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‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ by Jack Kirby


 
If you’re at all aware of comic books history, Jack Kirby needs no introduction. As one of the founding visionaries at Marvel in the 1960s, Kirby’s vital storytelling skills and phenomenal visual energy helped make the X-Men, the Hulk, and the Fantastic Four household names.   

A few months ago we drew your attention to a never-published project of Kirby’s, his adaptation of The Prisoner, the dystopic British TV series starring and co-created by Patrick McGoohan. Today we have a similar treat, one of the very few fully realized stories by Kirby that has never been collected in book form—his mid-1970s adaptation of 2001: A Space Odyssey, originally a short story by Arthur C. Clarke called “The Sentinel” and later a movie directed by Stanley Kubrick.

The movie came out in 1968, but Kirby’s adaptation had to wait until 1976. We can regard that gap as a kind of marker for Kirby’s strong desire to adapt the story even though there may have been little commercial interest in it. Kirby first adapted the movie as a standalone book of 70 pages, and then proceeded to recapitulate the movie’s plot and themes over and over again across 10 issues—except this time with scary aliens with tentacles that have nothing to do with Kubrick’s movie. The resolution of that 10-issue run is a character who is actually oddly resonant with our own times, a human-A.I. hybrid called Machine Man, whose own comic book line, which picked up where 2001: A Space Odyssey left off, lasted for a few months. The character would be fitfully resurrected every ten years or so (1984, 1999). 

Remarkably, Machine Man was eventually made a part of the Avengers, so it’s an accurate statement to say that the Avengers has the DNA of Kubrick and Clarke in it—and for that matter Friedrich Nietzsche, who is never far from my thoughts whenever I watch Kubrick’s masterpiece.
 

 
Kirby’s adaptation of the movie was wildly rethought for the medium of comics. His palette is all over the place, departing vastly from Kubrick’s more stately blacks, whites, and reds. And the action of course is tuned to the entertainment value of a typical 10-year-old rather than a stoned college student—this is echoed in the cover promise that “The Ultimate Trip” would become “The Ultimate Illustrated Adventure!” Kirby dispenses with the three (highly Nietzschean) sections of the movie (“The Dawn of Man,” “Mission to Jupiter,” and “Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite”) with four more hyperbolic sections of his own, which are replete with exclamation points:
 

Part I: The Saga of Moonwatcher the Man-Ape!
Part II: Year 2001: The Thing on the Moon!
Part III: Ahead Lie the Planets
Part IV: The Dimension Trip!

 
Kirby’s fans are said not to be fond of his 2001: A Space Odyssey, but I must say I like it. It’s got not that much to do with Kubrick but that just makes it all the more interesting.

In Kirby’s telling, the so-called “Starchild” infant of the movie’s finale is reconcieved as “The New Seed.” In the feature hilariously called “Monolith Mail” reserved for reader correspondence, Kirby noted of this element:
 

The New Seed is the conquering hero in this latest Marvel drama. Why? Because he has staying power, that’s why. He will always be there in the story’s final moments to taunt us with the question we shall never answer. The little shaver is, perhaps, the embodiment of our own hopes in a world which daily makes us more than a bit uneasy about the future ... in the meager space devoted to his appearance, he brightens our hopes considerably. He is a comforting visual, almost tangible reminder that the future is not yet up for grabs. And wherever his journey takes him matters not one whit to this writer. The mere fact that the chances of his making it are still good is the comforting thought.

 
Some sample images from Kirby’s 2001: A Space Odyssey:
 

 

 
More images from Kirby’s 2001: A Space Odyssey after the jump:

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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03.20.2017
12:19 pm
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Fascinating vintage promo film on the making of Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’

02001dave.jpg
 
In 1964, Stanley Kubrick wrote to Arthur C. Clarke.  He told the science fiction author he was a “a great admirer” of his books, and “had always wanted to discuss with [him] the possibility of doing the proverbial really good science-fiction movie.”

Kubrick briefly outlined his ideas:

My main interest lies along these broad areas, naturally assuming great plot and character:

The reasons for believing in the existence of intelligent extra-terrestrial life.

The impact (and perhaps even lack of impact in some quarters) such discovery would have on Earth in the near future.

A space probe with a landing and exploration of the Moon and Mars.

Clarke liked Kubrick’s suggestions. A meeting was arranged at Trader Vic’s in New York on April 22, 1964, at which Kubrick explained his interest in extraterrestrial life. He told Clarke he wanted to make a film about “Man’s relationship to the universe.”

