This Is Rather Challenging…

We’re now at Day 12 of Howard Simp­son’s month-long online cel­e­bra­tion of Kir­by, in hon­or of the fact Kir­by was born in August! It’s open to all cre­atives, and you can find the work on your favorite social media plat­forms by using the hash­tag #Kir­b­yArt­Trib­ut­es.

Today’s prompt? The Chal­lengers of the Unknown! It’s my under­stand­ing that this was a left­over con­cept from Kir­by’s ear­li­er part­ner­ship with Joe Simon. As real­ized in the pages of DC’s Show­case #6 (on news­stands in Novem­ber of ’56), the char­ac­ters’ ori­gin might sound a lit­tle famil­iar: four peo­ple attempt­ing an aer­i­al voy­age that end­ed in a crash land­ing which could/should have killed them. But they sur­vived, and came away with a great­ly changed out­look on their lives and their pur­pose mov­ing forward.

The ini­tial install­ments in Show­case were writ­ten by Dave Wood (no rela­tion to Wal­ly Wood). Sales were such that after four install­ments there, the Chal­lengers got their own title by ear­ly 1958. Accord­ing to the cred­its in DC’s Archive Edi­tion reprints, Kir­by actu­al­ly wrote some of the ear­ly scripts in the reg­u­lar title himself.

The strip also fea­tured inks by Wal­ly Wood on many install­ments. Wood was an amaz­ing tal­ent all on his own, and if you’ve nev­er seen Kir­by and Wood paired togeth­er, you might find it hard to imag­ine how it could pos­si­bly work. But it does, and amaz­ing­ly well! It’s like you get the best of both artists: the life, ener­gy and imag­i­na­tion of Kir­by’s pen­cils, with the light­ing and nat­u­ral­ism of Wood’s fin­ish­es. If you’ve nev­er seen their pair­ing, you owe it to your­self to check it out.

Hope you enjoy my salute to Kir­by’s Chal­lengers. And stay tuned!

3 thoughts on “This Is Rather Challenging…

  1. joe musich

    Oh yeah. In my 9 year old mind this series was amaz­ing. Mark, your cap­tur­ing of the expres­sons of the four brings me back to being a pup. This was the first flop­py series where I start­ed to pay atten­tion to the work of the artist. I am sure I had no idea yet there was such a job as an inker. As to the exis­tence of a team of unre­lat­ed peo­ple, this was new for the era with excep­tion of the Black­hawks but who seemed to be a car­ry-over from a dif­fer­ent time, I knew the Faw­cett Fam­i­ly but these guys were not relat­ed. Doing a task togeth­er brought them togeth­er. In look­ing back unless it is my eyes, the Chal­lengers seemed like in your depic­tion to have brighter col­or­ing then what Jack came to be doing at Mar­vel. Ace’s bright yel­low hair is def­i­nite­ly an accen­tu­a­tion on a new nation­al out­look maybe. Thank you.

    1. Mark Post author

      If I can bring you back to being a kid, and how you felt when see­ing the series orig­i­nal­ly, then I’ve done my job. That’s a huge compliment!
      As to the col­ors: with all of these, I’m try­ing to stick with the palette that was used to col­or them in the books orig­i­nal­ly. It might look brighter here because you’re see­ing them on a bright screen, instead of mut­ed by being print­ed on newsprint. Plus too, the ear­ly Mar­vel books did have their own unique approach to col­or­ing that tend­ed to make their books feel a lit­tle “dark­er” in comparison.

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