Deal Me In, Week 8 ~ “The Conversion of Tegujai Batir”


Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“The Conversion of Tegujai Batir” by Jack Kirby

Card picked: Four of Spades – the fourth spade I’ve drawn in eight weeks.

From: Tales of the Impossible edited by David Copperfield and Janet Berliner


Disclosure: I didn’t finish this story.

It is rare that I enter into a story and truly have no idea what is going on, but that was the case here. I consider myself somewhat flexible, and I rode out the vaguely Islamic mythology in Mongolia/Russia at the end of WWII, but I just couldn’t buy how the characters acted within this world and toward each other.

We start with a family who lets “the Reader” visit. This personage forces a jinn upon their eight-year-old son, Tegujai Batir. Because of the jinn possession, the boy becomes the village pariah. Embittered, after witnessing post-WWII military might, Tegujai begins a blood-thirsty campaign to take over the world.

I don’t have anything against this sort of story, but the characters had no life to them. Interactions were stilted. The setting and details seemed to shift abruptly. Reading this story felt like walking down a steep incline paved in loose gravel.  Even paying attention, I felt like I was going to fall on my ass at any moment. Half-way through, I wondered if maybe this was meant to be an allegory of some sort. I’m not very good with allegories. So I did some research.

Jack Kirby, the author of this piece, is of course Jack Kirby, one of the fathers of modern comics. After his experiences during WWII, Kirby began work on a novel called The Horde involving the character Tegujai Batir who seeks to take over the world by starting in China, where the population is the highest. A series of world-wide underground tunnels is involved. The novel remained unfinished and largely unpublished during his lifetime. Janet Berliner, the co-editor of this volume, was involved in attempting to restructure and rewrite portions of The Horde, but even as an invested literary agent, she wasn’t able to get a publisher interested in it. This story is one of her extrapolations/rewrites of the material.

Generally, it seems that everyone that read The Horde in its various forms have found it to be a bit of a mess. I’d say this story is included in that category. Which makes me ask, why all the heroic efforts surrounding it? Just because Jack Kirby is the author?

In any case, the story behind the story was the best part of my Deal Me In reading this week:

A look at Kirby’s novel The Horde by John Morrow
At The Jack Kirby Comic Weblog
“Kirby’s Nightmare” from Collected Jack Kirby

8 thoughts on “Deal Me In, Week 8 ~ “The Conversion of Tegujai Batir”

  1. Dale

    Interesting situation. I’ve often wondered, too, what makes someone attempt to finish or elaborate on someone else’s work. It seems as though it would be incredibly difficult to do it well. Not to mention all of the questions about whether it was what the author really wanted.

  2. Pingback: Deal Me In – Week 8 Wrap Up | Bibliophilopolis

  3. Jay

    After reading some from your links, It seems like Janet Berliner just transparently seized an opportunity to get some of Kirby’s magnum opus into print. & The Horde sounds like a thinly veiled update of Genghis Khan’s story. Even the name Tegujai in the story evokes memories of GK’s original name, Temujin.

    I confess to being almost wholly ignorant of modern comics and had not even heard of Kirby before reading your post, so even though you got a bad story this week, at least I learned something. 🙂

  4. Candiss

    When I saw the title of your post, I immediately thought, “Are we talking comic book Jack Kirby?” I expected to find out it was another writer with an equivalent name, as I didn’t know Kirby wrote prose. Well, your post might well explain why I didn’t know that…

    It’s too bad this story ended up such a disappointment. At least you got some interesting backstory for your trouble!

    Better luck next week!


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