Thursday, January 10, 2008

Silver Star, part 4: Astronaut Theology

Note that Claire is wearing a OMAC resonator on her jersey...

In this installment, we will further look into the eerie prescience of Kirby's work, it's further influence on Heroes and a real time synchronicity afoot that no one in the comics press seemed to have noticed...

In 1976, Kirby celebrated America's Bicentennial with the conspiracy-laden 'Madbomb' series in Captain America. He further twisted the knife into the consensus reality paradigm with his ancient astronaut theory manifesto, The Eternals. The story opened with an archaeological team exploring a massive tomb of the "Space Gods" in South America. Kirby introduces a character named Ike Harris (aka Ikaris or 'Icarus'), who acts as the Basil Exposition foil of this tale.

Ikaris tells his companions and the readers that a host of giant aliens called the Celestials came to Earth in ancient times and created three races using the DNA of apes- Humans, the Eternals (who became the basis of mankind's god and demigod myths) and the Deviants (a genetically unstable race who resemble demons and monsters and once kept humankind enslaved).

As with most of Kirby's 70s work, The Eternals was not well received at the time. The post-adolescent fanboys who dominated the 'zine world saw Kirby's work as weird and "irrelevant," preferring more timely comics like Green Lantern/Green Arrow or Jim Starlin's Warlock. But such is the mindset of post-adolescence- we all go through it. You lose track of miracle and wonder for a while, trying to make your way in the adult world.

The irony is that nearly all of the comics that were championed in place of Kirby's work are now long forgotten, and Kirby's work is more relevant than ever. Remember too that this was the 70s when everyone was pretty grumpy and trying desperately to hold on to the fading vestiges of the 60s counterculture. Kirby was seen as the 'Dad' - or the weird old uncle going on about UFOs and the Illuminati - of comics, an unenviable position to hold back then.

And many fans didn't realize that Kirby was drawing more on Zecharia Sitchin in The Eternals and less so from Erich Von Daniken, who was seen as a charlatan. Of course it didn't help that the book's original title was Return of the Gods, done up in a similar font to the popular paperback version of Von Daniken's Chariots of the Gods by Marvel's production department. The original cover made the rounds in the zines before the book was retitled as The Eternals. The book lasted until 1978 and was canceled when Kirby quit Marvel to work in animation.

The Eternals have kicked around the Marvel Universe ever since, showing up in guest appearances in books like Thor. But the literally apocalyptic promise of the series was too huge and too difficult to incorporate fully into the ongoing storylines. In reality, once the Celestials landed and weird superhuman races starting flying around battling each other, everything on the planet would come to an absolute standstill. And the Eternals would make all of the myriad superheroes instantly redundant.

But in 2006, superstar writer Neil Gaiman (Stardust, Beowulf, Sandman) tried his hand at reviving Kirby's creation. His mission was to fully incorporate the character into the Marvel Universe, something Kirby himself was dead set against.

Pictured: Ikaris, Sersi and Makkari

Gaiman seemed like the perfect writer to reinterpret The Eternals and John Romita Jr. is the closest thing to Kirby in the big leagues today (outside of Jose Ladronn), but the series never seemed to catch fire. Kirby's Eternals grabbed you by the throat on the first page and then shook your brains around in your skull until Kirby - as per usual - lost focus. The Celestials were like an army of Galactuses and their arrival was the biggest story - the only story- in the series' world.

Like Kirby, Gaiman uses Ikaris as his Basil Exposition character. But in Gaiman's take, it's the Eternals themselves who are unaware of their own nature. As with Kirby's series, the Celestials are returning and the Deviants are on the warpath, but the Eternals have been in a sort of psychic hibernation. They are unaware of their godhood and unaware of their powers. Before he is captured by the Deviants, Ikaris contacts his old friend Mark Curry ("Makkari" or Mercury) and Eternals stars Sersi (Circe) and Thena (Athena) also come to realize their godhood.

Of course, this is remarkably similar to the basic storyline of NBC's Heroes, which also deals with a race of superbeings coming to terms with their powers. It also features an expository Ikaris character in Mohinder Suresh. Amazingly, Heroes and Gaiman's take on The Eternals emerged independently and nearly concurrently in mid-2006.

Even more remarkably, no one seems to have noticed that both series draw heavily on Kirby's Silver Star for their basic plotlines- a race of superbeings unaware of their powers, an oncomic apocalypse, an expository figure working to wake these beings up to their powers to avert the coming catastrophe. That's the basic story in Silver Star, Heroes and Gaiman's Eternals.

What is even more fascinating is that once the basic exposition was taken care of, Kirby's Eternals focused on a apocalyptic assault on New York, which is the central plot device of Heroes. Here we see Sersi (Circe) watching the attack on television, a strange foreshadowing of the Kirby-inspired television drama to come. It's as if urban catastrophe and cosmic revelation are somehow inextricably linked.

I suppose it's possible that Gaiman and Tim Kring swapped notes while developing their big projects, but unlikely. Gaiman probably came across Silver Star, but I'm willing to be that any influence is unconscious. Or, Collective Unconscious...

As with so much of Kirby's work, profound meaning grapples with clairvoyant synchronicity below all the dots and squiggles. Kirby ascribed so much of the power of the supernatural to the Mind itself, picturing here an externalization of the Collective Unconscious. Kirby was so gripped by the vistas of Eternity, so plagued by the gods that he could barely function away from the drawing table. He was so far immersed in the Collective Unconscious that he came out on the other side, leaving real world manifestations of prophecy and synchronicity in his wake.

In the next installment, we will see how Kirby's subconscious explorations of the far frontiers of our reality paradigm did not go unnoticed by the boys in The Company...


  1. Well spank me rosy I have just writen a comment over at batteling the behemoth which says that the next hero/messiah/christ figure is here but doesnt know he is our's like 100 monkeys for humans....each of us in our own way looking for the source and picking out different signals..

    thanks for the info...gav

  2. Things are happening, Gav- switches are being thrown. It's like a GE ad where a city is illuminated. Brains all across the OuterMind are tuning in.

  3. Great work CK

    I have never read any Kirby.. Where would you recommend I start?


  4. "I have never read any Kirby.. Where would you recommend I start?"


    Ah, tough question. Perhaps the upcoming OMAC collection or the Captain America Madbomb saga. You can get the Eternals on Ebay pretty cheap in back issue. It really depends on what you are looking for.

    Definitely follow the link to and read the first issue of the Eternals online. If I could only have one Kirby comic ever it would be that.

  5. It must be in the collective. Here I am writing my own version of a post apocalyptic earth where the "space people" or "gods" return...and now I discover that Kirby has beaten me to it 20 years ago!

  6. Excellent stuff. I didn't know about that Gaiman Eternals series (shame), I'm just really out of touch with contemporary comics. I should pay more attention. Truly the original Lee and Kirby run of Fantastic Four is must read material. Everyone should read that. The Fourth World titles too are hard to ignore.