Chuck Rozanski Gets Jack Kirby's Unpublished Novel, The Horde

Chuck Rozanski of Mile High Comics has been acquired a gifted copy by the late Roz Kirby of her late husband Jack Kirby's unpublished novel, The Horde. He wrote "Until last evening, it had completely escaped my attention that legendary comics artist, Jack Kirby, had written a complete 248-page prose novel. It was never published, but a few presentation/pitch copies were sent to a limited number of book publishers in 1979. Through sheer happenstance, I am blessed to now own one of those original copies, of which I am reasonably certain that only a very few survived. Jack and Roz were dear friends of mine, so Jack's treasured manuscript will reside in my personal collection, forever. Love is love. An update: I was made aware this morning that the manuscript of The Horde that is now in my possession was a gift directly from Roz Kirby (after Jack's passing), and may have been her only copy. This stunning provenance makes the preserving of this incredibly rare manuscript all the more personally important to me."

Chuck Rozanski Gets Jack Kirby's Unpublished Novel, The Horde.
Chuck Rozanski Gets Jack Kirby's Unpublished Novel, The Horde.

In his Mile High Comics newsletter, he clarified "To make this story even more fantastic, the previous owner contacted me from Europe this morning to let me know that his copy of this incredibly rare manuscript had been a personal gift to him (after Jack's passing) directly from Jack's widow, Roz Kirby. She had given it to him still hoping that it could someday be published. Maybe now, it will. If they do not already have it, I will gladly make the entirety of Jack's novel available to the Jack Kirby estate. They own the copyright, and must make the decision as to whether to turn this novel over to a publisher. Jack and Roz were dear and personal friends of mine, so forty years later, this is the very least that I can do to honor their unceasing kindness to me." Where's Nat Gertler when you need him? Here are a few links and extracts of coverage…

  • July 2018: Jack Kirby Museum: The 22-page story "The Eye of the Falcon", previously twice scheduled for other books that didn't come out, finally saw print in a recently published anthology, FRONT LINES. This story is the third published "extrapolation" from Kirby's unfinished novel THE HORDE! that Janet Berliner has written and had published (the previous two were "Shadow Of The Falcon" and "The Conversion Of Tegujai Batir").
  • April 2019: [Paul S] Levine shared that Kirby's unfinished novel, The Horde, was turned into a screenplay by Peter Burke and they were looking for Hollywood to make it into a movie.
  • John Morrow, July 2001: Having seen for himself the rise and fall of Hitler in WWII and studied many of the would-be world conquerors before him, Jack approached the novel with two questions in mind: Who will be the next catalyst for war, and where is the place his ideas and aggressions will bear fruit? For Jack, that place ended up being Red China—and the person, a Mongol warrior named Tegujai Batir. In the 1979 Berliner-edited manuscript, Tegujai is driven by a mystical dream to spend his life creating a vast series of underground tunnels throughout Europe and Asia, from which he'll end the white man's domination of the world structure. We glimpse the early upbringing that shaped him, and see over time as he amasses an army that includes other Mongols (known as the Feathers of the Falcon) and forced laborers taken as prisoners of war from his battles. The "horde" refers to the mass exodus of people that starts the day Tegujai's troops erupt from their underground tunnels, and grows as each new territory is overrun. Of course, it would take more than a single army to create the human tidal wave that engulfs anything in its path as described in the Foreword, and early chapters alternate between Tegujai and the two other main characters who play important roles in making that happen. Hardy Jackman is an African-American who finds himself trapped in Tegujai's army (and enjoying it), and Kirby puts him to good use in exploring some of the racial tensions that took place during the time period he was writing this book. Matthieu Maret, a French Union soldier in Vietnam who is taken prisoner by Tegujai's forces, will eventually be forced into a pivotal role in the conflict (and serves as the focus for some thought-provoking commentary on Christianity). If none of this sounds like a typical Kirby comic book, there's a reason. The Horde is not a book for 12-year-old kids. The plot is well-crafted and frighteningly believable. Jack appears to have approached this novel with a considerable amount of historical background information, as the settings seem totally real; perhaps too real. Roz Kirby told me in 1995 (in an interview published in TJKC #10) that Jack stopped writing The Horde because certain events in it were happening in real life, and it frightened him to write the ending. "He got scared, because he said every time he was writing something, it was coming true in the newspapers," Roz said, "and he was so sure that he was going to end the world!" While I was unable to pinpoint particular events in the edited manuscript that might've caused this sense of reverse deja vu, the version I read does remain unfinished (and it isn't the original manuscript), and in fact stops at a pivotal moment in the story; but thanks to a simple five-page outline that was included, there is a record of how Jack—at least at the time of this 1979 manuscript— would've ended it. I won't divulge the ending, since ongoing work is being done to finally bring The Horde to publication, but I'll just say that, were it to happen in real life, you wouldn't want to be around to see it.

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About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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