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‘Sky Masters of the Space Force: The Complete Sunday Strips in Color (1959-1960) ‘ (review)

Written by Dave and Dick Wood,
Illustrated by Jack Kirby,
Wallace Wood, Dick Ayers

Cover by Wallace Wood
Edited by Ferran Delgado
Published by Amigo Comics

 

It’s my understanding that this is a limited edition so get it while you can. And yes, you SHOULD get it! If you have any interest at all in great comics art, this is one that needs to be on your shelf.

We live in kind of a new Golden Age when it comes to the availability of newspaper comic strips once thought to be here today, lining bird cages tomorrow. Not a week goes by when a new and wonderful sounding reprint project isn’t announced. Peanuts, Dick Tracy, Pogo, Barnaby, and Terry and the Pirates all get their due, naturally, but so do long—sometimes complete!—runs of lesser strips.

Sky Masters of the Space Force is hardly a lesser strip, but it had largely fallen through the cracks. Over the years there have been several halfhearted attempts at collections but all have simply whetted the reader’s appetite.

For what?

For the book Ferran Delgado has now produced as a labor of love: Sky Masters of the Space Force: The Complete Sunday Strips in Color (1959-1960).

And just why is this strip so all-fired important?

Well, for one, had it been a bigger hit and avoided the behind the scenes turmoil that brought it down, the Marvel Universe as we know it might not exist today. As explained in Jon B. Cooke’s excellent historical text, Jack Kirby, then working at DC Comics without longtime partner Joe Simon, eagerly grabbed the offer from DC editor Jack Schiff to draw a newspaper strip. In fact, it had been a longtime dream of his. The strip was written by comics veterans Dick and Dave Wood and Kirby brought in his friend Wallace Wood (no relation to Dick and Dave) to ink it. The result is a highly entertaining strip about astronauts done at the dawn of the real-life space age, featuring what has been described by many as one of the greatest artistic pairings in the history of comics.

Wood was still the darling of MAD Magazine at the time but the extra work certainly doesn’t make the art any less breathtaking. Toward the end, he is, however, replaced by Dick Ayers, who would also become known as one of Kirby’s best inkers.

Kirby and Schiff were never on great terms, though, and it was a legal wrangle in their original deal that led to the end of Sky, leaving Kirby also adrift from DC and without a lot of choices as to where to go. He ended up back at Martin Goodman’s not-yet-Marvel publishing company, working with Stan Lee again. Within a year, the first issue of Fantastic Four was on the stands and the rest…can currently be found at your local multiplex.

Delgado is first of all a fan and, as such, has created the book he himself would have liked to have read. In addition to the actual strips in truly gorgeous re-created color, there are a number of behind-the-scenes sections, lots of well-reproduced original art, a collection of the strip’s “drop panels,” a history of the Kirby/Wood collaborations, and more.

My absolute only complaint about the volume is that the binding seems a tad flimsy. Not a reason not to buy it. Just a reason to be careful with it as you savor ever space age page!

Booksteve recommends!

 

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