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!