Monday, November 14, 2011


After two bloggy things talking about politicians and jerks, today
is as good a day as any to write about Jack Kirby’s Satan Six, the
comic book series I developed and wrote a decade ago.  The trigger
for this particular stroll down memory lane was a column by Daniel
Elkin, which you can read here.

I’ll wait while you read it.

Every little bug needs a honey to hug...

[humming tune]

Come on, it’s not that long a piece.

Okay, finally, now we can proceed...

In the 1990s, Topps Comics leased the rights to several Jack Kirby
creations.  One of them was Satan’s Six, a series about five humans
who were deemed not good enough for Heaven and not bad enough for
Hell.  The sixth member of the team was Frightful, a sort of demon
top sergeant.  As these humans were none too bright, they attempted
to “win” their way into Hell by doing bad deeds on Earth.  During
my time with them, things never went as planned.

Kirby created most of the Satan’s Six characters, drew two design
sheets of them, and wrote and pencilled eight pages of a story he
never completed.  My job was to develop the series and figure out
how to use those eight pages in the first issue. 

Satan’s Six has again come into the public eye on two recent
occasions.  The Jack Kirby Collector #57 [TwoMorrows; $10.95] ran
excerpts from a 1999 online column I wrote about the series.  I’d
link to that online column, but it seems to have disappeared into
those darned Internet tubes.  My hard copy of the column is likely
deep within my Vast Accumulation of Stuff and there’s no telling if
and when it will surface.  The other occasion was the piece I just
so kindly linked to.

Edited for space and to remove repetition with the above, here is
a portion of what I wrote in 1999:

When Topps editor Jim Salicrup asked me to develop and write the
Satan’s Six series, those ten pages [by Kirby] were my Bible.
Although I would have been entitled to include “developed by” in my
credit line, as did other creators who worked on the “Kirbyverse”
titles, I chose not to.  Chalk it up to my enduring profound love
and respect for Jack and Roz Kirby.

It was my decision to include those eight pages of Kirby story and
art - rewritten ever so slightly - in the first issue of
Six.  Anything that wasn’t in those eight pages or the two pages of
model sheets was my creation or interpretation.  Everything I added
to the concept, everything I wrote for the series, was all approved
by Jack.  To the best of my knowledge, I was the only “Kirbyverse”
creator who sent Jack and Roz everything I did on the book.  It
wasn’t something I had to do; it was something I felt I should do.
And besides, it gave me the opportunity to talk to Jack and Roz a
couple times a month.

Jack and Roz only asked for two changes in the four-and-a-half
issues of
Satan’s Six I wrote.  The “half” comes from an 8-pager I
wrote for the
Secret City Saga #1 giveaway.)

I had a character called “Bjorn Again” in one story and Jack felt
that might be offensive to some readers; he suggested “Bjorn Happy”
and I made the change

Roz asked that the artwork be brought more in line with the model
sheets; which, unfortunately, was not something over which I had any

All along, Jack told me I should make the book my own.  I think I
did that, but I also think I remained faithful to Jack’s concepts.
Satan’s Six remains one of the best experiences of my comics career
and some of my favorite work.

Elkin posted a link to his review on my Facebook wall.  It would’ve
been nice if he’d asked first, but I was okay with this.  A brief
conversation followed.  Initially, I merely corrected the erroneous
information he took from some Kirby blog and wrote of how generous
Jack was vis-a-vis my putting my own mark on the Six.

Then Elkin asked me a few questions.  I told him I’d answer them in
my own blog. Because I’m a tease.

ELKIN: I have to know if Kirby had any reaction to Cleary's art in
this book? Also, what did you think of it?

As noted above, the only time either Jack or Roz mentioned the art
was, as related above, when Roz asked if it could be brought more
in line with Jack’s original model sheets. 

John Cleary was an awfully nice kid and very enthusiastic.  But I
think his entire approach to the gig was to imitate Todd McFarlane
as much as he could.  Jim Salicrup, who played a major role in Todd
becoming a superstar, liked this approach.  I think maybe Jim was
trying to repeat his earlier editorial success.

I would have preferred a more traditional artist who was equally at
home with both action and humor.  Joe Staton leaps to mind.  Marie
Severin would have been wonderful.  Dave Cockrum could have done it
better than most.  Cleary only had the imitation Todd arrow in his
artistic quiver.  He didn’t have the storytelling chops to handle
this strange little comedy adventure series.

Salicrup insisted I use the Marvel method of plotting the story for
the artist and then dialoguing each issue from the pencils.  That
was the wrong approach for an artist like Cleary.  Though I wrote
my usual panel-by-panel plot, Cleary couldn’t get the pacing right.
There were jokes in the plot that had to be reconfigured to fit the
art.  I still enjoyed writing the book, but the work would’ve gone
easier for me with a more suitable artist.

ELKIN: Did you read my review of Satan's Six #2?  Is there anything
you would like to say in response?

Yes, I did...and of course not. 

I mentioned on Facebook that I got a kick out of it, but I think
it’s a mug’s game to respond to reviews of one’s work...other
than to thank the reviewer if he or she recognized your genius. 

It’s obvious from my earlier comments that I like the issue/series
and my writing on them somewhat more than Elkin does.  That’s
as much of a response as he’ll get from me. 

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2011 Tony Isabella


  1. I recall enjoying Satan Six and believe I still have some of the 'Kirby-verse' trading cards somewhere in my Not So Vast Accumulation of Stuff (NSVAOS). I was lucky enough to get a tour of Topps back when they were just beginning their brief stint as a comics publisher.

    I would love to see the SS back, under a publisher who would listen to you (and the Kirby estate) about how such a book might look more like the book Jack had in mind.

  2. Steve: Dynamite currently has the rights to Satan's Six (along with almost every other character who was wholly owned by Kirby) for their Kirby series. None of the Six have appeared yet, but writer Kurt Busiek has said in interviews that he has plans for the Six...

  3. Oh, well, that probably means I won't be writing them again. It would have been fun, but that's how it goes.

  4. Don't despair, Tony! Dynamite is doing lots of spin-offs of Kirby: Genesis. So far they have announced Captain Victory, Dragonsbane and Silver Star. If they decide to do a Satan's Six spinoff, I don't know why you wouldn't be considered...