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2001: A Space Odyssey [comics]

Entry updated 15 August 2022. Tagged: Comics.

1. US oversized tabloid-format perfect-bound Comics publication. Publisher: Marvel Comics. Editor, writer, and artist: Jack Kirby; inker, Frank Giacoia. One issue dated 1976.

This "treasury edition" comics adaptation of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) was part of the deal which led to Jack Kirby's brief return to Marvel Comics in the mid-1970s. Though generally faithful to the film, Kirby made some alterations, for example giving the Computer Hal 9000 lines of dialogue from an earlier version of the script; some additional dialogue was also taken from the novel 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) by Arthur C Clarke. One strange revision was to introduce the notion that Heywood R Floyd had travelled to the Moon to brief residents about the monolith, when he was really on a fact-finding mission to learn more about it, suggesting that Kirby was not overly familiar with the film. Kirby also stated that the transformed Dave Bowman was destined to be only the "first of many" advanced humans, establishing the premise of his subsequent comic book series. Kirby's artwork included occasional black and white stills from the film, and comics author and critic David Anthony Kraft wrote a ten-page article discussing the film's influence on sf Cinema. The publication led into Kirby's monthly regular-format comics series with the same title: see 2 below. [GSt/DRL/GW]

2. US Comics series published by Marvel Comics. Editor: Archie Goodwin. Writer and artist: Jack Kirby. Ten monthly issues, January 1976 to September 1977.

This short-lived title, part of Kirby's ill-fated return to Marvel Comics in the mid-1970s, followed quickly on the heels of the film's comics adaptation (1 above). It sequelled the film with stories about the repetitive experiences of other humans transformed into superhumans by encounters with 2001's mysterious monoliths, all concluding at the moment of transformation like the film. The only interesting story in the series, "The New Seed" (January 1977) actually followed the subsequent adventures of one person changed into a Star Child, making it the only genuine sequel to 2001 (since Clarke's own sequels changed the transformed Bowman from a homo superior to a one-time creation serving as an errand boy for the Aliens, and focused on ordinary humans like Floyd and, later, Frank Poole). Its Star Child travels through the cosmos, witnesses the imminent death of a civilization, and arranges for its rebirth on another planet, suggesting that the new species would have an adventurous spirit and altruistic impulses. But learning that the series was not popular, perhaps because it did not feature a Superhero like other Marvel comics, Kirby in the final three issues introduced precisely this element, a highly advanced sentient Robot initially called Mister Machine, part of a line of robots known as the X-51 series. All save Mister Machine were destroyed in a revolt against humanity. Taking its inventor's name Aaron Stack, the robot became known as Machine Man and was ultimately able to blend into human society, engaging in heroics while sometimes pausing to tediously ponder the question of whether he was a man or a machine. The title is now best remembered for this character, who proved popular enough to be brought back to the 1970s via Time Travel to star in his own short-lived comic Machine Man (1978; revived 1984-1985; revived 1999 as X-51, The Machine Man). He continues to make occasional guest appearances in Marvel titles as a superhero in his own right. [GSt/DRL/GW]

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