Monthly Archives: January 2011

KO

Here is an item Kenn Thomas sent in.

This from Heritage Auctions:

Jack Kirby’s lost Golden Age cover? That’s what many have said about KO Komics #1, a 1945 comic from an obscure publisher, Gerona, featuring a punch-swinging, oversized hero with a winged helmet. Kirby scholar Tom Morehouse believes this might have been an unfinished cover or model sheet sketch that another DC staffer completed and then sold to the Jason Comic Art shop (the art is signed “JCA”). It could have been simply a “swipe” of a Kirby character, the Guardian (from Star Spangled Comics), done by an unknown artist. The jury’s still out on this one — what do you think? 

I’m by no means an expert on 1940s comics, but if I had to guess I’d say this looks like another artist swiping some elements from a previous Kirby composition and combining that with other elements of popular superhero genre artwork of that era.

Here’s a scan of the Mercury splash from Red Raven Comics# 1 (Aug 1940). Cover by Jack Kirby, inks attributed to Joe Simon, featuring a Kirby character with a winged head gear.

Black Panther # 4 Splash

A black-and-white scan of the splash from Black Panther# 4 (July 1977), Kirby/Royer. I doubt too many people read the Black Panther comic during the 1970s — because I don’t think the character had the built-in audience characters like Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Hulk, and Captain America had — but looking at the work over 30 years later is very rewarding: Jack packed lots of great visuals into this series, although I do wish Kirby had been able to focus his talents on a more “cosmic” character like Silver Surfer instead of the far more terrestrial Black Panther.

Kirby Chaos

Classic Kirby destruction page from The Silver Surfer Graphic Novel (1978), Kirby/Sinnott. A scan of the original artwork of page 18, followed by the published image. Jack is one of the only comics artists around who could make an entire page without any of the main characters still interesting to look at and at the same time visually spectacular. This s probably one of the weaker pages in the graphic novel, but still a nice example of the beautiful Kirby/Sinnott synthesis of styles — Jack’s raw, brutal approach towards cataclysmic action, with Joe’s beautiful slick inks making the carnage somehow beautiful.

Big Barda vs File Cabinet

Great Barda action sequence from Mister Miracle # 17 (1973), page 18, art by Kirby/Royer. You gotta love Barda using the file cabinet as a weapon. Not like your typical secretary.

Robot X

“I am Robot X” art from Amazing Adventures # 4  (Sep 1961), Kirby/Ayers. Classic Kirby image featuring a background of screaming faces.

The robot reminds me a little of the Lost In Space Robot.

I’d love to show complete stories here like so many other websites do, but I genuinely want to be respectful of the copyright holders of this work, so in the spirit of fair use here are a couple more interior pages just to give you a glimpse of Jack’s story and art.

 

I’m not an expert on pulp fiction or SF novels, but I suspect the man vs machine war motif must be very common.

Here’s a recent example from the popular Terminator films.

Cover for Amazing Adventures # 4

Cover for Amazing Adventures # 4 (Sep 1961), Kirby/Ayers.

Looks like Kirby’s version of Robbie the Robot.

Using the motif of the “X” may have been one of the rungs on the ladder which led to the name for Jack and Stan Lee’s famous X-Men. The cover below features a villain called the Juggernaut which is somewhat similar to the “X” machine from Amazing Adventures. The cover for X-Men # 12 (Jul 1965), pencils by Kirby, inks by Frank Giacoia.

Here’s an even better scan of the cover:

Kirby Fantastic Four 2011

Here’s something fun I found surfing the web yesterday.

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Here’s a link to the web page: http://fantasticsoap.tumblr.com/

Here we have someone who took the published work for Fantastic Four# 1 (1961) and added their own text to the illustrations. Looks like they also adjusted the color. It’s not very professional looking lettering, and by no means brilliant dialogue, but I do think the exercise itself is worth commenting on.

I’ve joked in the past that Stan Lee could probably have brought a homeless person off the street and had them add text to Jack’s illustrated stories, and the comics still would have been dynamic and easy to follow because of Jack’s visuals, so I guess here we have a chance to see if I’m right. Could anyone dialogue Jack’s comics as well as Stan Lee?

In the past I’ve been accused by Jack’s critics of what they call “Stan bashing” because occasionally I joke around about Stan Lee, but I’ve always felt the self-proclaimed “Fearless Leader” is a public figure and there’s nothing wrong with poking fun at him in the same way we all poke fun at someone like Tiger Woods or Paris Hilton.

