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Strange Worlds #1-5 (Dec. 1958 - Aug. 1959).
Strange Worlds was the name of two American, science-fiction anthology comic book series of the 1950s, the first published by Avon Comics, the second by a Marvel Comics predecessor, Atlas Comics. Each featured work by such major comics artists as Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, Joe Kubert, and Wally Wood.
The first comic-book series to be titled Strange Worlds ran 15 issues published in two sequences by Avon Comics. Issues #1-10 ran cover-dated November 1950 to November 1952. No issues #11-17 were released, and the series began publication again with #18, having taken over the numbering of the defunct Avon comic Eerie. This second sequence ran through issue #22 (Oct./Nov. 1954 - Sept./Oct. 1955). One ongoing feature in the otherwise anthological title was "Kenton of the Star Patrol".
While Avon was a minor comics publisher in relation to such contemporaneous industry leaders as Atlas Comics, DC Comics, and EC Comics, the series featured artwork by such top talents as Wally Wood, who would soon go on to become an industry star at EC; Joe Kubert, later a signature artist of DC's Hawkman and Sgt. Rock; portrait painter Everett Raymond Kinstler and Western-art painter Charles Sultan, early in their careers; and seminal African-American comics artist Alvin C. Hollingsworth a.k.a. Alvin Holly.
The second Strange Worlds was a short-lived series from Marvel Comics' 1950s predecessor company, Atlas Comics. Running five issues (Dec. 1958 - Aug. 1959), the title nonetheless showcased artwork by industry legend Jack Kirby, who penciled all but one cover and supplied a story each in issues #1 and #3, and future Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko, who drew the cover of #2 and a story in each issue.
The premiere issue's cover and its seven-page story "I Discovered the Secret of the Flying Saucers" marked Kirby's return to Marvel, which he had left in 1941; three years later, he and writer-editor Stan Lee would create the industry-changing superhero series The Fantastic Four.
Other well-known comics artists who drew for the Atlas anthology included EC Comics greats Joe Orlando and Al Williamson; and future Marvel mainstays Dick Ayers, John Buscema, Don Heck and Joe Sinnott; and Human Torch creator Carl Burgos and Sheena, Queen of the Jungle artist.
Jack Kirby (August 28, 1917 – February 6, 1994), born Jacob Kurtzberg, was an American comic book artist, writer and editor.
Jacob Kurtzberg grew up on Suffolk Street in New York's Lower East Side, attending elementary school at P.S. 20. His father, a garment-factory worker, was a Conservative Jew, and Jacob attended Hebrew school. Jacob's one sibling, a brother five years younger, predeceased him. After a rough-and-tumble childhood with much fighting among the kind of kid gangs he would render more heroically in his future comics, Kirby enrolled at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, at what he said was age 14, leaving after a week. "I wasn't the kind of student that Pratt was looking for. They wanted people who would work on something forever. I didn't want to work on any project forever. I intended to get things done."
Essentially self-taught, Kirby cited among his influences the comic strip artists Alex Raymond and Milton Caniff.
Per his own sometimes-unreliable memory, Kirby joined the Lincoln Newspaper Syndicate in 1936, working there on newspaper comic strips and on single-panel advice cartoons such as Your Health Comes First (under the pseudonym "Jack Curtiss"). He remained until the firm went out of business in 1938, then worked for the movie animation company Fleischer Studios as an "in-betweener" (an artist who fills in the action between major-movement frames,) on Popeye cartoons. "I went from Lincoln to Fleischer," he recalled. "From Fleischer I had to get out in a hurry because I couldn't take that kind of thing," describing it as "a factory in a sense, like my father's factory. They were manufacturing pictures."
