“I’ve been thinking about death.”
The late ’80s and early ’90s were a heady time for reinventing and reinvigorating various characters across the DC Universe. Some, like Sandman caught fire, while others faded back into fondly remembered but relative obscurity. Regardless, it was a time of rampant creativity, taking interesting risks with the characters, often shaping them into something new. One of them re-imagined the former Quality Comics character, Kid Eternity, by Grant Morrison, Duncan Fegredo, and Gaspar Saladino, as a kind of supernatural, horror title.
Our primary point of view is from failed comedian Jerry Sullivan. After being attacked by Qliphothic entities at a party, a dying Sullivan meets Kid Eternity who has escaped from Hell and is tasked to protect the Earth through setting up chaos spheres around the world. But, first, they have to save Kid’s mentor and friend, Mr. Keeper, from the depths of Hell. At the same time, another of the party-goers, Val Hoffman, experiences her own tribulations, encountering a number of nasty urban legends come to life. And a serial killer, that you might spend a few sequences thinking is Jerry, and you’re going to want to read again after your first read through.
Kid Eternity taps into some of Grant Morrison’s favourite themes and motifs of magic—after a fashion, it might be more appropriately considered bits of religion, though the Kabbalah elements seem to be coming from a hermetic magic interpretation—and manufactured reality. And things not exactly being what they seem. I feel it kind of bridges ideas presented in Zenith, Animal Man, and Doom Patrol pointing towards some of the tapping into fictional reality that we’d see later in The Invisibles, The Filth, and beyond.
It’s…weird, but very entertaining.
Bolstered by absolutely stunning artwork from Duncan Fegredo. Fegredo chooses to paint his work here and it’s gorgeous. Rather than the thicker, darker lines he often uses for his line art, his characters here are a bit looser, more scratchy fine lines working as a framework for the chaotic bliss of his paints. It’s somewhat reminiscent of Ralph Steadman and Bill Sienkiewicz, with explosions of splatters of colour, but there’s a restraint and order to Fegredo’s work that makes it feel like contained chaos. It works incredibly well conveying the absurdity, oddity, and horror of the tale.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the lettering by Gaspar Saladino. He was an absolute master at his craft and it shines through here. His approach to word balloons and fonts change for different characters and sequences, always enhancing situations rather than drawing attention away from things. Especially when it comes to differentiating characters, like Jerry and the killer, as well as giving a unique feel to the scenes following Hoffman, bringing in the text of a book of urban legends as another layer of the storytelling.
Even before this reinvention, Kid Eternity was kind of an interesting one. Although the character was picked up alongside the other Quality Comics characters like Uncle Sam, the Human Bomb, Plastic Man, and the other heroes that DC would place on their Earth-X, Kid Eternity was brought into the DCU on Earth-S with the Captain Marvel Family. (It actually does make sense when you consider that he also had a key word for his powers when shouting “Eternity!”) It set the character apart early on, a tradition that continued with this incarnation going on to be one of the early Vertigo ongoing series (from Ann Nocenti and Sean Phillips), who then died immediately when brought into the DC Universe proper again.
For a tale ultimately about a Kid trying to save the world and going to Hell to do it, there is actually a lot going on in Kid Eternity by Morrison, Fegredo, and Saladino. It’s a work that has several layers to it, reinterpreting a relatively obscure character, while still using familiar elements to his backstory, that benefits from multiple readings and analyzing some of the stranger ideas that Morrison is wont to throw in their work. It’s definitely worth another look.
Classic Comic Compendium: Kid Eternity
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Duncan Fegredo
Letterer: Gaspar Saladino
Publisher: DC Comics / Vertigo
Publication Date: December 15, 2015 (Deluxe Edition)
Aspiring stand-up comedian Jerry Sullivan joins Kid Eternity on a quest to free his Keeper from Hell, only to find himself swept up in a much larger struggle between the Lords of Order and Chaos.
Read last week’s entry in the Classic Comic Compendium.