This week I’ll be posting some guest contributions.
By: Kandou Erik
With the upcoming Avengers film, and the Lee/Kirby argument in swing again, I found myself this last month seriously diving into Jack Kirby’s work. I read his biography, “Jack Kirby” King of Comics, written by former Kirby inker and assistant Mark Evanier – which turned out to be a tremendously informative and inspirational book. I was able to get a copy for $10, which is an amazing bargain. I have always loved Kirby’s artwork, but I feel like I appreciate it all the more, having finally seen the history behind his amazing volume of work.
I collect a lot of images from across the net for my own use. I consider it a form of scrap booking. I found myself actively collecting Jack Kirby artwork that I kept running into – and built my own little gallery for it. Visiting Kirby Dynamics, I sent in some of the more original images I had in my collection. I’ve collected many of these images over the years – so please forgive me if they come from a specific site or resource. (When I got most of them, keeping check of where things came from wasn’t an issue at the time.) I would have a hard time guessing where anything actually came from, unless it was really recent. Next post I’ll provide links of the places I most frequented looking for Kirby Artwork.
One of the things that amazed me the most, in searching for these Kirby images, was how many different things, that you wouldn’t expect, ended up being drawn by Kirby.
This piece particularly fascinated me, as Jack Kirby drew the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I knew that Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird where fans, and supported Kirby’s fight with Marvel for return of his original artwork. There was even a wonderful TMNT issue, Donatello #1, that featured Jack Kirby, with a magic pencil that made his creations come to life. I’m proud to say I actually have the issue – apparently it’s not that rare (at least when I bought it) – and there was an episode in last decade’s TMNT cartoon show that featured the same story. So I guess the connection is there. Even still, it’s strange to see Kirby doing a piece of art of such contemporary characters that weren’t his own creations. The design of the Turtles is a bit different — though I’d take Kirby Influenced Ninja Turtles over whatever horrible alien-versions are going to appear in the upcoming movie.
Even though it took him away from the comic characters we where more familiar with – Jack Kirby leaving Marvel for a second time was probably one of the best decisions he ever made. He simply wasn’t getting the credit or money due to him, even after all the years he had worked with mainstream publishers. Luckily, when he moved to California, Kirby thought that maybe he’d be able to use his talents in animation – a plan that actually bore fruit during this time, as Jack was able to work in animation, contributing to Ruby Sears and Hannah Barbara cartoons. (Which gave him health benefits – which apparently saved his family from ruin when he had a heart attack. He wouldn’t have been in such a position if he had stayed at Marvel). Working in animation, an industry where artists are largely working behind the scenes, it’s not surprising that many of us didn’t know as well how much Kirby contributed to those animated series. His clean and functional drawing style probably really fit well with animation, where he worked up character designs and ideas for TV shows.
One surprising image I ran into is that of Hawkman. Outside of the Super Friends, it’s obvious the Winged Avenger didn’t get picked up for his own series. I had never seen this piece before – so it makes me wonder how many other series (of notable heroes, and his own original creations) he pitched to animation studios.
With the rise of the comic con, Jack Kirby finally started getting the recognition he deserved. Even though he didn’t always do sketches, the ones he did do and that still survive are really interesting to see. This image here, for the life of me, I don’t know anything about. The Human Torch and the Thing are present in the front, with unknown characters in the back. Who are those other characters? I think this was a commissioned piece of art – so maybe the buyer asked for original characters or something.
Some of Kirby’s most impressive pieces are his painted and colored creations. This image here, featuring the Hulk versus an unknown character riding a monstrous dog-like creature. It’s funny – every time I see images of the Hulk by Kirby, I think that he might had drawn the character more in sketches and commissions that he actually drew in comics. (Steve Ditko and other artists came on board and did a lot of the penciling of the Hulk, after his initial 6 issues.)