Monthly Archives: June 2010

Blue Bolt

Blue Bolt # 2 (1940), pg. 2, panel 3
Here are the first 3 pages of one of Jack’s earliest stories, Blue Bolt # 2 (1940). The story is credited to Joe Simon in the first panel, but it’s certainly possible Jack contributed story elements, and the artwork was penciled by Jack and inked by Simon. This is widely acknowledged as the first Simon and Kirby collaboration.

This artwork is quite nice. Straightforward and well-composed. The colors help make all the elements stand out from one another.

One of the things I find interesting about these pages is the lack of background elements. Panels 2, 3, 4, and 6 (below) being good examples. I don’t know if comics from that time period simply tended to have sparse backgrounds in general, or maybe by this time Jack still hadn’t mastered the complexities of perspective, so he felt simplicity was better than trying to create elaborate architecture.

Fun to see Jack experimenting with the green smoke as the lady appears. The unrealistic shadow on the front of the face of the man in panel 3 shows Jack still hasn’t developed a confident three-dimensional rendering style. The images are fairly flat and there is a lack of contrast — for example the shadow on the old man’s face in panel 6 really stands out, so the additional shadow he casts behind him doesn’t have a logical light source. Right now Jack seems to be using mainly comic book cliches instead of images taken from real life or experience.

Not nearly as polished as Jack’s later work, but you can see his distinctive style slowly emerging in these early pages of artwork, and one of the things I enjoy about looking at Jack’s career as a whole is watching him continue to grow as an artist and storyteller. Jack is a great illustrator to study if you want to explore someone consciously working to create a more effective and innovative style on every single page day by day over a period of five decades.

 

Marvelmania Club Catalog

Marvelmania Club Catalog (1970), pencils/inks by Jack Kirby
Above is the original publication of the Marvelmania piece I showed you Sunday. Below is a scan of the original artwork.
marvelmania_bw
This is a rare example of Kirby inking his own work in the 1960s, so it’s interesting to zoom in and take a close look at how his inking style had evolved over the years.

Marvelmania Art

This is a Marvelmania piece labeled “Marvelmania Characters # 1″ at the top, from about 1969, that I believe is unpublished. It’s for sale on eBay right now by Jack’s grandson Jeremy. It looks like Jack also inked this piece.

MarvelmaniaJeremy

Not a very high-quality scan, but worth zooming into the images to check out the details of Jack’s inks.

2010-06-26_142351 2010-06-26_142402 2010-06-26_142412 2010-06-26_142429 2010-06-26_142437 2010-06-26_142448

Very odd mix of images: Ulik and the Black Knight aren’t two of Marvel’s better-known characters, the Rhino almost looks like it was swiped from a Romita image, but the Iron Man image is great and that is one of the more dramatic images of Dr. Strange by Jack I’ve seen since he illustrated the character so rarely.

Interesting that Jack is using a pen for the contour lines, then he fills in the blacks with a brush for contrast, a lot like the artwork in the “Hot Box” story I posted recently. Maybe he used this technique because the images were small, but I wonder if Jack shelved this approach and decided to go more with Joe Sinnott’s inking style — drawing the outlines of the characters with a brush, then filling in interior details with a pen, since that is the approach Jack used on his other Marvelmania pieces.

The Marvel Universe

The cover of The Jack Kirby Collector # 47 (Fall 2006) pencils/inks by Kirby
It’s amazing to consider that in the early 1960s, DC comics had a very popular pantheon of superheroes (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash), virtually all of whom were created by different people, and those titles were selling very well. Here is a chart I found online for Marvel and DC Sales Figures from 1957 – 1975. Notice how far ahead of Marvel DC’s sales are up until the mid-1960s where Kirby was at the peak of his powers (note: I’m not an expert on comics sales, so I’m not sure if this chart is accurate).
Marvel and DC sales figures 1957 – 1975 (enterthestory.com)

As soon as Jack starts significantly contributing to the Marvel line in 1960, the Marvel sales start to steadily skyrocket. Certainly this is due in large part to the other artists, Stan Lee’s input, and many other factors, but there is no denying that the period from 1960 – 1970 saw a tremendous spike in sales for Marvel thanks to Jack Kirby, to the point where Marvel was taking away readers from DC. After Jack leaves Marvel in 1970, you can see the sales curves begin to even out.

