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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