Book Review – The Simon & Kirby Library: Science Fiction

TitanSKSciFiJoe Simon.  Jack Kirby.  Each man a giant in the world of comics, this match-up is as legendary as Martin and Lewis, Tracy and Hepburn, or Lennon and McCartney.  If you just thought “who?” to any of these names amongst names, proceed directly to Google or any other search engine of your choice.  Seriously, do it now.  I’ll wait.

Back now?  Good.  Now that we’re all on the same footing of what defines “legendary” in the entertainment world of the 20th century, it’s time to talk about the newest release from Titan Books, The Simon & Kirby Library: Science Fiction.

From the publisher:

The creators of Captain America and the Boy Commandos produced some of the most thrilling science fiction ever. Spanning more than 20 years, this volume features the first stories Joe Simon and Jack Kirby ever produced together (the Blue Bolt adventures) as well as Race for the Moon, featuring pencils by Kirby and inked artwork by comic book legends Reed Crandall, Angelo Torres, and Al Williamson. Also features an introduction by Dave Gibbons.

Spanning the years between January 1940 and September 1966 (the month the original Star Trek debuted on TV, to put this in perspective), this volume is a restoration of classics that have never looked this good before, even in previous collected editions.  It’s the latest collection in a series that includes Superheroes, Crime, and Horror.  In this volume, the evolution of early science fiction can be seen as real world technology and the space race influenced the dreams and nightmares of popular fiction.

RFTM2FaceOnMars1Do these stories hold up?  Yes and no.  It completely depends upon your criteria.  Do they stand up on their own by standards of modern comics?  Of course not.  They’re primitive by comparison… and in many ways they are a breed unto themselves.  These are the foundational building blocks that modern comics are built upon.  Everyone in the industry today owes their careers and inspiration to the likes of Simon and Kirby and a handful of their contemporaries.  A collection like this highlights the reasons why.  The comic book is the only visual art form created here in the States, and these guys steered the direction comics would take and defined the impact they would have on generations of loyal readers.  These stories and the accompanying artwork are products of their time, in an age where pulp fiction moved from the mean streets and back alleys to the wonder of the stars.  They hold up because they were very good for that age, and because of the obvious history they influenced.  As a result, you would be hard-pressed to find new comics like these.  As they say, they just don’t make ’em like they used to.

Simply put, these stories are just fun, and the art is about as clean and dynamic as anything you’ll see in any age of comics.  And really, isn’t that the entire reason comics continue to inspire us today?

So what’s inside?  Within, you’ll find the Blue Bolt series, the first to carry the Simon and Kirby byline, which was produced in the Flash Gordon / Buck Rogers tradition.  You’ll find the Sputnik-era adventures.  Bubble-helmeted space cowboys, scantily-clad alien vixens, otherworldly mysteries, and so much more lie within, waiting to be discovered by a new generation.  Maybe I’m prejudiced because I’m pre-disposed to enjoy classic comics and yesteryear-era science fiction, but I had a big grin on my face the entire time while reading these stories.  I’m willing to bet you will too.

Thank you, as always, to Titan Books for sending an advance copy our direction for review.  The Simon & Kirby Library: Science Fiction is available May 28.