Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Eternals: "Will the Gods Return One Day?"

Kirby was just warming up with The New Gods...

I stumbled across an interesting editorial Jack Kirby wrote for the first issue of his mid-70s comic series The Eternals. This is one of the few comics from my childhood that I still remember buying and reading for the first time.

It's a day I can recall with nearly perfect clarity. I can still smell the cool, early-afternoon salt air as I walked home from the newstand. I can still taste the salty-sweetness of the Toll House cookies my grandmother baked. There was obviously some serious imprinting going on that day. 

One of the other comics I can still remember buying is Kamandi #30, which is also ripe with meta-significance. The editorial is written in Kirby's weird, declamatory style, but it's important to note that Kirby was writing for an audience that was overwhelmingly pre-adolescent. It's also important to remember that factoid when you look at the techno-shamanic insanity Jack was yanking from the depths of his subconscious and pouring out onto cheap newsprint. 

The Eternals was essentially a retooling of The New Gods series (which starred an "Orion") with an Ancient Astronaut twist. The Eternals' original title was Return of the Gods, so Kirby was obviously processing these connections well before dealing with them explicitly in comics. 

The Eternals was soon followed by Kirby's gonzoid take on 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kirby also drew a proposed adaption of Patrick McGoohan's classic series The Prisoner, but that remains unpublished.

Here's a dizzying array of connections: 

  • The New Gods was plundered by George Lucas for Star Wars, which began production nearly simultaneously to the release of Eternals #1. 
  • Lucas himself recently brought his own Ancient Astronaut opus to the silver screen with the latest Indiana Jones movie, which had some echoes of the landmark first issue of The Eternals.
  • Coincidentally enough, Ridley Scott and HR Giger borrowed imagery from that same comic for the first Alien movie. 
  • The second Alien movie would borrow heavily from Captain Victory, which Kirby had intended as a sequel to The New Gods. 
  • The second Alien movie was written by James Cameron, who also wrote The Terminator, whose plotline of robots exterminating the human race was not at all dissimilar to a storyline in Kirby's Machine Man, which itself was a spinoff of 2001: A Space Odyssey. 

 Incidentally, I just ordered the DVD for Crystal Skull, by the way, since I'm still not entirely convinced I wasn't having some kind of DMT flashback that day or something. 

 Speaking of which, Terrence McKenna believed shamanic innerspace exploration was the key to contact, which may explain Kirby's obsessions. Perhaps he had his own close encounter in some other realm while pushing the pencil on an all-night deadline crunch. That kind of pressure can take you out of your head. 

Let's remember that Kirby has an enviable track record when it comes to prophecy. It might be that "contact" itself is part of some software glitch in our vestigial neural networks, in the form of abduction phenomena, for example. 

Perhaps these fleeting little glimpses we get of the paranormal or the supernatural are all just glitches in this organic programming. Maybe there's a switch written into our DNA that's turned off our alien superpowers, or at least our psychic powers. 

Maybe we need to earn our right to throw it by figuring out where the switch is in the first place. Maybe that's what Lucas was channeling with the Jedi and their mastery of the Force (borrowed from Kirby's "Source" incidentally).  You need to really immerse yourself in Symbology before it all starts to make sense. 

Certainly Ancient Astronaut Theory has captured the imagination of several of our most important storytellers (who by definition are deeply immersed in the world of the Symbols) - Stanley Kubrick, Jack Kirby, Chris Carter, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas - despite the fact that the media has been trying for 40 years to condition us into believing AAT is the most risible, most ridiculous theory on the face of the Earth. 

 Whatever the case, it is a great myth for our times, certainly. Take it Away, Jack...
"Will the Gods Return Someday?" 
If they truly exist, I believe they will. Of course, I speak of gods in the historical sense, the kinds of beings who stop ashore from places unknown and impress us with their very images, their manner of communication, and, above all, their display of transcendent power. 
The Aztecs, who outnumbered the forces of Cortez by astronomical odds, were completely cowed by the sight of the Spaniard's horse and the effects of his cannon. Were they overcome by their own fear of the supernatural- or were they awed by what they viewed as the fulfillment of their own prophecy- the return of Quetzalcoatl and his band of super-beings, whose memory survived antiquity? 
In my own recollection of the early jungle pictures, there was nothing more stupefying to the chattering natives of remote areas, than the sudden appearance of the movie's hero, whose "big white bird" had crash-landed in the center of the village. Sure, they made him a god, And, if it had really happened, those natives would still be weaving tales about him today. 
However, my point is, how often has this kind of thing happened in our past? How many of these so-called gods have stumbled upon this boondock planet called Earth? How many of them have inspired the potent myths which not only laid the groundwork for man's many religions, professions, and sciences, but have left man with a massive mystery on his hands- one that just won't go away... 
With the daily accumulation of new artifacts all over the globe, and the simultaneous input of UFO "flapology" on a worldwide scale, humankind is straining its "group memory" to dredge up a proper picture of the ancient past, in order to deal with the provocative incidents of contemporary issue. 
The compelling quality inherent in this type of theme has led me to project its mystifying questions into comic magazine storytelling. It's natural for myself and for the comics fan who dearly loves the world that lies between fantasy and fact. We are, in a word, "sympatico". 
Still, despite the fact that I've contrived my own version of those momentous confrontations of prehistory, I take them from the de facto questions of today. 
What did happen in those remote days of man's early struggle for civilized status? What is the true meaning of the myths which shared a global similarity among diverse peoples? Did beings of an extraterrestrial nature touch down among us and influence our lives to this present day? And then, the all-important question of the lot- are these beings in some cosmic orbit which will lead them back to us someday? T 
he excitement generated by this last question is undeniable. It leads directly to ourselves, and to how we will react to their arrival. The grab bag of possibilities is a limitless spectrum of spine-tingling visions. They inspire everything from elation to paranoia. 
At any rate, we can do nothing but sense the air of this century and look aloft, or listen for sounds not made on this world - or read THE ETERNALS for the vicarious thrill of anticipating, in story and pictures, the astounding experience of coming to grips with the kinds of creatures we imagine the gods to be. 
Hey, if you're reading this, you're doing it! 
Jack Kirby (published April 1976)