by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird
Blogger's note: Entry for Friday, April 18, 2008.
Black Panther. Darkseid. The New Gods. Kamandi. These are just a few of the thousands of comic book characters attributed to the creativity of Jack Kirby. Further, for all of the characters that came from Kirby's pen directly, how many more were inspired by his style and originality? Well, I can definitely think of four: the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
This Donatello one-shot actually explains a lot of things for me. First of all, when I saw the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episode "King" a few years ago, I was both intrigued and confused by its surreal context. In that episode, much like this issue that inspired it, Donatello meets an artist named Kirby, who has bound a magical stone to his pencil and is able to make his drawings come to life for a few seconds. When Don and Kirby stumble into a portal the artist had drawn, they discover a dimension full of Kirby's exotic creations, and they work together to defeat the monsters that have begun attacking the people. Unfortunately, in the end, the portal begins to shrink and only Donatello makes it in time, and though he mourns the loss of his new friend, we're left to assume that Kirby has found a comfortable new home as a god among his creation. Like his note to Don says, "Life at best is bittersweet."
At the time I saw the cartoon, I didn't know there was a twenty-year-old comic book that had inspired it, and my friend and I were just finishing a comic book project of our own, in which an old artist gets lost in a comic book world of his own creation. I thought bitterly that the Turtles had managed to beat us to it. Of course, now I know just how behind the times we were, considering the likes of The Brave and the Bold #124 and other issues like this. Still, while my friend and I sought to explore the logistics of a "real life" comic book universe, Eastman and Laird's foray into extradimensional comic book lands were intended as an homage to the man that inspired their initial collaboration . . . which eventually spawned the world's favorite heroes in a half shell. According to Laird's introduction t his issue, his bond with Kevin Eastman began over a piece of original Kirby art hanging in Laird's office. While I always imagined these two guys playfully sketching in a dark, cramped office, unwittingly building a multi-faceted franchise, I knew much thought about how they got there. It's nice to know that corner piece of the puzzle.
Interestingly, when this issue was published, Jack Kirby was still alive, and when it was adapted into a cartoon some years later, Kirby had passed, so what began as two young artists' love letter to their favorite industry giant inadvertently became two established artists' eulogy for a legend. Either way, the point is clear; a great artist's work can come to life before your very eyes and, more importantly, pull you into his world. It's a place you can both envy and appreciate the man for creating.