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TwoMorrowsPublishingTheKirbyFilesKirbyCollectorThirteenthIssue

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JackKirbyCollectorcelebratesthelifeandcareerof
the"King"ofcomicsthroughinterviewswithKirby
andhiscontemporaries,featurearticles,andrare&
unseenKirbyartwork.Nowintabloidformat,the
magazineshowcasesKirby'sartatevenlargersize.

TheKirbyFiles
AnOverviewofJack'sOccultandSupernaturalThemes
byandChrisKnowles
FromJackKirbyCollector#13
Withthemillenniumfastapproaching,therehasbeenamassrevivalofinterestinall
thingsoccultorparanormal.TheastoundingsuccessoftheTVprogramTheXFiles
(strangelyforeshadowedbyKirbyasSHIELD's"File116"inCaptainAmerica)has
spawnedmultipleimitators.UFOs,ghosts,ESPandotherarcanetopicshavebecome
mainstreammediafodder.Thereisagrowinginterestinallthevariousfieldsof
metaphysics,fromshoppingmallneoPaganismtoconspiracytheorynewsgroupsfocused
onoccultsecretsocietiesliketheIlluminati.Socialscientistshavemanyhypothesesfor
thisphenomenon.Somepositthatthedehumanizingeffectofthetechnological
revolutionhasinspiredanirrationalbacklash.Othersstatethehysteriaiscausedbythe
uncertaintyofthenewmillenniumanditsattendantapocalypticjitters,eventhoughthe
year2000hasnoBiblicalsignificance.FollowersoftheSwisspsychologicalpioneerCarl
Jungtheorizethathumaninterestintheparanormalisanexpressionofsubconscious
symbolsandyearnings.Stillotherssimplyseeitasarecurringfad.
AcasualreviewofJackKirby'senormousoutputwillquicklyshowthatoccult,
mythologicalandparanormalthemeswerefeaturedinhisworktoo.Perhapssomeday
Jungianscholarswillanalyzehisworkandpresenttheoriesonthedeeppsychological
motivationsandrepressedsubconscioussymbolsofJack'sspaceagemythography.Ihave
nosuchexpertise.Ifpressed,IwouldsimplyguessthatJackrecognizedthatmysticism
andtheocculthavealwaysbeenthebasisforentertainingstoriessincethetimeof
Gilgamesh,andhesawhimselfinthathoarytradition.However,glimmersofadeeper
interestsometimespeekthrough.
InRayWyman'sbiographyofJackKirby,thereisarevealingepisodethatinmanyways
foreshadowedJack'slifeandcareer.WymanrecountshowyoungJacobKurtzberglay
dyingofpneumonia,averyseriousdiseaseinatimewhereantibioticswerenotreadily
available,andqualityhealthcarewasnotavailabletopoorimmigrantfamilieslikehis
own.Agroupofrabbiswerecalledintoperformanexorcism,inalastditchefforttosave
Jacob'slife.TheychantedinHebrew,demandingthatthedemonsleaveJack'sbody.In
thetypeofritualthatisrecountedintheGospels,therabbisdemandedthenamesofthe
demons,whichinclassicalJewishexorcismsallowedtherabbistogaincontroloverthe
demons.Thisritualisthekindofreligiouscustomthatmodernmanscoffsat,ofcourse.
Theonlyproblemis,itworked.
WymanstatesquiteclearlyinTheArtofJackKirbythat"Kirby'slifewasfilledwiththe
mysticismoffaithandsuperstition."Althoughthatassertionmayseemobvioustoserious
Kirbyfans,itwouldseemthatafurtherinvestigationofKirby'sworkcouldrevealjusthow
seriousJack'smysticinterestswere,andhowinsomecaseshismysticismwasdeeper
thanwhathemayhaverealizedhimself.
(Note:Intoday'sidiomaticEnglish,certaintermshavetakenonmeaningsthatvary
greatlyfromtheiroriginaldefinition.Apocalypse,forexample,doesnotmeanEndofthe
WorldorDoomsday,itsimplymeans"toberevealed."Mysticismhasbecomevirtually
synonymouswithmagicordivinationbutitmeans"thedoctrineofanimmediatespiritual
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intuitionoftruthssaidtotranscendordinaryunderstanding."Occultisanotherword
whosemeaninghasbeendistorted.Manypeopletoday,particularlytheuneducated,think
"occult"meansdevilworshiporsorcery.ButifonetakesthetimetolookupOccult,the
termactuallymeans"beyondtherangeofordinaryknowledge.")
