You hear that? Kirby krackle.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 8:55PM

“Time to slowly, painfully bring yourself back into consciousness.”

Forgive me if I seem distracted. I’m watching Videodrome as I type this, and I’m not sure combining David Cronenberg with Jack Kirby is the greatest idea.

Saturday was Rob-Con, the local comic convention put together by Rob, owner of Mountain Empire Comics, which I’ve been going to for years now. I always find good stuff there, even if it is a tiny little one-day event. I didn’t stay too long this year, because in under half an hour I managed to find the motherload: A stack of issues of Heavy Metal and Epic Magazine, which was Marvel’s short-lived answer to Heavy Metal.

But the real gem, the find that had me buzzing with excitement was something I never thought I’d come across: Jack Kirby’s oversized comic adaptation of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Think about it! One of the greatest science fiction films of all time, adapted by one of the greatest comic artists of all time! Can you fathom that?

As I steadily dive deeper and deeper into comics, I am growing more and more into Jack Kirby and everything he does. I start seeing his influences everywhere. Of course, the great Warren Ellis does a better job than I ever could of exploring and explaining this, as he did in his Bleeding Cool column, Do Anything: Thoughts on Comics and Things. No one created like Kirby did. No one drew like him, and to this day no one draws like him, though there are artists who get damn close, like Paul Pope, John Romita Jr, and others. But still. He was the king for a reason.

His adaptation of 2001, though, is…interesting. Especially when you consider that Kirby’s writing is…not quite the best. Overblown, like Stan Lee, but not as um, skillful. But still, it’s not exactly suited for adapting something as abstract as 2001. Stanley Kubrick’s cold, intellectual style does not match Kirby’s vicious, bombastic energy. Why Kirby would watch 2001 and think, “this would make a GREAT comic done in the Marvel style!” is beyond me.

But still, comparing and contrasting. One of the biggest differences in the two is in how the story is conveyed. There is more than twice as much dialogue in the comic as there is in the film, as well as a ton of narration, explaining everything that happens. Kind of goes against Kubrick’s purpose with the film in leaving it mostly up the viewer’s interpretation, doesn’t it? And of course, the visuals. Kubrick’s vision was austere, clean, the Discovery I set white and clean, sterile. Kirby’s vision is much more colorful, bright, crackling, kinetic. The monolith, smooth, solid, alien, in the film, is craggy, cracked, and old when rendered by Kirby. And yet, the most visual part of the film, Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite, is visually the weakest part in the comic. In other words, while it tells roughly the same story, the comic adaptation is almost the complete opposite of the film. That’s what makes it so damn fascinating. It’s also just damn weird that this was made EIGHT YEARS after the film was released…

…And there’s the part where the guy shoves the video cassette into James Woods stomach-opening. I knew trying to type this while watching Videodrome wasn’t the best idea.


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