig it!
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