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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


In this first post, I'm just reprinting my response to an online post regarding the over-emphasis on superheroes in histories of the comics-medium.

Whenever I compare Jack Kirby's almost-solo work on DC's CHALLENGERS with Lee and Kirby's FANTASTIC FOUR, I notice a huge shift in the type of science fiction motifs invoked. 
CHALLENGERS is very much "gosh-wow science fiction," with almost no attention to human characterization.
FANTASTIC FOUR has some of that, but Lee and Kirby concentrate on the impact of weird science upon humans and their civilization. Often this was the type of SF that Kirby, Ditko and others worked on for the "horror" anthology mags, some of which Lee wrote and some of which he plotted and left to his brother for scripting. Lee may have consciously decided to import some of the material he and his colleagues regularly used in the anthology books into the superhero-serial books, or, alternately, the whole shift of focus *might* have been Kirby's idea-- though even if he had the idea first, Lee as editor would have had final say about whether or not to pursue the proposed direction. (I don't want to over-formalize it all: since neither man could have anticipated the long-term result, their attitude might have been on the level of "let's throw it against the wall and see if it sticks for a while.")
There's a valid reason for fans to have made so much of the superhero, though: it was comic books' one claim to creating a specific genre that was had sort-of appeared in earlier media-- the pulp-magazine heroes, for instance-- but arguably had petered out for one reason or another. 
In contrast, with a lot of the other genres you mention, prose short stories and novels cast a much longer shadow, particularly with respect to horror, SF, and crime. That said, one type of fan I've always disliked (getting back to the thread-theme) is the one who *automatically* validates all the famous prose stuff and sneers at all the comics-work as "derivative." The first version on a given theme may not always be the best, and comics-stories have a different aesthetic, since they show pictures of the stuff prose stories describe purely in words.

I gave an example here of a comics-story, Al Feldstein's "Lost in the Microcosmos," that pretty clearly derives from an earlier prose story, and while I haven't read the prose tale, I would hazard that the visual appeal of the Jack Kamen art alone makes it more than simply "derivative."

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