Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Forever People #9

[Andy Bentley continues his issue by issue look at Jack Kirby's New Gods.]

“Monster in the Morgue”

This latest issue borrows from the DC Brave and the Bold concept with the New Genesis teens beginning a team up with the newly resurrected Deadman. The afterword in the Omnibus explains that this plot was foisted upon Jack Kirby by DC editorial which Kirby wasn’t that enthused about. However his displeasure is not palpable as Kirby blends his fourth world characters well with elements of the horror genre.

We’re introduced to the villain of the week who is definitely cut from the mad scientist cloth. “Doc” Gideon is a part time morgue worker who’s obsessed with resurrection. His Frankenstein monster is a large male in tattered clothes and a bandaged head. When he pulls the lever which sends an “electro-organic” shock through the corpse, it doesn’t reanimate him. Rather, it brings back Deadman, the ghost of circus trapeze artist Boston Brand who possesses the ability to jump into and control living beings. This resurrection is lost on Gideon who returns to his home to sulk.

We find our Forever People helping rescue an old woman’s fortune from a few robbers. There’s some nice humorous touches here including the woman calling Big Bear “Hair Bear” and the general ignorance of human culture by the Forever People. The old lady (Trixie MacGruder) shows her gratitude to the heroes by inviting them into the apartment she manages that just so happens to be the apartment of Gideon, our mad scientist. Deadman’s specter is following Gideon home, hoping to learn why he has been called back to the mortal coil. During some small talk, Serafin demonstrates the abilities of his reanimating cosmic cartridge; a display which catches the eye of Gideon from an adjacent window. Gideon realizes that this cartridge is the missing link to reanimating his subject, while I realize we’re once again at another “Kirby plot contrivance”. Gideon walks over and introduces himself and asks to be a part of Trixie evening seance, which the Forever People have also been invited.

Trixie goes through the motions of her act and is shocked when Deadman emerges forth and demands to know why he has been summoned. It is revealed that Trixie and Boston Brand used to work at the same carnival and Trixie witnessed his murder. She explains that the killer had a hook on his right hand rather than his left and that Deadman has yet to exact proper vengeance. During this commotion, Gideon is able to steal Serafin’s blue cartridge and take off before anyone can notice. The art during the seance is impressive and moody in a 2 tone color scheme. Kirby’s knack for depicting horror in his character’s faces and his affection for the classic monsters of horror prove he would have been perfect for EC’s line of titles in the late 40’s.

Gideon returns to the morgue and places the cartridge under the bandages on the corpse’s head. Inexplicably, this causes it to rise and take on the stereotypical mannerisms of the Frankenstein monster. In case there was one who didn’t quite see it: the monster walks by a movie bill for a double horror feature with Castle of Frankenstein after busting up the morgue. The Forever People are not far behind and begin to engage the monster in combat. Each fall short of containing the situation and with the being fast approaching a gas main, it is up to Deadman to save the day. After several failed attempts, he finally merges with the monster as the gas ignites. The flames are snuffed out by the Forever People who discover the lifeless body of the beast now has a voice. Deadman explains his situation and the forever People feel they must help him discover his true killer. Serafin pulls out yet another cosmic cartridge which makes Deadman corporeal. The issue closed with the team up solidified and the mission set for next issue: Find Deadman’s true killer!

My main complaint about this issue would be the limitless powers of Serafin’s cosmic cartridges and the convenient coincidences between the characters. If there was a consequence or cost to the use of these magic pills, it would help. But other than that, I enjoyed the issue mostly because I’m a fan of the DC shared universe. I’ve made the point that Kirby’s characters should remain independent of the Superhero community, but this was an exception because Deadman fit the tone of the story and he was a frequent partner in the Brave and the Bold comics of the 1970’s.

Final Musings

-Some background on the then current machinations of the Deadman character:

At the end of the Neal Adams story line, Deadman seems to discover the truth behind his murder and we learn the ultimate fate of Hook, who killed Deadman as part of an initiation into a society of contract killers who then kill him to silence him. However, in 1972 writer/artist Jack Kirby was told by the DC editors to put a Deadman crossover into his book The Forever People. Kirby had never heard of Deadman, but he obligingly included the character in The Forever People 9 and 10. In reading the Neal Adams issues to understand the character, Kirby noticed something that had apparently slipped by everyone else. In the origin story, Hook has his hook on his right hand. Yet in the penultimate Neal Adams story, where his secret is revealed and he meets his fate, the man we think is Hook has his hook on his left hand. This was probably just an artist's error -- in the final Neal Adams Deadman, in the synopsis of the previous issue, the hook is back on the right hand again. Kirby, however, uses this clue to reopen the case of Deadman

You’d be surprised how many plot points originate from gaffes like this.

-Deadman was created by Doom Patrol creator, Arnold Drake. Drake and Kirby were about the same age but Drake went a lot weirder with his stories whereas Kirby took the “cosmic” route. I recommend Drake’s Doom Patrol and O’Neal/Adam’s Deadman for any comic book connoisseur.

-When was the last time The Forever people changed into Infinity Man?

-”Doc” Gideon is a dead ringer for Robert Crumb. Coincidence?

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