Spirit World: written by Jack Kirby, Mark Evanier, and Steve Sherman; illustrated by Jack Kirby, Mike Royer, and Neal Adams (1970-71; collected 2012): An oddity caused in part by DC’s inability to commit to new projects in the 1970’s, Spirit World was supposed to be part of DC’s foray into the world of black-and-white comics magazines. And it sort of was.
But DC hedged its bets by creating a whole other shell company to have its name on the covers, constantly downgraded what the book would contain, and ultimately dumped it on the market in such a way that the first issue may have never reached most newsstands.
Jack Kirby and friends put together this magazine, along with In the Days of the Mob, which had a similarly truncated existence. Kirby’s Boswell, Mark Evanier, lays out the odd circumstances surrounding the creation of Spirit World. DC comes across as even more bumbling than usual for the time period.
The stories here are a lot of fun, both from the first issue and the never-published second issue. Along with a fumetti and a prose piece, we get some horror pieces that lean on parapsychology rather than the overt supernatural. One of the ghosts is a cousin to the composite ghost-monster of Robert Bloch’s classic story “The Hungry House,” and Kirby’s visualization of such a thing is one of the kicks of the volume. Recommended.
Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze: written by Chris Roberson with Shannon Eric Denton; illustrated by Bilquis Evely with Roberto Castro, John Cassaday, and Alex Ross (2013-2014): Well, the covers by John Cassaday and Alex Ross for Dynamite’s quickly cancelled Doc Savage title were great. The time-leaping, eight-issue storyline that began and ultimately ended Dynamite’s Doc Savage comic was not such a great idea.
Character development of anyone other than Doc was almost non-existent as the storyline spanned 80 years of the adventures of Doc Savage, with everything tied together by an overarching plot that made Doc look like something of an idiot. The time-leaping also gives us almost no significant time with any of the assistants old or new. Simply doing justice to Doc’s cousin Pat and his five original assistants in eight issues would have been difficult; the series adds a couple of dozen more assistants over the years.
Interior artist Bilquis Evely was something of an ill fit for the series — the young illustrator is pretty bland at this point, something evident right from the first issue as Doc’s assistants, very distinct physically in the original novels, become almost interchangeable on the page. He’s not good with period detail, and he doesn’t seem to know how to make the necessary talking-heads sequences visually interesting.
Philosophically, a story pointing out Doc’s faults isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but it may have been a bad idea to centre your first storyline on Doc’s shortcomings. It makes for something of a depressing read, which isn’t something one associates with the pulp adventures. And Doc’s cock-ups are so spectacular in several of these issues that it’s hard to understand why he isn’t in jail. Everywhere on the planet.
Doc’s next comic-book appearance will apparently be at Dynamite in a six-issue miniseries also starring fellow Street&Smith pulp heroes The Shadow and The Avenger. I still look forward to it. As to Doc, something more along the lines of IDW’s Rocketeer Adventures, an anthology miniseries with several stories per issue by an assortment of writers and artists, seems to me the way to go with this. Making things fun would probably also be a good idea. Lightly recommended.