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Jack Kirby's 2001 A Space Odyssey

Jack Kirby's take on the Arthur C. Clark/Stanley Kubrick classic; 2001 A Space Odyssey.

Treasury Edition

Marvel published the adaptation in its then-common treasury edition format featuring tabloid-sized pages of roughly twice the size of a normal comic book. The story is a close adaptation of the events of the film, but differs in the fact that Kirby incorporated additional dialog from two other sources: the Clarke/Kubrick novel, and a copy of an earlier draft script of the film that included the more colloquial-sounding version of HAL 9000, as originally voiced by actor Martin Balsam before Douglas Rain took over. In addition, the comic narrative captions describe the characters' thoughts and feelings, a significantly different approach from that taken by the film. The treasury edition also contained a 10-page article entitled 2001: A Space Legacy written by David Anthony Kraft.

Monthly Series

Shortly after the publication of the treasury edition, Kirby continued to explore the concepts of 2001 in a monthly comic book series of the same name, the first issue of which was dated December 1976. In this issue, Kirby followed the pattern established in the film. Once again the reader encounters a prehistoric man (Beast-Killer) who gains new insight upon encountering a monolith as did Moon-Watcher in the film. The scene then shifts, where a descendant of Beast-Killer is part of a space mission to explore yet another monolith. When he finds it, this monolith begins to transform the astronaut into a star child, called in the comic a New Seed.

Issues 1-6 of the series replay the same idea with different characters in different situations, both prehistoric and futuristic. In #7, the comic opens with the birth of a New Seed who then travels the galaxy witnessing the suffering that men cause each other. While the New Seed is unable or unwilling to prevent this devastation, he takes the essence of two doomed lovers and uses it to seed another planet with the potential for human life.

In issue #8 of the comic, Kirby introduces Mister Machine, who is later renamed Machine Man. Mister Machine is an advanced robot designated X-51. All the other robots in the X series go on a rampage as they achieve sentience and are destroyed. X-51, supported by both the love of his creator Dr. Abel Stack and an encounter with a monolith, transcends the malfunction that destroyed his siblings. After the death of Dr. Stack, X-51 takes the name Aaron Stack and begins to blend into humanity. Issues 9 and 10, the final issues of the series, continue the story of X-51 as he flees destruction at the hands of the Army.

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Yet another example of Jack's mastery of the medium!
DCF - 1/23/2011, 7:01 PM
Did you think, though, that his 2001 series went in some bizarre directions? I haven't read them since they were first published, but I just recall them being incredibly weird.
EdGross - 1/24/2011, 6:18 PM
It's strange. Looking back at the intent and tone of Kubrick's work, this is such an unlikely idea to not only to be adapted (at least in hindsight) but brought forward as an ongoing series. Of course, as this was Jack Kirby, it wasn't standard comic formula by any means.

Still, it makes a kind of sense given the conceptual style Kirby brought to DC's New Gods and the idea of The Fourth World. And it's a brilliant bit of trivia, that Machine Man was created in the pages of a movie adaptation spin-off. I think this is absolutely going to become a bit of a back issue hunt obsession for me.

Thank you very much for posting this article.
ShadowVoyd - 1/26/2011, 1:47 AM
Wicked stuff!
777LEEE - 1/26/2011, 5:34 AM
My pleasure ShadowVoyd! I'm happy to bring these lesser known Kirby stories forward. He needs no additional fan fare for his golden age/silver age Marvel stuff. Everyone who knows comics knows how important that work is. But his bronze age stuff (Machine Man, Devil Dinosaur, Eternals, 2001 A.S.O.) is equally brilliant. Awesome sci-fi stories with crazy concepts and characters. Unabashed, free flowing creativity. With Jack Kirby, there were no rules.

Thanks Leee!!!
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