Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Kirby and Company's Alarming Tales

Jack Kirby's place in comics history is assured by other accomplishments; but in addition he came up with possibly the Platonic ideal of comic book story titles:

Alarming Tales 1--'The Fourth Dimension Is a Many Splattered Thing'

In this Alarming Tales list, note the scripters switched around (from what you might expect from the artwork) on the first two stories in #3.

There were two single-page text stories in each issue (#1's were Black Cat stories); I've entered here only the ones whose author I could tell; Jack Oleck's captions style (Almost, ___...; In the end, ___....) is so distinctive that it's carried through into prose, which is not at all always the case.

There seem to be a number of inkers on the different Kirby stories, or even on diferent pages. Some of the GCD's art attributions on other stories to people like Bob Brown (or, on "12,000 to 1," Jack Kirby) I can say are wrong, but I can't supply a better guess. Reed Crandall had nothing to do with "The Strange Power of Gary Ford," and here I can give the artist's name: Norman Nodel.

I would agree with the GCD indexers that the covers of #1-4 are mostly the work of editor Joe Simon, even if some Kirby material got used in them. When the title returned after a hiatus, like Simon's other Harvey titles at the time, John Severin did the covers to #5 and 6. And Simon did the intro pages to #1-4 (Bob Powell drew #5's and Bernard Baily #6's).

UPDATE: Robin Snyder sent along the Carl Wessler scripting credits, from Wessler's account books (kept like William Woolfolk's). I still see Bob Powell's writing style, as in The Man in Black and Henry Brewster, on "The Monster from 1977 A.D."; I suppose he massaged Wessler's script. The same thing happened with Wessler, Jack Oleck, and Otto Binder at EC for awhile, as Al Feldstein rewrote their scripts into his style at first.

Alarming Tales
Harvey Comics

Sep/57 The Cadmus Seed w: Jack Kirby  p: Kirby
Logan's Next Life w: Kirby  p: Kirby
The Fourth Dimension Is a Many Splattered Thing w: Kirby  p: Kirby
The Last Enemy w: Kirby  p: Kirby
Donnegan's Daffy Chair w: Kirby  p: Kirby
Nov/    Hole in the Wall w: Kirby  p: Kirby
The Hero w: Jack Oleck  a: ?
The Big Hunt w: Kirby  p: Kirby
The Fireballs w: Kirby  p: Kirby
The Traitor [text] w: Oleck
I Want to Be a Man w: Kirby  p: Kirby
Jan/58 This World Is Ours! w: Oleck  p: Kirby
They Walked on Water w: Kirby  a: Doug Wildey
Get Lost! w: ?  a: Ernie Schroeder
The Strange One w: Oleck  a: Wildey
Larsen's Lens [text] w: Oleck
The Man Who Never Lived w: Oleck  a: Wildey
Mar/    Forbidden Journey w: Kirby  p: Kirby
Secret Weapon w: Oleck  a: Wildey
The Monster from 1977 A.D. w: Carl Wessler & Bob Powell
 a: Powell
The End of a Sinister Man w: Wessler  a: Wildey
The Feast of the Rag Dolls w: ?  a: Wildey [pg 1 by another artist]
Sept/    Half Man-Half What w: Dick Wood  a: Matt Baker
Defeat w: ?  a: Paul Reinman
My Robot Plants w: ?  a: Fred Kida
The Fountain of Age w: Wood  a: Wildey
12,000 to 1 w: ?  a: ?
Nov/    Ambassador from Venus w: Wood  a: Bernard Baily
Moon Descent w: ?  a: Reinman
Who Knows? w: ?  a: ?
The Emotion Maker w: Wood  a: Kida
King of the Ants w: Wood  a: Al Williamson & Angelo Torres
The Strange Power of Gary Ford w: Wessler  a: Norman Nodel


  1. I have been following your lead and started keeping files on Stan Lee's signed work, his use of colloquialisms, exclamations, etc. I recently came across a crop of unsigned stories I think are written by Lee. They are up on my blog post last saturday - I'd love for you to have a look...

  2. I'll try to take a longer look when I get more uninterrupted Internet time, Ger. I can tell you that I threw out the modernized spelling of "thru" as an indicator because so many writers edited by Stan ended up using it too.

    I just noticed that the story "The Silent Screen" with Steve Ditko is unsigned by Lee but acknowledged in a few issues later as his in a signed Lee-Ditko story's blurb; so there's at least one incontrovertible strike against the old "if Stan didn't sign it, he didn't write it."

  3. Martin, Finding your posts informative and enjoyable I consulted your profile and see you have a background in literature and acting. By chance I had only recently been posting elsewhere concerning Kirby's dialogue and text devices. Some of these you have mentioned in your blog posts. Kirby's use of things like punctuation, bold face, and exclamation points are often described was "weird." My feeling is people are missing Kirby's intent. Here is Jim Shooter with a typical criticism concerning Kirby's use of exclamation points.

    Shooter on Kirby.

    "He used exclamation points in bunches, sometimes a dozen at a time at the end of a sentence!!!!!!!!!!! He misspelled some things -- like everybody else -- and occasionally misused a word. He used tons of bold words."

    See the comment about exclamation points? Well the idea Kirby ever ended a sentence with a dozen exclamation points is a gross exaggeration. You can go look at Kirby's pencils, and he never ended a sentence with anything close to a dozen exclamation points. And yet I've seen fans repeat that just as often as they repeat the claim Kirby used "weird" bold face choices. Now the idea there are a set of rules for which words in his script an author wants his actors (because that's what the characters are) to stress is flatly ridiculous. There are no rules. There is no discussion. No one knows better than the author which words in a sentence the author wants stressed by what Kirby called his "story cast" (LOC Kamandi #26).
    The exclamation point usage is simply another tool at Kirby's disposal. Kirby's use of exclamation points is tied directly to the long time use of the exclamation point in comics as being, in essence, a stand-in for the period. The original idea was a period might get lost in the printing process. Kirby and other writers did not use exclamation points because they were borderline illiterate or over-excited. One is a substitute for a period. Two can be read as an exclamation mark in the usual sense, and each additional indicates a heightened degree of excitement.
    I do think Kirby was more conscious of his text and the way he wanted his actors to read it than most cartoonists. Kirby admired actors, and as a kid had dreams of being an actor. He went beyond what most writers did because it isn't just words alone which have meaning, it is also the way the words are spoken. Kirby larded his text with bold face stressed words, "scare quotes" to indicate irony, skepticism, or satiric intent. Kirby made frequent use of ellipsis in order to indicate a pause in his dialogue. It's all pretty sophisticated if you ask me. He's not only writing the dialogue, he's using every tool at his disposal to indicate how it is supposed to be read.

    patrick ford

  4. Patrick, it does look as if Jim Shooter should have known better. Jack Kirby wrote comic book dialogue! Horrors! It's obvious from his Forties and Fifties scripts especially that Kirby believed in using the written word to supplement the art, like writer-artists from Harvey Kurtzman to Gil Kane.

    An aside--or a shameless plug: in my novel I brought on Kirby for a pivotal scene, and gave him Kirby-character dialogue--but I had to settle for the scare quotes; in prose the emphasized words did get out of hand.

  5. Martin, We'll have to wait for the books on tape version for the proper spoken word stress choices.