2001: A Space Odyssey #2
June 16, 2014
An epic drama of adventure and exploration. Or an epic drama of cavepeople and purple alien spaceships.
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. It's time for us to once again to look at an issue of Jack Kirby's interpretation of the science-fiction masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey.
(Cut to a closeup of the cover of the first issue of "2001")
Linkara (v/o): If you haven't seen the first review, go watch it. I've got this shiny new archive page on the website and take advantage of it.
Linkara: (smiling) And then in five years, when the website gets redesigned, this episode will be horribly outdated! (beat) Why am I smiling about that?
Linkara (v/o): Whatever. Point is, these comics are weird, and they're going to keep getting weirder the further we get from the initial premise of the novel and movie.
Linkara: So let's dig into (holds up today's comic) "2001: A Space Odyssey #2" and see what Jack Kirby dreamed up for the second issue.
(AT4W title sequence plays; title card has "Blue Danube Waltz" by Johann Strauss II playing in the background. Cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): The cover is full and crowded, which might seem like an odd thing to say, considering the majority of it is taken up by a head. Or rather, two heads split down the middle. But then we have a caveman on the left, whose fur coverings are the same color as the mountain behind him, and on the right, a big-headed orange alien... thing. At first, I thought the alien was holding a gun, possibly as a counter to the caveman holding a stone axe, but look, that's clearly the thing's eye, so instead, it's holding up a fork in front of its face. A fork with a finger hole.
Text: Begin a new journey to the stars – and beyond!!
Linkara: (dramatically) But whatever you do, don't fly United when you make that journey.
Text: SECOND STARTLING ISSUE!
Linkara (v/o): And I can believe that this issue is startling. Just look at the reaction on the faces of the people on the cover. "Startled" is probably an understatement, given how they look.
Text: A fiery female makes the centuries' trip-- from the caves to eternity!
Linkara: She went on a trip across centuries from caves to eternity?? I hope she brought a lunch.
Linkara (v/o): We open with Vira the She-Demon! See? Right there in big letters. (reads text dramatically) "VIRA THE SHE-DEMON!"
(Cut back briefly to the cover)
Linkara (v/o): That being said, I'm wondering if Vira the She-Demon is supposed to be the green-skinned woman on the cover, though that seems peculiar if she is, considering, well, she's clearly not green.
(Cut back to the first page)
Linkara (v/o): Gray or purple, maybe, but not green. Anyway, to show off how badass she is, she's waving around a giant stick with a flaming skull at the end of it. I think this is what some assholes out there think feminists look like. Feminists – this is what we should look like! Anyway, let's get to the narration.
Narrator: ARE WE THE END OF THE LINE!? Are we the last stop in the journey of human evolution?
Linkara: Well, obviously not. Star Trek: Voyager proved that if eventually we will evolve into orange lizard things that returned to the water. (beat) That episode will never not be stupid.
Narrator: The answer could be that the voyage is far from over!! Each of us could be a stepping stone to the New Seed!!!
Linkara (v/o): That was so exciting that it required three exclamation points! I just imagined Jack Kirby furiously typing this and stop himself from covering half the page in more exclamation points.
Narrator: But, let us not leap to the future before we explore the dim past...
Linkara: (as narrator) They should really change the light bulbs.
Narrator: ...for one who began her odyssey in a cave of skulls!
Linkara (v/o): And a cave of monoliths, it would seem, since there's one glowing right behind Vira. So, in the movie and novel, there is only the one Monolith in Africa. In this version of events, this is our second on Earth. And spoilers: we're gonna be seeing quite a few more before this series is over. The comics have been questioning what the Monoliths are and throwing out a few possibilities, but considering how many of these things there are, I'm gonna start assuming they're actually some kind of alien fast food chain or Starbucks. So, on the next page, Vira is blue. Perhaps she's not Vira the She-Demon, but Vira the She-Chameleon.
Narrator: Vira is a non-submissive female who is trying to survive in a primitive world swarming with males who dominate or kill!!
Linkara: (as narrator) You go, girl! (snaps fingers)
Narrator: Having wandered into a "ritual cave," reserved for the storage of enemy skulls...
Linkara: Okay, if you get enough enemy skulls that you actually need a "storage cave" for them, I think you've got enough enemy skulls.
