Shocking Tales

Shocking Tales Digest #1, October 1981

This is a bit of an oddity, published by Harvey Comics in 1981 this 100-page, digest sized reprint title contains a smorgasbord of Jack Kirby and Bob Powell sci-fi stories from the late-1950s. It’s nice to have these collected in a single volume—and is a cheap way of reading stories that would be fairly pricey to collect in their original form.

The Powell material largely consists of Man in Black tales, but the Kirby stuff is as varied as you might expect from the King. Interestingly, a couple of the stories appear to be “seeds” for much better known ideas from later in Kirby’s career—literally in the case of “The Cadmus Seed!”, which tells of a scientist stumbling on a method of growing humans from genetically-modified seeds. The Cadmus name was, of course, later re-used in Jimmy Olsen during Kirby’s Fourth World stint on Superman’s Pal. There, the Cadmus scientists were working on all kinds of wacky genetic-modifications, creating monsters and clones aplenty.

“The Last Enemy!” finds a scientist using a time-machine to travel to the year 2514, where he finds man has died out and been replaced by clothed, intelligent, talking animals. Above ground, the various big cats fight dogs, foxes, bears and wolves, while below, the rodents plot awaiting the outcome of the war. Our hero is faced with the dilemma of which side to help. This story, clearly, was the inspiration for Kirby’s hit 1970s DC series Kamandi, which told of a future Earth AD, After Disaster, where intelligent, talking animals ruled over the remnants of humanity. The name of the eponymous hero came from a failed newspaper strip proposal Kirby worked up at around the same time as “The Last Enemy!”: Kamandi of the Caves.

Then there’s “I Want to be a Man!”, which concerns Fabiac, a super-computer that wants to be human. So much so, that its scientist creator builds it a body—with disastrous consequences. This whole notion is the central theme of one of Kirby’s very last creations: Machine Man. In that 1978 Marvel series, the robotic Aaron Stack traveled the US determined to prove his right to the same treatment as humans in the face of fear and revulsion.

In addition there are another half-dozen or so thoughtful SF stories, with the obligatory Twilight Zone-type endings, all worth reading, all beautifully drawn. A must-have for the Kirby fan I’d reckon! Here’s a bit of Kirby art from the back cover, featuring Fabiac:

Shocking Tales #1, back cover

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