Monthly Archives: August 2017

Kirby 100, Part 4

This is the fourth and final install­ment in my cel­e­bra­tion of Jack Kir­by’s 100th birth­day this month. Which hap­pens to be today!

Like most of the oth­ers I’ve post­ed, today’s draw­ing came my way years back as a pho­to­copy of Kir­by’s pen­cils, from a sketch­book orig­i­nal­ly done for his wife Roz. It was lat­er repro­duced and pub­lished in book form as Jack Kir­by’s Heroes and Vil­lains. Like the oth­ers I’ve post­ed, this was a draw­ing that looked to me like it might be fun to take a crack at ink­ing it. So I did. And recent­ly col­ored it up for post­ing here.

This char­ac­ter (Ser­si) comes from a com­ic called The Eter­nals, which was one of a hand­ful of titles Kir­by pro­duced dur­ing his last stint at Mar­vel in the mid- to late-’70s. The seeds of this com­ic seem to have come from a very pop­u­lar book around this time by Erich von Däniken, enti­tled Char­i­ots of the Gods?. The book con­jec­tured that alien astro­nauts had vis­it­ed our world in the dis­tant past, and were mis­tak­en­ly thought by us to be gods. It’s easy to see how an idea like this could be fuel for Kir­by’s vivid imag­i­na­tion. Add to it Kir­by’s fas­ci­na­tion with myths and leg­ends, and he cooked up a very enter­tain­ing sce­nario from these ingre­di­ents.

Cer­tain sto­ries from Eter­nals still stand out in my mind. The saga of Karkas and the Reject, for exam­ple, which sub­vert­ed the usu­al assump­tions read­ers made about new char­ac­ters based on first impres­sions. Or “The Rus­sians are Com­ing!” in #11, or “The Astro­nauts!” in #13. Even in this lat­er stage of his career, Kir­by still had the goods.

If you caught onto the fact that each of my “Kir­by 100” posts has been in chrono­log­i­cal order of when the char­ac­ter first appeared, give your­self a gold star!

I men­tioned ear­li­er on that Kir­by’s work is very impor­tant to me. He was one of the ear­li­est com­ic book artists whose name and style impact­ed on me, and I was com­pelled to seek out his work. He may not nec­es­sar­i­ly have invent­ed all the “visu­al gram­mar” of draw­ing super­hero comics, but he cer­tain­ly per­fect­ed it! If an artist want­ed to do super­hero comics that had impact, it would have been a mis­take not to learn from Kir­by’s work.

Super­hero comics were not the only kind of mate­r­i­al he did, though. Kir­by worked in almost every genre of Amer­i­can comics, and brought the same inven­tive­ness and dynam­ic ener­gy to what­ev­er he did. He man­aged to cre­ate vital work in every decade, span­ning from the Gold­en Age of comics all the way up into the ’80s.

If for some rea­son you’re not famil­iar with Kir­by, do your­self a favor, and start delv­ing into the work of this tru­ly unique and impor­tant cre­ator! You are in for a treat!

Hap­py 100th, Mr. Kir­by! And a very heart­felt “thank you” for cre­at­ing so many great char­ac­ters and sto­ries that still live and inspire today. You were tru­ly one of a kind!

Kirby 100, Part 3

Wel­come back to anoth­er install­ment, cel­e­brat­ing Jack Kir­by’s 100th birth­day this month!

This time out is Thor. Again, the pen­cil draw­ing came my way years back in the form of a pho­to­copy, and I believe the orig­i­nal source was a sketch­book Jack did for his wife Roz, which ulti­mate­ly saw print as a book enti­tled Jack Kir­by’s Heroes and Vil­lains. It was yet anoth­er Kir­by draw­ing that caught my eye, and looked like it would be fun to try ink­ing. Fresh­ly col­ored for show­ing here.

When I first got to a point where I had suf­fi­cient funds to begin attempt­ing to col­lect more back issues of Kir­by’s Mar­vel work, I tend­ed to not seek out Jour­ney into Mys­tery (where Thor first appeared) or Thor issues. I just did­n’t like the inks as much as I did the inks over Kir­by on his oth­er strips. How­ev­er, as I read more about Kir­by’s work (and espe­cial­ly his Thor work), I real­ized that I was miss­ing out.

