Mythology

Jack Kirby, comics pioneer and…contactee?

By | Contactees, Mythology, Ramblings, Science Fiction, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Jack Kirby, for those of you who are not familiar with him, was a pioneering artist and storyteller in comic books.  While Stan Lee gets most of the credit, it’s Jack Kirby who is largely responsible for this:

FantasticFour

Sorry, Jack, I don’t mean it.

Okay, not so much the movie, but he was a guiding force behind the creation of the Fantastic Four, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, the newly cinematic Ant-Man, and even Captain America back in the 1940s, when Marvel Comics was known as Timely.  It was this period of time, after he was drawing Captain America punching Hitler in the face and before he drew The Thing facing down Dr. Doom, that Kirby turned his attentions to more esoteric sci-fi and even philosophical adventure stories.  As observed by Christopher Loring Knowles in this blog post on The Secret Sun, it was during this period that Kirby started exhibiting some remarkably consistent traits in his storytelling that continued for the rest of his career.

In 1959, Kirby “wrote” a story called “The Face on Mars.”

faceonmars

I say “wrote” in quotation marks because Kirby was not credited as a writer, but it was no secret in the industry that he was heavily (and sometimes solely) responsible for the plotting, drawing, and writing of his comics.  What’s interesting about this story is that it involves astronauts landing on Mars and discovering a giant stone face, left behind by an ancient civilization on the red planet.

Mars Face

Sound familiar?

This story was published in 1959, 17 years before the Viking spacecraft took the infamous “Mars Face” photograph.  Ideas of ancient civilizations on Mars made popular by the likes of Richard C. Hoagland and Mike Bara came decades later.  In and of itself, this is an intriguing coincidence.

But the Face in Kirby’s story is only the page 1 grabber.  What’s really interesting happens on later pages, when an astronaut climbing into the caves inside the face discovers an ancient Martian race under attack by another spacefaring species from a mysterious fifth planet between Mars and Jupiter.  The enraged Martians, seeking revenge, then obliterate this planet, creating the asteroid belt.  This whole thing turns out to be a hallucinogenic memory recording that the astronaut experiences as if it were real.

The idea of a destroyed fifth planet is a common idea amongst various proponents of the ancient Martian theories, and has been making the rounds since the 1800s.  Known today as the “disruption theory” or “Exploding Planet Hypothesis”, it’s the idea that the fifth planet was destroyed by Jupiter’s gravity, planetary collisions, or warfare amongst ancient civilizations.  Over the years, this hypothetical planet has been called Phaeton, Tiamat, Astra, Lucifer, and Maldek.

Though this idea makes a certain amount of logical sense, most scientists disagree with this hypothesis, saying that the asteroids are actually remnants of the building blocks of the planets from the early solar system that are still left around in a gravitationally weak spot in the solar system, like cosmic dust bunnies in the corner of the room.

As Knowles points out, Kirby’s idea of an ancient Martian civilization came long before Zechariah Sitchin’s theories of ancient aliens or Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods.   However, it did not come before the Contactees.  It seems to me, though I have no supporting evidence whatsoever, that Kirby was likely either a fan of the works of many of the mid-century Contactees, or he was a Contactee himself.

Though the Contactee movement got going in 1952 with George Adamski, it was at its peak in 1959.  Joining the crowded field of Contactees were George Hunt Williamson, Orfeo Angelucci, George Van Tassel, and Richard Miller.  All of these men told tales of ancient civilizations  on a destroyed planet, the debris of which became the asteroid belt.  Angelucci wrote a book called The Secret of the Saucers, in which he claimed to have taken over the body of a space brother named Neptune, who lived on an etheric plane on an asteroid in the belt that was once part of a larger planet that had been destroyed in war.  Richard Miller claimed to have channeled a being who discussed the fate of Maldek, as did Hunt Williamson.  Van Tassel also mentioned these ancient aliens in his works, and Maldek is of crucial import to George King’s Aetherius Society, who point out that Maldek’s destruction is a warning that we should be wary of our own destructive tendencies.

FaceOnMars_3

In this frame from the story, our main character describes something else that Contactees (and later, Experiencers) have come to call “downloads”, in which large volumes of information are fed directly to their brains.  Was Kirby getting this idea from the Contactees, or was he describing this from personal experience?

It’s easy to dismiss all of this as fiction, because Jack Kirby was a master storyteller, after all.  But it’s the fact that he kept coming back to these ideas again and again that I find intriguing.  (I won’t discuss them here, I’ll send you over to Christopher Knowles to read about them.)  Why couldn’t he let the idea of ancient aliens go?  It seems like he was dealing with something intensely personal.  But what made it so personal?

This idea that Kirby was perhaps in contact with something outside himself is suggested in another post on that same blog, The Secret Sun:

Starting in the late 50s, Kirby began receiving transmissions that seem to transcend the boundaries of time and space. He buried it all in allegory (read: “wacked-out sci fi”), or rather, translated whatever he was picking up.

