Hot Box

On June 14, I posted an early example of Kirby’s work from the 1930s. Here is Jack tackling another aerial battle twenty years later in Foxhole # 2 (Dec 1954). Many Kirby experts believe Kirby wrote this story and also added the inks. It’s a two-pager. Spectacular dramatic image of the masked pilot firing off rounds of machine gun fire. In this image, the flying bullets give you the feeling of zero gravity.

By now, Jack has definitely mastered perspective. I suppose he might have had some photo reference for this panel pulled from a magazine, but either way he does a great job of capturing the reality of an aerial dogfight with a few well-placed pen strokes. Jack uses simple contrast between thin lines for the background and thicker lines in the foreground to illustrate exploding bursts of flak floating past the airplane. Jack no longer uses any of the cross-hatching we saw on the comic strip from the 1930s. Fairly crisp parallel lines represent background elements, and more varied lines are used to represent the texture of the uniforms.

Terrific use of dark black curves to represent the flaming smoke of the spiraling airplane, and you can see the four airmen parachuting to safety off to the bottom left.
Not a complex or deep story, but for a two-pager, Jack turns in very solid work. If it took Kirby about 3 hours to illustrate a page, you would think this piece may have taken him an entire day (6 hours for pencils, maybe 3 for adding inks) — pretty impressive when you consider it takes many contemporary comics artists working from a full script an entire day to pencil a single page.

This piece serves as a stark contrast to the somewhat innocent comic strip from the 1930s. By 1954 Jack was at a point in his career where he’d mastered the tools of his trade, and he could crank out a story on virtually any subject; plus his WW II experiences had given him first-hand experience of the horrors of combat and the workmanlike heroism of American soldiers, so “Hot Box” is a perfect example of Kirby cranking out a two-page potboiler that is executed to perfection, and powerful in it’s simplicity.