Kir­by’s Thor work is sig­nif­i­cant, because in it you see not only a bril­liant comics artist and sto­ry­teller doing a great job. You also see some­thing of Kir­by the man, and his inter­ests. Just as in Fan­tas­tic Four you can see Kir­by’s fas­ci­na­tion with the unknown, what’s out there, in Thor you see Kir­by’s fas­ci­na­tion with myth and leg­end (a touch­stone through­out his career). I feel that while all of Kir­by’s Mar­vel work is great, both Fan­tas­tic Four and Thor are the two main tent posts of his work dur­ing that peri­od which can’t be dis­re­gard­ed.

I tried in col­or­ing this to evoke the kind of col­or palette you see in those old Thor comics. It was fun!

Hap­py Kir­by 100! One more to go, if I can man­age it.

Kirby 100, Part 2

We’re back for anoth­er install­ment, cel­e­brat­ing Jack Kir­by’s 100th birth­day this month!

This time out, it’s the Chal­lengers of the Unknown. The pen­cils for this draw­ing came into my hands years back as a pho­to­copy. I believe the orig­i­nal came from a sketch­book Kir­by filled for his wife Roz, which saw print (in un-inked form) as a book enti­tled Jack Kir­by’s Heroes and Vil­lains. It looked like it would be fun to take a crack at ink­ing this draw­ing, so I did. And just recent­ly col­ored it for its appear­ance here.

There are a num­ber of inkers who got the oppor­tu­ni­ty to han­dle Kir­by’s pen­cils over the years. I like a num­ber of them for dif­fer­ent rea­sons (though if forced to, I could name a favorite). In the case of Chal­lengers, this strip is one of the rare instances of of Kir­by being inked by Wal­ly Wood. If you haven’t seen the pair­ing before, it’s kind of hard to imag­ine, but you’re in for a treat. Wal­ly Wood was a great artist in his own right, and the com­bi­na­tion of Kir­by and Wood on Chal­lengers (also on the syn­di­cat­ed news­pa­per strip Sky Mas­ters of the Space Force) plays to both artists’ strengths. Check it out, if you get the chance.

Chal­lengers is also sig­nif­i­cant in that it’s also pos­si­ble to view the strip as a dry run for the Fan­tas­tic Four: both are teams of four who go off on a flight at great risk, some­how sur­vive it, then in the wake of that expe­ri­ence, decide that it’s their call­ing to look into the unknown. There’s even an ear­ly Chal­lengers sto­ry where one mem­ber devel­ops flame pow­ers briefly!

There’s more to come, before the end of the month.

Hap­py Kir­by 100th!

Kirby 100, Part 1

This month would be Jack Kir­by’s 100th birth­day, and though things have been busy for me late­ly, I’m going to try to post some things this month by way of cel­e­brat­ing.

Most vis­i­tors here like­ly already know who Jack Kir­by is. I don’t think it’s pos­si­ble to over­state his impor­tance as a comics artist and cre­ator. So many of the char­ac­ters we’ve been enjoy­ing in the Mar­vel films, more often than not, Kir­by either co-cre­at­ed them or flat-out cre­at­ed them him­self.

But you can find all that his­to­ry else­where. The point I want to make here is that Kir­by’s work mat­tered a great deal to me per­son­al­ly. I believe he was the one of the first com­ic book artists who I came to rec­og­nize by his name and his work. When I first came across it, it was pow­er­ful. It was, to my think­ing, comics the way they should be.

I went through a phase in high school where I was try­ing very hard to draw like Jack Kir­by. Not the most uncom­mon thing among fan artists back then, but (this is the embar­rass­ing part) my rea­son­ing was that at some point Mr. Kir­by would retire, and there need­ed to be some­one to pick up the baton. I thought (in my naiveté) maybe that should be me. As I said, it’s embar­rass­ing to admit, but I was young, and this shows how impor­tant I tru­ly felt his work was.

Of course, I grew out of this phase of think­ing I need­ed to be the next Jack Kir­by (A change I’m sure Jack would approve of). But there are still valu­able artis­tic lessons I picked up from study­ing his work that I can see in my work even today.

An expla­na­tion of this piece: years back now, a pho­to­copy of a Jack Kir­by Red Skull sketch came into my hands. Dat­ed 1970, as my trac­ing over his sig­na­ture indi­cates. It was clos­er to a lay­out than the full pen­cils we usu­al­ly see, but some­thing about it spoke to me, com­pelled me to take a crack at ink­ing it. I col­ored it for its appear­ance here.

I’ll be back soon with anoth­er piece.

Hap­py Kir­by 100!