Tag Archives: Jack Kirby

Don’t Try to Con Me!”

Hm. How to explain this? It’s a par­o­dy of the cov­er of X‑Men #4, obvi­ous­ly (with all apolo­gies to Jack Kir­by!). Yes, it’s pret­ty sil­ly stuff. And there’s a rea­son I did it.

Back before I start­ed my ani­ma­tion career, I kin­da thought I was going to make comics my life’s work. I had just fin­ished get­ting as much train­ing at Art Cen­ter as I could afford on my own dime, and set about launch­ing my comics career in earnest. I hon­est­ly don’t remem­ber now exact­ly how we end­ed up cross­ing paths, but I was in con­tact with Don Chin, who was at that time pub­lish­ing comics under the names Par­o­dy Press and Enti­ty Comics. His inde­pen­dent titles were actu­al­ly doing pret­ty decent num­bers. I was­n’t going to get rich doing this work, but every career has to start some­where, right?

As you’d expect from the name, Par­o­dy Press was all about lam­poon­ing exist­ing comics. One of the projects I agreed to do for Don was a par­o­dy of the X‑Men, called X‑Cons. The book had sto­ries from sev­er­al peri­ods in the his­to­ry of the char­ac­ters. I pen­ciled the open­ing chap­ter, fea­tur­ing the debut of the Sil­ver Age ver­sion of the team: Pro­fes­sor Ex, Dum­b­kophs, Beast­ie Boy, the Anglo, Sno-Cone and Jean­nie Okay (AKA Mar­velous Girl).

I did oth­er projects for Don too, but over time the mar­ket for these books began to dry up, until some projects I’d worked on did­n’t even get enough orders to go to press. At that point, I thought maybe I need­ed some­thing that might pay a bit stead­ier, so I put some feel­ers out and wound up get­ting into ani­ma­tion. Fun­ny to think about it now, in this con­text, but my very first job in ani­ma­tion? Char­ac­ter mod­el cleanup on X‑Men: the Ani­mat­ed Series.

Fast-for­ward to recent­ly: Don got back in touch. He told me he wants to do a reprint of the X‑Cons book, with addi­tion­al mate­r­i­al and in col­or this time. He was curi­ous if I might be game to con­tribute some­thing, per­haps a vari­ant cov­er. It hap­pened to be good tim­ing. We talked about it, and you see the result here. Sil­ly, but fun. I did two ver­sions: reg­u­lar, and extra-crispy!

When Don gets his cam­paign up and run­ning for those inter­est­ed in this book, I’ll update and post a link here.

Come Sail Away!

I’m sure many of you out there have heard of Sailor Moon. The inter­est­ing thing is that this char­ac­ter has been around for longer than most peo­ple real­ize. Back in the mid-/late-’70s, Mar­vel Comics licensed the rights to the char­ac­ter, and Jack Kir­by did a com­ic. Col­lec­tors who know about it often have a hard time turn­ing up copies of this book. This is a scan of a pan­el from that rare comic…

…Not buy­ing it? Okay, I con­fess; I just told you a big, fat, stinky lie. Jack Kir­by nev­er drew Sailor Moon (at least, not to my knowl­edge!). This is me. There’s appar­ent­ly this inter­net meme that all the cool kids are doing, where you take this one par­tic­u­lar image of Sailor Moon and draw it in your style. It occurred to me that it might be fun to put a spin on it and do it Jack Kir­by style.

One oth­er con­fes­sion: Sailor Moon is a bit after my time. Grow­ing up, the Japan­ese ani­ma­tion that I got to see on TV were things like Speed Rac­er, Kim­ba the White Lion and (my favorite of these) Tobor the 8th Man (I often get a lot of blank looks when I men­tion that one). Even though I’m prob­a­bly late to this par­ty, I thought it might be fun to get in on this meme.

Black Panther’s First Cartoon Appearance?

Like a lot of peo­ple, I’m look­ing for­ward to the release of Black Pan­ther, the lat­est Mar­vel movie this Fri­day, Feb­ru­ary 16th. This last week­end, I had an email from my first boss when I start­ed work­ing in ani­ma­tion, Lar­ry Hous­ton (whom I also con­sid­er a friend). Lar­ry was the producer/director of the orig­i­nal X‑Men: the Ani­mat­ed Series (as it seems to have become known now). I did char­ac­ter mod­el clean-up on the series, and a fair amount of char­ac­ter design too, along the way.

Lar­ry point­ed my atten­tion to a video on YouTube some­one had assem­bled, of Black Pan­ther’s var­i­ous ani­mat­ed appear­ances. Right up front was his cameo appear­ance on an episode of X‑Men.

That sparked a mem­o­ry. I went back to look, and sure enough: I’d had the priv­i­lege of being the one who got to draw the mod­el for that appear­ance, which I’ve post­ed here! If I’m not mis­tak­en, I think it might well be Black Pan­ther’s first ever appear­ance in a cartoon.

