Kirby Week-or-so continues! Today: the final collaboration between two titanic legends! (Archive.)
Jack Kirby spent many years working with the great Joe Simon (check out Joe Simon Week in the archives) in the Golden Age and beyond. Their final team-up, however, occurred in 1974, in one single issue– one that would become Sandman #1. It may be the weirdest comic either of them ever did, and it’s amazing.
The Sandman is a superheroic guardian of the dream dimension who protects kids from nightmares. He keeps two living nightmares named Brute and Glob captive, and sets them free with the aid of his magic whistle when he needs help. He can transport himself to the real, waking world when needed, and carries magic sand that can put anyone to sleep. The plot of the original issue involves evil dolls made by dormant Nazis who are led by a crazy Japanese dude with a computer brain named General Electric. Only Sandman can save the day—! Strange indeed, but wonderful in its madness. It combined the insanity of 70s Simon with the insanity of 70s Kirby!
The book must have done well, because it led to an ongoing series, this time by Michael Fleisher and Ernie Chua. Equally ridiculous and brilliant, it involved such concepts and characters as the monstrous, Mojo-like Dr. Spider and– wait for it– zombie gorillas!
Kirby returned to the series with #4, working under scripts by Fleisher. From what I understand, Kirby wasn’t a fan of his work on this series, but I think it’s magnificent nonetheless. The Sandman found himself swept up in the dreams of one boy, Jed Paulsen, again and again, and helped save him from all sorts of menaces and nightmares. Almost similar to Marvel’s Sleepwalker, which I also love, but far, far stranger. Heck, in #5, Jed’s grampa is killed in a random sea monster encounter, and he’s sent to live with other relatives, but still gets to team up with his buddy the Sandman to fight Frog People and stuff, and… Geez, it’s a wild series.
The series ended after #6, though there was a seventh issue planned involving Sandman teaming up with Santa Claus to battle the Seal Men that appeared, in some versions, at least, in Cancelled Comic Cavalcade and Best of DC Digest. Don’t believe me? See for yourself:
The Sandman is one of Kirby’s more obscure works, and probably his most bizarre collaboration. He may not have been happy with it, but I am. Neil Gaiman liked it enough to re-use some of the concepts in his own Sandman series. I’d like to see some kind of collection of the series, myself.
I think it’s ripe for a revamping, too. Something this insane deserves a new chance at life! Would anybody here buy a series about a colorfully-garbed guardian of the Dream Stream and his two nightmarish sidekicks protecting the subconsciouses of youngsters across the world? I would. Hmm. Maybe it’d be good for Vertigo…