Monthly Archives: April 2010

Modern Fury

Kirby gave Sgt. Fury a makeover in the late 1960s transforming him into Nick Fury agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. A spectacular panel from Captain America # 112, pg. 14, panel 1 (1969). Left-click on the image and enlarge it so that if fills your whole screen in order to really get the impact. Inks by George Tuska.

Sgt. Fury, Pg. 4

I think it’s fun to take a single Kirby page, approach it as an individual piece of storytelling, and look at what Jack was trying to achieve. Yesterday I zoomed into a close-up of Nick Fury because I think Fury is the character that looks the most visually like Kirby. That image came from page 2, of Sgt. Fury #4, and was inked by George Roussos (under the pen name of George Bell). Although not one of Jack’s most iconic pages, it’s an example of how even Jack’s less spectacular work was still very solid.

Here is a scan of the page photographed from the original art.

Panel one: is an extreme-long-shot. You have 2 soldiers in the foreground. One points upwards, leading the eye towards the sky and all of the various aircraft in the distance. Notice the buildings are all standing, and you can see pedestrians hustling to get off the streets. Throughout the whole page notice how foreground characters are on the left, and background characters are on the right, leading your eye across the page left-to-right.

Panel two: is a long-shot. Fury is the focus of the image, pumping his fist at the heavens. Note Dum Dum running for cover.

Jack would leave space at the top of a panel so Lee could add text. I wonder if as Jack composed this page he thought Dum Dum should be saying something comical as he runs out of the frame, then Fury would speak. It may be that Lee decided that instead of two dialogue balloons he would only include one to capture the impact of Jack’s explosive composition. Notice how the other three panels have captions at the top creating a frame in the bottom 2/3 of the image, but here Dum Dum shatters that pattern, and it’s almost tempting to get out of his way as he makes a run for it.

How many times have you seen a scene like this in a contemporary movie? In action films, it’s almost a cliche now to have the obligatory shot of the hero running toward the viewer as a massive explosion fills the frame in the background.

Panel three: Another long-shot. I zoomed into the image to show that Lee does a nice job here not inserting too much dialogue; he let’s the desolation of the background in the image speak for itself. Note George Roussos’s use of line variety to add different textures to the buildings and smoke. The devastation is a stark contrast to panel one. Also look closely at how the three characters hands are very nicley rendered and highlighted by background elements, and the three characters create a triangle.

Panel four: a medium shot, and a three-shot. Kirby moves in so we can see Fury’s face as well as the young lady who appears to be a nurse. We can’t see the young man’s face, but from Fury’s expression we can assume the prognosis is not good.

I wonder if Samuel L. Jackson will be able to capture that kind of compassion when he plays Kirby’s Nick Fury in the upcoming film scheduled for 2011.

Sgt. Fury and Jack Kirby

The first image is an enlargement from the original art to Sgt. Fury #2, page 2, panel 4 (1963).

The second image is a scan from Ray Wyman’s The Art Of Jack Kirby: a WW II self-portrait Jack sent to his wife from the battlefields of France (1944).

Mister Fantastic

Although many see Kirby more as his character the Thing — a wisecracking, cigar-chompin’ brawler with a heart of gold — I suspect there may also be a lot of Jack in Mister Fantastic, a brilliant inventor and designer with a keen intellect. The image of Mister Fantastic on the cover of Fantastic Four # 7 (1962) looks like Kirby to me, but that wouldn’t be the first time an artist used themselves as a model.
Most Kirby scholars agree George Roussos inked this cover, but some suspect it may have been a rare example where Kirby inked his own 1960s Marvel work.

What If Kirby?

Here are a few more examples of Kirby from What If? # 11 (1978). There are so many good ones to choose from, but I don’t want to violate Marvel’s copyright and incur the wrath of their lawyers, so I’ll limit myself to 5 examples. If you are a fan of Kirby and 60s Marvel comics, definitely pick up a used copy of this book on eBay. Jack wrote it and illustrated it with inks by Royer and Bill Wray. It’s a fun, visually stunning romp through the mythos of the Bullpen and Jack’s Fantastic Four. Technically this is also the last time Jack draws a full book featuring his Fantastic Four characters, and at 34 pages this one packs a wallop.

Lee and Kirby at work. Page 14, panel 5.

Kirby blasted by cosmic rays. Page 16, panel 7. “Yeeow!!”

Kirby uses his shoe to smash the dangerous device. Page 17, panel 5.

Kirby becomes the Thing. Page 15, panel 4.

Jack transforms back into his old human self. Page 27, panels 3 – 5.

What If?

Jack’s satirical version of the original 1960s Marvel Bullpen transformed into the Fantastic Four. From the comic book What If? # 11 (1978). This scan is from the original art. Inks by Jack’s long-time Fantastic Four collaborator, Joe Sinnott.
A double-splash featuring editor Stan Lee as Mr. Fantastic, production manager Sol Brodsky as the Human Torch, Kirby as the Thing, and office manager Flo Steinberg as the Invisible Girl. This scan is also from the original art. Inks by Mike Royer.

A close-up of Kirby as the Thing.

Jack working at his artboard. Signed by Jack on the original artboard.

This Is a Plot?

The splash page to Jack’s “This Is a Plot?” 3-page story published in Fantastic Four Special # 5 (1967). Inks by Frank Giacoia.

A close-up of Jack in action.


Jack’s editor Stan Lee with some famous Kirby headgear. Some suggest Stan and Jack wearing the different helmets throughout the story was Kirby’s way of poking fun at Lee’s various hairpieces.
Many Kirby scholars feel Jack was contributing significant plot elements to virtually all of his 1960s Marvel stories, specifically from 1962 – 1970 where Jack was writing stories on his own using visuals and margin-notes (to which Lee added text) so it’s ironic that this is the first time Jack is given a “writer” credit for one of his Marvel stories by his editor, Lee.

Since this was a piece of satire, I wonder if Jack was accurately depicting the Kirby/Lee collaborative process, or was he poking fun at Stan Lee’s fanciful, fictionalized version of their working relationship popularized in Lee’s self-promotional Bullpen Bulletins that appeared in all of the Marvel comic books every month.

Research seems to suggest Kirby and Lee spent very little time meeting face-to-face, especially in the mid-to-late 1960s — Jack worked at his home — and even when Lee did give Jack a plot, Kirby would make changes. Then, from around 1963 – 1979 Jack came up with stories on his own with very little to no direction from Lee.

Here is Stan Lee’s famous quote on the Kirby-Lee partnership: “Some artists, of course, need a more detailed plot than others. Some artists, such as Jack Kirby, need no plot at all. I mean, I’ll just say to Jack, ‘Let’s let the next villain be Dr. Doom’… or I may not even say that. He may tell me… he just about makes up the plots for these stories. All I do is a little editing.”

Kirby Photos


JK 002

A photograph of Jack from the Silver Surfer Graphic Novel (1978).

Jack and Joe 1972

Jack and Joe Sinnott at a 1970s comic book convention, photograph courtesy of Joe’s son, Mark Sinnott.


Jack during the 1980s looking at a print of his Spider-Man Marvelmania poster.


Here is a close-up of Jack’s work. Kirby inked this piece and added watercolors (1969).