Saturday, August 21, 2010

Children of the Flaming Wheel

I could try to preface or frame this photocomic but there's no way I could make it any less strange and wacked out than it already is. Longtime Secret Sun readers know all about Jack Kirby and the absolute incongruity of his obsessions with the highest weirdness imaginable contrasted with his almost stultifying suburbanite life. I'd argue that the latter not only enabled but fueled the former.

Something very, very powerful hit him around '65 or '66, and transformed him from an already imaginative man into a psychedelic shaman disguised as a freelance pencil pusher. This story was sold on the cover of Kirby's Spirit World #1 as a kind of tabloid exposé of some California sex cult, but there's absolutely no connection there to the tripped-out ritual vision that Kirby is presenting, using his photocollage technique that he began toying with about the time that something blew the doors of his mind open. It's interesting to note that this comic was essentially buried at the time by the publisher and distributor and then promptly canceled.

This whole story reads like minutes from a Typhonian OTO working or a from a Lab-9 session. It doesn't read like a comic book story, even from the tripped-out 70s. It's even stranger than a lot of the acid-drenched underground comix of Robert Crumb and Rick Griffin.

There's a lot, lot more where this all came from (new readers should check out the Mindbomb series for deep background), a lot of which speaks to Kirby's psychedelic and alien fixations. I'll be digging into that material as well. But this story speaks to a thruline in Kirby's comics work about contact via psychic means, something that also runs through Gene Roddenberry's work, an equally unlikely conduit for this kind of insanity.

There's also a strange netherworld between fiction and reality in which these contacts are common, a twilight zone of the deeper mind that transcends simple imagination. And it terrifies a lot of people, which is why there's such a campaign to slam the doors of consciousness shut. Mad scientists like Sidney Gottlieb may have tried to lock those doors forever in the 50s and 60s but I would argue they only succeeded in blowing not only the locks but the hinges off. The mass media's been working round the clock to repair the damage ever since.

History is rife with that kind of blowback, which is unthinkable only to those who need to see the bureaucrats and apparatchiks of the world as superhuman.


  1. Groovy baby! I wonder about the collage source material, whether this was a posed session specifically for the comic or if it was all from some hippie magick fashion mag.

    Bonus weird: Kirby rejects from unpublished "Spirit World" #2 (Dreams, Horoscopes, UFO essay, spontaneous combustion, etc., etc.)

  2. Interesting connection - just before I read this I was working out in the gym and the movie Harper (1966) starring Paul Newman. Strother Martin is in it as well. He also acted with Newman in the more well-known Cool Hand Luke where he plays the Captain ("What we have here is a failure to communicate") who torments the hero.

    In Harper, he plays a character called Claude (Claudius) who is - of all things - the priest of of a New Age Hellenistic temple dedicated to the worship of the Sun. Since I've hiked these trails often, I recognized that the location of the temple would be in Griffith Park in the area between The Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood sign.

    Harper may be full of strange references to myths of the past for all I know, but the specificity of the type of worship and the strange dialog between Newman and Martin when they first meet at the temple implies that it wasn't simply meant to imply Martin was only a charlatan.

    Check out the film when you get a chance.

  3. Oh, I forgot - the strange connection is that around the same year Kirby's mystic intuition caught fire, this film came out - 1966.

    I wonder if there was something in the media at the time, in general, that had the solar worship vibe beneath it. The overt "hippie" stuff would be too potent to actually shift the mainstream mind of the "silent majority."

  4. 559- Right on- I've used some of that Weird Mystery stuff here. Awesome.

    John- I definitely will. Thanks for the heads up.

    846- Thanks!