And of course when I say something like “you can’t spell ‘steal’ without ‘Stan Lee’,” I’m making a joke. Lee never actually stole anything from Jack’s house, although I do think that Stan taking all the credit for all the characters and stories Kirby clearly played a pivotal part in creating is wrong, and I think Stan’s false mythology damaged Jack’s reputation and made it more difficult for Jack to operate from a position of strength when he dealt with the Marvel lawyers while he was alive. Personally, I think Lee did do a pretty good job adding text to Kirby’s art, I simply wish Lee would have made the true division of labor clear in his books like the Origins of Marvel Comics (1974).

For those of you unfamiliar with the Kirby/Lee authorship debate: many comics historians believe Kirby was the principal writer of his 1960s Marvel stories, Jack either worked from a brief Lee plot (which could be a sparse as “have Doc Doom be the bad guy this week”) or Jack came up with the entire story on his own. Jack did this by providing Lee with a 20 + page story and a cover. On each page, from 1964 – 1970 next to every single panel Jack wrote extensive margin notes explaining to Lee what was taking place in the story. It took Jack about 2 weeks do do a single story, it may have taken Lee as little as 4 hours to add text to Jack’s art.

So today we have an example of someone playing the Stan Lee role in the process. Here’s another page from FF # 1 with the new text. There was an f-bomb on one of the pages, I hope that Russian lettering doesn’t have any offensive words.

Honestly, this text is not very good, is it? I suppose it’s cute; obviously it’s satire. I think it shows that Stan did do a competent job adding the captions to Jack’s stories (and Lee may have been more involved in the plotting process on the early 1960s books like FF # 1), but putting aside the Kirby/Lee debate for now, I think this type of reworking of a published story opens a fascinating can of worms.

For example, what are the copyright ramifications of something like this? Obviously this writer is violating Marvel/Disney’s copyright of the material, but would Disney/Marvel care? Would they bother to crush this webcomic creator by sending a cease and desist?

For that “You can’t spell ‘steal’ without Stan Lee” gag, I  pulled that photo off the net after a quick google image search for “Stan Lee,” and added a caption with the Comic Life program. Is what I did there inappropriate? I suppose the photographer who took that picture or the owner of that image could tell me to remove it from this site. Maybe some might consider that joke libelous or slanderous? Is what I did there really that different than what this writer is doing with the new FF captions?

And is this kind of thing fair to the Kirby/Lee legacy? Is it a good idea to have other writers adding text to an old comic? For example, if Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman were willing to add new captions to an old Kirby story, would readers have a problem with that? Apart from the inevitable debate about the ethics of such a project, I for one would actually be curious to read that.

Is this reinterpretation of FF # 1 pure homage, which actually celebrates the Kirby/Lee legacy? I think it might be. This might encourage people to buy the original book. Plus I think this kind of exercise keeps the old stories relevant. It gives new creators a way to interact with the material. If I was Marvel I’d published all the old comics with empty balloons and let new writers add text. Why not?

If I was a Comics 101 teacher, I probably wouldn’t give this new writer an A + for the endeavor, and I’m sure many people will understandably object to this type of graffiti on a published comics masterpiece, but I do think this kind of reworking or re-imagining of an old comic at the very least raises interesting questions about the future of digital storytelling using old or copyrighted artwork.

questions

Superman Faces

I don’t have a scan of the whole page, but here is an example of a piece of Kirby original artwork where the owner peeled off the Superman & Jimmy Olsen faces so you can see the original Kirby/Colletta artwork underneath the published Plastino faces. The art is from Jimmy Olsen # 135 (Jan 1971). As you can see there is very little difference between the original/published faces, especially in panel 1.

I can understand Carmine Infantino wanting Superman to have the slick DC “look” that an artist like Plastino or Murphy Anderson brought to the character, but I remain baffled as to how an artist like Carmine would green-light what, to me, seems like the utterly pointless butchering of Jack’s original work; and surely you’d think Infantino would have realized that readers would notice the jarring difference between Kirby/Colletta and Plastino and Anderson.

The Cosmic Hulk

Original art from Eternals # 15, page 11 (Sep 1977), Kirby/Royer. Featuring the much-malined “Cosmic Hulk” — Jack’s way of giving into the Marvel Editors who directed him to start including Marvel continuity in his Eternals books, while still making an effort to keep his series in a separate “universe” by making this character a faux version of the Hulk — a machine that looks like the Hulk character charged with cosmic energy.