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Grogg (Monsterbus p.554)

We are back to classic Kirby, and the prophet does it again, though probably not intentionally. Grog is slang for alcohol. Russia has a history of alcoholism: 20 percent of Russian men die from alcohol related causes, compared with 6% globally. Kirby wrote this story in 1961, and Russia had just made a great attempt to defeat alcoholism in 1958. But when life is hard, people turn to drink. So just as in the story, in the real wold the harsh Russian life brought the demon Grogg back to life. This ends up helping the west maintain technological superiority: a workforce with a serious drink problem will find it harder to develop world class industries. Grogg makes the men weaken and give up one by one, just as with alcohol.

This story is also full of those other Kirby pleasures, science and culture. He shows us the scientific method: in placing plants in a test region to see how they fare. He expands the mind: until I researched this story I didn't even know atomic gardening existed! The hero escapes using real world science: heat up just the right chemicals and rapid smoke will the result. We see the culture of Chinese dragons, a homage to Godzilla, realistic bomb test conditions, and more. All in all, beautiful mind expanding stuff.

Lee's editing

Lee's editing is back to its normal light touch. There is none of Lee's repetition and little of his stating the obvious. We do see him contradicting the story to make it extra safe: the art shows the  men being picked off one by one (exciting stuff) but the dialog says they were merely dropped in a river. If I recall, the Comics Code only forbade the explicit showing of death: merely hinting at it off screen would have been acceptable. But Lee always saw his role as simplifying the stories for the youngest children. As another example, the art shows the Great Wall being useless against dragons, but the dialog says it mostly worked. 

The most revealing thing about the Lee-Kirby tension is the final line: Stan Lee wants to know if readers want more Grogg stories. Previously I argued that Lee, not Kirby, wanted the return of the alien Hulk. The problem is that the alien Hulk and Grogg don't work well for continuing stories. Kirby had a much better eye for stories, creating the Colossus, It and Brute as ideal story engines but Lee didn't pick them up.