In 1960, Stan Lee challenged Jack Kirby to come up with characters that could compete with the DC pantheon of heroes. Jack met that challenge. Kirby created and designed the equivalent of the entire DC “universe” in a few short years — well over a hundred heroes and villains that populated Kirby’s unique version of New York City, venturing out into a spectacular Kirby cosmos. And there was something more modern and more dynamic — not only about Kirby’s innovative character designs, and stunning action sequences — but it was also Jack’s unique explosive style that attracted thousands of readers away from the more conservative DC Comics over to Marvel.

Kirby’s Marvel universe has gone on to equal and even surpass the DC universe in terms of popularity and profitability. What Jack accomplished in the early 1960s is pretty astounding. I doubt any single person will ever come up with so many successful intellectual properties again.

1969 Marvelmania button set (spidermancollector.com) pencils/inks by Kirby

Comics Movies

The new DC Jonah Hex movie (Warner Bros. Pictures) only made $5.4M in it’s opening weekend. Pretty dismal showing when a $100 million premiere is what it takes for a film to be considered a hit. I wonder when the Marvel & DC superhero avalanche of films is going to wear thin on audiences. You’d have to think the next generation of kids is going to rebel against this type of corporate-owned “men in tights colliding” entertainment since they always seem to rail against the status quo.
It baffles me as to why Warner Brothers would have thought a Western about a disfigured gunfighter would be a smash. Westerns are out of fashion to begin with — I doubt even Kirby’s pretty-boy Rawhide Kid would be a hit.

Kirby’s Rawhide Kid (Rawhide Kid # 25, Dec 1961) Kirby/Ayers

I heard mostly negative reviews for the Iron Man 2 film (Paramount Studios) but after 7 weeks it’s still chugging along with a total take of $304.2M. I’d have to think Paramount will make one more Iron Man film with Robert Downey Jr. so it can be packaged as a trilogy, then that will be it for awhile, although I’m sure we can expect endless Iron Man/Avengers toys, video games, and cartoons.

Kirby’s Iron Man from Avengers # 3 (Jan 1964) Kirby/Reinman

Eisner & Kirby

Will Eisner, Jack and Roz Kirby, at the 1982 Inkpot Awards. Photograph by Alan Light.
Many comics experts consider Kirby and Eisner to be the two greatest comics storytellers of all time, so it’s interesting seeing the two men together having a chat as equals.

In 1938, Eisner created the Art Syndication Company with Jerry Iger, and one of the first artists they hired was Jack Kirby. Here is an anecdote about Jack from Will (“Will Eisner Speaks!” Jean Depelley. Jack Kirby Collector #16, July 1997)

Will Eisner: “Jack was a little fellow. He thought he was John Garfield, the actor! Very tough, very tough. Everything you see here [Will points to the cover of The Jack Kirby Collector #13 (Dec 1996)] was inside him.”

Will Eisner: “But he was a very little fellow; a very good fellow, but very tough. When we moved to a new office in a nice office building, we had a towel service for the artists to wash their hands, and we would buy a towel for each of the artists so they could wash up. The people who supplied the towels, however, were mafia! They were charging more and more money, so my partner Iger said, ‘Look, let’s find another towel service that’s cheaper,’ because at that time we had ten to fifteen artists and it was beginning to cost money. So I called them and said, ‘Look, we would like to find another towel service.’ So I get a visit from their salesman. He had a white tie, a black hat, a broken nose, y’know? Scarface! And he came in and said, ‘Are you really not happy with the service?’ I said, ‘Well, we want to find another…’ He said, ‘There is nobody else that can service this building’ (laughter).”

“We were beginning to talk loud, and from the other room, in comes Jack Kirby. He says to me, ‘Will, is he giving you a problem? I will beat him up.’ This is little Jack Kirby, and this big guy! I said, ‘Jack, go inside!’ Jack says, No, no.’ He says to the fellow, ‘Look, we don’t have to take your towels! We can take other people’s!’ The guy looked at me and said, ‘Who is he?’ And I said, ‘He’s my chief artist. Don’t get him angry, because…’ So this fellow said, ‘Look, we want to do this friendly. We don’t want to have any trouble.’ And Jack said, ‘If he comes to see you again, call me and I’ll beat him up!’ (laughter).”

