Monthly Archives: September 2010

Machine Man # 5

Machine Man # 5 (Aug 1978) is one of the only new (non-reprint) Jack Kirby comics I remember buying as a kid from the local 7-11 — I’d just turned 11-years-old, so this came out right around the time I first started buying comic books with money I made doing yard work.

Machine Man # 1 was probably the first new  Kirby comic I ever recall buying off of a spinner rack (because it was a first issue and I guess I thought one day it might be valuable), so I bet I picked up Machine Man # 5 because it was one of the few times where I was able to get a book with the same title, so I could actually see some continuity. It was hard to get any titles with regularity where I lived, so impossible to get something like 2 issues of any book in a row. This cover was one of the only times Klaus Jansen inked Jack’s original pencils.

Here’s a rare text piece from Jack from this issue called “Would You Like a Machine to Fight Your Battles.” Too bad an editor like Lee or Infantino didn’t get Jack to add a text piece to every story so we could get some insight into how he approached his characters and stories.

Here’s a 4-panel sequence that encapsulates the conflict between man (or in this case woman) and machine, followed by some great examples of action artwork from the book. Inks by Mike Royer.

Where Monster’s Dwell # 26

The cover for Where Monster’s Dwell # 26 (Jan 1974). Terrific example of how Kirby’s 60s artwork was repackaged and reprinted for audiences in the 1970s. At this point in time, Jack was working at DC Comics where he had to compete with Marvel reprints of his old material. Art by Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers.

This story originally appeared in Tales of Suspense# 16 (April 1961). Below is the original cover, followed by some examples of interior pages from the reprint. The Metallo character reminds me a lot of the popular Transformers.

I love the details on the fish in panel one. The octopus in that panel is also fairly realistic. I wonder if Jack checked out a wildlife magazine for photo reference. Great example of goofy ultra-self-explanatory comic book dialogue in panel 3 “He’s loosening his grip — he can’t hold the suit! It’s too powerful for him!”

In my opinion, it’s around this period in 1961 that Jack’s artwork really starts to become more explosive. Not to say it wasn’t before — you can see plenty of innovative action sequences as early as Jack’s work on Captain America # 1 (Mar 1941) — but I think because Stan Lee was adding the captions to the stories, Jack might have started to focus a little more on making his images jump out of the panels and off the page; since Jack couldn’t express himself through text, maybe he focused a little more on producing unique, distinctive, dynamic imagery. For example, in the page above, every panel is charged with the kind of energy and filled with the kind of action Jack would become so famous for on his superhero work. Panel 1: the character tearing through the metal wall like it’s made of paper mache. Panel 2: the cop firing a shot at the giant robot, the woman fleeing, screaming in terror. Panel 3: classic Kirby crowd shot; I love the look of panic on the face of the kid in the foreground. Panel 4: the robot surrounded by cops, and panel 5: awesome shot of Metallo lifting up the police car.

I wonder if readers reacted favorably to these books, sent in fan mail, and this may have been one of the reasons Lee started assigning Jack to do superhero books — the most notable example being published seven months after this story: Fantastic Four # 1 (1961). It seems that at the time this monster/science-fiction story was published, Jack was ready to take a fairly substantial artistic leap from his earlier superhero work towards a more dramatic storytelling style which would lead to the so-called Marvel age of comics where with editor Lee, Jack would go on to create a line of comics that would amazingly eclipse the sales of the iconic DC universe of characters in the mid-1960s.

X-Men # 17

Jack’s last issue working on the X-Men # 17 (Feb 1966). Stunning Kirby cover followed by an incredibly detailed splash page although Jack is only credited as the layout artist.

Jack tended to put a lot more work into the splash pages on books where he was credited as the layout artist. In the pages that followed in this book, you can still see some examples of dynamic Kirby compositions, but although the penciler Werner Roth (using the pseudonym Jay Gavin) followed Kirby’s directions, Roth’s own style comes through very clearly and tends to obscure much of the Kirby influence. Apparently Stan Lee had Jack do layouts in order to help new artists try and learn his explosive storytelling style, plus many experts suspect this may have been a way for Lee to have Jack write stories for other artists using visuals and margin notes to direct them, then Lee would take the finished artwork and add text. As you can see from the crowd scene on the splash page, even though Jack may not have been getting a full salary for doing the layouts, Jack still was willing to put in a tremendous amount of time and detail if he felt that furthered the story.

