Spirit World (DC Comics, $39.99)

Jack Kirby (w/a), with assistants

It's strange, but when Spirit World #1 was advertised in comics back in 1970 or '71, I remember being irritated at its existence -- I knew I would buy it if I saw it, but I had no interest in it. 

Which my non-comics friends saw as odd. Clearly I was happy to read about superhumans, so why wouldn't I be interested in the supernatural? At the time I was only 12, and couldn't articulate the answer. But 40-odd years later, it's easier to explain: I know Superman isn't real, but I can set that aside and enjoy his adventures as I would a movie or TV show or mythology. Supernatural stuff, on the other hand ... well, the tellers of those tales are trying to convince me. They want me to believe it. To be gullible. To be a fool.

And that irritated me. But it was by Jack Kirby, so how could I not get it?

Turns out that wasn't a problem, as I never saw an issue (ditto with the companion mag, In the Days of the Mob). Which was the case across the country. According to a foreword by Mark Evanier (oddly placed in the center of the book), neither DC nor distributors knew what to do with the book, and it wasn't really distributed, and was basically canceled before it debuted. Welcome to DC, Jack. Don't bother taking off your coat. 

As to the actual contents of the book, it contains the first issue of Spirit World, then the "foreword," then four stories planned for the second issue which were instead shoe-horned into DC's various suspense books (so they've got horror hosts like Destiny -- by Berni Wrightson, no less -- introducing them). All of the comics are by Kirby, of course, many featuring a continuing character, a stock Kirby "professor" type, who is a parapsychologist. The stories all purport to be true, and Kirby may have in fact lifted them from existing ghost stories rather than making them up -- because if they were written instead of just being anecdotes, they'd have a plot. There are also some forgettable fumettis and incomprehensible collages, which were interests of Kirby's. 

So there you go. It's not something I'd recommend to anyone who wasn't really into comics. And even there, I'd just go with Kirby fans and history buffs. It's an interesting artifact from a time when a door to a different kind of a comic book, and a different kind of distribution, almost opened ... but didn't. 

The Simon and Kirby Library: Crime (Titan Books, $49.95)

Joe Simon, Jack Kirby

Yeah, this has been in my review pile for quite a while. Sorry. But I've got a Kirby theme goin' here!

One reason I haven't reviewed this book already -- which I think I read some six months ago -- is that I don't have a lot to say. Everyone reading this knows who Jack Kirby is, and have seen him enthusiastically do mob/crime stories, even if they were disguised as a Fantastic Four adventure or involved the Newsboy Legion. That's what these stories are like -- minus the superheroes, of course. In fact, it kind of goes the other way: The most interesting observation I had about this collection of stories (from books like Headline Comics and Justice Traps the Guilty, mostly from 1947-48) is how often it blends genres. Some stories could have easily appeared in a Western; others in romance books. There's even a recurring heroic character with a nom du combat, The Gunmaster, who's kind of super-FBI agent, or something.

Anyway, I'm grateful for the Simon & Kirby Library, and plan to get every book. I assume many of you are, as well. But if you're not getting the whole series, and are picking and choosing, this is a good one to pick. It's Simon & Kirby doing what Simon & Kirby do best, and probably better than anyone else ever did it.

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I liked Spirit World both as a look into that time period and as a work of Jack Kirby. I have to admit that I could feel the tension and the terror in that woman who was trying to phone Washington DC before Kennedy was shot. "The Children of the Flaming Wheel" was just bizarre. And those crying for the end of the world on December 12 need only read the "horrifying" story, "Nostradamus!", which foretold the destruction of Paris in 1983.


I also can't figure out why the foreword is in the middle either, Cap. No explanation anywhere!

Yeah, I chuckled at the 1983 prediction too, Jeff. It's sad that every generation seems to have learn the same lessons over and over, including the one where people who predict the end of the world don't have any more of a clue than the rest of us, and perhaps we shouldn't give them all our money.

Might the Spirit World introduction have been placed where it is to accommodate double-page spreads?

 

Harry Mendryk of the Simon and Kirby blog wrote about the background of the story "A Phantom Pulls the Trigger" in The Simon and Kirby Library: Crime here. The link contains spoilers for the story.

