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.)


344. Challengers of the Unknown

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.

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.

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!

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