Unless your one of those braindead Jack Kirby Zombies,that A ]Think Jack Kirby could do no wrong and B] Everything he created was original and had no previous existance to whatever he produced,it is obvious that the so called King of Comics loved to read and watch science fiction stories in print and on film.Those things include the Planet of the Apes,2001 a Space Odyssey and The Day the Earth Stood Still.


Obviously,unless your stupid Gort begat both Kurggos huge robot and Cyclopes.

The Day the Earth Stood StillEdit

Jack Kirby's favorite sci-fi flick?Edit

This first page is from THE FANTASTIC FOUR# 7, October 1962, the second from JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY# 101, February 1964. Let's see... the elements include a flying saucer from outer space landing, a strange occupant emerging, TWO giant robots appearing and one of them slowly opening its glowing eyes to shoot a disintegrative beam. Holy smoke. Did Jack Kirby really like THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL or what? (I didn't excavate another book, but in the first issue of THE X-MEN in 1963, Cyclops first displays his power by slowly raising his visor to reveal two glowing spots which suddenly shoot out an overwhelming force. I've always figured much of the inspiration for Cyclops came from Gort.The Destroyer does seem to have a Gort-like quality to him, particularly the way he lowered his visor before unleashing disintegration in his earliest appearances. The movie really seems to have stuck with Kirby.

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And if this has brought back memories of the movie with Klaatu and Gort, here are some thoughts on THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL. Clearly,with apsolutely no debait Gort inspired Kurggo's giant robot.The only thing missing was the cyclopean eye beam-that was saved for Cyclopes of the X-Men.


Still one of the early classics, still loaded with terrific visuals, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD works on several levels at the same time. It's a lecture about the evils of the Cold War and a not-too-subtle religious allegory, working both ends without its smooth briskness getting bogged down. Most of the cast is adequate at best, but Michael Rennie as the dignified, stern Klaatu is perfect in the role; Patricia Neal is excellent as the woman whose son befriends the visitor, and Sam Jaffe is as always a delight. Gort is in a class by himself; even if the rest of the movie had been a boring dud, his scenes still have an air of impending doom that would make the film worth sitting through. (The ominous music with heavy use of the unearthly-sounding theremin is a big help.) If you haven't seen the movie (and you should), a human-looking alien named Klaatu and his imposing robot Gort land their flying saucer in Washington DC. Klaatu is wounded by an overwrought soldier, declares he has come to deliver a message to the human race, and then goes undercover for a while to observe us as one of us. (He takes the name Mr Carpenter, kind of a hint). To get our attention, he arranges for all electrical machinery to shut down worldwide for a half hour (thus the title). After that he is betrayed, shot dead while running from the authorities and returns to life – not rising from the tomb on the third day, but just resuscitated medically by Gort. Not bearing too much of a grudge, he simply makes a stern speech to an assembly of scientists that we on Earth had better watch our step or we'll be in serious trouble. Then he flies away, no doubt still annoyed at having been shot twice by these damn Earthmen.

The movie has a lot of moderately thought-provoking stuff about how international politics and personal interactions are based on irrational fears and prejudices, how violence stems from ignorance, and so forth. As usual, there's a good amount of human-bashing, with only a few likeable citizens and Lincoln's Inaugural Address standing up for us. I'm going to skip that heavy subtext and ramble with my usual speculations.One funny thing is that I had it in my head (from watching this flick years ago) that Klaatu was just another Menace From Space. He came here to warn us to get in line and threatened to impose his system on us of rule by unstoppable robot watchmen. It's really not like that, Klaatu comes right out and says that his people don't care what we do to each other. He's not offering to lead us into a Golden Age of advanced technology and freedom from want. No, the problem is that we Earthlings were developing atomic bombs and rockets at the same time, a combination potentially threatening to the other planets. So his mission was to just read the riot act. Any attempt to explore outer space with armed ships would be met with finality ("This Earth of yours would be reduced to a burnt-out cinder.")I dunno.... Klaatu's people were over-reacting, if you want my honest opinion. This was 1951, after all. We were still eighteen years from managing to haul a handful of men to the Moon for a few days. Forty years after that, we still haven't gotten any further, much less assaulted Mars or Venus with atomic bomb-flinging battleships. In fact, human nature being as pugnacious and contrary as it is, Klaatu's intimidating actions might have instead spurred humanity to leap into full-scale militarization of space travel. Those aliens can't push us around, would be the rallying cry.) And I still have major reservations about the way the other planets run their own lives. They have built a race of robots, of which Gort seems to be a typical specimen, and have handed over all authority to them. In case of any acts of aggression, the robots swing into action and vaporize the guilty parties. No pleas, no extenuating circumstances. 

