Sunday, 29 December 2019

2001 #7. The New Seed.

2001: a Space Odyssey #7, Marvel Comics, Jack Kirby
We all remember 2001: A Space Odyssey. It's the film which totally failed to predict the moon blasting out of Earth's orbit in 1999 and, thus, made a laughing stock of itself.

After a blunder like that, you'd have thought no one would want to create a sequel to it.

But you'd be wrong because someone did make a sequel to it. It was called 2010. Clearly, the intervening nine years hadn't been deemed worthy of cinematic immortality and didn't get movies named after them.

But that wasn't the only follow-up to the film because Marvel Comics produced ten sequels to it, in the form of a series written and drawn by Jack Kirby.

In some ways, Jack was the ideal man to helm a 2001 comic because the movie'd been filled with technology, Outer Space and Cosmic happenings.

It was also a movie which didn't rely on naturalistic dialogue, rational plotting or recognisable human behaviour. This also made it a good fit for Jack's writing style.

On the other hand, it could be argued Kirby was the worst man to do it because the film wasn't famous for its punch-ups, and he was.

So, how did the master of action acquit himself when it came to handling the more cerebral pretentiousness of a film you can usually only find meaning in while stoned?

I only had one chance to find out when I was a youth because I only ever came across one issue of the book, and that issue was #7 in which we get to meet the Space Seed.

2001: a Space Odyssey #7
Astronaut Gordon Pruett's stumbling around in his space suit when he decides to have a lie down and grow so old that he turns into a flying space baby.

In this guise, he floats around the universe, seeing wonders beyond measure before he descends upon a world whose populace have all but destroyed themselves in a global war.

Fortunately, they're not people to learn from their mistakes and, so, within minutes of the flying baby turning up, the last few survivors have pointlessly wiped each other out.

Not deterred by such silliness, the baby takes the remaining essence from the conflict's final two victims, flies off to an uninhabited world and drops it into the sea, in order to seed that planet with life. He then floats off into space, ready to do whatever it is he's planning to do next.

2001: a Space Odyssey #7
I have to hand it to Jack. He may have often seemed to be an improvisational writer but, here, he deftly balances his conflicting urges to be meaningful and to show people being blown up by hand grenades, by coming up with a tale which allows one of those elements to feed into the other. I'm not sure what it'd feel like to read ten issues of a book written like this but it works in isolation.

Having said that, It's hardly a mystery why the comic didn't last for more than ten issues. It really is difficult to not see the original movie as a creative dead end, in that it's a struggle to see where you could go with the story beyond what was in the film.

2001: a Space Odyssey #7
You can't further explore the nature or behaviour of the monolith without robbing it of its enigma - and its enigma is all it really has going for it.

Also, it can hardly be claimed there are any compelling human elements to the movie that would hold your interest. Not unless you've always considered Rising Damp to be a stealth sequel to the film, which explores what happened to Leonard Rossiter's character after he quit the space agency and decided to become a landlord.

Also, I'd struggle to claim it has themes which need further exploration because, beyond aliens interfering in human evolution, I don't have a clue what its themes actually are.

So, I think we have to view 2001 as another of those odd little books Marvel churned out in the 1970s, which were interesting experiments but were never going to actually go anywhere.

But I don't care. I'm personally glad it existed, because the world would be a poorer place in the absence of such idiosyncrasy.


Killdumpster said...

Kubrick's 2001 makes for some interesting viewing when augmented with LSD.

It probably would've been a better film if Herzog & Kinski had done it.
Everthing those guys did together is a visual treat.

Kirby's 2001 series wasn't exactly high priority when I perused the magazine racks. I only bought one issue, maybe #2.

Wasn't that the title responsible for saddling the Marvel universe with Machine Man?

You're right, Steve. Kirby attempted to juice up bland properties.

A few years after his comic adaptation of the documentary film Chariots Of The Gods, he used that as a template for The Eternals.

