Thursday, July 9, 2009

King Solomon's Frog.

Black Panther #1 (Vol 1) Kirby Kirby Kirby


I list Kirby in the titile three times here because he’s listed three times in the credits. He’s the writer, artist, and he’s apparently his own editor. Here’s the summary:

Black Panther has somehow hooked up with a little person named Mister Little who is a collector of rare antiquities in search of King Solomon’s Frog. They find it in the cold grasp of the corpse of Alfred Freely, another collector. Panther is soon confronted with Freely’s killer, an unnamed knight from the past with a golden sword. Panther makes short work of him and has him running out the window. He does not give chase. Mr. Little explains that the Frog is actually a time machine that transports beings from different times and places to wherever the frog is. They board Mr. Little’s flying machine and almost immediately are pursued by soldiers of an unknown army. Mr. Little blows the crap out of their aircraft with a couple of well aimed missiles. Mr Little goes on about the history of the Frog. Apparently it is responsible for the story of Alladin’s lamp as well as the Loch Ness Monster. Just then more soldiers show up with jetpacks. Mr Little throws his rig into supersonic speed and leaves those cats in his vapors. So they make it to his hideout. Mr Little’s story is that the frog is dangerous and shoud be returned to King Solomon’s tomb. Waiting for them in the hideout are more soldiers who immediately shoot Mr. Little in the stomache. They can’t seem to get a bead on Black Panther so their boss finally reveals herself. It’s Princess Zanda, another collector who covets the frog. She seems to have better aim and is able to blast the Panther with a nerve gun. She tries to get Panther to join her but he won’t so one of her men shoots at him and hits the Frog. This action activates the time machine mechanism which brings forth a weird looking being named Hatch 22.


All hail King Kirby. He’s at his best here. His story probably wouldn’t get over in todays market due to its contrived nature, but that says more about the constraints and expectations of modern comic book fans than it does about Kirby. He uses some brilliant tactics to get the story told.

  • He starts the story off running. The audience has no idea in the beginning what, where, when and in the case of Mr. Little …who. Shoot, it’s been over thrity years and we still don’t know who that unnamed knight was or what happened to him.
  • He allows for a good portion of the story to be told through the art. This is an advantage of someone who both writes and draws, and does them both very well. He has the faith in his art that the audience will get part of the picture…from…the…pictures.
  • He maintains some semblance of logic while never fearing to dabble in the absurd. Tying the frog into the origins of the Genie from Alladin as well as the Loch Ness Monster was a stroke of comic book genius.

Its been said before in many way and many times that Jack Kirby’s art is as timeless as it is distinctive. I would say it was ahead of its time but nobody since has quite captured what Jack was able to do. I liken him to Kareem Abdul Jabbar of the basketball world. Yes he played the same game as everyone else under (roughly) the same rules and using the same implements. But has anyone since really been able to duplicate the artistry of the skyhook or even score as many points. Nope.

All in all this was a joy to read and I look forward to future issues.