The author offered the director a choice of six short stories—from which Kubrick picked “The Sentinel” (published as “The Sentinel of Eternity” in 1953). The story described the discovery of strange, tetrahedral artefact on the Moon. The narrator speculates the object is a “warning beacon” left by some ancient alien intelligence to signal humanity’s evolutionary advance towards space travel.

Over the next four years they worked together on the film—two of which were spent co-writing the screenplay they privately called How the Solar System Was Won.
 
02001kubrickclarke.jpg
Director and Author.
 
Kubrick and Clarke decided to write a book together first then the screenplay. This was to be credited: “Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, based on a novel by Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick.” It turned out slightly differently as the book and screenplay were written simultaneously. While Kubrick made the film “a visual, nonverbal experience,” Clarke widened the story out, explaining many of the events Kubrick left open-ended. The director wanted to make a film that hit the audience “at an inner level of consciousness, just as music does, or painting.”

In an interview with Joseph Gelmis in 1970, Kubrick described the genesis of both the book and script:

There are a number of differences between the book and the movie. The novel, for example, attempts to explain things much more explicitly than the film does, which is inevitable in a verbal medium. The novel came about after we did a 130-page prose treatment of the film at the very outset. This initial treatment was subsequently changed in the screenplay, and the screenplay in turn was altered during the making of the film. But Arthur took all the existing material, plus an impression of some of the rushes, and wrote the novel. As a result, there’s a difference between the novel and the film…I think that the divergences between the two works are interesting.

Clarke was more direct. He wrote an explicit interpretation of the film explaining many of its themes. In particular, how the central character David Bowman ends his days in what Clarke described as a kind of living museum or zoo, where he is observed by alien life forms.
 
0kubrick2001cam.jpg
The director on a sound stage at MGM Studios, Borehamwood, England.
 
Kubrick was less forthcoming. Though he did share some of his thoughts on the meaning and purpose of human existence in an interview with Playboy in 1968:

The very meaninglessness of life forces man to create his own meaning. Children, of course, begin life with an untarnished sense of wonder, a capacity to experience total joy at something as simple as the greenness of a leaf; but as they grow older, the awareness of death and decay begins to impinge on their consciousness and subtly erode their joie de vivre, their idealism – and their assumption of immortality. As a child matures, he sees death and pain everywhere about him, and begins to lose faith in the ultimate goodness of man. But, if he’s reasonably strong – and lucky – he can emerge from this twilight of the soul into a rebirth of life’s elan. Both because of and in spite of his awareness of the meaninglessness of life, he can forge a fresh sense of purpose and affirmation. He may not recapture the same pure sense of wonder he was born with, but he can shape something far more enduring and sustaining. The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death – however mutable man may be able to make them – our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfilment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.

 
2001vsspace_thumb.jpg
Similarities between shots and designs in ‘2001’ and Pavel Klushantsev’s ‘Road to the Stars’ (1958).
 
Kubrick involved himself in every aspect of the film’s production—from costume and set design, technical specifications, the requirements of specially designed cameras, to the building of a 32-ton centrifuge used to create the interior of a space craft. Kubrick was greatly influenced by Pavel Klushantsev’s Road to the Stars from 1958—and exploited many of the designs, crafts and ideas featured in that film.

Keep reading after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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03.12.2016
08:39 am
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Predictions about the year 2000 by Arthur C. Clarke from 1964 (and the Stanley Kubrick connection)

Clarke Kubrick
 
In his 1972 book The Lost Worlds of 2001, Arthur C. Clarke says that he met Stanley Kubrick in a Trader Vic’s on April 22, 1964. The two formed a fast partnership. In May of that year, Clarke and Kubrick began hammering out the basic ideas that would eventually become 2001: A Space Odyssey. They would use Clarke’s short story, “The Sentinel” as a jumping off point and, in order to generate a rich background for the film, they took the somewhat unusual approach of attempting to collaborate on the creation of a new novel “with an eye on the screen” before writing the screenplay (although, in reality, the process became much more blurred).

Right around the same time, Clarke appeared on the BBC series Horizon in September of 1964 where he discussed some of his predictions for the year 2000 and beyond. You can watch the fascinating appearance in the two clips below. Horizon, now its 50th year, had just aired its first episode on Buckminster Fuller in May of 1964. Clarke’s appearance was part of the 6th episode of the series entitled The Knowledge Explosion and it provides us with some interesting insight into his vision of the future and some of the concepts that he and Kubrick were likely contemplating. 

