Yesterday, one of the greatest ever comic artists the late Jack Kirby, would’ve turned 101. Creator of epic characters such as Captain America, Hulk, Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Black Panther, Thor etc., his legacy continues to shine as bright as ever while the adaptations of his comics into major feature films and television soaps have served to immortalise his creations.
Fondly remembered as ‘The King’ by the comic fandom, Kirby and the likes have been an integral part of our growing up years, for their cartoon papers were the prominent source of entertainment and amusement of every schoolboy (and girl). In his illustrious career, Kirby has sketched over 200 characters that later graced the folklore of both Marvel as well as DC comics.
However, there are several characters that aren’t particularly well-known in the pop-culture, or didn’t receive as much attention as the ones mentioned above did. Here, we take a rundown through some of those Kirby’s really cool creations that aren’t otherwise mainstream in the comic sphere:
Much before Doctor Strange ever came into the picture, the distinction of ‘master of the mystic arts’ was held by someone else. Doctor Druid belonged to the pre-Fantastic Four era and was sketched by Kirby. A psychiatrist by trade, he was also a master occultist who tried to specialise in hypnotism as well as mesmerism.
The character debuted in the comic Amazing Adventure#1 to #4 under the name Doctor Droom before the rechristening. It was a largely forgettable saga that temporarily banished Doctor Druid to the cornfield, before reappearing in The Incredible Hulk in the 1970s after almost a five year hiatus. And for those unbeknownst to the fact, he was succeeded in the comics by Doctor Strange!
Despite the New Gods series getting cancelled, Kirby still had a contract with DC where he was required to do 15 pages a week – more than what an average comic artist would do in a whole month these days. So he came up with another superhero-like character OMAC, who was widely touted to be the “Captain America in the future”.
Set in a futuristic ‘The World’s That Coming’, his life turns upside down after a computer hormonal operation done by remote control by an I.A satellite turns him into a One-Man Army Corps (OMAC) as he then starts working towards global peace whilst working for Global Peace agency. His superpowers are quirky – an increase in density channels superhuman abilities and enhanced durability, whereas a low density allows him take flight and also exhibit super speed.
A superheroine that also appeared as a villain on various occasions in DC Comics, Big Barda debuted in Mister Miracle series in October 1974 and her physical appearance was inspired by Hollwood star Lainie Kazan (My Big Fat Greek Wedding one and two). Kirby’s assistant on the comics has gone on record to suggest that the characterisation was based on the interplay between Kirby and his wife Roz, though with a more sense of humor.
The powerful Mega-Rod wielding warrior, Barda was an eminent member of the New Gods who was taken away from her mother at an early age and brought to Home of Orphaned Youth where Granny Goodness rigorously trains her to one day lead the warrior-women tribe, Female Fury Battalion. Like the other members in her New God race, Barda too drew super-strength from the Source that allowed to her be as strong as the Superman while the rod allowed her to teleport long distances as well as increase the gravitational pull.
Another notorious New God, Orion was the son of the villainous and tyrannical ruler Darkseid, who in the final battle of the New Gods, annihilates his father. He was aided and abetted in his quest by fellow New Gods Metron, Mister Miracle and Big Barda, as well as the Justice League and Justice Society.
Orion’s successful conquest of his own evil heritage made him a hero, but unlike his father and the other members of the Fourth World, Orion is immortal, one of the few characters with such a distinction. He also boasts supernatural healing powers as well as super strength and speed, though his quality of being irascible tends to lands him in hot water sometimes.
It’s really unfortunate we still haven’t got a good Fantastic Four movie despite being one of the legendary superhero alliance throughout the course of comic history. The 2005 and 2007 productions generated lukewarm responses, while the 2015 reboot was a colossal disaster. Anyways, the point is, we would have otherwise got a glimpse of another manic villain in Blastaar, who crossed swords (not literally) with the quartet on several occasions in the comics.
Hailing from the planet Baluur, he was the ruthless monarch that ruled the Baluurians until they rebelled and revolted against him before banishing him in the wilderness of the Negative Zone in a containment cell. He once famously broke loose and tried to lay siege on Earth, but was defeated by the Fantastic Four as Mister Fantastic eventually cast him out in the Negative Zone again.