Tuesday, September 08, 2009

DC and Kirby: dialogue to die for...

If there was anything that stood out in the DC comics of the early 1970's, it was, perhaps, that their idea of "hip" dialogue was so far off the mark as to send up an ugly flag saying "we're old white men who don't understand you hippies! Buy our comics anyway!" A quick read of the Jimmy Olsens from Kirby's New Gods Omnibus should give you a pretty good idea of what we're talking about.

So I was a little shocked to see this example show up of the cover from the revived Sandman by Simon and Kirby from 1974. Clearly the final cover was taken from this art and simply manipulated by enlarging and cropping the stats to make the final image (with perhaps a little reinking by the DC bullpen, i can't tell exactly from the small image), and the dreamer at the base has been changed, but take a look at the word balloon to see the dialogue change. Jack or Joe's original dialogue is a fairly straightforward "Come see what I've dreamed up for YOU!" while the printed version contains an entirely new noun brought to earth from Apokolips: "Come see what weirdies I've dreamed up for YOU!"

I've always blamed material like that on Jack's notoriously tin ear when it comes to dialogue, but I have to say that there is a likelyhood that this is editorial sticking its head in and taking what is a fairly straightforward and simple piece of text (while not the most exciting) and making it about 10 times worse. No wonder people headed for the exits in droves, whether to the Avengers and the FF or just away from comics in particular, but still to the exits.

What is most interesting is, given all the Kirby material that we've been exposed to in fandom, especially through TwoMorrows Kirby Magazine, is just how bizarrely he was edited. Yes, he had a tendency to compose word jazz, not dialogue that anyone would actually say, and introduce characters and ideas willy-nilly as they occured to him rather than by any defined structure, but the heavy handed nature of the later Marvel editing and the later DC editing certainly was no better than the hands off approach that was tried as well. It is clear that Jack's idea for the Surfer would have yeilded a more satisfying character arc than Stan's exceptionally over-wrought one, but it is also clear that the 4th World series needed guidance to have achieved more than what we got. Sadly, the industry nor the personalities involved seemed to find a happy medium. Alas.

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