  5. Every time I think that I'm the only one who's lonely
    Someone calls on me
    And every now and then I spend my time in rhyme and verse
    And curse those faults in me

    And then along comes Mary
    And does she want to give me kicks , and be my steady chick
    And give me pick of memories
    Or maybe rather gather tales of all the fails and tribulations
    No one ever sees

    When we met I was sure out to lunch
    Now my empty cup tastes as sweet as the punch

    When vague desire is the fire in the eyes of chicks
    Whose sickness is the games they play
    And when the masquerade is played and neighbor folks make jokes
    As who is most to blame today

    And then along comes Mary
    And does she want to set them free, and let them see reality
    From where she got her name
    And will they struggle much when told that such a tender touch as hers
    Will make them not the same

    When we met I was sure out to lunch
    Now my empty cup tastes as sweet as the punch

    And when the morning of the warning's passed, the gassed
    And flaccid kids are flung across the stars
    The psychodramas and the traumas gone
    The songs are left unsung and hung upon the scars

    And then along comes Mary
    And does she want to see the stains, the dead remains of all the pains
    She left the night before
    Or will their waking eyes reflect the lies, and make them
    Realize their urgent cry for sight no more

    When we met I was sure out to lunch
    Now my empty cup tastes as sweet as the punch
    -Tandyn Almer, 1966

  6. Just a few weeks ago, Mad Men (whose fourth season began a month ago) transitioned into 1965. I'm wondering how far it will go into high weirdness. I've mentioned some strange motifs before. Also in Season Three, Don Draper falls for his daughter Sally's schoolteacher, who supervises a maypole dance (perhaps a bit of an anachronism, which makes it even more interesting) and a viewing of a solar eclipse. In a more recent episode, Don visited his ex-wife Anna, who claimed to have seen UFOs flying near her house in California. She already has mystical inclinations, demonstrated in her reading of Tarot cards in an episode from the second season. And, in every episode, Tarot imagery representing creator Matt Weiner's production company appear after the final credits.


  7. on the spot once again, sir. it all essentially boils down to a struggle of suppressing consciousness or more specifically the collective conscious that if opened would destroy the fabric of this reality that has much invested in. I think the answers all lie in the depths of the underworld, that is to say of the mind.

  8. Chris, thank you for jogging the brain cells again! Gene Roddenberry had many pre-Star Trek themes he was the defacto Head Writer of called "Have Gun Will Travel". Why is this important? Because this was before the public/private outreach of "Lab 9". Many themes of psychic, mind over matter, and UFO activities type proto talk was in "Have Gun Will Travel". I have been on the trail of some Gene Roddenberry paths here in Hollywood, and came across a huge breadcrumb. I attended several times a New Age group here called the Aetherius Society. I asked a long-time old timer if Gene Roddenberry ever had come here. He responded with a highly knowing smile, and said "many creative leaders have come here", however he really lit up at the mention of Roddenberry. Since Gene's activities in this area pre-date Lab 9, a part of Gene's official biography (the Alexander book) comes into play. Gene routed through London on a regular basis during his airline career. Chris, I think Roddenberry was in personal contact with Kenneth Grant during the 1950's. Gene was living in NYC at the time, could he have run or been highly involved in a Typhonian Lodge there at the time? And why did Gene and as many people as did, live through that air crash in the Sirius (oops Syrian) desert? It would also explain something else about Gene, his animosity to anyone working on Trek from the Church of Scientology (Kirsty Ally, it was NOT money). The Typhonians have their Cult of Lam, but Scientology has their competitor Secret Society called the Chronzon Society. Yes Gene once said, "why would anyone go to a church founded by a washed-up science fiction author"!

  9. More comments and further thoughts...

    559-Yeah, I have seen all of those stories in Weird Mystery- except for the psychic one, which might be the most interesting of all, so thanks for that!

    John- As to your question, I'd say yes- lots of interesting vibes flying around that year. Don't forget Star Trek, Batman and Revolver that same year!

    Ned- Association, great band there.

    1248- Have yet to watch it. I should and will, but I kind wish it took place in space. I've got scifi tunnel vision these past few years.

    Caleb- It's about keeping us locked in the reptilian brain (and no, I'm not referencing Icke) of fear-response and base instincts. If you break out of that who knows what's next?

    Oceanic- Don't forget Spectre! If anyone hasn't seen it, go to You Tube and search for Spectre 1977. Very much speaks to what you're talking about here, OP. Kirby, Roddenberry, Serling- the war seems to have jogged loose some deep and heavy streams in certain sensitives. Do you have any particular eps of HGWT I should watch?

  10. 1966 is also the year in which (solar) Beatle Paul McCartney is rumored to have died...