Chicago humorist Mark Peters is obsessed with reading, writing, hearing, telling—and now, writing about—jokes. In each essay, he looks at a perfect joke by a master of the form.

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Jack Kirby created thousands of comic book characters, from the X-Men to the Fantastic Four to the Dingbats of Danger Street. But which one was the funniest?

(If you’re not familiar with Jack Kirby, imagine everything you think Stan Lee created, plus a lot more creating, plus killing Nazis. And smoking cigars. That’s Jack Kirby.)

Since Kirby composed every character and page extra-large and mega-bombastic, plenty of them have an element of humor.

  • Batroc the Leaper is all business when played by MMA legend Georges St. Pierre in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. But he’s a flippy goofball in the comics.
  • Arnim Zola, with his face-torso, is funny-looking. Kirby was a master of the grotesque, which can often slide into humor.
  • Ego the Living Planet is kind of funny. Imagine a planet with a face, and you’ve got Ego. But when Galactus, Thor, and Ego had their three-way cosmic battle in the 1960s, it felt way more epic than camp. Since Galactus eats planets, and Ego is a planet, they were the perfect rivals—a pairing sadly unexplored in the bazillions of Marvel comics published since. Come on, Marvel, where’s my Galactus/Ego buddy comic, written and illustrated by Tradd Moore?
  • Kirby created plenty of monsters with funny names in the late 1950s, such as Spragg, Goom, Googam, Groot (who later became the Guardians of the Galaxy version of Groot), and Fin Fang Foom.
  • Speaking of monsters, the Mangog is another clownish oaf, this time a Thor villain, who embodied the hatred of a “billion billion beings,” which must be somewhere near umpty-zillion. With his little pincer hands, the Mangog must have had trouble dialing a rotary phone back in ancient times.
  • In Kamandi, Kirby created Morticoccus, the germ that can kill everything. Some days, I long for a stiff drink of Morticoccus.
  • Then there’s the Six Million Year Man—a big-headed alien with the words HATCH 22 written on his forehead who appeared during Kirby’s wacky (and wonderful) return to his creation the Black Panther in the late 1970s. This dude said stuff like, “Mindless creatures! You have removed me from the hatch! I must return to the hatch!” That’s gold, Kirby, gold.

I could go on all day, but let’s face it, the funniest character Jack Kirby ever created is Four Arms the Free-Wheeling Farm Boy.

Kirby created Four Arms (of whom nothing is really known beyond this presentation piece) while working for Ruby-Spears animation in the 1980s. Kirby had been repeatedly burned and exploited and spurned and disappointed by both major comic book companies by the late seventies and needed a way out. That way was working in animation, where his coworkers treated Kirby with far more respect than many had in comics. Plus, the aging Kirby received much-needed health insurance.

And yes, it should make your blood boil chicken that the guy who created the Marvel Universe, which has generated billions of dollars, had to worry about health insurance. As the Hulk said, “Arrrrghh!”

Anyhow, back to Four Arms. He was one of the hundreds of animation concepts Kirby cranked out when paid to basically be an idea factory, a title Kirby should have had on his business cards. Speaking of cards, many of these animation concepts are collected in the 1994 trading card set Jack Kirby: The Unpublished Archive. These cards are a buffet of bonkers concepts, some of which feature mutant technoworms. As the back of a card explains:

In this series, which Ruby-Spears named “Worm Stompers” and then renamed “Earth Blasters,” the technologically advanced cavemen devised a plan to conquer upper Earth using their massive worm creatures. Each worm has a different power and can be controlled by the cavemen via the pods on their backs.

Another card elaborates:

During a prehistoric meteor storm, the world split into two factions, and a sinister society of cavemen took up residence in the Earth’s core. Over centuries, they developed superior technology, which they used to create these Earth Blaster technoworms!

I never knew I needed an emotional-support Earth Blaster Technoworm, but I do. I really do.

These cards are a circus. Four Arms is the funniest in the tent, however, and part of the humor is that, like a Far Side cartoon, most information is held back, or rather nonexistent, and the simple fact of Four Arms is there for you to play with in your imagination. Unanswered questions abound:

Who’s that mound in the background with a giant eyeball?

How did Four Arms come by his particular anatomy?

Why does he square-dance with green woman? Actually, why would he not?

Is having four arms really that helpful in hand-to-hand combat? What would the implications be for MMA?

The biggest question is: How did this not get produced as a Saturday morning cartoon, which, if made, would surely be available now on scratchy YouTube vids? I mean, they made Turbo Teen—the boy who can turn into a car, a property that Kirby also contributed to. What a missed opportunity.

Besides the humor factor, the lack of a Four Arms cartoon deprives us of action scenes that could be sublime.

Throughout his career, Kirby was the master of action choreography, staging brawls with Captain America, the New Gods, and Thor with power and precision birthed in Kirby’s own life, having to fight just to survive on New York City’s Lower East Side. In interviews, Kirby often credited his rough childhood for helping him envision how Cap might take down multiple baddies, because Kirby had faced such odds himself. Kirby’s violent reality—which became far more severe when he served under Patton’s command in World War II—fed his violent imagination. As a result, Kirby practically created the concept of comic book action and gained, let’s hope, catharsis.

It would have been a blast to see Four Arms in a fight; such a pugilistic square dance would have only added to Kirby’s legacy. And it would have been funny as well. But alas / oh well, I suppose you and I can use our own imaginations, which collect too much dust.

In mine, Four Arms is fighting five Nazis. He has one in a figure-four leglock, screaming in pain. The other Nazis, bumbling fools that they are, charge Four Arms, only to be punched, tripped, eye-poked, or acupunctured in the manner of Kill Bill or Kenshiro of Fist of the North Star. Eventually, Four Arms chokes out the four Nazis while leglocking the fifth, and all the Nazis die horribly. Four Arms lights a cigar. Amen.