Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Long Shadow of King Kong

Good stories often run deeper than we realize.
For example, is 1933’s King Kong just an adventure about a giant gorilla? Or is it about a powerful black thing that is taken from its jungle in chains and brought to America where it wants to escape and grab white women?
Did the filmmakers intend the story as a racist nightmare? No. Is it, nevertheless, unconsciously and in the context of the Depression era? Yes.
That’s one of the elements that gave the story its power, one of the reasons why a clearly absurd tale didn’t play as absurd to those audiences sitting there like the Manhattan crowd of pampered swells in the film, waiting for Kong to break free. On some deep, dreamy level, those audiences knew the story that was flickering up there in front of them seemed real. What we repress consciously comes back to us unconsciously.
Although I’d seen Son of Kong and King Kong vs. Godzilla, I’d missed seeing the brilliant original film as a kid. So I never learned the actual story until Gold Key published its one-shot, 64-page comic book adaptation in the tempestuous summer of 1968.
“Perhaps the seminal monstrous creature film, the 1933 movie of Merian Cooper’s book, King Kong, remains a timeless example of the public’s need to be frightened,” wrote George Haberberger in the Atomic Avenue blog. Thirty-five years later in 1968, Gold Key published a 64-page adaptation of the classic movie. Gold Key, (the comic printing arm of Western Publishing Company), was well known for adapting popular television shows like Star Trek and Man from UNCLE for comics.
The artist, Alberto Giolitti, lived in Rome and mailed his pages back to the United States at a time when living in New York was considered a prerequisite for working in comics. He illustrated Gold Key’s Star Trek series without actually having seen the show, but presumably he had seen King Kong. His depictions of Skull Island and its fantastic denizens are balanced by his equally impressive representation of 1930s New York in this tragic tale of a monster and his impossible love.”

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