My reaction was "Oh come on." I don't believe for a second that the robots could be infallible or incorruptible.Anything programmed can be hacked, and if the Gort Troopers could be constructed to follow certain guidelines, then some genius certainly could find a way to alter those protocols and have an army of planet-melting unkillable soldiers ready for a coup. Or failing that, how about a simple systems crash? I'd hate to see Gort's visor rise to show the Blue Screen of Death from Windows. Klaatu says his people do not claim to achieved perfection "But we have a system, and it works." Sorry, I don't buy it.For that matter, Klaatu tells the scientists that the "absolute authority" given the robots "cannot be revoked." And yet... at the beginning of the movie, when Klaatu has been shot in the shoulder, Gort makes his impressive appearance in the doorway of the saucer and promptly starts melting guns, tanks and artillery with his visor beam. He doesn't go on to start slaughtering the crowd, presumably because Klaatu hadn't been killed. (Later, when his partner is in fact shot dead, Gort somehow knows about it and immediately disintegrates two soldiers approaching him.) Anyway, Klaatu says "Gort! Deklato prosko!" and the robot obligingly lowers his visor and simmers down. How this jibes with the bit about the robots having absolute authority and not being subject to recall is hard to say. Maybe Klaatu was laying it on a bit thick for his audience and there were ways for authorized individuals to keep the robots from incinerating the populace. (This does give new meaning to "our safe word.")

I certainly admire Gort's ability to stiffly lumber through downtown city streets (he makes Kharis the Mummy look nimble), retrieve Klaatu's body from a jail cell and carry it back to the saucer. Even at night and with the streets deserted, an eight foot shiny robot would not expected to show much stealth. Personally, I suspect Gort had his visor up the whole time and simply vaporized anyone who was unfortunate enough to spot him. I'd bet Washington DC had twenty missing person reports the next day. (Gort's simple and elegant design deserves an essay in itself, but note here that he does not have hinges or knight's armor construction; his elbows and knees flex slightly, as if he were made of the liquid metal popularized decades later by the Terminator.)

THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL was based on a 1940 pulp story by Harry Bates, "Farewell To the Master." There the big twist is that Gnut (a humanoid creation with defined muscles and green skin) wasn't Klaatu's mechanical servant but in fact was the dominant partner himself. This was dropped from the movie but odd traces of it still remain. Gort acts on his own volition quite a bit, and I still have a sneaking suspicion that maybe Klaatu was just being employed by the super-robot race (who were in fact in charge) to interact with the Earthlings because he happened to look like them.Dir: Robert Wise

The Day The Earth Stood Stil is part of what was actually a rather longstanding (and, in retrospect, surprising) tradition of LIBERAL authoritarianism in sci-fi, also seen in Things to Come, the movie version of H.G. Wells' work (which was even more nakedly authoritarian in its liberalism). As a liberal myself, who grew up long after the '60s, the idea that progressives were once the ones saying TRUST AUTHORITY was stunning to me at first (but then, with FDR, LBJ and Obama, there's precedent for it). Even now, though, I don't think liberalism will ever get back to that utopian idea of, "Well, we'll just build the perfect computer to run our world FOR us!"


I don't think it's so much about liberal authoritarianism - it's more about Utopian ideals. Utopians, by their very nature, don't think things through much, or at least that's always been my impression - they basically go 'life would be perfect if only THIS would happen', then run with that thought. Both liberals and conservatives have their own utopian vision of things as they should be, and both, in theory, believe in peace and freedom and stuff like that - the main difference is that the liberal version is usually an idealized version of the FUTURE, of life as it could be if we did this this and this, whereas the conservative version is an idealized version of the PAST, of how good things used to be and how they could be again if we did this this and this. The reason that the liberal version tends to show up in science fiction more often is simply that it's easier to write stories about - nifty stuff that might happen in the future is much more interesting to read about than nifty stuff that's already happened, usually in the not-very-distant past, and that most people already know about.  And yes, Wells, was definitely a Utopian in certain respects, but I think that was mainly in his later years - remember, he created one of the original dystopian futures in 'The Time Machine'. (It may, in fact, have been THE original, but don't quote me on that.)


no Edit

Oh, thank you. I think I read many years ago about liberals looking ahead to a better time and conservatives looking back to a better time, but it had faded from thought. Now it seems more appropriate than ever, and I'll keep it in mind during political discussions.


no subjec Consider also the Destroyer ( from Thor.Edit


no subjecThe Destroyer does seem to have a Gort-like quality to him, particularly the way he lowered his visor before unleashing disintegration in his earliest appearances. The movie really seems to have stuck with Kirby.Edit

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