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Author Topic: Inspirations for Kirby's Fourth World  (Read 9221 times)
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JulianPerez
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« on: April 06, 2007, 07:50:24 AM »

Kirby makes more sense when viewed in the context of the books that surrounded him that helped form his ideas.

Kirby read widely, and was greatly influenced by science fiction trends and concepts. The idea of mythological gods being given a basis in science fiction instead of pure mythology isn't new: it goes back to A.E. van Vogt's BOOK OF PTATH in 1940, featuring priestesses that gain power from soul stones in the year 200,000 A.D.

BOOK OF PTATH may have been first, but Roger Zelazny's LORD OF LIGHT, which some (ME) have called one of the greatest science fiction novels ever written, is seldom seen as being one of the points of inspiration for Kirby's Fourth World...although  LORD OF LIGHT did have a short-lived series of imitators after its publication in 1967, the best example of which is ex-WEIRD TALES writer Jack Williamson's BROTHER TO GODS, BROTHER TO DEMONS.

Zelazny's LORD OF LIGHT has surprising similarities to Kirby. Lightray in particular bears similarities to the principal protagonist, "retired god" Sam, Lord of Light (short for Mahatmasamatman) has control over light and "electrodirection," and like Lightray, he fights with his cunning and with tricks, as well as with his winning personality. There are differences, of course: Sam was cynical, manipulative, and old, and while Lightray was earnest, Sam was a slick conflidence man.

Sam's right hand man, Yama, god of Death, was a grim warrior that dressed all in red, who was physically supreme and never lost a battle. Yama, like Orion, had divided loyalties, and at first appears as a villain. The similarities to Orion suggest themselves. Yama, however, was slightly immature and romantically inclined, and shared none of Orion's unique outlook on war and killing.

Many of the concepts of LORD OF LIGHT were expressed not in the Fourth World, but in other Kirby series: the "electric reincarnation" through cloning seen in LoL was later used in CAPTAIN VICTORY, and the idea that "demons" have scientific, objective reality as shapechanging aliens certainly would go on to inspire the Deviants in ETERNALS.

The power battles in LORD OF LIGHT were shockingly Kirbyesque: Agni's flame-wand crackled, Sam took to the air in flight when possessed by the Demon King. In one particularly poignant scene, Yama, was attacked by Mara, with his illusion-casting abilities.

As a last ditch maneuver, Mara transforms into a duplicate of the god of death's estranged lover, Kali.

Undaunted, Yama pressed his attack and his response was startlingly Kirbyesque: "Do you not know? The Buddha teaches that all men must kill that which they love!"

Where Kirby is UNIQUE from the "space gods" books that came before was in the fact that all of them are centered around the "gods" and their relationship to humanity (usually a master/slave dynamic), a relationship Kirby wasn't particularly interested in. Gods gained power from mortal "prayer" through machinery in BOOK OF PTATH; Sam defied the gods to let humans develop technologically in LORD OF LIGHT, and BROTHER TO DEMONS was all about Homo sapiens divinus's attempts to exterminate the race that genetically created them.
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Great Rao
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« Reply #1 on: April 06, 2007, 09:07:43 PM »

Kirby makes more sense when viewed in the context of the books that surrounded him that helped form his ideas.

Kirby read widely, and was greatly influenced by science fiction trends and concepts.

That's a pretty sweeping statement.  Have you got any evidence that these books "helped form his ideas" or that he even knew they existed?

His 2001 comic book series is nothing like the movie.  Both have the seemingly similar concept of aliens from space visiting prehistoric Earth.  But that's where the similarity ends.  It's clear to me that Kirby had his own very strong ideas about human nature, war, good, and evil; and everything he produced was more about his own personal ideas than anything else.

In this sense, he reminds me of Robert Heinlein; who was really just about strong no-nonsense men and women.  Much like Kirby's heroes.

Kirby remolds anything and everything that he touches.  There's some common saying about there being "no new stories - just old ones retold."  Kirby is one of the few, if not the only one, to prove that statement false.

I just received my Eternals omnibus yesterday.  Inside the back cover flap is a brief bio of Kirby.  Most every book does something like this, and usually titles it with the author's name, or the word "author" or "artist," etc.  But written in big bold letters across the top of this bio blurb, it reads: "THE CREATOR"

I think that sums it up pretty well.
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"The bottom line involves choices.  Neither gods nor humans have ever stood calmly in a minefield forever.  Good or evil, they are bound to choose.  And when they do, you will see the truth of all that motivates us.  As a thinking being, you have the obligation to choose.  If the fate of all mankind were in your hands, what would your decision be?  As a writer and an artist, I've drawn my answer."   - Jack Kirby
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« Reply #2 on: April 06, 2007, 09:41:49 PM »

I would like to see the sources that prove that he read any of those books.
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« Reply #3 on: April 06, 2007, 10:54:56 PM »

Im sure Jack was too busy creating to do much reading -- and if he did it might have been poring through magazines or photo-books especially ones that featured Yul Brynner from "The Ten Commandments"! Wink
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« Reply #4 on: April 06, 2007, 11:14:35 PM »

I would like to see the sources that prove that he read any of those books.