Jackwasauniversebuilder.Hewasclearlyobsessedwiththepantheonofancient
mythologies,inparticulartheGreekandtheNorse.Infact,Thorfirstappearedina
GoldenAgeepisodeoftheSandman.Jackisalsowellknownfordesigningpantheonsof
hisown,drawingheavilyonthoseclassicfables.HisFourthWorldtitlestellusmuch:New
Gods,ForeverPeople,MisterMiracle.Thesestoriesdealtwithadualisticpantheonofgods,
goodandevillockedineternalcombat.Jackseemstohavebeendeeplyinfluencedhere
byManichaeism,anancientNearEasternreligionthathadapowerfulinfluenceon
religiousthoughtintheWest.ThePersianfaithofZoroastrianismalsoprofesseda
dualisticbattlebetweenGoodandEvil.Inthisfaith,thegoodorlightisrepresentedby
AhuraMazdaandSpentaMainyuandaspiritofevil,AngraMainyu.However,Kirby
expandeduponthesetheories,andaddedanallencompassing"Source"thatwasinvisible
andunapproachable,muchliketheGnosticvisionofGod,whoisultimately
incomprehensible,andlordsoverthelowerArchons,thepowersofthecreationthat
Humankindismorefamiliarwith.GeorgeLucaslaterhijackedthesethemeswholesalein
StarWars,convenientlyrenaming"theSource,""theForce."
The1970swasthefloweringofJack'sinterestintheparanormal.Freedfromthe
restraintsofmoreconservativecollaborators,Jackdelvedintothesethemeswithgusto.
AlthoughbookslikeBlackMagicandStrangeWorldOfYourDreamsdealtwithstrange
phenomena,andbookslikeChallengersofTheUnknownweresprinkledwithsecret
societiesandsorcery,hisblack&whitemagazineSpiritWorldsetthestageforhisworkin
thecomingdecade.InSpiritWorld,Jackdelvedintounexplainedphenomenalike
astrology,spontaneouscombustionandESP.WithresearchforSpiritWorldapparentlystill
freshinhismind,Jackincorporatedacultstory("TheSect")andaseanceintohis
DeadmancrossoverinForeverPeople,andawitchcraftcovenstoryintoMisterMiracle.
SoonafterthecancellationoftheFourthWorld,Jackdoveheadfirstintothesupernatural
withTheDemonbutasidefromasmatteringofstoriesdealingwithwitchcraft,Jackused
TheDemontoretellclassichorrorstoriesfromhisyouth,includingFrankenstein,The
WolfmanandThePhantomoftheOpera.InspiredbyTheExorcist,Jackincorporated
demonicpossessionwithascifitwistintheKamandistory"TheExorcism."Jackwould
revisitthisthemeacoupleofyearslaterwiththeArgonstorylineinCaptainAmerica.Jack
alsodevelopedSatan'sSixaroundthistime,althoughitdidn'tseethelightofdayuntil
theToppsKirbyversecampaigninthe1990s.
AnothercommonthemeinthenetherworldofOccultstudiesisthe"secretsociety."Jack
hadutilizedthesecretsocietybefore,mostnotablyA.I.M.andHydraintheCaptain
America/SHIELDstorylinesinthe'60s,butheexploredtheideamoreexuberantlyinthe
'70s.Moderntheoriesaboutnefarioussecretsocietiesspringfromthemuchembroidered
legendoftheBavarianIlluminati,agroupofscholarsandaristocratsfoundedinthe18th
centurybyAdamWeishaupt.TheIlluminatisoughttooverthrowthemonarchiesof
Europeandreplacethemwithagovernmentof"enlightenedones,"mainlyscholarsand
philosophers,hencethenameIlluminati.Althoughthisgroupwasforciblydissolvedtwo
hundredyearsago,folklegendhasinflatedtheirstatusimmeasurably.

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Jackalsousedthe"eye"symbolinconjunctionwiththeReincarnators,
asshownherefromTheDemon#3.
Tocontemporaryfringeparanoidsnow,theIlluminatiaretheunseenarchitectsofthe
coming"OneWorldGovernment,"andtheyusethemythicalallseeing"EyeofOsiris"as
theiremblem.Jackapparentlyencounteredthesetheoriesandincorporatedtheminto
OMAC,withthe"GlobalPeaceAgency"andtheallseeing"BrotherEye."Anotherpopulist
conspiracytheoryconcernsthethreatofarevanchistBritishmonarchywhoareusingthe
mediaasamindcontroltooltoreclaimAmerica.Jackappropriatedthesethemesand
blendedthemwithGeorgeOrwell's1984forhisbrilliant"Madbomb"storyinCaptain
America.ThethemeofacorruptandconspiratorialaristocracywasalsoexploredinBlack
PantherwiththeCollectors.JackalsoexploredamorebenignversionoftheSecret
SocietywithhisabortedManhunterrevivalandtheSecretCitySaga.Thethemeofa
selectgroupofindividualsworkinginsecrettochangetheworld,whetherforgoodorill,
wasobviouslyaKirbyobsession.
