In one of those “you can’t make this stuff up” situations, today it’s time for me to make a connection between the Face on Mars (found by NASA in July 1976) and a legendary comic-book artist; a man who turned out to be one of the key figures in the “superhero” genre. Yes, really. Who was that man? Jack Kirby, who was born in 1917 and who became famous for his artwork for Marvel Comics, DC Comics, and Harvey Comics. Kirby, in 1940, was the co-creator with Joe Simon of Captain America – who first appeared in Timely Comics. Characters that Kirby created with Marvel’s Stan Lee in the early 1960s included the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, the X-Men, and Iron Man. They have all appeared in megabucks movies, with the X-Men and Iron Man movies being particularly successful. Kirby chose to move to DC Comics in 1970, majorly angered due to his belief that his specific place in the creation of these – and more – characters had been deliberately played down by Marvel Comics. Kirby died in 1994, at the age of seventy-six. But, it’s to 1958 that we now have to turn our attentions. It was in that year that Harvey Comics published a three-part production that went by the title of Race for the Moon.
Although Kirby is primarily known for his distinct, and easily recognizable, style of drawing, he wasn’t just the artist on two issues of Race for the Moon. He was the writer of the story, too. Of the three stories, it’s the second comic-book in the trilogy that, for us, is the most important one of all. And, just why might that be? Because it revolves around nothing less than a giant, carved, stone head that is found on the surface of the planet Mars. It’s even referred to as “the Face on Mars” in the comic-book itself. A strange, but wholly coincidental precursor for what was to come to the fore a couple of decades later? Maybe so. On the other hand, though, perhaps there is far more to all of this than meets the eye – something that revolves around nothing less than government secrecy and conspiracy, as we shall soon see. Let’s begin with the plot of Kirby’s tale.
The story is an entertaining one and revolves around a group of astronauts who embark on an ambitious mission to Mars. It’s only when they reach the Red Planet that, to their amazement and excitement, the group comes to realize that while Mars is clearly dead, it was most assuredly not always that way. The adventuring astronauts are confronted by a gigantic stone creation, which is clearly not the work of nature. Yes, you’ve guessed it right: they stumble on a massive, carved head of human-like proportions. It dominates the ravaged, Martian landscape. The hero of the story, astronaut Ben Fisher, decides to climb the massive creation. In doing so, he discovers to his excitement that the carved-out eyes of the construction are really something else entirely: they’re nothing less than openings to an ancient world that is hidden from view; that is, until Fisher carefully descends into those stone eye-sockets and discovers the shocking truth.
In quick time, Fisher passes out. In his unconscious state, Fisher has a graphic vision of Mars in times long gone; of a thriving world, of an advanced culture of giant humanoids (in later chapters we’ll see how tales of Martian giants surface regularly). A civilization, perhaps, not too dissimilar to that of ours. That is, until something terrible happens; something that Fisher gets to “see” for himself. Mars is suddenly attacked by the powerful, ruthless denizens of an ancient world that exists between Jupiter and Mars. They turn out to be the arch-enemies of the Martians. In no time at all, Mars is laid to waste; civilization is decimated, culture is utterly shattered, and a world is soon dead. Things aren’t quite over, though: a surviving Martian is able to utterly destroy the world of the creatures that attacked them. That same world is then blasted into pieces, becoming what we, today, call the Asteroid Belt.
With the war over – one world now bereft of life and the other completely destroyed – Fisher begins to wake up from his unconscious state and he quickly realizes that what he saw on passing out was actually a brief, almost magical, glimpse into the distant past. It’s as if somehow, as Fisher states, he got to see “a visual history of a race’s heroic death” and experienced a strange, but amazingly accessible, “surviving memory.” Some have suggested that Jack Kirby somehow knew of the real Face on Mars, long before even NASA knew of it. That’s a controversial issue I’ll come to soon.