Oh, the sly Space 1999 reference! Man, I really tried to get into that show, but to no avail. I really wish
Gerry Anderson had been able to do another season of UFO instead.

UFO was the only thing Anderson did that I was extremely into.

I'm sure most of you folks have fond memories of his programs, but they always Just seemed like overdramatic puppet shows to me.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't Rising Damp have been more of a stealth prequel to 2001 Steve, what with it being set in the 70s?
All the same, that was another great review - good to see Kirby's later Marvel stuff getting some recognition for a change. I reckon this issue was actually better than you made out, but then I've read the first two parts of the story in #5 and #6.

I would say Kirby's more energetic approach to storytelling made him a good fit for 2001 as he was able to do all that cosmic stuff without being boring.
In fact, he actually wrote and drew a story - The Great Moon Mystery - in the late 50s about astronauts finding a weird obelisk on the moon that sends them on far out trip across space!

A pity Marvel didn't get the licence for Kirby to do Clockwork Orange too...


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Dear Steve,

This has to be "the creme de la creme" of your body of venerable works thus far!

I started laughing so hard at the following line I went into something like a coma!

"It was also a movie which didn't rely on naturalistic dialogue, rational plotting or recognisable human behaviour. This also made it a good fit for Jack's writing style."

Thank God Charlie's friend Sergei is visiting as Sergei is trained in emergency care and through a steady series of mouth to mouth resuscitations and heart compressions he brought me back to the living! Yes, scant hours ago I may have been legally, nearly dead!

The only negative is that Sergei likes to smoke these rank-ass turkish cigarettes and it left a foul, foul, I mean really foul, taste in my mouth! FWIW Sergei is Armenian not Turkish. I made the mistake of asking him if he was Turkish (based on the cigs). No bueno.

FWIW I asked Sergei about Armenian vampire lore and he said they hate Turks and Azerbaijanis more than vampires so they don't have time to pay them any attention. Makes sense, no?

Killdumpster said...

Sean, if Kirby adapted A Clockwork Orange into comics, Alex might've been in the Avengers. Lol.

Killdumpster said...

Then again, he'd make a good small time crime-boss, maybe a good foe for DD.

Alex coulda got a few villains that matched his gang. Man-Bull for Dim, Cobra for Georgie, and Leap-Frog for Pete.

They could've been called "The Droogs of Death". Lol.

Killdumpster said...

My guess is, Alex would be a better fighter than that damn Jester.

Redartz said...

Nice nod to a quirky bit of 70's Marvel, Steve!

I was a big fan of the film, and rather enjoyed Kirby's adaptation of it in the Marvel Treasury Edition. When they announced the series to follow up, I figured to give it a shot. Stuck with the title for issues and dropped it. Seemed like Jack was telling the exact same story every issue...

Oh, and as for 2010- that film was quite the departure from it's predecessor. But well worth watching, nonetheless (if the original film's scant dialogue turned you off, 2010 would be much more to your liking).

Killdumpster said...

I knew that 2001 had started with a Marvel Treasury Edition, but forgot till you brought it up, Redartz.

It was at a bookshop, and I leafed through it. Guess I wasn't looking for cerebral reading at that time. Probably just picked up super-dude books and a copy of Famous Monsters instead, lol.

Never saw 2010, but will lookout for it at your advise.

Steve W. said...

KD, that 2001 Treasury Edition was one I always wanted, mostly because I'd never seen the film, at that point, and wanted to find out what it was all about.

Yes, the monthly comic did indeed give us our first glimpse of Machine Man.

Red, I find that every time I see 2001, I change my mind about it. Sometimes I love it, sometimes I hate it.

Thanks for the praise, Charlie.

Sean, thanks for that link. And, strikingly, the next story down on that page features a space wheel noticeably like the one in 2001.

Anonymous said...

It opens with a shuttle-type rocket approaching the space wheel Steve - clearly Kirby was a major influence on Kubrick! Just as he was on George Lucas later (the Force was obviously a third rate version of the Source).