OccultistandConspiracytheoristsclaimthepursuitofholyormagicaltalismansisof
supremeimportancetothesecultishsecretsocieties.Hitler'sobsessionwithfindingthe
SpearofDestiny,theHolyGrailandtheArkoftheCovenantwasexploitedtogreateffect
byGeorgeLucasinthebrilliantIndianaJonesfilms.PerhapsLucaswasagaininspiredby
hisstudyofJungianscholarJosephCampbellwhenhemadethesefilms,butbasedonhis
successfulappropriationofKirby'sthemesfortheStarWarsmovies,perhapshereturned
tothewellforinspirationandtookcuesfromKirby'sBlackPantherseries,sincethatbook
dealtalmostexclusivelywiththeadventuroussearchformagicaltalismans.
Accordingtomodernfolklore,whenthesesecretcultsaren'tpursuingtheseelusive
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artifacts,theyengageinscientificblackmagic.Kirbydepictedthismodernalchemyin
FantasticFourwiththe"Him"storylineandinThorwiththe"HighEvolutionary."As
mentionedbefore,thenefariousRoyalistsocietydevelopedtheMadbombtoadvancetheir
ambitions,andtheunrepentantNaziArnimZolaappearedinallhisghastlysplendorin
CaptainAmerica.ThesecretsocietyknownasNewGenesisalsoseemedtobemore
scientificthanmagicalwiththeirBoomTubesandMotherBoxes.AndifArthurC.Clarkeis
tobecreditedwithinventingacommunicationssatellitesimplyforwritingaboutone,
KirbyshouldbecreditedwithinventingVirtualReality,sincehefirstdepictedaformof
V.R.inJimmyOlsen,whichhenamedthe"SolarPhone."
TheEternalswasthebookwhereKirbysaidhewastryingtoget"mystical."Ina1984
interviewinComicsFeature,Kirbyrecountedthathewastryingtoexplore"wherewe
camefrom."TheEternalswasasynthesisofpastthemes,mostnotablytheThor/New
Godspantheontheme,butitalsoincorporatedthencurrentpseudoscience,and
parapsychology.TheBermudaTrianglethemewasvisited,aswellasapocalypticand
geneticengineeringthemes,butKirby'smainfocuswastoexplorethethemesofancient
alienvisitationlaidoutinErickVonDaniken'sChariotoftheGods.Inthisbook,Von
DanikenproposedthattheancientgodsmentionedinpreColumbianSouthAmerican
mythologywereactuallyextraterrestrialvisitors.Kirbywenttotownwiththisideaonthe
firstthreeissuesofTheEternals,depictingvastandcomplexanaloguesofMayanand
Aztecartandpresentingtheoriesofaliengeneticengineering.Forreasonsunknown,
thesethemesweredroppedandTheEternalsquicklybecamestandardboilerplate,witha
JudgmentDaybackdropthatwasneverfullydeveloped.
ThefactthattheJudgementDayanglewasneverdevelopedwastelling.Kirbyusually
shiedawayfromJudeoChristianthemesinhiswork.HisBibleillustrationswere
seeminglydoneforJack'sownamusementandwereonlyreleasedposthumously.
And
thoseimagestendedtobeEternalstypedepictionsofBiblicalstories.OneofJack'smost
famousdepictionsofGodshowedhimturninghisbackonapleadingyetdefiant
humanity,almostlikeascenefromtheBookofJob.TheSilverSurferwasclearly
developedbyStanLeetobeamessiahfigure,butJack'sownviewofthecharacterwas
farmoreambiguous.Jackseemedtotakeadimviewofreligiousextremism,correctly
seeingitasanotherformoffascismpersonifiedbyGloriousGodfreyandDariusDrumm.
TheformerwasaservantofDarkseid(Jack'sSatanfigure)andthelatterbecamethe
literalAngelofDeath.
Jackwasunderstandablyhesitanttodiscusshisownbeliefs.Hewasinterestedinsharing
ideas,butneverproselytized.Whereasallthevariousphantasmagoriaoftheoccultand
supernaturalmadeforexcitingcomics,Jack'sspiritualinclinationwasprobablyvery
intimateandpersonal.HemayhavecomeacrosshispersonaldemarcationwithThe
Eternals,andbackedoffabit.Jack'smaingoalwastoentertainandtosellcomics,which
isprobablywhytheBibleimagerywasnotreleasedduringhislifetime,butaspopular
culturecontinuestoexplore"extremepossibilities,"wecancelebratetheworkofaman
whowasoutontheedgefirst.

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Allcharactersaretrademarksoftheirrespectivecompanies.AllartworkJackKirbyunlessotherwisenoted.Alleditorialmatteris
therespectiveauthors.
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