After the late 1930s Kirby never worked with Eisner again, although they remained on friendly terms and would see each other at conventions. Will had this to say:

Will Eisner: “After that, I would see him in places like San Diego. He moved to California. In America, up until a few years ago, artists didn’t see each other very often, because they lived in different places. America is a very big place, and we didn’t see each other. So I would see him when I got to San Diego; we would talk and say hello.”

“There is another thing I can tell you. I did a book called The Dreamer [Kitchen Sink, 1986], in which I showed Jack Kirby, and Jack said to somebody, ‘I didn’t think Will liked me that much!’ He always called me ‘boss.’ I said, ‘Jack, we’re old men now, you don’t have to call me boss anymore.’ ‘No,’ he said, ‘you’re still my boss (laughter).”
Eisner/Kirby self-portraits from The Jack Kirby Collector # 16, pg. 14 (Jul 1997).

DC Goes Digital

A panel from 2001: A Space Odyssey # 5 (1977) that didn’t make the cut for my Kirby Space Odyssey Video

DC Comics Launches Digital Publishing
Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010.

By David Hyde

NEW YORK / BURBANK, Calif., June 23, 2010 – DC Comics, publisher of Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and Fables, is partnering with comiXology and PlayStation®Network for two separate digital comics distribution deals launching today, Wednesday, June 23. In addition, a DC Comics App for the iPhone®, iPad® and iPod® Touch is available allowing consumers an easy way to access DC Comics’ content. The announcement was made jointly today by DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Digital Distribution. “At DC Comics, it has been a top priority that DC forges a meaningful, forward-looking digital strategy,” said Jim Lee, Co-Publisher, DC Comics. “As both a comic book creator and Co-Publisher, it was incredibly important that our plan includes not only creator incentive payments, but also an innovative component that supports comic shop owners. We see digital as an opportunity to grow our entire business.” Both the comiXology and the PlayStation Network Digital Comics launch offerings will include classic titles from DC Comics, Vertigo and WildStorm. Both programs will share a tiered pricing format, with digital comics priced from $.99 to $2.99 per issue.

$2.99 for a digital comic book sounds like a lot of cash to me. You’d have to think in the near future they’ll slash the prices dramatically on that content if they really want regular readers. I’m sure at some point DC and Marvel will offer a digital comics archive with relatively unlimited access to their entire catalogues for a basic subscription fee, but this is a transitional phase where they want to milk every last penny out of the process.

I wonder how this will eventually effect the ever-declining sales of print comics. There used to be about 10,000 comics shops in the United States, now there are only about 3000. How will local comics shops be able to compete with digital editions sold by DC, as well as free editions springing up on filesharing networks? I guess comics shops will have to start selling iphones, ipads, and playstations alongside Batman statues and back issues.

Soon you’ll be able to read Kirby’s OMAC on your ipod. The world that’s coming…

YouTube Kirby Video

I downloaded the Kirby Space Odyssey video to YouTube and it looks 100% times better than the tiny video on blogspot. On YouTube it is in HQ and fills your whole screen. If you click on the link above twice, you will be taken to the YouTube site where you can see the full picture.

Kirby A Space Odyssey Images

Thanks to everybody for the feedback on the Kirby video. For those of you who didn’t check it out, have a slow internet connection, or simply might want to see the screen caps by themselves in HQ: here is a large vertical slideshow of the first forty images.





All of the artwork is from 2001: A Space Odyssey, # 1 – 7 (1976 – 1977), story and art by Kirby, inks by Mike Royer.

A Kirby Space Odyssey

One of my goals for this website is to explore looking at comics from an audio/visual perspective, so last night I was experimenting with my video screen capture, and I synced up about 120 Kirby images to some music I put together. I hope some of you might like it. It’s a Kirby Space Odyssey.

There are a couple video glitches, it’s not perfectly synced up to the music, and I wanted the images to fill the whole screen, so please think of it as a rough cut. My hope is it at least shows the potential for examining Jack’s visuals in a new audio/visual digital context. Think of this as my version of a 21st century Kirby collage.