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!

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2 Responses to Kirby 100, Part 2

  1. John Pierce says:

    Mark, I’m try­ing to remem­ber if Chal­lengers was my first expo­sure to Kirby’s work. It may have been Archie Adventure’s the Fly, instead. Of course, at the time, I didn’t know his name, and there were no cred­its on the fea­tures, any­way. I sus­pect that Chal­lengers is one of those fea­tures I could appre­ci­ate nowa­days more than I did at the time. But the Fly remains a favorite to this day. Only decades lat­er would I learn that his ances­try could be traced to the orig­i­nal Cap­tain Mar­vel — but that’s a sto­ry for anoth­er day!

    • Mark says:

      Chal­lengers real­ly is a fun strip, for those who haven’t seen it before. Worth check­ing out!
      As far as the sto­ry behind Archie Comics’ the Fly goes, a real­ly good source for those who are curi­ous is Joe Simon’s auto­bi­og­ra­phy, The Com­ic Book Mak­ers. He goes into that, and the sto­ry ties in with the roots of Spi­der­man (note the lack of hyphen) too.

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