Monday, January 10, 2011

My Favorite Jack Kirby Villains

Robert Pope has asked who my favorite created, or co-created, Jack Kirby villain is. I did not need to give this any thought. The answer was easy, but it gave me an excuse to post some of my favorite Kirby villains of all time.

For those of you who don't know who Jack Kirby was, he was one of the most influential and prolific comic book artists of all time. Not only did he create, or co-create many of the most popular and familiar comic book characters of all time, but his style of dynamic storytelling changed the way that comic books were drawn for all time.

He was also great at drawing some truly freakish villains. Here are some of the ones I love best.

FIN FANG FOOM. Not my absolute favorite of the weird giant monsters and aliens that Kirby created to threaten the earth, but pretty representative. His monsters and aliens truly looked otherworldly. Fin Fang Foom was no exception. He also wore a pair of purple shorts to maintain his modesty.

MOLECULE MAN. Most of Kirby's best villains were created as opponents for the Fantastic Four. The Molecule Man was one such villain. He's not a spectacular villain by any means. His ability to manipulate matter was pretty cool, but it was his weird, hideous, zigzagging facial scars that kept me repulsed and fascinated as a kid.

THE PUPPET MASTER was another disturbing looking freak who faced off against the Fantastic Four.  With a face that suggests an addiction to plastic surgery or the kind of person who comes to mind when you are a kid being subjected to stranger awareness talks at school, the Puppet Master just looked plain icky.

THE RED SKULL. Like a nazi Phantom of the Opera, the Red Skull appealed to me as a kid because of my love of movie monsters. For a long time I confused him with comedian, Red Skelton, and decided the two were somehow connected.

THE RED GHOST. As a scientist who could become intangible, the Red Ghost wasn't all that interesting, not even visually. What drew me to him were the three apes that assisted him in his crimes, not simply because they were apes, but because under Kirby's pen there was something so obviously wrong with them physically. I eventually got to write a story which featured the Red Ghost as well as Annihilus and Blastaar, two other Kirby villains.

ANNIHILUS. Was he an extradimensional insect in really cool armor? Or, a more human looking figure in really cool insect looking armor? I still don't know, but he looked great and seemed really threatening.

SKRULLS. Kirby's shapeshifting toad-like alien goblins were great bug eyed monsters. They reminded me of the aliens in Invasion of the Saucer Men only without the giant brains and with better language skills.

GALACTUS. Jack Kirby designed a lot of impressive helmets during his career. Galactus wore one of them. This giant alien who consumed entire planets to sustain himself was one of Kirby's greatest creations. Somehow he was able to make something that could have come across as ridiculous really awesome, in the true sense of the word, instead. As much as I can understand the rationale as to why the makers of the 2nd Fantastic Four movie decided to represent Galactus as a solar system sized storm cloud, I was disappointed not to see him as a giant guy with a huge purple helmet.

THE MAD THINKER'S AWESOME ANDROID. With no name for himself, and no features, this powerhouse was one of Kirby's strangest creations. Awesome might not have been the adjective I'd have chosen, but he was definitely uncanny.

ARNIM ZOLA. Among the regular imagery that Kirby used was the depiction of people with oversized heads, misplaced heads, or oversized misplaced heads. Every one of his creations that featured such a grotesque deformation really creeped me out as a kid and scarred me for life. Armin Zola had a giant head that was also his torso along with a cybernetic head (or is that a wii sensor) where his head should have been. This guy was disturbing, but not as disturbing as...

MODOK. This Mental Organism designed Only for Killing was a really awkward acronym, but was the stuff of nightmares for me as a kid. He was truly hideous with that gigantic head the size of a volkswagen, but with normal sized arms and legs. I'm very fond of MODOK now for those very reasons. I was really hoping that he was going to be the villain in Iron Man 2 instead of Whiplash. Here's hoping they sign Philip Seymour Hoffman as MODOK for Iron Man 3.

HIDDEN HARRY. Thank goodness that Jack Kirby never found a home for this villainous creation of his. This diminutive megacephalic villain would have given the Zuni fetish from Trilogy of Terror a run for its money and some really good nightmares.

DARKSEID. Darkseid, the evil lord of the evil planet Apocalips, is easily one of Jack Kirby's greatest creations. His evil nature was only enhanced by the sadistic natures of those who served him and yet were deathly afraid of him.

DR. DOOM. The imperious dictator of Latveria, Victor von Doom is easily my favorite Kirby villain. He's a real threat, an evil genius, and he just looks incredibly cool. Long before Darth Vader came around (inspired by Dr. Doom no less) I wondered what Dr. Doom looked like under his helmet. His face was supposed to be hideously scarred, but I like the idea that was put forth, I think by John Byrne, that Doom's face only had a very slight scar on it and that he was so vain that he viewed this minor inperfection hideous enough that he wanted to cover it up from view. To my knowledge we've never seem what his face looks like under there. All we know is what he looked like while he was still Mr. Doom and had yet to don the armor. I never got tired of seeing Dr. Doom appear in a comic book, even when he was being overused. One of my first works in comic books was an ad featuring Dr. Doom, drawn by Mike Mignola. As a character in Damage Control I even got to ask Dr. Doom to show some photo ID when he was writing a check.


Robert Pope said...

Man, that was the post with the most. I am deeply grateful and in total agreement. Good sidebar on Byrne's retelling of the origin marrying both Stan's (he saw Vic as hideously scarred) and Jack's (HE saw Doom as having one "tiny" scar) vision of the good doctor. I liked the way Byrne handled that story a lot (the one that introduced us to the mind-imprinted Kristoff in the funky "Retro-Doom" armor...)

John Rozum said...

I'm glad you liked it! Thanks for clarifying the scar details. It all comes back to me now. The 80s were good for Victor von Doom.

Michael Jones said...

Great choice! I loved his SuperVillain Team Up book when it came out.
When you paired Reds Skelton & Skull, I thought of the Red Skull attacking Cap with his sidekick seagulls, Gertrude and Heathcliff.