Recent Dorkiness

Kirby Deep Cuts: 2001

In planning a Jack Kirby art gallery for tonight, in honor of the great man’s birthday, I decided to avoid the usual topics (Thor, Fantastic Four, the Fourth World) and instead focus in on what may be my favorite obscure Kirby work: his comics adaptation and subsequent on-going series based on Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Kirby 2001 Treasury

This is a comic that just shouldn’t have happened. For one thing, note the date on that cover: 1976, a full eight years after Kubrick’s film had hit theaters. Further, 2001 is a film defined by its subtlety and nuance, two words that were not in the King’s artistic vocabulary. So the adaptation goes pretty much as you’d expect: Kirby’s obviously engaged by the ideas, but his sense of melodrama demands that he explain what the film leaves up to the viewer’s imagination. Crucially, however, Kirby and Kubrick had one thing in common: a gift for stunning, mind-altering visuals. And that, as it turns out, is what makes this adaptation fly. I mean, just LOOK at this stuff:

Kirby 2001 Monolith

 

click to embiggen

click to embiggen

click to REALLY embiggen

click to REALLY embiggen

Holy crap, right? Those are nothing at all like the trippy lightshow Kubrick gives us during Bowman’s enlightenment, but that’s okay. Just as Kubrick made Clarke’s story his own, Kirby’s done the same thing, interpreting the events of the film through the KIRBY FILTER, and in the process delivering something bombastic and awesome in its own right.

The on-going series that followed was even more KIRBY than the adaptation, applying Clarke’s core idea of the mysterious alien monoliths that offer nudges up the evolutionary ladder to whatever bizarre sci-fi / fantasy concepts the King could dream up. Cut loose from the moorings of everyday life or even basic common sense, 2001 may have been Kirby at his most wildly creative, offering readers a different story from a different era of human history every issue, and exploring whatever weird idea struck his fancy, the only common theme being evolution. Advancement, or death!

Here’s a sampling of images from the first six issues, just to show you the range of beautiful Kirby insanity on display. All are embiggenable, for your greater enlightenment…

Kirby 2001 1

Kirby 2001 2

Kirby 2001 3

Kirby 2001 4

Kirby 2001 5

Kirby 2001 6

 

Whew! It’s a wild ride, but like so many of Kirby’s 1970s projects, one that couldn’t continue for long. Sales weren’t good, and after seven issues of stories featuring ancient barbarians and their far-future descendants, Kirby shifted gears entirely and introduced the robot X-51…

 

Kirby - X-51

 

…who would star in the final three issues of 2001, and go on to his own series under the name Machine Man.

 

Kirby Machine Man

 

But that’s a story for another day…

Unlike most of the rest of Kirby’s body of work, 2001 stands little chance of being collected, due to licensing issues and fees (mostly fees). I’ve picked issues up out of dollar bins here and there over the years, but it’s one of the few back issue quests left to me at my advanced stage of funnybook collecting. Still, if you’d like to read more about Kirby’s 2001 (and see a lot more art from it), Seqart has a series of articles here that are far more in-depth and intellectual than what I’ve attempted. So go forth! Enjoy! EVOLVE!!!

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About Mark Brett (419 Articles)
Shaved Yeti. Alien. Writer of stuff. Read my fiction at http://reportsfromthefieldblog.wordpress.com/. Read my thoughts on comic books and other dork culture ephemera at https://dorkforty.wordpress.com/.

1 Comment on Kirby Deep Cuts: 2001

  1. JOhn the Baptist // September 10, 2013 at 12:05 am // Reply

    Whoa! Blast from the past! I had that issue of Machine Man

    Like

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