Original artwork and the published image of page 14 from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1976). Kirby/Royer.
I’m putting my free time into some other projects so I might not be able to answer as many of your questions or post as many of the emails I receive here at Kirby Dynamics, but please keep sending in your comments because I do read them when I can and I have a lot of great Kirby art posts scheduled. Thanks to John S. for these comments on Kirby’s 2001.
Thanks for posting that beautiful original from 2001#1. Looking at it now in black-and-white really confirms what I’ve felt for so many years about this period of Kirby’s career: He was definitely doing some of the absolute best work of his life at this time, and his collaboration with Mike Royer was at its peak on books like this. Just look at the detail in those panels! No inker other than Royer could have embellished that art with so much flexibility, faithfulness and control. And his lettering was equally good–spirited and precise at the same time. People can say what they will about the relative commercial success of Jack’s seventies comics, but how anyone can look at beautiful pages like this and not be blown away is beyond me.
One other point. A number of people over the years have criticized Jack for his “overly wordy” captions. But in my opinion, those criticisms are based more on their preconceived notions of how a comic should read, rather than on the way the work in question actually doesread. Kirby always maintained that the writing and the artwork should mesh together seemlessly and complement one another in order to tell the story as thoroughly as possible. And this page is a good example of that. Jack’s copy-writing skills were at their peak during his ’70s Marvel tenure and the captions on this page work in perfect harmony with the pictures to provide all the necessary information and tell a riveting, complete story. As a Kirby fan, I’m always dismayed when others criticize Jack’s seeming verbosity with the captions, while at the same time saying nary a critical word about scribes like Stan Lee, who write panel after panel, page after page of characters explaining the story to the reader by TALKING TO THEMSELVES !! How is that technique somehow better than Jack’s?! IT’S NOT!! Kirby took a lot of flack over the years from some very narrow-minded fanboys (whom he lampooned in 2001 #5 as “White Zeros”) who couldn’t get over the fact that the way he did his comics was not the way they were used to. But if they’d just been willing to open their eyes and their minds, they would have realized that that didn’t make Jack’s comics worse…in fact, it usually made them better.
Original artwork and the published image of page 13 from 2001: A Space Odyssey # 1 (Dec 1976), Kirby/Royer art.
A scan of page 3 from 2001 # 1: A Space Odyssey, art by Kirby/Royer, and a scan of the published artwork.
Captain America# 103, Page 1 (July 1968). Kirby/Shores. Xerox of the original artwork followed by the published page. Strange image where Jack makes the Red Skull look like a semi-transparent overlay on top of the image of Steve Rogers and Sharon Carter at dinner. Certainly dramatic, foreshadowing what is to come, but Shores seems to have a little difficulty pulling off the double-image effect in the inking phase, especially with that curtain in the top-right.
Here are three pin-ups from the Captain Victory Special # 1 (1983). Inks by Mike Thibodeaux. Great examples of Jack’s work featuring the new coloring style that was beginning to take hold in comics in the early 1980s because of the higher-quality paper and the greater focus on quality printing.
Art from Where Creatures Roam # 1 (Jul 1970). The story originally appeared in Journey into Mystery # 65 (Feb 1961). Kirby/Ayers art.
Great early example of a Kirby transformation scene, similar to the sequences he would make so famous in his Incredible Hulk stories. Cinematically, panels 3 – 5 read much more like a continuous camera shot because they are together in a horizontal sequence and there is very little change in the overall composition.
One more great page from the story. Brilliant panel of the gigantic eyball peering through the window.
Jack never seemed to run out of ideas when it came to drawing monsters. The ears on this creature resemble those of a bat.
Cover art for What If? # 11 (Oct 1978) “What if The Fantastic Four were the Original Marvel Bullpen.” One of the last times Kirby/Sinnott would collaborate on an FF cover.
Wonderful double-splash with a very creative page design.
Jack always seemed to come up with an endless number of ways to take advantage of the visual dynamism of a character who could stretch. Here is an example that is visually dramatic and also humorous.
Some rarely seen Kirby artwork from DC’s First Issue Special # 5 (Aug 1975) featuring Jack’s Manhunter. Art by Kirby/Berry. Pages 1, 15, and 16. I’ve always felt that it would have been amazing to see Jack do a regular title like First Issue Special for a long stretch because I’m sure he would have amazed us with a pantheon of new intellectual properties every month. I’m sure DC and Marvel must be kicking themselves for not taking advantage of Jack’s talents in the 1980s because history has shown a significant number of his creations are priceless.
Recently I showed you one of the first Kirby comics I bought off the news stands (a Machine Man comic from 1978), and this is one of the last Kirby books I bought off the stands — Destroyer Duck # 1 (1982). I think I picked this up from a comics shop that had just opened in Columbia, Maryland; during the early 80s it really seemed like the comics business was booming and new comic book stores were popping up everywhere. It was an exciting time where you could meet other fans and exchange ideas at the stores. And Kirby was one if the artists leading the way when the direct market took off.
Terrific cover, but I remember being very disappointed with the inks on the interiors of this book. Alfredo Alcala did some gorgeous work on Savage Sword of Conan, but I didn’t think his style really meshed all that well with Kirby. At the same time, looking at the work again for the first time (30! years later), I can see maybe there is some satire of Frank Miller’ dark and violent 80s Daredevil series going on here, and I try not to be too critical of any of Jack’s inkers because I think they all did the best they could given their particular circumstances. As you can see below, Kirby still has some of his old magic. Some of the panels are pretty funny (pgs. 8, 10, 11).
Some artwork from Kamandi # 28 (April 1975), art by Kirby/Berry. In these examples from that book, you can see how Jack does a great job setting up the conflict with the soldiers on the march, then he gives us examples of an idyllic paradise that is inevitably shattered by the ferocity of warfare.