I can’t take cred­it for the idea of putting T’Chal­la in there. It was Lar­ry’s idea. Lar­ry felt very strong­ly (as did the rest of us on the show) that, tak­ing place in the Mar­vel uni­verse, we would like­ly see oth­er Mar­vel char­ac­ters from time to time. Because that was always kind of a Mar­vel Comics trade­mark! Occa­sion­al­ly the pow­ers-that-were got a lit­tle anx­ious over who might hold the rights to var­i­ous char­ac­ters, so some­times things got labeled a lit­tle… dif­fer­ent­ly. In this case, the script we were work­ing on at the time required we show some African mutant refugees, and we felt this was as good a time as any to give T’Chal­la a cameo. Hence, “African Mutant Refugee #3.”

With­in the con­fines of the style of our show, I tried to get some hints of Kir­by in there. Because, why not?

Update – Feb­ru­ary 28, 2018: It’s fun­ny how things work. Aaron Couch, Heat Vision Edi­tor for The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, did an inter­view with Lar­ry Hous­ton about Black Pan­ther and the X‑Men car­toon. Lar­ry point­ed him here to my site, and Aaron want­ed to ask me a ques­tion or two also. The end result wound up part of this arti­cle. Thanks again for your inter­est, Aaron!

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!

Hey, Mister!

Long­time vis­i­tors to this blog might know that I was a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to Big Bang Comics back in the day. I had lots of fun being a part of that! On his blog over on the Big Bang Comics site, Big Bang co-founder Gary Carl­son has been writ­ing an arti­cle about each issue that came out, in pub­li­ca­tion order. He just made it up to #8, which end­ed up fea­tur­ing a char­ac­ter named Mis­ter U.S. (co-cre­at­ed by writer Nat Gertler and I). You can read all about it here.

Just so there’s some­thing to look at here, I’ve put up a col­or guide I did for one of the vari­ant cov­ers. Back in those days, I was­n’t using Pho­to­shop yet, so this was all done using mark­ers and water­col­ors, then mark­ing up the page with the CMYK col­or for­mu­lae I want­ed for each col­or. Aside from that, between Gary and Nat, they’ve cov­ered the rest of the sto­ry pret­ty well, and I don’t want to spoil any­thing here. But it’s worth check­ing out, if you’re curi­ous about the “secret ori­gin” of this issue and how it came to be.

 

20 Years

Kirby WatchmenIt’s come to my atten­tion that today marks 20 years since the pass­ing of Jack Kir­by. That brings a lot of things to mind.

I know where I was when I got the word. I’d start­ed a new career, work­ing in ani­ma­tion, and was not quite into my first full year at it. I was work­ing at Graz Enter­tain­ment on X‑Men, for my first boss in the busi­ness (who I also con­sid­er a men­tor and friend), Lar­ry Hous­ton. In those pre-inter­net days, Lar­ry was the one who first got word, and passed it to us. Obvi­ous­ly, for those of us on the crew who knew and loved Kirby’s work, our minds and our con­ver­sa­tion were occu­pied the rest of the day.

When I got home, I had a sud­den com­pul­sion to go to the long­box­es, and pull out every com­ic I had that Jack Kir­by had worked on. Then I sur­veyed what was left. There were a lot of big holes! I could have gone even fur­ther and pulled out all the titles that he’d had a hand in cre­at­ing, and that would’ve left an even big­ger hole. There would prob­a­bly be few­er comics in the box­es than out of them.

Jack has most def­i­nite­ly left his mark on comics, whether peo­ple want to see it or not. And he’s left behind a great lega­cy of work in all kinds of gen­res that we can still enjoy today. I can say he cer­tain­ly enriched my life with his work.

RIP, Mr. Kir­by. Your work lives on.

Doc Bruce Banner, Belted by Gamma Rays…”

I was talk­ing with a good friend recent­ly, and he raised a ques­tion. “How come you aren’t draw­ing more of those clas­sic Mar­vel or DC char­ac­ters for your site? You real­ly should be doing more of that stuff.” I had to think about that. There’s real­ly no good rea­son why I haven’t, because I do love that mate­r­i­al. Maybe it’s just one of those things where you’re so close to it, you can’t see it. Or maybe it’s because there are just so many oth­er things I also want to do. Any­way, this post is an attempt to start rec­ti­fy­ing the situation.

It seemed like it might be fun to take a shot at the Hulk. Sur­pris­ing­ly, I haven’t real­ly drawn him all that often. Hulk’s been around awhile. He’s achieved that rar­efied stra­ta of comics char­ac­ters where even many non-comics-read­ers know who he is (thanks to the recent movies, the TV show, and even the Hulk episodes of the “Mar­vel Super Heroes” car­toons back in the ’60s).

There’ve been a num­ber of takes on the Hulk over the years, but if you’ve vis­it­ed my site much, it prob­a­bly won’t sur­prise you to find out that I grav­i­tate towards the ear­ly ver­sion of the char­ac­ter, as visu­al­ized by Jack Kir­by. There’s just some­thing very fun and pri­mal about that Hulk. He felt more like a wild card, unpre­dictable and mon­strous (appro­pri­ate, giv­en all the mon­ster comics Mar­vel was pub­lish­ing not too long before). I thought I’d try to cap­ture some of that ear­ly wild­ness, with­out nec­es­sar­i­ly com­plete­ly aping Kir­by. While it can be a lot of fun to do that, it seemed like a good idea to try to keep a lit­tle more of myself in there this time.

A big thanks to my friend Mark for sug­gest­ing I expand my horizons!