Around this time, "I began to see the first comic books appear." The first American comic books were reprints of newspaper comic strips; soon, these tabloid-sizes, 10-inch by 15-inch "comic books" began to include original material in comic-strip form. Kirby began writing and drawing such material for the comic book packager Eisner & Iger, one of a handful of firms creating comics on demand for publishers. Through that company, Kirby did what he remembers as his first comic book work, for Wild Boy Magazine. This was followed by such strips as the science fiction adventure The Diary of Dr. Hayward (under the pseudonym "Curt Davis"), the modern-West crimefighter strip Wilton of the West (as "Fred Sande"), the swashbuckler strip "The Count of Monte Cristo" (again as "Jack Curtiss"), and the humor strips Abdul Jones (as "Ted Grey)" and Socko the Seadog (as "Teddy"), all variously for Jumbo Comics and other Eisner-Iger clients.
Kirby moved on to comic book publisher and newspaper syndicator Fox Feature Syndicate, earning a then quite-reasonable $15 a week salary. He began exploring superhero narrative with the comic strip The Blue Beetle (January–March 1940), starring a character created by Chuck Cuidera in Mystery Men Comics #1 under the pseudonym "Charles Nicholas", which Kirby retained.
During this time, Kirby met and began collaborating with cartoonist and Fox editor Joe Simon, who in addition to his staff work continued to freelance. Speaking at a 1998 Comic-Con International panel in San Diego, Simon recounted the fateful meeting:
“I had a suit and Jack thought that was really nice. He'd never seen a comic book artist with a suit before. The reason I had a suit was that my father was a tailor. Jack's father was a tailor too, but he made pants! Anyway, I was doing freelance work and I had a little office in New York about ten blocks from DC's and Fox [Feature Syndicate]'s offices, and I was working on Blue Bolt for Funnies, Inc. So, of course, I loved Jack's work and the first time I saw it I couldn't believe what I was seeing. He asked if we could do some freelance work together. I was delighted and I took him over to my little office. We worked from the second issue of Blue Bolt...”
And remained a team across the next two decades. Collectors have shown what is purported to be original art for an unpublished, five-page Simon & Kirby collaboration titled "Daring Disc", which may predate the duo's Blue Bolt. Autobiographical material by and interviews with Simon and Kirby do not appear to mention this story.
After leaving Fox and landing at pulp magazine publisher Martin Goodman's Timely Comics (the future Marvel), the new Simon & Kirby team created the seminal patriotic hero Captain America in late 1940. Kirby's dynamic perspectives, groundbreaking use of center spreads, cinematic techniques and exaggerated sense of action made the title an immediate hit and rewrote the rules for comic book art. Captain America Comics is credited with comics' first full-page panel.
Captain America became the first and largest of many hit characters the duo would produce. The Simon & Kirby name soon became synonymous with exciting superhero comics, and the two became industry stars whose readers followed them from title to title. A financial dispute with Goodman led to their decamping to National Publications, the primary precursor of DC Comics, after ten issues of Captain America. Given a lucrative contract at their new home, Simon & Kirby revamped The Sandman in Adventure Comics, and scored their next hits with the "kid gang" teams the Boy Commandos and the Newsboy Legion, and the superhero Manhunter.
Kirby married Rosalind "Roz" Goldstein (September 25, 1922–December 22, 1998) on May 23, 1942. That same year he changed his name legally from Jacob Kurtzberg to Jack Kirby. The couple was living in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, when Kirby was drafted into the U.S. Army in the late autumn of 1943. Serving with the Third Army combat infantry, he landed in Normandy, on Omaha Beach, 10 days after D-Day.
As superhero comics waned in popularity after the end of World War II, Kirby and his partner began producing a variety of other genre stories. They are credited with the creation of the first romance title, Young Romance Comics at Crestwood Publications, now renamed Prize Comics. In addition, Kirby and Simon produced crime, horror, western and humor comics.
The Kirby & Simon partnership ended amicably in 1954 with the comic-book industry beset by self-imposed censorship and negative publicity and the failure of their own Mainline Publications. Kirby continued to create comics, reinventing Green Arrow in DC's Adventure Comics and creating the well-received feature about a group of death-defying adventurers, the Challengers of the Unknown.