Clarke was keeping a detailed log of his work with Kubrick during this time period. To give the Horizon clips some context, here are a few of Clarke’s journal entries from 1964 as he and Kubrick went back and forth about their ideas for the novel and film. From The Lost Worlds of 2001:

May 31. One hilarious idea we won’t use. Seventeen aliens – featureless black pyramids – riding in open cars down Fifth Avenue, surrounded by Irish cops.

June 20. Finished the opening chapter, “View from the Year 2000,” and started on the robot sequence.

August 6. Stanley suggests that we make the computer female and call her Athena.

August 19. Writing all day. Two thousand words exploring Jupiter’s satellites. Dull work.

September 7. Stanley quite happy: “We’re in fantastic shape.” He has made up a 100-word questionnaire about our astronauts, e.g. do they sleep in their pajamas, what do they eat for breakfast, etc.

September 8. Upset stomach last night. Dreamed I was a robot, being rebuilt. In a great burst of energy managed to redo two chapters. Took them to Stanley, who was very pleased and cooked me a fine steak, remarking “Joe Levine doesn’t do this for his writers.”

September 29. Dreamed that shooting had started. Lots of actors standing around, but I still didn’t know the story line.

 

On Horizon, Clarke accurately predicts instantaneous communication via satellite between people across the globe and talks about putting space travelers in suspended animation to traverse long distances over huge periods of time just as the astronauts do in 2001. He also throws out some bizarre concepts like replacing human servants with bioengineered apes and dolphins, but as he says early in the first clip “If what I say now seems to you to be very reasonable, then I’ll have failed completely.”

 

 
Part II after the jump…

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Posted by Jason Schafer
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10.27.2014
09:42 am
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The Making of a Myth: The story behind Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001’

image
 
In 1964, Stanley Kubrick wrote to science-fiction author Arthur C. Clarke. He explained he was a “a great admirer” of his books, and that he “had always wanted to discuss with [him] the possibility of doing the proverbial really good science-fiction movie.”

Kubrick outlined his ideas:

My main interest lies along these broad areas, naturally assuming great plot and character:

The reasons for believing in the existence of intelligent extra-terrestrial life.

The impact (and perhaps even lack of impact in some quarters) such discovery would have on Earth in the near future.

A space probe with a landing and exploration of the Moon and Mars.

The pair met, and a treatment was written, based around Clarke’s short story, “The Sentinel” (later published as “The Sentinel of Eternity” in 1953), in which a strange, tetrahedral artifact is discovered on the Moon. The story’s narrator speculates that the object has been left as a “warning beacon” for some ancient alien intelligence to signal humanity’s evolutionary advance towards space travel.

At the same time Kubrick was making 2001: A Space Odyssey, Clarke was writing his own version as a novel. 

Having viewed Kubrick’s film rushes, Clarke wrote an explicit interpretation of the film, explaining many of the themes left open-ended in the movie. In particular, how the central character, David Bowman ends his days in what is described as a kind of living museum or zoo, where he is observed by alien life forms.

Kubrick was never as explicit, and refused to be fully drawn over the film’s meaning, or its many differences from Clarke’s novel, usually stating that his intention had been to make a “really good science-fiction movie.”

In an interview with Playboy in 1968, Kubrick gave an answer on the meaning and purpose of human existence, which could almost be a description of 2001:

“The very meaninglessness of life forces man to create his own meaning. Children, of course, begin life with an untarnished sense of wonder, a capacity to experience total joy at something as simple as the greenness of a leaf; but as they grow older, the awareness of death and decay begins to impinge on their consciousness and subtly erode their joie de vivre, their idealism – and their assumption of immortality. As a child matures, he sees death and pain everywhere about him, and begins to lose faith in the ultimate goodness of man. But, if he’s reasonably strong – and lucky – he can emerge from this twilight of the soul into a rebirth of life’s elan. Both because of and in spite of his awareness of the meaninglessness of life, he can forge a fresh sense of purpose and affirmation. He may not recapture the same pure sense of wonder he was born with, but he can shape something far more enduring and sustaining. The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death – however mutable man may be able to make them – our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.”

The documentary 2001: The Making of a Myth is introduced by James Cameron, who looks at the stories behind 2001: A Space Odyssey, examining why the film has endured and why it still generates such interest. With contributions form Arthur C. Clarke, Keir Dullea, Elvis Mitchell, and Douglas Trumbull.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

Stanley Kubrick explains the plot of ‘2001’

Before 2001 - Pavel Klushantsev’s classic science fiction film ‘The Road to the Stars


 

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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09.20.2012
08:37 pm
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