Jack Kirby, co-creator of The Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and Iron Man, among thousands more, also fought in the Second World War, and returned to comics after having been part of the liberation of prisoners of the Nazi death camps.
Grey-lipped, pitiless, they recall
murderers who go to the gallows
without apology or regret.
Yet sometimes I see, in one of them –
or two – a glimmer of the fear
of dying without redemption,
as if the body were an armour
its bearer cannot escape when
the land turns to water at his feet.
Sometimes I dream myself
among his creatures: a tower
with a human face, huge-fingered hands
that reach for the light –
only to snuff it out. Once
the Pope himself
knelt alone among those cinders
and begged, “O Lord,
Why were You so silent then?”
There is an answer
in every supervillain Jack
found at the end of a brush or pen:
Here God turned to stone.
And sometimes I hear
what Jack would have whispered
to every figure he ever drew: Move –
the word part prayer in his mouth,
part love song, argument, howl of rage.
And move they do across the page –
angelic and disfigured alike.
MOVE! the one thing
no god proved to him it could
or found compassion enough to do.

You and I loved comics when we were kids. Everyone loves comics now, but there was a time when they were a shameful form of literature for anyone over, what was it? eight? Anyway, I’ve found my way back to loving this art form and doing so in the open. I teach a couple of courses now in comics and graphic novels, I’ve done some presentations, chaired panels, read papers, met a few of the stars of the art, and I’ve written some of that passion for these characters and their makers into poetry. This one about Jack Kirby’s villains, poetically justly enough, ended up in a high school poetry textbook in, I think, 2010.

© Richard Harrison