Kirby returned to Marvel during its 1950s iteration as Atlas Comics. There he drew a series of imaginative monster, horror and science fiction stories for its many anthology series, such as Strange Tales, Tales to Astonish and Tales of Suspense. His bizarre designs of powerful, unearthly creatures proved a hit with readers. Then, with Marvel editor Stan Lee, Kirby began working on superhero comics again, beginning with The Fantastic Four #1 (Nov. 1961). The landmark series became a hit that revolutionized the industry with its true-to-life naturalism and, eventually, a cosmic purview informed by Kirby's seemingly boundless imagination — one coincidentally well-matched with the consciousness-expanding youth culture of the 1960s.
Over the next several years, Kirby served Marvel as de facto art director, co-creating/designing many of the Marvel characters and teaching new artists how to draw in the "Marvel style". (When, in the early seventies, he left Marvel to work for Carmine Infantino at Marvel rival DC Comics, Kirby quipped he was "basically competing against myself". Highlights besides the Fantastic Four include Thor, the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, the original X-Men, the Silver Surfer, Doctor Doom, Galactus, The Watcher, Magneto, Ego the Living Planet, the Inhumans and their hidden city of Attilan, and the Black Panther — comics' first major Black superhero — and his African nation of Wakanda. Simon & Kirby's Captain America was reincorporated into Marvel continuity.
Kirby continued to expand the medium's boundaries, devising photo-collage covers and interiors, and other experiments. Yet he grew increasingly frustrated by Marvel's refusal to credit him specifically for his story co-plotting and for his character creations and co-creations.
After falling out with Lee, Kirby returned to DC in the early 1970s, where he produced a series of titles under the blanket sobriquet The Fourth World. In addition, he also included the minor Superman title, Jimmy Olsen. This choice was because the failing series was between artists and Kirby did not want to cost anyone a job in favor of himself. The interrelated titles he produced for this were New Gods, Mister Miracle, and The Forever People. Kirby also produced other DC titles such as OMAC, Kamandi, The Demon, and (together with former partner Joe Simon for one last time) a new incarnation of the Sandman. Several characters from this period have since become fixtures in the DC universe, including the demon Etrigan and his human counterpart Jason Blood; Scott Free (Mister Miracle), and the cosmic villain Darkseid.
Kirby then returned to Marvel Comics where he both wrote and drew Captain America and created his last major comics concept with the series The Eternals, which featured a race of inscrutable alien giants, the Celestials, whose behind-the-scenes intervention evolved life on Earth. This concept has since become a central tenet of the Marvel universe, and the rationale for the existence of its super-beings. Kirby's other Marvel creations in this period include Devil Dinosaur, Machine Man, and an adaptation and expansion of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. He also wrote and drew The Black Panther and did numerous covers across the line.
Kirby eventually left Marvel to work in animation, where he did designs for Turbo Teen, Thundarr the Barbarian and other animated television series.
In the early 1980s, Pacific Comics, a new, non-newsstand comic book publisher, made a then-groundbreaking deal with Kirby to publish his series Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers: Kirby would retain copyright over his creation and receive royalties on it. This, following similar action by fellow independent Eclipse Comics and a longtime push by artist Neal Adams for industry reform, helped establish a precedent for other professionals and end the monopoly of the "work for hire" system, wherein comics creators, even freelancers, had owned no rights to characters they created. Kirby also retained ownership of characters used by Topps Comics beginning in 1993, for a set of series in what the company dubbed "The Kirbyverse".
Kirby is popularly acknowledged by comics creators and fans as one of the greatest and most influential artists in the history of comics. His output was legendary, with one count estimating that he produced over 25,000 pages during his lifetime, as well as hundreds of comic strips and sketches. He also produced paintings, and worked on concept illustrations for a number of Hollywood films.
In 1985, Mark Evanier revealed that thousands of pages of Kirby's artwork had been lost by Marvel Comics. These pages became the subject of a dispute between Kirby and that company. In 1987, in exchange for his giving up any claim to copyright, Kirby received from Marvel the 2,100 pages of his original art that remained in its possession. The disposition of Kirby's art for DC, Fawcett, and numerous other companies has remained uncertain.