Indeed, Kirby’s penchant for prophecy was pretty staggering.  Is it possible that he was a Contactee?  What was going on in the mid-50s that was giving people all these similar ideas?  Some might suggest the early days of LSD and various hallucinogens, or the resurgence of the Theosophical Society and its ideas.  But one never knows…maybe the Contactees were really making contact.

The Trickster Spirit

By | Contactees, Mythology, Ramblings, Religion | No Comments

In classical mythology, the figure known as the Trickster takes many guises.  In Judeo-Christian beliefs, it is known as Lucifer or Satan.  In Native American folklore, it’s called Coyote.  The Norse knew it as Loki. Even modern parables such as comics have their own version in the form of the Joker. Widely spaced belief systems, both geographically and temporally, all came up with the same basic notion: a being so clever and devious that it could win our trust, grant our wishes, and make all our dreams come true.  But at a price: everything.

Just ask Faust.

The Trickster can be seen as evil, as the figure of Satan is in many religions today.  Some, such as Coyote, are more playful and mischievous.  But from a wider perspective, the Trickster is a force of nature that protects humanity from its own tendency toward excess. In granting us our deepest wishes, it forces us to face our true selves, the selves we keep hidden from the world and even our own waking minds.  If we give into the temptation, we become corrupted.  Some, like Jesus, were able to resist these temptations and remain true to themselves.  In fact, that is essentially the most fundamental role of many religions: to keep the Trickster at bay.

I can’t be certain that there are actual Tricksters out there, toying with our hearts and minds, but I do know that corruption is real, and it is born out of our successes.  The old phrase “absolute power corrupts absolutely” is a commentary on this phenomenon.

(I should point out that not all corruption is of the “good turning evil” variety.  Corruption could be seen as emotional rust, or a layer of dust, or increasing carelessness in our lives or the failure of remaining vigilant in our quest for self-actualization.)

I’ve seen this tendency toward corruption many times in the general field of UFOlogy and paranormal research.  Many honest researchers seem to become enamored of their own tales and the daring truths they uncover, and they are rewarded with fame, or fortune, or renown.  Some win awards, some sell millions of books, some have movies made about them.  But sooner or later, many (if not most) of them become laughingstocks not only to society at large, but to their own following.  They become so blinded by their apparent success at discovering the secrets of the universe that they lose perspective and cease to question things; that is, they stop doing the very things that brought them their success in the first place.

This, of course, can be said of any industry, not just the study of the paranormal.  But I think when discussing paranormal studies, UFOlogy, and Contactees in particular, it strays closer to the classical mythological context than it does in, say, modern politics or the tech industry.

The Contactees, beginning with George Adamski, rose to great prominence on the strength of their stories. As in any population, the Contactees had their fair share of deceivers and folks in it for a quick buck, but many of them were absolutely sincere.  They had real experiences, or at the very least, thought they had.  They rode this wave of success for a decade or so before cracks began to appear.

Where great crowds once gathered to hear them speak, they eventually found themselves relegated to living rooms where the few remaining true believers could easily fit.  Sometimes, their stories that seemed relatively plausible–i.e. that they had met a being from another planet who was just here to help–had transformed into more and more surreal galaxy-spanning stories of derring-do.  They left the masses behind–those who’d not been fortunate enough to have these experiences could no longer relate to these stories.  Or maybe it was that society moved on to different interests, leaving the Contactees behind, who desperately tried to reclaim their relevance.

Either way, their great success eventually collapsed under its own weight.  Was it the doing of some outside force?  Were the Space Brothers actually manifestations of Loki or Coyote, tricking these people into thinking they were from Venus or Mars or Saturn, and then pulling out the rug from under them for their own amusement?  I’m not here to say.  The idea of a Trickster is at once a terrifying and weirdly comforting thought for me; on the one hand, it suggests that any one of us could fall victim to this effect without any warning.  On the other, it suggests that society as a whole will always be kept away from the brink by this supernatural system of checks and balances.

Loki, from a medieval illuminated manuscript.  You were expecting Tom Hiddleston?

Some have suggested that many of the Contactees did indeed have valid initial experiences; they actually met beautiful blonde flying saucer pilots in the Mojave who told them of peace and love.  But then they were abandoned by the flying saucers altogether (a classic Trickster technique), and turned to fabricating ever more elaborate tales to outdo one another and maintain their position of fame or prominence.

I’ve seen this effect happening before my eyes in other fields, and if nothing else, it is a fascinating window into the mind of humanity.  We flail about until something strikes a chord, then we beat it mercilessly until it gives up every drop of whatever it has to give.  Whether the tales of the Contactees are true or not, they stand, like every great religious parable or myth, as reminders of our own nature.