Then again, Julian might actually be right for once:

http://www.lordoflight.com/art.html

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« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2007, 04:00:16 AM »

Both Kirby and Zelazny were on the Joseph Campbell wavelength.

Kirby was obviously big into mythology before Lord Of Light came out, as Yahweh Galactus and fallen angel Silver Surfer can attest.



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JulianPerez
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« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2007, 07:23:22 AM »

Quote from: GreatRao
That's a pretty sweeping statement.  Have you got any evidence that these books "helped form his ideas" or that he even knew they existed?

That Jack Kirby might have been familiar with some of the most famous and influential science fiction novels ever written? I don't have Jack Kirby's library checkout slips handy, but I'm banking on YES.  Grin

In MASTER OF ADVENTURE, Lupoff insists that one clear-cut inspiration for Burroughs was GULLIVER JONES ON MARS. If it wasn't for the fact that the similarities between it and PRINCESS OF MARS are so very shocking, I would discount this observation out of hand. Why? Because GULLIVER JONES ON MARS was a such a minor, minor book that Time Forgot. LORD OF LIGHT, on the other hand, is a seminal SF classic, Jack Williamson is the guy that coined the term "genetic engineering," and (this is surely the topic for a whole other thread) A.E. van Vogt may be, along with Don Rickles, one of the largest, most uncredited influences on pop culture.

Like DUNE or PJF's RIVERWORLD, LORD OF LIGHT is something that is so ubiquitous that the burden of proof should be on showing Kirby DIDN'T read it.

I'm not saying that Jack Kirby is a plagiarist; if LORD OF LIGHT was the starting point for the Fourth World, Jack's creation became something else. What I am saying is that the Fourth World would not exist - IN THE FORM THAT IT ACTUALLY TOOK - without Zelazny, his imitators, and the entire "space god" theme in science fiction starting with A.E. van Vogt in 1940, among others. Because of many similarities to LORD OF LIGHT, it's interesting to place Kirby in that science fiction tradition.

There's a tendency with some creators to not analyze their works as being products of a larger culture. Kirby isn't alone here; Woody Allen's movies have such an idiosyncratic personal vision that usually, they're only compared to other Woody Allen movies. The Flaming Lips created a subgenre that pretty much only consists of themselves.

People don't find it unnacceptable to look at the science fiction influence on other characters. Nobody bats an eye when the geneology of the Green Lanterns can be traced back to E.E. Smith's Lensmen, or that Ray Palmer would not exist in his current form without THE GIRL IN THE GOLD ATOM. In a general sense, we talk about how Frank Miller was shaped by Eric Van Lustbader and Spillane. I say, why not do the same for Kirby?

Quote from: Great Rao
I just received my Eternals omnibus yesterday.  Inside the back cover flap is a brief bio of Kirby.  Most every book does something like this, and usually titles it with the author's name, or the word "author" or "artist," etc.  But written in big bold letters across the top of this bio blurb, it reads: "THE CREATOR"

Amusingly, ETERNALS is the best example I can possibly think of to make my general point: Kirby is shaped by outside influences and the culture around him just like any other writer or creator.

People say Kirby and his stories are "timeless," but ETERNALS could not have been made at any other period, in any other zeitgeist, other than the mid-to-late seventies. This was the era of the UFO generation and CHARIOTS OF THE GODS?, the Golden Age for schlockumentaries narrated by Leonard Nimoy, Orson Welles and Rod Serling that saw innocent cave drawings as signs of extraterrestrial visits. Where, in THE OUTER SPACE CONNECTION Rod Serling, with a totally straight face, called the perfectly normal ruins of Tiahuanaco "Earth Base One."

People say CHARIOTS OF THE GODS? was THE DA VINCI CODE of its generation, but that would actually be underestimating it. What CHARIOTS OF THE GODS? didn't pull in terms of raw numbers, it was a flashpoint at which dozens of factors converged: the phobia of UFOs, the burgeoning advances in space travel, the beginnings of historical revisionism, and the "New Age" movement which combined pseudoscience with religion.
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« Reply #7 on: April 07, 2007, 08:46:32 PM »

You've raised an interesting possibility.

You're saying that Lord of Light could have been a source for New Gods; and that Chariots of the Gods could have influenced The Eternals.  The cover to The Eternals #2 actually says right on it, "More fantastic that Chariots of the Gods!"

So here are some more:  How about "The Project"?  What about Machine Man?  The FF? Galactus and the Silver Surfer?  Or Captain Victory?  Or Silver Star?  Do you see any possible sources for those?

The most obvious ones are Planet of the Apes for Kamandi; and 2001 for 2001.

But I don't see these as "sources" or "inspirations."  I think it's the other way around.  Kirby completely remolds and recreates everything he touches.  More like he saw something, then said, "No no, this is how it should have been done.  Watch."

You might as well say that the Universe was his source.
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"The bottom line involves choices.  Neither gods nor humans have ever stood calmly in a minefield forever.  Good or evil, they are bound to choose.  And when they do, you will see the truth of all that motivates us.  As a thinking being, you have the obligation to choose.  If the fate of all mankind were in your hands, what would your decision be?  As a writer and an artist, I've drawn my answer."   - Jack Kirby
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