PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Comics

Kid Eternity

Mike Lukich

Targeting a more sophisticated audience and adopting more of a high-brow approach to both story and art, these comics tended to be cerebral, literate, and often employed fine art techniques, making them the antithesis of the run-of-the-mill superhero books of the day.

Kid Eternity

Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo
Contributors: Duncan Fegredo (Artist)
Price: $14.99
Writer: Grant Morrison
Item Type: Comic
Length: 144
Publication Date: 2006-02
Amazon

"Where did free will run off to during all of this?" s?"
-- Kid, Kid Eternity

Back in the early '90s, when Nirvana was assaulting the airwaves with angry, stream-of-consciousness sing-alongs and the dreary pastel-damaged fashion of the '80s was being sullied in favor of heroin chic and the culture of the "alternative", a similar movement in comics was beginning to gain momentum at DC Comics, home to primary-color icons like Superman and Batman, with an adult-oriented line of comics that included now-classics like The Sandman, Hellblazer, and Swamp Thing. Targeting a more sophisticated audience and adopting more of a high-brow approach to both story and art, these comics tended to be cerebral, literate, and often employed fine art techniques, making them the antithesis of the run-of-the-mill superhero books of the day. Naturally, many of the most intelligent and forward-thinking creators at the time (often imported from the UK) were responsible for these groundbreaking comics, including a young writer named Grant Morrison, a Scot who has, ironically, become a virtual superstar of the mainstream superhero circuit over the last ten years (writing JLA, New X-Men, and All-Star Superman, just to name a few).

In the wake of this ever-escalating mainstream success, Vertigo, DC's mature readers imprint, has recently begun to mine Morrison's late '80s and early '90s work, formerly lost to the limbo of back issue bins and eBay, for the lucrative trade paperback market. Kid Eternity, a three-issue mini-series that first appeared in 1991, is the latest to be collected and repackaged, and while it was not technically a Vertigo comic when it was originally released (Vertigo was launched in 1993), it shares the same hybrid horror/fantasy sensibilities. So the real question is: Does this book hold up, 15 years later, now that the particular brand of gothic funny book that was in fashion during the early Vertigo and pre-Vertigo boom has sort of gone the way of grunge rock and the flannel shirt?

The original version of the Kid Eternity character was a fairly oddball concept birthed during the golden age of comics in 1942. The title character, a nameless teenage boy who was killed at sea when a U-Boat sank his grandfather's ship, is told at the pearly gates of Heaven that he mistakenly died seventy-five years before his time. As compensation, he is given a few special powers (the most interesting being his ability to call upon famous historical figures to manifest physically and obey his commands) that are activated when he says the word "Eternity". The boy is then sent back to Earth on a vague mission to perform good deeds, accompanied by Mr. Keeper, the spiritual clerk who made the big mistake responsible for Kid's situation. Pretty kooky stuff, for the most part, although not without a touch of surreal brilliance.

Morrison's reinterpretation takes that initial concept and radically transforms it into what is ostensibly a horror comic. The book is written in a non-linear style, not a surprise to either Morrison fans or regular Vertigo readers, where time jumps back and forth and scenes are cut and pasted wildly as the reader is introduced to our protagonist, Jerry Sullivan, a stand-up comedian who is critically injured in a violent car crash while trying to escape from a cadre of murderous demons. We find out that these demons are on the prowl for the title character, called only Kid here, who has just escaped from Hell through Jerry's unwitting help and wants Jerry's spirit to accompany him on a rescue mission back to Hell to save Kid's mentor, Mr. Keeper, all while Jerry's mangled body lies near-dead in a hospital bed. Here, of course, is where the real fun begins, as Morrison cleverly begins to unveil the pitch black and shockingly sinister web of truth behind Kid's origin, much to Kid's dismay. "This is the biggest pile of shit I've ever heard," he says when his true origin is revealed to him by Mr. Keeper, who is not quite as heavenly as Kid had thought.

Duncan Fegredo's dense, painted artwork compliments the freeform flow of the story and somehow manages to be simultaneously beautiful and horrific, although there are times when it can be almost too disorienting. Still, Fegredo conveys some truly creepy and affecting moments while the pair are in Hell, and his version of Kid is very sleek, depicting him as a cool blue-white mod angel with John Lennon sunglasses and a hairstyle that bears more than a slight resemblance to Robert Smith of the Cure (and, in effect, the title character of The Sandman).

It's really hard to shake the comparisons to books like The Sandman and Hellblazer, unfortunately, since those comics more or less defined the general style and tone of DC's mature line at the time and, therefore, causes this book to come off as slightly dated. There are also times when the story gets a bit weighed down with extended bursts of heady and self-consciously poetic prose, although this kind of verbal psychedelia was fairly common with Morrison's contemporaries as well during this era and comes as no surprise here.

So we return to our original question: Does it hold up? Despite the odds to the contrary, Kid Eternity holds up all right, although stylistically it pretty much falls a bit too much in line with other early Vertigo and pre-Vertigo books and doesn't quite match the brilliance and originality that Morrison proved he was capable of both before and after this series. Of course, these were early days, and, in the end, Kid Eternity is still a decent read and a pretty enjoyable metaphysical romp, and presents a fine example of how, in the right hands, an initially wholesome concept can be made over into something startlingly dark and nasty.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.