Vira: I seek only food here!! I have not eaten for a full day!!
Linkara: (as Vira, making a jabbing motion) And that's why I'm waving this flaming skull in your faces! I'm gonna have barbecued caveman for lunch!
Linkara (v/o): The cavemen are naturally idiots, believing she has brought the dead back to life with the flaming skull. And for the record, it's not because they haven't discovered fire. If they hadn't, how the hell would they know what fire is and that the skull is flaming?
Narrator: Vira has merely used what she's found in the cave... tar, fire, a wooden shaft and a ritual skull!
Linkara: Vira was the MacGyver of prehistoric times.
Linkara (v/o): The cavemen flee, fearing the touch of the Ghost Rider effigy.
Narrator: Rudimentary religion has come to men!
Linkara: (as narrator) Rudimentary tax-exempt status would soon follow.
Narrator: The fear of the unknown is alive in their hearts! The blazing skull which moves in unison to Vira's screams shatters their sense of logic--and their nerves!!
Linkara: They clearly had spears themselves, knew about fire, and knew about skulls and screaming people... and still they thought she had brought them back to life. I don't think their sense of logic was really there to begin with.
Linkara (v/o): Figuring that the morons will come to their senses soon enough, Vira decides to head out and try to find a safe place, thinking that the other cavemen won't follow her to a nearby "fire mountain".
Vira: (thinking) It is said that a stone-spirit lives in this mountain!
Linkara: (as Vira) Then again, it's also said that this bone tiara I wear would keep my hair from getting split ends, and that really hasn't paid off.
Linkara (v/o): Vira seeks the "stone-spirit", but keeps getting distracted by, you know, all the fire and magma and sulfuric gases and stuff. Eventually, though, she finds the thing. Naturally, it's yet another monolith.
Narrator: The monolith is like no stone ever seen. It hovers in mid-air and sings with a voiced possessed by no creature on Earth...
Linkara: (as narrator) Not surprisingly, it sounds exactly like Freddy Mercury.
Vira: (thinking) The stone-spirit!! It calls to me! I-It tells me not to fear!
Linkara: (as Vira) It tells me to download this file from an unverified source.
Linkara (v/o): Vira kneels before it and talks to the monolith, telling it how she needs food and water, or else she'll die.
Narrator: There is no one about to hear what transpires.
Linkara: If a monolith talks to a hungry cavewoman near some volcanoes, does it make a sound?
Narrator: The monolith soon ceases its sounds and Vira goes on...
Vira: (thinking) It has spoken!
Linkara: (as Vira) It only takes cash or credit.
Vira: (thinking) What lies everywhere in this place can save me...
Linkara: (as Vira) Of course! Dirt!
Linkara (v/o): However, Vira doesn't find anything except the bones of dead animals, nothing she can actually eat.
Narrator: Vira's fertile mind is ever restless. She scours the grim field and reflects upon its grotesque harvest...
Linkara: (as Vira) Damn, there's nothing edible here! Just that Hardee's over there. Nothing edible!
Narrator: There is nothing but soil and bones here... and something-- else!!
Linkara (v/o): And that something is... a rock.
Linkara: (as Vira) Wait, what's this? It says, "Hot enough for you, ha ha."
Vira: Fear! (thinking) This is truly a place of fear!!
Linkara: Rocks – there is nothing more frightening.
Narrator: Vira is suddenly inspired! She will use the bones and soil-- and fear itself, to produce her needs!!
Linkara: (as Vira) I'll scare this dirt into becoming food!
Linkara (v/o): As we cut back to the cavemen, the narrator explains that they put all the skulls in the cave to appease the monolith. Goes to show why it didn't pick any of these guys to talk to. However, Vira soon arrives, having now dressed herself in an elaborate costume made out of the bones of the dead animals. And just for good measure, she attached torches to the mammoth skull she seems to be wearing. Man, that is the best Yu-Gi-Oh Mammoth Graveyard cosplay ever. Anyway, she orders them to drop their weapons.
Vira: I am sent by the great stone spirit to live among you!! Please me and you shall prosper! Anger me -- and I shall DEVOUR YOUR TRIBE!!
Linkara: (as Vira) Invoke my indifference and you will receive a consolation prize!
