Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Review: The Simon and Kirby Library- Superheroes


THE SIMON AND KIRBY LIBRARY: SUPERHEROES(Titan, 2010; Hardcover)
Collects Adventures of the Fly No. 1, Fighting American (Vol. 1) Nos. 1-7, (Vol. 2) No. 1, Stuntman Nos. 2, 3, and material from Adventures of the Fly No. 2, Black Cat Comics Nos. 7, 8, Captain 3-D No. 1, The Double Life of Private Strong Nos. 1, 2, Fighting American Hardcover (unreleased story from the 1989 Marvel hardcover) and Prize Comics Nos. 7-9 (cover dates December, 1940- October, 1966).
Writers and Artists: Joe Simon and Jack Kirby
This book offers tremendous value, clocking in at 480 pages for $49.99 MSRP, nearly double the page count for comparably priced books in this category. You really can't go wrong with it, even though the stories are formulaic and often tedious. 
It's interesting watching Kirby evolve from his more cartoonish Golden Age style to his more powerful Silver Age style. He really hits his stride on Fighting American, which is odd considering that the writing here reaches a low point. It is downright corny at times. I read the hardcover of the series that Marvel released in 1989 and loved it. That was 5 or 6 years ago, and since then I have read hundreds of Golden Age comics. I think that the novelty of something being old and obscure made me like it more. Now that I am a seasoned Golden Age reader, I can better discern quality over novelty. Fighting American is pure cheese. The artwork makes it tasty cheese, but it is still cheese nonetheless. 
The Black Owl and Stuntman were neat ideas but were a chore to plow through. I wanted out of Stuntman in the worst way, but held on and persevered. Simon and Kirby caught lightning in a bottle with their creation of Captain America, and they tried to repeat the formula first with Fighting American, and later the Shield. The Shield does feature a more polished artwork style for Kirby, definitely one of his first steps toward his Marvel style. 
The Fly is my favorite character in the book. I read it late at night when I was dead tired, but the gist of it has something to do with fly people from another dimension who give a ring to a little boy and when he rubs it becomes The Fly, who is a full grown man. No, it doesn't make any sense, but it seems cool. Also, he has a stinger gun which fires darts that put people to sleep. Just like a real fly...oh wait. I love the faulty logic and science in old comic books. 
One of my gripes about modern comics is decompression. It takes so long for anything to happen. Kirby's style of storytelling is the opposite. He tries so hard to cram so much story into 6 or 8 or 10 pages that he is tripping over himself trying to fit it all in. Dropped plotlines, strip premise, and supporting cast are cast aside and later reintroduced with no mention of how or why. The worst case of this is in Fighting American, where his sidekick, Speedboy, is referred to by his real name twice in the entire 200+ pages, and one of those was in the unreleased story!
The OCD zone- The restoration in this book is interesting. While it employs solids like the Marvel Masterworks or DC Archives, it also fabricates dots on some of the sections of each panel for contrast. While I personally enjoy dots from a nostalgia perspective, these dots are way too perfect, and are at times even distracting. It was nice to finally get a properly colored version of Fighting American, after the abysmally muddy job that Marvel did on their 1989 Masterwork-format hardcover.
The paper is a thick, uncoated stock, and the book boasts sewn binding...8 stitches instead of the 7 used on most hardcovers. I found this to be extremely exciting for some insane reason.

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