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Thursday, May 9, 2019

Jack Kirby - A King with or without Colors!

True confession: As a kid growing up in the mid-1970s, I didn't "get" Jack Kirby. I was asked on Twitter a few weeks ago if I was in the market for the Kirby Returns King-Size Hardcover. Nope, I am not. While I already own the Behold: Galactus! hardcover and would like to get the Kirby is Mighty King-Sized Hardcover and the Kirby is... Fantastic! King-Sized Hardcover, I really hold no love for the King's return to Marvel. For that matter, I couldn't say I'm a fan of his short tenure at DC - but that's more to the fact that those years fall just before I became a regular reader of comics. But even then, it was mainly Marvel Comics. So the DC stuff has always been on my "I should really check that out someday" list. Perhaps that's my loss, because I know there are those who absolutely love Kirby's Fourth World and Kamandi.

My childhood memories of Jack Kirby are his fingers - chunky and boxed on the ends. I'd often look at my own little hands and wonder who had hands with square fingers? Of course Kirby's Silver Age material was always in print, in Marvel's Greatest Comics, for example, as well as in the Origins of Marvel Comics series of trade paperbacks from Fireside Books. I always liked the older FF and Captain America art I'd seen, and often wished that the then-present stuff still looked like that. But up against the Bronze Age's young guns? Kirby's art seemed distant to me. Of course, the years have shown me how immature I was, and I have a much greater appreciation for Kirby across his career.

Today I just want to celebrate some of Jack Kirby's pencil work, mainly in the form of convention sketches. Even here, when the King might have just banged out an image in a couple of minutes, we feel the energy. Jack never left his fans wanting in that category, and I hope you'll feel likewise today. Thanks to the wonderful folks across the Interwebs who have shared these works that I in turn bring to you today.


  1. Superman, Wonder Woman and big red cheese Captain Marvel... not characters one immediately associates with Kirby. Nice one Doug - its always good to see someone not just taking the obvious route.

    What to say about Kirby? He was the source (so to speak), and the first comic artist I knew by name; it was reading the 60s FF and Thor in the Marvel UK reprints along with the then current DC imports like Mister Miracle, Kamandi and OMAC as a kid that really fired my enthusiasm for the form.

    The book to get is the monstrous Fourth World Omnibus, a 1000+ phenomenal pages of his ancient-to-the-future myth-science, reminding us he was also a major comic book writer. Yes, I know some people have a problem with Kirby's scripting, but his uh, singular approach to the English language suited the distinctive and powerful artwork - he wrote like he drew.


  2. Doug, nice images. I share a lot of your sentiments about Kirby. Square fingers. Haha!

    I was a Marvel zuvembie of the 70s. So my thoughts on Kirby were formed during that span of time. In the early 70s, I realized his name was on those FF and Thor reprints. And I loved them, without really having any idea of where he was at that time. Then in high school in the mid-70s, my much savvier friend with knowledge of comics history informed me that Kirby coming back to Marvel was a Big Deal. I was disappointed. His CA&F ignored everything that happened during Engelhart's run. And his Black Panther character didn't resemble the one I came to know and love in Jungle Action.

    And yet, I always like his art. It was cosmic and bigger-than-life, the way comic book art should be. I like to think his images inspired some of the best Marvel Cinematic Universe visuals.

    Still waiting for that FF movie that pays him the ultimate homage...


  3. Doug, you know we share much the same opinion regarding Kirby's return to Marvel, as we've talked/written about it numerous times in the past. Like you, I've grown to appreciate his later work more in my own middle age. While I still don't care much for his scripting, his restless imagination and dynamism cannot be denied. I find myself gravitating towards works like The Eternals, Kamandi, and even Devil Dinosaur as the creative output is just so fantastic.

  4. I absolutely loved Kirby's art, including those fingers :D

  5. I too shared your early aged impression of Kirby. But I also had a disconnect in regards to his earlier art. I was exposed around the same time to the FF (circa issues 66 to 102) and I loved those tremendously. It was strange that I didn’t look at his Eternals, Captain America, Black Panther the same way. In the grand scheme of things there was probably only 8 years between the FF books I liked and the 1976 Eternals. What happened? Was it the competitive style of art in that era of the Bronze Age or did Kirby’s art change subtly over those years?

  6. Fwiw Martinex, my theory on the disconnect some have with regard to Kirby is that his work did change, as he continually developed his work, with his style moving toward increased abstraction - compare, say, the Atlas-era or the very early FF with his mid-to-late 60s Marvels, and then the DCs...
    Basically, his art got Kirbier over time, and people have different jumping off points for their enjoyment of it.
    Plus, I think you have to factor in his growing disillusionment, particularly during his time at DC - returning to Marvel knocked some of the vitality out of his work (although personally I still reckon his later 70s stuff is underated)


    1. Uh-oh - apologies for the poor edit and some awkward phrasing at the start of that last comment.



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