The Cosmic Afro – Captain America # 201, Part 3


Close-up from a photocopy of the uninked pencils from panel 1 of Captain America # 201 (Sep 1976) page 12.

Hopefully you won’t be so sick of this page after I pick it apart that you never want to see it again, but thanks to Kirby Museum Director Rand Hoppe we have a scan of Jack’s uninked pencils of this page to look at, so I figured we might as well take a close look at that and compare it to the published image. Also, a big thank-you to John Morrow, Tom Kraft, and the Kirby family for all of their hard work conserving and archiving all of this material for future scholars of Kirby, comics, and popular culture.

Here’s the photocopy of the uninked pencils of the entire page.

Below is (1) a close-up of panel 1 that I showed you yesterday and (2) the published image.

Notice how faithful Giacoia is to Jack’s composition. Frank does change the Inquisitor’s eyes a little, making them all in shadow whereas it looks like in Jack’s version we can see the whites of his eyes glowing menacingly. Note how Jack didn’t use a straight-edge to draw the Inquisitor’s bench or the corner of the background wall, that’s something inkers like Giacoia would take care of. The hunchback in the background is a little uglier in Jack’s version — inkers like Giacoia commonly would “fix” the eyes on Jack’s characters if they weren’t on the same plane.

I love looking at these original pencils because I see little things in Jack’s art that are new to me. For example, for Leila, I don’t recall seeing Jack use that type of texture before for hair — here we see Jack trying to capture a cosmic afro.

Note that Leila’s hair is a little different in Jack’s version than the published image, but I think both approaches work — Frank evens it out, gives it more consistency and gives it a texture that is different than the other figures.  

Finally, you can see Frank makes some shading decisions: he adds some shadow to the Inquisitor’s left arm and removes the shadow from under Leila’s chin. All-in-all I think Frank has done a very nice job here.

People are always talking about how “fast” Jack was — like he was either a freak or just hacking out artwork. But if you consider that Jack did about 3 pages a day (by all accounts he worked at least 8 hours a day, sometimes 12 hour shifts according to Kirby Historian Mark Evanier) you have to think each page took Jack at least 2 – 3 hours to illustrate.

If it took Jack 3 hours (180 minutes) to do a single page: 180 divided by 5 = 36. So I’ll guess it took Jack maybe around a half-hour to draw this panel. Or I guess you could argue 15 – 20 minutes at least since it’s not that complex. And I suspect Frank spent a similar amount of time inking the image, so I contend this legend that Jack was “fast” is a little misleading. Yeah, he’s “faster” than an artist who spends a week on one page, but Jack and Frank still invested about 15 minutes to a half-hour apiece just on this single panel alone. Sure, that’s fast compared to many artists, but it’s still work; it’s still Jack having the discipline to sit in his artist’s chair every single day and put in however many hours it takes to turn in an image he’s satisfied with.

Finally, note how the letterer John Costanza really makes the page look slick and professional with his work on the piece. He emphasizes the words in boldface that Jack underlined, and makes sure that the words are well-composed within the dialogue balloon.

I enjoy looking at Jack’s uninked pencils a great deal, but there’s no doubt that Jack was participating in a collaborative process here. He knows the inker is going to add certain things like making the lines straight, he knows the letterer is going to make his text legible and well-crafted, and he also knows the colorist — no matter what color scheme they use — is also going to add something to his work. So although I’m a fan of what the Kirby Purists call “pure Kirby” (meaning Jack wrote and inked the story), I still enjoy looking at Jack’s work within the context of seeing it as a collaboration. I appreciate Jack’s hard work in addition to the hard work of all the inkers, letterers, and colorists who not only made Jack’s work suitable for publication, but in several cases I think Kirby’s collaborators helped him produce masterpieces of comic art, and many could argue they produced masterpieces of just plain ol’… art.

Tomorrow, Panel 2. Maybe also panel 3 if I don’t have so much to say about it. 🙂

Again, my thanks to Rand Hoppe for sending me this scan so quickly. I appreciate it. By the way, if anyone has any comments or questions, please post them on the Kirby Museum’s Face Book page. I’m no Mark Evanier or Greg Theakston by any stretch of the imagination when it comes to Kirby history, but I’ll certainly do my best to answer any questions and address any comments you have about Kirby Dynamics. It might take a week or two but I will reply here. Also, several people have requested that I turn on the “comments” here, but for now I’d rather keep the focus on Jack’s art as opposed to spam, and inevitable pointless arguments that tend to take place in many blog comments sections. For those of you who want to engage in a real-time chat about Jack, I encourage you all to check out the Jack Kirby Discussion forum which you can see on the home page of the Museum site.

And of course email me at if you have any Kirby art, scans or Kirby comments you’d like to share about Jack. I’m starting to develop a pretty large backlog of stuff sent in from Kirby fans and Kirby historians, but I promise I’ll get to it all at some point. If you don’t see me respond to your email after like a month, just email me again, sometimes stuff may get lost in the shuffle.

See’ya tomorrow…

Say, is that Michael Jackson in the background?