Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey Gets Turned Into “The Weirdest Sci-Fi Comic Ever Made” by Jack Kirby

Kirby 2001 covers

Sure, we all enjoyed the adap­ta­tion of 2001: A Space Odyssey pre­sent­ed on the Howard John­son’s chil­dren’s menu from 1968 that we fea­tured last May. But would you believe that, when you swap out the name Howard John­son for that of Jack Kir­by, you get a work of high­er artis­tic mer­it? In his long career, the wide­ly respect­ed com­ic book artist, writer, and edi­tor put in time on both the DC and Mar­vel sides of the fence. 1976’s 2001: A Space Odyssey com­ic book, a meet­ing of Kir­by’s mind with those of Stan­ley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, marked his return to Mar­vel after spend­ing the ear­ly 70s at DC.

Kubrick­o­nia, which calls the com­mis­sion “a match made in bizarro world heav­en,” describes the prod­uct: “The adap­ta­tion was writ­ten & pen­ciled by Kir­by with ink­ing duties car­ried out by Frank Gia­coia. The almost 2 times larg­er than the reg­u­lar com­ic-book for­mat suit­ed Kir­by’s out­landish pop style, but this was a great tal­ent mere­ly going through the motions.” The Sequart Orga­ni­za­tion’s Julian Dar­ius calls it “sure­ly one of the strangest sci-fi fran­chise comics ever pub­lished,” a stuffy mar­riage between Kir­by’s “bom­bas­tic,” “action-ori­ent­ed,” “in-your-face” art and the style of Kubrick­’s film, one “all about the sub­tle. No one ever accused Kir­by of being sub­tle. Indeed, his almost com­plete lack of sub­tle­ty is part of his charm, but it’s not a charm one could pos­si­bly imag­ine fit­ting 2001.”


At The Dis­solve, Noel Mur­ray includes an exam­i­na­tion of Kir­by’s 2001 in the site’s “Adven­tures in Licens­ing” col­umn. Kir­by’s descrip­tion of Kubrick­’s immor­tal mil­len­nia-span­ning match cut, which the arti­cle quotes as an open­er, tells you every­thing you need to know:

As the surge of ela­tion sweeps through him, Moon­watch­er shouts in vic­to­ry and throws his weapon at the sky!! High­er and high­er, it sails — aimed at the infi­nite where the count­less stars wait for the com­ing of man… And, man comes to space!! Across the ago­niz­ing ages he fol­lows the des­tiny bequeathed to him by the mono­lith.

2001: A Space Odyssey in comics, which com­pris­es not just the over­sized book but ten month­ly issues that expand­ed upon the film — tak­ing it in, shall we say, a dif­fer­ent direc­tion than either Kubrick or Clarke might have envi­sioned — has, as you can see, inspired no small amount of dis­cus­sion among sci­ence fic­tion and com­ic book enthu­si­asts. Dar­ius wrote a whole book called The Weird­est Sci-Fi Com­ic Ever MadeAt Sci­FiDi­men­sons, Robert L. Bryant Jr. and Robert B. Cooke offer two more analy­ses of this unusu­al chap­ter in the his­to­ry of Amer­i­can sequen­tial art. What­ev­er its mer­its as read­ing mate­r­i­al, it shows us that genius plus genius does­n’t always pro­duce genius — but it nev­er fails to pro­duce some­thing fas­ci­nat­ing.

You can check out scans of the first issue of 2001: A Space Odyssey over on this web site.


Relat­ed Con­tent:

Howard Johnson’s Presents a Children’s Menu Fea­tur­ing Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

1966 Doc­u­men­tary Explores the Mak­ing of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (and Our High-Tech Future)

In 1968, Stan­ley Kubrick Makes Pre­dic­tions for 2001: Human­i­ty Will Con­quer Old Age, Watch 3D TV & Learn Ger­man in 20 Min­utes

Isaac Asi­mov Pre­dicts in 1964 What the World Will Look Like Today — in 2014

Arthur C. Clarke Pre­dicts the Future in 1964 … And Kind of Nails It

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture as well as the video series The City in Cin­e­ma and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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