(We then cut to another bookshelf. Linkara suddenly appears in the room out of thin air, as he is fiddling with a teleporter on his wrist)
Linkara: Oh, uh... (looks around nervously) Sorry, guys, teleporter malfunction. (AT4W logo appears in the corner) We'll be right back while I suss this out.
(He resumes tinkering as we cut to black to go to a commercial break. Upon return, Linkara is still there)
Linkara: (excitedly) And now we're back, and I think I've got this all worked out.
(He pushes a button on his teleporter and there is an explosion, which turns him into an old man)
Linkara: You no-good Cinema Snob... (stops and looks around in confusion while the AT4W logo appears in the corner) Where the hell am I?
(The review resumes)
Linkara (v/o): And so, Vira swiftly takes over the village of the dumbed, who build her a little hut and continually offer food and praises.
Linkara: The only thing I'm hoping for at this point is that Al and the rest of the cast of "Marville" arrive with the time machine and then Vira kills them all!
Linkara (v/o): And like both the movie and the previous issue, we have our parallel shot, though this not nearly as impressive as those. In this case, it's a shot of Vira eating some rocks, and then smash-cut to astronaut Vera Gentry speaking into a communicator from a small base on Ganymede.
Linkara: Wait, something related to Jupiter in "2001: A Space Odyssey"? Since when?!
Narrator: Ganymede is one of Jupiter's larger moons...
Linkara (v/o): Actually, from what I understand, it's Jupiter's largest moon and in fact the largest moon in the solar system. The narrator also reports that there have been "strange, intriguing sightings" that have led them to send her on this mission. Vera heads out to some kind of futuristic telescope to begin looking for anything unusual.
Vera: (thinking) NASA must be recruiting male-chauvinist staffers. They would pick a female for this U.F.O. assignment!
Linkara: (holds up index fingers) One, how jaded have you become that you're not excited to be on friggin' Ganymede?! (holds up two fingers) Two, it's not chauvinistic for them to tell you to DO YOUR JOB. (holds up three fingers) Three, (makes a "finger quote") "female"? I know you're a scientist, but come on! Who describes their own gender like that? (points to himself) Boy, guy, (pumps his fist) MAN!
Linkara (v/o): The narrator says the reports were of fleeting shadows, bizarre silhouettes that would not normally be seen on the surface of the moo– moo... H-Hey, wait a second! All those dots littering the sky! Light pollution would totally eliminate seeing any stars! Clearly, this Ganymede landing was faked! Also, purple alien spaceships. Yeah, I'm not kidding.
Linkara: What? Don't you remember the purple alien spaceships in 2001: A Space Odyssey? They were the real ones who made HAL kill the crew, you know. Incidentally, I haven't taken my brain pills today.
Linkara (v/o): Vera spots them and makes a run for the building to report this, but the aliens are a spiteful bunch and blow the place up.
Vera: (thinking) Good Lord! They've destroyed the survival hut and all its equipment in a matter of seconds! I'm on my own–!!
Linkara: The great thing about old comics is that in a crisis situation, character thoughts are neat, ordered and always thinking about the long-term consequences. (now upset) FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, A PURPLE SPACESHIP IS FIRING ON YOU! WORRY ABOUT ALL THAT STUFF LATER!
Linkara (v/o): She just barely manages to evade the ships, who are attacking her because, well, aliens are dicks, I guess. Actually, come to think of it, they probably are. Aliens just leave the monoliths everywhere and never bother to leave a sign saying, "WARNING – DO NOT TOUCH". Yeah, it would be in an alien language, but it'd still be enough to get people to rethink getting closer to them.
Narrator: Vera suddenly wheels in fright! She has detected movement in the rocks above her! For a split second, the light of Jupiter illuminates a face which carries a dark message from the stars!
Linkara: (dramatically) DRINK MORE OVALTINE!
Linkara (v/o): Seriously, though, look at these aliens. They look like what would happen if the Watcher melted. Kind of frog-like, actually. And look at those eyes! It's like staring into a black hole.
(Cut to a clip of Halloween)
Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence): The devil's eyes... The blackest eyes...
