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CSBG Archive

365 Reasons to Love Comics #344

It may be a day late, but it’s not a dollar short (scroll down to see yesterday’s post). That’s right. Finally… KIRBY IS HERE!

Let’s start off a look at Jack Kirby‘s Greatest Hits (sans OMAC, my personal fave, which appeared all the way back in January) by discussing that awesome series he did about four adventurers that explore the weird and fight the weirder. (Archive.)

12/10/07

344. Challengers of the Unknown

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You were expecting maybe the Fantastic Four? Hah! This is the original Kirby quartet.

While the official list of creators is disputed, we know Jack Kirby was involved. The concept’s just dripping with Kirby: four adventurers survive a plane crash and decide to team up to become even crazier adventurers, due to them “living on borrowed time.” Mostly, this led them into battles with freaky monsters and mad sci-fi villains. And lo, a comic was born!

After a three-issue trial in Showcase, King Kirby went on to do only eight issues of the resulting ongoing series. The series lasted 77, and a few revivals have popped up over the years– the first Loeb/Sale collaboration, for instance, and another series by Steven Grant, Len Kaminski, John Paul Leon, Shawn Martinbrough, and friends, with a new group of Challengers.

My favorites, however, are the originals: Ace, Red, Rocky, and the Prof. And let’s not forget June! Launching themselves into the unknown from their HQ in a hollowed-out mountain is exactly the kind of thing I’d want to do with my life if I could.

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The series never let up with mad ideas and ridiculous monsters. The team’s archnemesis? Multi-Man, the madman who dies and comes back with a new superpower each time. Yeah, it’s the same guy who later joined the Injustice League during the JLI era. Back in the day, he was a total menace.

Really, it was a comic about high adventure and utterly strange menaces. Totally joycore, if you ask me. Who isn’t into that type of thing?

And now they’re back, thanks to Mark Waid, in the pages of Brave & the Bold. Pick it up, and stuff.

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Could the Challs hold their own series again? I think it’s totally possible. Let’s make it as big and crazy as possible. Call it “Challengers: @#$% the Unknown.” Four normal people in a world gone mad– not just challenging the unknown, but flipping the bird to it. Nextwave meets Fantastic Four, all in glorious KIRBYVISION. In a day-glo DC universe where fresh horrors lurk around ever corner, the Challengers are there to set things right– probably by blowing stuff up.

The world’s greatest Challengers of the Unknown website can be found here; it’s gloriously in-depth and can probably suck you in for hours if you’re not too careful. Hopefully you can borrow some time to check it out.

God Bless Jack Kirby. Pick up the Showcase Presents volume, containing the super-cool work of Kirby and friends!

9 Comments

It coul work. Probably only get 12 issues, but they’d be FUN issues. If done right.

I want a Morrison/Cooke Challengers series. Cooke’s version in New Frontier was just about perfect, but this is also the sort of book Morrison was born to write.

I never really gave the Challs much thought until their usage in New Frontier. I am much more interested in them now. I’ve liked their brief appearances in Brave & The Bold as well, and want to pick up their Showcase and Loeb/Sale mini-series trades.

Great choice.

Kirby’s 1950s output is some of my favorite comic art of all time. How about Simon & Kirby’s “Fighting American”, “The Fly” or “Black Magic” next? Fun stuff!

The Kirby issues inked by Wood are particularly fine: Wood brings out a delicacy in The King that no other inker ever found, but it’s still got all the power and energy that makes Kirby Kirby. Lovely work, and now available readily and cheaply in the Showcase volume.

That Kaminski series was totally underrated. Part of that run of quirky DC books which got cancelled too soon, but were fantatic (Chase, Chronos, Young Heroes in Love, etc).

if they reprinted this monthly, recolored and with a little back-up a la ‘avengers classic’ i’d give it a shot. until then….make mine marvel. remember when people used to say that? remember?

just kidding btw, i’ll probably at least thumb through the showcase. i LOVED there appearance in NEW FRONTIER so if darwyn cooke launched a series…mmm.

The Kirby issues are also available in two slim DC Archive volumes. If you think the price is worth it. (I did — it’s Kirby, after all.)

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