Retro-Comics Salutes the King

Jack Kirby celebrated another posthumous birthday over the weekend, which makes me return to the idea of Retro-Comics. More specifically, this 1992 issue of Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol (#53) in which Ken Steacy took on the Kirby style to help recount Danny the Street's dream. Like Moore's 1963, it creates a Silver Age Marvel world that invokes the weirdness of those early 60s comics. As I said last week, who better to give us the weird frisson the kids of 30 years ago (almost 50 now) felt than the British Invaders who were unwittingly creating Vertigo comics? Morrison's little experiment in retro also has the virtue of coming out a good year before Moore's, cementing the idea that Image really didn't ever do anything original back then.

Danny's Silver Age dream recasts the Doom Patrol as the Legion of the Strange, but before we even get there, he remakes the so-called Trenchcoat Brigade into 4-color superheroes - the Mighty Mystics! They operate from their satellite HQ, the Hand of Warning!
Kirby's spirit is definitely in the house. Silver Age John Constantine/Hellblazer and Phantom Stranger:
And Silver Age Dr. Thirteen and Mr. E complete the team:
The Mighty Mystics discover a threat from the multi-dimensions that only the Legion of the Strange can stop, so Dr. Thirteen heads off to their HQ on Man-Hattan Island!
Let's not forget that this is a dream sequence (from a sentient transvestite street, no less), so things can go a little farther than they would have in a 60s comic. The Legion is represented by Automaton (Robotman), Negative Man (Rebis), Elastiwoman (Crazy Jane doing her best Rita Farr impression) and of course, the Chief (not pictured below).
Their Fantastic Four roots are unmistakable, as even the original DP were built on that model, with a little bit of X-Men thrown in presciently. Our villain is Celestius, a giant god who wields the POWER EMPYREAN!!! He's been banished to the multi-dimensions by older gods, and he and his herald known as Guru are about to break free.
Celestius comes out of an apartment building that's gone all superspatial, and where Automaton, actually secretly fitted with the brain of a criminal scientist who has replaced Cliff (since "last ish"), must protect a little blind girl by truly acting the part and learning an important life lesson.
He wins by pulling Celestius back through the portal to the Multi-Dimensions, the passage through which no one may survive. But that's ok. It wasn't really Cliff, remember?
The issue ends with a tour of Man-Hattan Island by the real Cliff Steele, which feels just like those old Baxter Building cutaways to me.
Morrison has a way with throwaways that makes me want to see a whole mini-series of these adventures just so I can find out more about the Ambient Man, Doc Void and the Confusers, and world of the Windowmen.

Happy B. Jack Kirby! And go go go retro!


googum said...

Nice. I love the Doom Patrol, but oddly, haven't read a single issue of Morrison's run on it! Ken Steacy is extra awesome, though: been a fan of his since Tempus Fugitive.

Matthew Turnage said...

I didn't realize it was the King's birthday this past weekend. A friend loaned me the collected editions of Alan Moore's Supreme run, I just read the last issue (the Kirby tribute) Monday, so a nice bit of symmetry there.

Speaking of which, Moore's Supreme would probably be a good fit for this feature at some point.

Siskoid said...

Tempus Fugitive and Supreme are both things I think I have to track down!

Jon H said...

I like that silhouette of a dead Galactus in the background.

Anonymous said...

I was going to mention Tempus Fugitive, too.

I completely agree with you that a miniseries of Morrison's one-off pastiches would be awesome. I would pay good money for that.

Siskoid said...

So... anyone ever pay with bad money?


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