The cover to X-Men # 17, is one of the few I recall being only a single color. It’s remarkably effective here, giving the piece a sense of desperation and foreboding. Nobody could make a image of a bunch of characters lying on the ground look more compelling than Kirby. Thanks to Henry Kujawa for reminding me “Gavin” was a pen name for Werner Roth.

Reader Feedback

Here’s a recent email from a reader named Angelo D:

“I recently came across your website and was compelled to write you. I’m 39 years old and have collected/admired/respected comics virtually my entire life. No one more in this field than Mr. Jack “the King” Kirby. I have many of Mr. Kirby’s comics, up until recently mostly his Marvel work. I have recently began collecting his DC work (i.e. New Gods, Mister Miracle, Forever People etc.). Mr. Kirby’s work has touched me in ways that no other writer or artist in this business has. His art is so powerful and captures beautifully the essence of the emotion he tries to convey. Mr. Kirby was an artist and genius in the truest sense of the words. He is the reason I fell in love with the genre. His influence continues to be felt today in comics, film, television etc. I am so grateful that your site exists as a “shrine” or homage to Mr. Kirby. I love his work. No one (in my opinion) has come close to capturing “truth” in their art as Mr. Kirby. He was so prolific and imaginative and creative. Thank you for your site!! It’s great to know there are others out there that appreciate the genius of Mr. Kirby.”

You can check out some more Kirby content and other observations on comics at Angelo’s weblog: dailycomicsfix.blogspot.com
http://www.dailycomicsfix.blogspot.com/

Thanks again to Angelo for the feedback and for sharing his thoughts on Jack’s work. 

Black Panther # 12 Action

Three great action pages from Jack’s last issue of Black Panther# 12 (Nov 1978). Pgs. 9, 10, and 16 from the original publication. Inks by Mike Royer.

It still amazes me that the pages for these books are turning yellow. It seems like yesterday when I bought comics from this era, but that was over 30 years ago!

You can see a lot of Jack’s famous storytelling strategies at work in this artwork. On page 9 (the first page above), I like the undulating shadows under the characters walking through the walls in panel 1. Also note the crazy light source for that character all the way to the right in panel 1. You can see the “Kirby eyes” close-up in panel 3.

On page 10, panel 2, the Panther delivers a crushing blow sending the bad guys flying in all directions.

Page 16, panel 1 starts off with the great low angle shot. Panel 3, a pure impact shot. Panel 5, the Panther on the move, leaving plenty of  Kirby debris and Kirby tech in his wake.

I didn’t buy Black Panther off the stands in the 1970s (mainly because I don’t ever recall seeing it at the local 7-11), and I still haven’t had the time to read the series, but these examples, to me, rank right up there with some of Jack’s best action sequences. Kirby was remarkably consistent throughout his whole career — there were rarely any pure “filler” pages in his books where there wasn’t something visually dynamic to feast your eyes upon. I’ve seen some of Kirby’s critics say at this point in his career maybe Jack was getting lazy or cutting corners, but even though this book came at the very end of Jack’s career in comics (except for his brief return to Pacific in the early 80s) you can see Jack clearly is still at the top of his game.

Thanks to Kenn Thomas for pointing out: “the first panel has some characters walking through walls, something I remember Kirby doing well in an issue of Chamber of Darkness.” Kenn adds, “Kirby could have drawn an incredible version of the Philadelphia Experiment, where crewmen from the USS Etheridge supposedly passed through walls.” Also thanks to Henry Kujawa for providing this scan from Chamber of Darkness # 5 (June 1970), from the story “And Fear Shall Follow.” Inks credited to Verpoorten.

Henry also added, “with all the speculation about how much Jack tossed around ideas for others to use (Don Heck on IRON MAN and AVENGERS, Gene Colan on CAPTAIN MARVEL), is it possible that Jack was the one who suggested that the NEW, ANDROID version of THE VISION should be able to WALK THRU WALLS?”

Here’s a slabbed copy of Avengers # 156 (Feb 1977). Note the Vision coming out through the wall in the top right-hand corner of the image.

Joe Sinnott News

Some bad news from Joe Sinnott’s son Mark (joesinnott.com).