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Confronted by the hell frogs, Vera makes a run for it into a nearby cave. And of course, she finds yet another monolith. And now we can truly see that the craggy lines of the things are not just artistic stylization to depict a completely flat, black object. Check out the rough edge of the left. This thing is positively rocky! I don't get it, Jack Kirby. I'm guessing you had seen the movie at some point, so why turn something so deliberately and carefully manufactured and eerie in how smooth it is into, well, a big paperweight? But anyway, with the aliens closing in, she touches the monolith and is immediately pulled into the Stargate it creates and– OH, SWEET MERCIFUL CRAP, I'M TRIPPING BALLS!! And I'm sure, for Vera, she's tripping, too, since she is now flying Monolith Airways! (tour guide voice) On your left is a giant centipede thing. Right in front of you is a swimming pool that you will suddenly appear in. And yeah, soon her spacesuit disappears and she swims to the surface of a rather lush pool area.
Narrator: It is all there, as she had once known it--the pool-side and its potted plants... The condominium she had lived in-- it stands as it always has...
Linkara: (as narrator) With ridiculously high rent.
Linkara (v/o): Naturally, with this kind of experience, she's really just letting it happen and not fighting it, so soon she spots her neighbors and then decides to take a nap. However, for once, we actually get an explanation for why she's experiencing this vision.
Narrator: In the environment prepared for her by the monolith, the human subject eases into the change.
Linkara: Wait, does that mean that when Dave Bowman kept seeing future versions of himself, that was the most relaxing thing to him in his final moments before becoming a Star Child?
Narrator: Vera Gentry is aging rapidly. She has already reached the age of fifty as her eyes flutter before they open...
Linkara: (as narrator) She really needs to use the bathroom.
Narrator: She is seventy and too weary to rise when she awakens.
Linkara: (as narrator) Despite not having a lawn, she instinctively desires for the damned kids to get off of it.
Linkara (v/o): And so, Vera lies back as the transformation finishes, the monolith appearing before her and putting her in plastic wrap to keep her nice and fresh.
Narrator: There is not much to see beneath the film at the height of the change. It is a process beyond the understanding of modern man...
Linkara: (as narrator) Plus, it's really kind of gross. We're talking lots of seepage.
Narrator: Vera Gentry exists no more. But part of her survives in the emerging life, called the New Seed.
Linkara: Sorry, narrator, but we saw Vera right at the end of that. I'm pretty sure she was an old seed. (a rimshot plays in response)
Narrator: Then it is over. What lies beneath the film is but another link in the human chain of destiny--forged by an alien will--for reasons known only to itself!!
Linkara: At this point, I'm guessing the aliens just get bored, and this is their version of reality TV. (announcer voice) What cavemen descendants will become a new seed? Watch FOX to find out!
Narrator: The environment fades away like an outworn fantasy... The new seed drifts in an element it was meant for--the universe!! In these endless regions it will do the things that will fulfill its existence. In every decision lies meaning and mission...
Linkara: (as narrator) However, she still really needs to use the bathroom.
Narrator: Before departing on its lifelong journey, the new seed subjects its immediate surroundings to a final, penetrating scrutiny...
Linkara: (as Vera) These colors are so tacky!
Linkara (v/o): And so, our comic ends with the new seed flying off for parts unknown to do... whatever the hell it is it's supposed to do.
Linkara: (holds up comic) This comic... is better than the first issue, (becomes confused) but it's also pretty much the same comic.
Linkara (v/o): That's the problem with a lot of these first few "2001" comics: they all tell pretty much the same story: caveman, then future, then Star Child. The story of Vira the She-Demon is actually pretty intriguing in Vira learns how to manipulate the cavemen's superstitions, but the future Vera is just kind of whiny. I still don't know what Jack Kirby was trying to say with these comics. What's the point of all of this?
Linkara: Hopefully, we'll get that answer in the next issue, but... somehow I doubt it. (throws down comic, gets up and leaves)
(End credits roll)
Soooo you think we'll ever get HAL in this series? Or is Machine Man in that future issue supposed to be Jack Kirby's version of HAL?
Anyone know if Arthur C. Clarke ever read these comics?
"The light of Jupiter illuminates A A face?" Is that like Attack Of The The Eye Creatures?
(Stinger: An announcement for a new comic in the series is shown)
Text: COMING NEXT!!-- A bone-crushing, rib-cracking, head-twisting two-part look at the next candidate for the new seed!
Linkara: When in doubt, (pumps fist) VIOLENCE!