Vintage Sci-Fi Comics Are Back and Better Than Ever
Comics were never weirder than they were in the 70s.
Have you heard the word? Panel selection from 1971 cosmic classic The New Gods #1, now digitally reprinted through Comixology. Illustrated by Jack Kirby. Screencap via the author.
One of the comics featured in this week’s roundup is a digital reprint of a classic Jack Kirby comic. Kirby, longtime collaborator with Marvel icon Stan Lee, helped create famous characters like The Hulk, The Fantastic Four, and the X-Men. Unlike the more straightforward, BAM! POW! creations of Lee, Kirby’s written and illustrated works are tinged with the weird, the cosmic, and the symbolic. If readers try the reprint of New Gods #1 (reviewed below) and like what they read, other Kirby must-reads include the OMAC series, Devil Dinosaur, and Machine Man. In these comics, it’s clear Kirby didn’t care if you couldn’t keep up with his breakneck speed and garbled, grandiose language. This is old-fashioned science fiction, which neither strives for accuracy nor ease of readability, but falls somewhere wonderfully in-between. Also reviewed this week: children’s tales from Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, a pulpy sci-fi throwback, and an incredible indie comic about modern life.
Originally published in 1971, The New Gods tells the story of a battle between the forces of good and evil, with the New Gods (a group of super-powered heroes) battling the evil Darkseid. The main hero, Orion, rides around on little golden leg harnesses, uses his “Astro-Force” to blast away his enemies, and comes off like a grumpy old man as he quarrels with those trying to help him. This comic is baffling in its own self-reference and complexity, and biblical in its language and scope, but it’s absolutely a must-read for those who gravitate toward the weird and extra-dimensional. The closest piece of fiction one could compare The New Gods to are the latter novels in the Dune series, by Frank Herbert. And Kirby’s artwork is unparalleled in its ability to conjure grandeur with an economy of lines.
Artist and writer Corey Godbey captures all of the charm and mystery of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, and turns that into a storybook for kids. Less of a true comic than a series of full illustrations with narration, this book is so beautifully illustrated it will absolutely stick in the minds of young ones. The illustrations by Godbey are honeyed and sweet, and the world presented is simply magical. Though children’s books aren’t often covered in this column, this work is an absolute must for readers with young children.
The heroes of Black Hammer used to be comic book heroes with rich backstories and varied interpersonal lives, but now they’ve been retconned. After a multidimensional crisis writes them out of their own stories, they’re forced to live in a small, timeless farming town. This issue focuses on Barbalien, the alien barbarian, as he attempts to adjust to his new life, and as he reminisces on how he got to earth to begin with. This is a hugely imaginative comic with wonderful art by Dean Ormston. If the series pitch intrigues readers, it’s probably best they go back to the start and try out issue #1.
Hellbound Lifestyle is, without a doubt, the best comic of the week. Writer Kaeleigh Forsyth tapped out notes and observations about her daily life on her phone, and her friend and artist Alabaster Pizzo illustrated them into a comic. The result is a hilarious, sometimes-heartbreaking look at modern life. Concerns and topics covered range from getting enough instagram likes, to quitting a job to travel for two weeks, to developing a “Self Esteem Improvement Plan.” Pizzo’s simple, straightforward artwork captures the humor in moments that are, at times, fairly bleak. What’s left is a feeling that everything is both “totally on fire and in chaos” and “ugh, fine, whatever” at the same time. A must read for anyone between the ages of 27 and 33.
Which comics were your favorites this week? Let us know in the comments or tweet us @CreatorsProject.