My Misspent Youth: Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers by Jack Kirby

I read a lot of comic books as a kid. This series of posts is about the comics I read, and, occasionally, the comics that I should have read.

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While I was a committed student of the history of Marvel Comics upon devoting myself to their stories at the age of ten, I was shamefully slow to come around to the art of the creator who was arguably the most important figure in the groundbreaking, foundational years of the publisher. Working with writer Stan Lee, artist Jack Kirby was the architect of the early Marvel Universe, officially co-creating almost every major character in that monumental first decade of bold new comic book storytelling. Even though Kirby’s Marvel masterpiece was undoubtedly Fantastic Four (though there are conflicting stories about precisely how the creative process worked, it seems clear that Marvel’s First Family benefited from the strongest Kirby influence, with Lee often giving his partner only the barest of plot before the drafting table was engaged), my favorite character and titles, I still didn’t warm to the artist’s distinctive style when I’d encounter old stories. It was blocky and weighty, almost crude to my untrained eyes. Though I’d later figure out that some of my favorite artists — like John Buscema, John Byrne, Jim Steranko — all drew from a Kirby influence, at least to a degree, the trailblazer seemed overly simplistic compared to the intricacy and nuance I believed I saw elsewhere. Man, was I wrong. In my defense, let me repeat that I was ten years old when this fandom journey began.

By the early nineteen-eighties, Kirby no longer had a home at the House of Ideas he helped build, in large part because of an ongoing dispute over what he felt he was owed for the enduring success of his creations, most notably a stockpile of original art — suddenly a lucrative commodity on the collectors’ market — that Marvel refused to return to him. After digressions in the field of animation and elsewhere, Kirby returned to comic books with fledgling independent publisher Pacific Comics, a company willing to give him something nearly unprecedented in the field: complete ownership of his own creation. Under their aegis, Kirby came up with a series called Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers. Rather than the sort of superhero fare he’d drawn at Marvel Comics, Captain Victory felt like an extension of the more science fiction work he’d crafted when given a fairly free hand at DC Comics in the nineteenseventies (and then during his brief return to Marvel in the second half of the decade). It suited Kirby’s majestic imagination, giving him a chance to fill the page with wild, futuristic dreams.

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As the title implies, Captain Victory is a leader within a intergalactic army of protectors, bent on protecting the universe from the evil impulses of marauding, invading creatures, such as the Insectons. Burning through new clone bodies as a result of his courageous self-sacrifice on the battlefield, Captain Victory is widely admired by his cadre of fellow Galactic Rangers, obviously drawn from diverse corners of the galaxy.

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In the early issues of the series, the Galactic Rangers have come to Earth, looking to protect this primitive planet from malevolent forces beyond the population’s understanding. This gives Kirby plenty of chances to heighten the sense of wonder through the apoplectic and terrified reactions of the Earthling law enforcement officials Captain Victory and his crew encounter. Mostly, though, there’s no real need for such devices. The outrageous boldness of Kirby’s concepts is enough to leave any reader’s head spinning. His storytelling was typified by a sense of constant wonder and off-the-cuff inventiveness, making his comics progress with the exuberantly free logic that a child brings to the crafting a fiction, with any idea that pops into their head instinctively deemed good enough to keep the tale going. Of course, as we’re talking comics here, the lunatic ideas are only as good as their rendering in pen and ink. Kirby’s got that sorted out.

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Realistically, Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers resides fairly low on the list of great Kirby creations. It occasionally feels derivative of his own prior work (he’d later implicitly tie it to the Fourth World stories he created for DC Comics) and is filled with dialogue that’s surprisingly simplistic, as if Kirby were trying reassert the notion that comics were for kids, despite the little detail that Captain Victory was created for the developing direct market, making it less likely that youngsters were going to get their jam-stained hands on it. Even still, it’s blazingly fun in a way that I tended to resist back then, convinced that my comics needed to be mature and serious, dealing with significant issues and intense emotions. I still love those other comics I read, but I could used a dose of Kirby wonder back then, too. It’s a shame it took me as long as it did to realize it.


Fantastic Four by Stan Lee and John Buscema
Contest of Champions by Bill Mantlo and John Romita, Jr.
Daredevil by Frank Miller
Marvel Fanfare by Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum and Paul Smith
Marvel Two-in-One by Tom DeFalco and Ron Wilson
Fantaco’s “Chronicles” series
Fantastic Four #200 by Marv Wolfman and Keith Pollard
The Incredible Hulk #142 by Roy Thomas and Herb Trimpe
Uncanny X-Men by Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum
Godzilla by Doug Moench and Herb Trimpe
Giant-Size Avengers #3 by Steve Englehart, Roy Thomas and Dave Cockrum
Alpha Flight by John Byrne
Hawkeye by Mark Gruenwald
Avengers by David Michelinie and George Perez
Justice League by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire
The Thing by Dan Slott and Andrea DiVito
Nexus by Mike Baron and Steve Rude
Marvel Premiere by David Kraft and George Perez
Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars by Jim Shooter and Mike Zeck
Micronauts by Bill Mantlo and Butch Guice
Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland
What If? by Mike W. Barr, Herb Trimpe and Mike Esposito
Thor by Walt Simonson
Eightball by Dan Clowes
Cerebus: Jaka’s Story by Dave Sim and Gerhard
Iron Man #150 by by David Michelinie, John Romita, Jr. and Bob Layton
Bone by Jeff Smith
The Man of Steel by John Byrne
Fantastic Four by Doug Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz
“Allien and How to Watch It” by John Severin
Fantastic Four Roast by Fred Hembeck and friends
The Amazing Spider-Man #25 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
Marvel Two-in-One #7 by Steve Gerber and Sal Buscema
The New Mutants by Chris Claremont and Bob McLeod
Dark Horse Presents
Bizarre Adventures #27
Marvel Team-Up #48 by Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema
Metal Men #20 by Robert Kanigher and Ross Andru
The Avengers by Roy Thomas and John Buscema
Fantastic Four by Marv Wolfman and John Byrne
Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra
American Flagg by Howard Chaykin
Marvel and DC Present by Chris Claremont and Walter Simonson
Batman by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli
Marvel Two-in-One Annual #5 by Alan Kupperberg and Pablo Marcos
Web of Spider-Man by Louise Simonson and Greg LaRocque
Super-Villain Team-Up #12 by Bill Mantlo and Bob Hall
What If? #31 by Rich Margopoulos and Bob Budiansky
Fantastic Four by Scott Lobdell and Alan Davis
Magik by Chris Claremont and John Buscema, Sal Buscema, and Ron Frenz
Marvel Two-in-One Annual #7 by Tom DeFalco and Ron Wilson
Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters by Mike Grell
Avengers #202 by Jim Shooter, David Michelinie and George Pérez
Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. by Jim Steranko

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