Mark Sinnott:

On Thursday, Sept. 9th, my dad received some bad news from his doctor that he has a broken hip and would need hip replacement surgery, Friday Sept. 17th. For the past 6 weeks, Joe has had severe pain in his left leg. 2 x-rays taken a week apart revealed a “slight” crack in the bone. For the past week Joe has been using a walker to get around. An MRI taken on Wednesday confirmed the broken hip. They say that it appears to be from degenerative bone, as he never fell. After surgery, Joe will have a 4 day stay in the hospital, followed by 1-2 weeks in a rehab center and 2-3 weeks supervised (not left alone). That’s if all goes according to schedule. It could be longer. Joe will still need a walker or cane to get around after all is said and done. If anyone would like to send Joe a get well wish after his surgery, please send them to the address below.

Thank you, Mark Sinnott, Sept.10, 2010

Send cards to:

Joe Sinnott
PO Box 406
Saugerties, NY 12477

Journey into Mystery #81

One of the reasons I enjoy looking at Jack’s work is that he covered so much territory in his career — I suspect he explored virtually every type of storytelling genre imaginable at some point. Above is a great example of a knight in shining armor battling a dragon. From Journey into Mystery #81, page 10 (Marvel, 1962). Terrific inks by Dick Ayers on the Dragon.

Looks like Dick signed the piece “Kirby + Ayers.”

The Three Rocketeers

An obscure Kirby story from a short-lived title (it only lasted one issue) called Blast-Off: featuring the 3-Rocketeers published by Harvey (Oct 1965). Inks are by Al Williamson.

Very similar team dynamics to that of Jack’s Fantastic Four. Beefy Brown: a square jawed brawler (similar to Ben Grimm/The Thing). Kip McCoy: test pilot and adventurer (combination of the Human Torch & Invisible Girl), and Figures Faraday: the inventor and scientist (Mr. Fantastic). 

These characters may also reflect the elemental motif in Fantastic Four: if Beefy Brown is a Sailor or a Marine he may represent earth/water, while pilot McCoy represents air/fire. Figures Faraday, the scientist, represents the 5th element of aether.

The Fantastic Four from FF# 15, pg. 14 (June 1963). Mr. Fantastic (water & aether), Human Torch (fire), Ben Grimm (earth), Invisible Girl (air).

 

Above and below, two more beautifully penciled/inked pages by Kirby/Williamson from Blast-Off # 1.

Love Romances # 96

Some published artwork from Love Romances # 96 (Nov 1961), art by Kirby/Colletta. Looking at those characters in the background in the first image, I’d have no idea that artwork was penciled by Kirby if it wasn’t signed “Stan Lee + Jack Kirby” in the top right-hand corner — an example of Vince Colletta’s style completely overwhelming Jack’s. The inks aren’t bad, I just don’t see much Kirby in the images. Maybe Jack drew really loose pencils here. I assume Lee faked Jack’s signature? I wonder why Lee started signing this art. Was this the beginning of Lee’s attempt to create a new version of Simon/Kirby?

Panel 3 form page 1, classic Kirby eyes in the background.

Panels 1 – 4 from page 4. The glamourous young blonde artist in the big city and her tall dark and handsome man.

Page 5. The only image on this page that is truly recognizable as Kirby to me is panel 5. 

I suppose all romance comics have a happy ending?

9/11

I feel like I should post something that gives us all pause to reflect on the events of September 11, 2001. Remarkable that it’s been almost 70 years since the publication of this iconic cover for Captain America Comics #1 (Timely, 1941). Origin and first appearance of Captain America and Bucky by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.

From the article: “Obama Remembers Sept. 11, Calls for Unity,” by Erica Werner, Saturday, September 11, 2010 (washingtonpost.com), here are some of President Obama’s comments on the 9th anniversary of 9/11:

“If there is a lesson to be drawn on this anniversary, it is this: We are one nation – one people – bound not only by grief, but by a set of common ideals.”

“By giving back to our communities, by serving people in need, we reaffirm our ideals – in defiance of those who would do us grave harm.”

“This is a time of difficulty for our country. And it is often in such moments that some try to stoke bitterness – to divide us based on our differences, to blind us to what we have in common. But on this day, we are reminded that at our best, we do not give in to this temptation. We stand with one another. We fight alongside one another. We do not allow ourselves to be defined by fear, but by the hopes we have for our families, for our nation, and for a brighter future.”