Got to disagree with Redartz on Kirby's 2001 retelling the same story regularly, which (sorry, Red) I think is an overly-literal read of the series; sure, before #7 there was a similar framework to the film, with the ancient to the future influence of the monolith, but that misses the point of the stories.
For instance, 2001 #2 is basically about the matriarchal origin of civilisation, then in the next one you get the beginning of science - the domestication of nature, the invention of the wheel - in warfare, and so on.
It was all interesting stuff imo.


Redartz said...

Sean- thanks for your take on Kirby's series! You cast it in a different light from what I remember. Granted, it's been 40 years since I read those books, so it's quite possible that a more 'experienced' perspective would find more in them. Might have to give them a new look...

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Gents! Today is both Davy Jones' AND Michael Nesmith's birthday!

Half the Monkeys on the same day!

Loved the music, loved the TV show, when I was a young teen in the early 70s.

Anonymous said...

Steve, I agree with your assessment of the 2001 comic.
Obviously it was gonna be a short experiment, given the nature of the Monolith, but idiosyncrasy always has some value, and in my opinion, Kirby's wild imagery and concepts were often startling and usually interesting.
An experiment worth doing, I think. Why not? Clearly it's touched off some debate here.


Anonymous said...

I had the treasury edition and it was probably them most confusing comic my pre-teen self had read at the time. Being fair, decades later I found the movie (well, the ending) equally vague. I recall the individual issues being commonplace amongst newsagents that weren't generally carrying the US monthlies, at the time. Those and Logan's Run. Perhaps the UK embargo didn't cover movie spin offs.


Anonymous said...

*the not them*


Anonymous said...

DW, I actually managed to find the first issue of 2001, which seemed amazing at the time as you usually never saw #1s.

Was there really an embargo? I know some specific comics were never imported into the UK, and I can believe that maybe the two Spider-Man titles and the Hulk were kept out of the country to avoid competing with the weekly Spidey and MWOM, but otherwise... most weren't too hard to find a lot of the time (at least round my way).

The short-lived series in particular, not just 2001 and Logans Run but also stuff like Killraven and Werewolf By Night - all the Steve faves! - seemed commonplace. So much so, my theory (which I've bored this site with before) is that Marvel tried to improve the numbers on its lower selling titles with exports.
Too many unsold copies of Black Goliath or Omega the Unknown? Send 'em to the Brits, maybe the'll buy a few.

Btw, you're in Oz right? Have a good one tonight - happy new year.
(Same to everyone else, even if its a bit early)


Anonymous said...

I've been seeing these old reruns of The Outer Limits on this retro channel here.
I had never seen this stuff before, and to be honest, some of it is quite startling.
I guess I had thought it was a rip-off of the Twilight Zone, but it wasn't. Not at all.
Whereas the Twilight Zone could be about the supernatural and could, on occasion, be funny or whimsical, the Outer Limits seem to me to be really hard-ass science fiction. And there was no humor in it, as far as I can tell.
Some of it was pretty disturbing, frankly, like "The Architects of Fear", "Demon with a Glass Hand" or the "Zanti Misfits."
I kinda wonder if Alan Moore got an idea for the alien squid in The Watchmen from The Architects of Fear. Same premise, introduce a terrifying alien to inspire world peace.
I mention it because Kirby's science fiction could be fairly brutal, at times.


Killdumpster said...

My favorite Outer Limits episode is "Behold, Eck!", about a 2-dimensional being trapped in our dimension.

The original show was great, and the reboot (80's or 90's?) had a few good episodes as well.

MP, You may also like Tales Of Tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

I saw one where a glowing energy alien got trapped here temporarily, but I think it was a different episode. It had Cliff Robertson in it.

In any event, happy new year to all! If you find yourselves confronted by any trapped alien entities, may they either be benevolent or at least indifferent.


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Hey Gents! It's midnight +/- in Chicago! I want to wish you a Happy New Year.

Steve - I sincerely hope you continue with your blog. I sincerely enjoy the crew that hangs out here!

