Robot 6

Comic Strips to Comic Flicks: Jack Kirby movies they haven’t made (yet)

In recent years, we’ve seen a boatload of comic books and graphic novels make their way to the silver screen, from “big two” stalwarts like Spider-Man and Batman to independent titles like Scott Pilgrim and 30 Days of Night. Among the various adaptations, though, some creators have emerged as magnets for Hollywood types — and one artist rules the roost when it comes to movies inspired by his hand: Jack Kirby.

Often referred to as the King of Comics, Jack Kirby was on the ground floor for many of today’s biggest comic-to-screen blockbusters: Iron Man, X-Men, Fantastic Four, The Hulk, Thor, Captain America. His primary collaborator was Stan Lee, but he also created Captain America with Joe Simon. The late-’80s He-Man flick Masters of the Universe was inspired by Kirby, and Kirby himself worked on several cartoons such as Thundarr the Barbarian and The Fantastic Four TV series. Heck, Kirby’s own life could be fodder for numerous films — from his relationship with Marvel and Stan Lee to a standalone movie about the little-known C.I.A. operation “The Canadian Caper,” where his artwork was used trick Iran in 1980.

Here’s a list of some stand-out creations from Jack and where we think they’d be a good fit.

Silver Star: Described by Erik Larsen as “a step beyond mutants” as seen in Uncanny X-Men, Silver Star featured a genetically engineered man altered in his mother’s womb to survive a nuclear holocaust who fights with his symbolic twin Darius Drumm, who has plans for world domination. Originally cast by Kirby as a movie script, it was later turned into what would be Kirby’s final comic creation. Someone get Michel Gondry to direct this and go wild.

Satan’s Six: Who can stop a team of people created by Satan himself for the sole purpose of causing chaos on the mortal plane? As it turns out, they can. This collection of misfits bent on evil find their own issues prevent them from achieving their ultimate goals. If Fantastic Four showed heroes with real-world problems, then Satan’s Six posits that concept in a funhouse mirror. Although Kirby didn’t have time to fully explore this concept, he left enough behind for a great animated movie or TV series. I’d pay ticket price just to see the drill instructor from hell, Frightful.

The Fourth World: Originally conceived by Kirby as part of a sub-line of DC Comics in the early ’70s, “The Fourth World” was comprised of the series The Forever People, Mister Miracle and The New Gods – but it was its villain Darkseid that has proved to be the most enduring character, becoming a mainstay in DC comics and cartoons. This sprawling concept could be the basis for a series of movies on par with Marvel’s movie-verse, with sequels and spin-offs aplenty. As much as I’d like to see this in live action, I think a Pixar-esque treatment would work best and have a real shot at being a success.

The Boy Commandos: Created at DC by Kirby and Simon as a reaction to the success of a character they created at Marvel (Captain America), The Boy Commandos took the rising trend of teenage sidekicks and melded it with wartime drama. This WW2 elite commando squad was comprised of teenagers from the Allied countries of WW2. This could be a boy-centric version of Zack Snyder’s upcoming Sucker Punch, and give movie-goers a rousing good time. For casting, I think every teenage boy actor wants to do a tough role — I’d even consider putting Bieber in this.

Devil Dinosaur: Both ridiculed and loved, Kirby’s concept of the titular red-skinned dinosaur and his ape-like companion Moon Boy seems like a concept before its time — if of any time at all. Conceived with the hopes of it being picked up as an animated series, Devil Dinosaur and Moon Boy starred in their own short-lived series before being relegated to guest-starring roles from then on out. In Marvel comics continuity they even filmed a movie in which both the Thing and Godzilla show up on set to liven things up. Jason Aaron brought the duo back for their most recent appearance in Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine. As for the best place to pick up his adventures? Give it to avowed Kirby fanatic Joe Casey and the Man of Action crew for an animated series akin to their mega-popular Ben 10 series.

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Kamandi – The Last Boy On EarthThe Jungle Book meets The Road. Of all of the the works Kirby created that haven’t made it to TV or film in one shape or form, Kamandi seems like a dynamo of ideas and potential. Although there hasn’t been a definitive standalone story arc ripe for plucking, an able-bodied screenwriter and director could take what Kirby and others have done and fashion it into a tentpole movie for any studio.

OMAC: Described by Kirby as Captain America set in future times, OMAC tells the story of a man working in the metaphorical trenches of a big corporation who’s changed by an self-aware satellite robot into a super-powered One-Man Army Corps — O.M.A.C. Working with these powers, OMAC enlists in the Global Peace Agency — a police force for the entire globe that relies on non-lethal weapons to keep the peace. It’s a gritty futuristic war movie with some out-of-this-world concepts  that would be a great vehicle for someone like actor Tom Hardy to make his bones on.



Kamandi would make an awesome computer-animated movie.

Typo: “but it was its villain [from] Apokolips that has proved to be the most enduring character”

“but it was its villain Apokolips that has proved to be the most enduring character…”

I’m assuming you meant Darkseid – but glad to see it’s on this list. Would be a great TV series.

Superman’s Pal: Jimmy Olsen was also part of Kirby’s Fourth World – it actually launched his 70s DC work . . .

And who ridicules Devil Dinosaur!? That’s just blasphemy!

Chris Schillig

March 7, 2011 at 1:52 pm

I agree. Devil Dinosaur was beyond cool! (And I’d pay good money to see a Kamandi movie.)

14- hour animated HBO primetime 4th World Saga, please. NOT IN 3D.

I remember the Fourth World comics as being very cinematic when I was a kid, with this mounting sense of epicness (“OhMyGod what will happen when Darkseid FINALLY finds the Anti-Life Equation?”) that sadly never got properly concluded but yes, I think it would make for a great movie or TV series.

Similarly, OMAC just feels like a cyberpunk setting before cyberpunk (or the pop culture version of it) was invented. Kirby WAS a visionary.

On the other hand Devil Dinosaur reminds me of Dinosaur Prince, a live action TV show from Japan that had a jungle boy riding a fire-breathing brontosaurus… always wondered if that inspired Kirby or was just a coincidence (probably the latter.)

And Thundarr the Barbarian was pretty much Kamandi animated (with actual designs from Kirby).

I really hope they don’t try to make any of these, although it could be unbelievably awesome to see The Fourth World on the big screen it could easily go horribly wrong and end up as an insult to Kriby’s legacy.

Cole Moore Odell

March 8, 2011 at 8:51 pm

Some strong possibilities missing from that list: Challengers of the Unknown has a lot of potential as a high adventure series without overt superhero trappings. The Demon could be fantastic, with horror, superhero and Arthurian elements. Machine Man would also be a fun character to see on screen, if it could be untangled from the 2001 rights.

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