No, I don't think so. There are two or three title pages before the book even gets going. Just really weird placing.

Luke Blanchard said:

Might the Spirit World introduction have been placed where it is to accommodate double-page spreads?

I was sure I posted a review of Spirit World a while ago, but I can't find it now so maybe I only intended to. Although I have aquired the original, the selling point for me was the inclusion of the material intended for issue #2 that eventually appeared elsewhere which I do not have. This was an interesting (if failed) experiment, but it didn't break any ground that wasn't broken before when EC tried to make the switch from comics to magagines. The EC series weren't much more successful, but they were tons better.

Regarding the blending of genres in the S&K Crime book, Joe Simon has gon on record as declaring Captain America a horror book! I personally wouldn't go that far, but it does have elements of horror.

I can't find a listing for an In the Days of the Mob volume at Amazon, which I think I'd be able to do if a release date had been set. I have to suppose DC will do it if Spirit World sold well enough.

...IIRC , both In The Days Of The Mob (which I did buy retail at the time) 

Luke Blanchard said:

I can't find a listing for an In the Days of the Mob volume at Amazon, which I think I'd be able to do if a release date had been set. I have to suppose DC will do it if Spirit World sold well enough.

......and Spirit World (which I bought a yearish later , from DC.s mail-order ad) , had curious " schlock/cash-in magazine " graphics on the cover ,p aand no indication that they were full-fledged B&

Captain Comics said:

Yeah, I chuckled at the 1983 prediction too, Jeff. It's sad that every generation seems to have learn the same lessons over and over, including the one where people who predict the end of the world don't have any more of a clue than the rest of us, and perhaps we shouldn't give them all our money.

......full-fledged B&W comics magazines (" Magacpomics " ? Well , maybe . ) , %]or the DC trademark...Or Warner Bros.' Oor Paperback Library's , Or Kirby.s , for that matter .
  " The Speak-Out Series "???!?!?????

Jeff of Earth-J said:

I was sure I posted a review of Spirit World a while ago, but I can't find it now so maybe I only intended to. Although I have aquired the original, the selling point for me was the inclusion of the material intended for issue #2 that eventually appeared elsewhere which I do not have. This was an interesting (if failed) experiment, but it didn't break any ground that wasn't broken before when EC tried to make the switch from comics to magagines. The EC series weren't much more successful, but they were tons better.

Regarding the blending of genres in the S&K Crime book, Joe Simon has gon on record as declaring Captain America a horror book! I personally wouldn't go that far, but it does have elements of horror.

..." Magicomics" , I meant to write above .
  It is because of the constraints of posting upon my smartphone , which I am doing just now , that I am " serializing " this way .

Emerkeith Davyjack said:
......full-fledged B&W comics magazines (" Magacpomics " ? Well , maybe . ) , %]or the DC trademark...Or Warner Bros.' Oor Paperback Library's , Or Kirby.s , for that matter .   " The Speak-Out Series "???!?!?????

Jeff of Earth-J said:

I was sure I posted a review of Spirit World a while ago, but I can't find it now so maybe I only intended to. Although I have aquired the original, the selling point for me was the inclusion of the material intended for issue #2 that eventually appeared elsewhere which I do not have. This was an interesting (if failed) experiment, but it didn't break any ground that wasn't broken before when EC tried to make the switch from comics to magagines. The EC series weren't much more successful, but they were tons better.

Regarding the blending of genres in the S&K Crime book, Joe Simon has gon on record as declaring Captain America a horror book! I personally wouldn't go that far, but it does have elements of horror.

BTW, according to the foreword, Kirby drew the Spirit World cover, but DC had Neal Adams re-draw it. Because Adams had done more commercial work, maybe? Or was thought more sell-able? Evanier didn't say.

Maybe Adams' star was more on the rise at that point?

Captain Comics said:

BTW, according to the foreword, Kirby drew the Spirit World cover, but DC had Neal Adams re-draw it. Because Adams had done more commercial work, maybe? Or was thought more sell-able? Evanier didn't say.

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