Cheers, CH 47

Anonymous said...

Well, none of us can stand you, Charlie!

...obviously I'm kidding. I enjoy this crew too.


Killdumpster said...

Happy New Year, oh my brothers.

Amazingly, I am able to greet 2020 with no hangover. Hope you all are doing just as well.

Killdumpster said...

MP, on an Outer Limits related sidenote, the production crew of that show did an entertaining Bergman-esque horror film called "Incubus".

It stars a pre-Kirk WILLIAM SHATNER!

One wacky thing about it is that it was done using a contrived universal language that was invented by the writer. There's subtitles, though.

Definetly one of the strangest entries in Shatner's filmography. Highly recommend.

Killdumpster said...

The Outer Limits have used the plot of a "trapped alien" more than a couple times, MP.

The Galaxy Being episode had a radio-station engineer teleporting a radioactive alien to earth.

In The Bellero Shield, a scientist brings one down using a laser beam. His nagging wife ends up in an unbreakable transparent box.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

I am greeting New Year's Day with a certain vague joy that can only be felt with the email I just received!

It states that Jack Kirby's "Dingbat Love" is now shipping to a spinner rack or W.H. Smith near you!!!

All Hail the King!!!

Preview Jack Kirby’s Dingbat Love and order it here:

Killdumpster said...

Hokey Smokes, Charlie-winkle!

That book is $40, and no super-dudes or "Kirby Dots"!!

I love the King as much as anyone, but love-stories? A Kirby story without "Kirby Dots" is like pizza without pepperoni. Even some of his war tales sometimes had'em. Lol!

Looked like Rick Jones on the cover for the Kid Gang story, though. Lol.

Killdumpster said...

FYI, Oh my brothers-in-the-States:

Comet TV is running Kaiju movies all day long today. A lot of Godzilla, with War Of The Gargautas at 2:00 am.

Just a tip if you're looking for light entertainment, if there's no football teams that are playing you're interested in.

Being from the 'Burgh, now that the Steelers are done, I couldn't care less.

Here we go, 'Zilla, here we go! Ooo! Ooo! Lol.

Charlie Horse 47 said...


You da man!

I just checked Comet TV and am watching Monsters Unleashed or something (it's 4 PM). Love the cheap Japanese missile launchers, the pink flying saucer, Godzilla, some other monster I don't know personally!

My son is caught up in it too!

I feel like a kid again!

Killdumpster said...

Yeah, buddy. Fun stuff!

Our time frames are different. That may be "Destroy All Monsters".

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Yep! Destroy all Monsters!

I was doing the mighty ROTF LOL when the two guys with red hats and the soldier suddenly wandered into a cave as they escaped the stalking Godzilla!

I said, "Here it comes... Rick Jones and a pair of gauntlets behind the next turn!" My son said, "W.t.h. are you talking about." LOL!!!

Nope... instead they found a whole hidden society who live on the moon and were clever enough to deduce that one of the pink flying saucers in the cave was probably the one they had seen earlier. (Perhaps Japan was covered in pink flying saucers and they had doubts whether this was one of them???)

Killdumpster said...

Most of the young protagonists in Japanese Kaiju movies were adolescents, not teenagers like Rick Jones. Lol.

Killdumpster said...

The closest thing that I can think of, outside of some Gamera movies, that resembles a "Rick Jones" similarity is Johnny Socko.

He had control of a giant robot w/a Egyptian-style head using a wrist-watch.

Hannah-Barbara ripped that off for their cartoon Frankenstein Jr.

Anonymous said...

As far as cool names go "Johnny Socko" is right up there with Flash Gordon, Rock Strongo, Sleepy Labeef, Nasty Canasta and Turd Fergusen.


Killdumpster said...

Not to mention Lash LaRue, Rip Torn, and Casanova Frankenstein. Lol.

Killdumpster said...

Also Snidely Whiplash, Dick Dastardly,
Dash Riprock, Cool McCool and Simon Bar Sinister.