Monthly Archives: September 2012

Classic Kirby/Sinnott Artwork – FF # 47

Art from FF # 47 (Feb 1966). To me, it looks like Joe is starting to feel very comfortable inking Jack’s material at this point whereas, in the first couple issues I don’t know if he had found an ideal approach for embellishing Jack’s pencils. Not saying I don’t enjoy this work, it just seems to me it took a few books before Joe had a consistent plan for how he handled Jack’s linework — it’s sort of like a band jamming together, it takes a few gigs before they are really in tune with one another literally and metaphorically. Around this time, I think the Kirby/Sinnott team is locked in.

Lord of Light AKA Argo

I want to take a break from the Kirby/Sinnott tribute to point out these links since the new Argo movie is being so heavily promoted lately and I’d like you to read this stuff. Here’s a webpage I’d like you all to check out:

Ben Affleck doing his Stan Lee imitation, changing history to promote himself. If I understand correctly if you see any artwork in the Affleck Argo movie, it should have been Kirby artwork if the film wanted to be historically correct. But as has been the pattern in Hollywood lately, it sounds like Affleck didn’t want to credit Jack Kirby or give his family a few bucks. If anyone knows any behind the scenes stuff on this story please share, I haven’t followed entertainment that closely in decades.

Here’s the link to Jack’s art:

A nice very HQ scan of one of the illustrations from the Heritage Auctions site. Click to zoom in. Kirby/Royer art.

A 2007 article on the subject:

How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans from Tehran
By Joshuah Bearman, April 24, 200

Excerpt from the article:

In just four days, Mendez, Chambers, and Sidell created a fake Hollywood production company. They designed business cards and concocted identities for the six members of the location-scouting party, including all their former credits. The production company’s offices would be set up in a suite at Sunset Gower Studios on what was formerly the Columbia lot, in a space vacated by Michael Douglas after he finished The China Syndrome.

All they needed now was a film — and Chambers had the perfect script. Months before, he had received a call from a would-be producer named Barry Geller. Geller had purchased the rights to Roger Zelazny’s science fiction novel, Lord of Light, written his own treatment, raised a few million dollars in starting capital from wealthy investors, and hired Jack Kirby, the famous comic book artist who cocreated X-Men, to do concept drawings. Along the way, Geller imagined a Colorado theme park based on Kirby’s set designs that would be called Science Fiction Land; it would include a 300-foot-tall Ferris wheel, voice-operated mag-lev cars, a “planetary control room” staffed by robots, and a heated dome almost twice as tall as the Empire State Building. Geller had announced his grand plan in November at a press conference attended by Jack Kirby, former football star and prospective cast member Rosey Grier, and several people dressed like visitors from the future. Shortly thereafter, Geller’s second-in-command was arrested for embezzling production funds, and the Lord of Light film project evaporated.

Since Chambers had been hired by Geller to do makeup for the film, he still had the script and drawings at his house. The story, a tale of Hindu-inspired mystical science fiction, took place on a colonized planet. Iran’s landscape could provide many of the rugged settings required by the script. A famous underground bazaar in Tehran even matched one of the necessary locations. “This is perfect,” Mendez said. He removed the cover and gave the script a new name, Argo — like the vessel used by Jason on his daring voyage across the world to retrieve the Golden Fleece.

The new production company outfitted its office with phone lines, typewriters, film posters and canisters, and a sign on the door: studio six productions, named for the six Americans awaiting rescue. Sidell read the script and sketched out a schedule for a month’s worth of shooting. Mendez and Chambers designed a full-page ad for the film and bought space in Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. The night before Mendez returned to Washington, Studio Six threw a small party at the Brown Derby, where they toasted their “production” and Mendez grabbed some matchbooks as additional props to boost his Hollywood bona fides. Shortly thereafter, the Argo ads appeared, announcing that principal photography would commence in March. The film’s title was rendered in distressed lettering against a black background. Next to it was a bullet hole. Below it was the tagline “A Cosmic Conflagration.”

Classic Kirby/Sinnott Artwork – FF # 46

Fantastic Four # 46 (Jan 1966). In this book and the ones before, there seems to be some issue with Crystal’s face. There’s one notable example where it looks like Lee had Romita redraw her face. Maybe Lee wanted her eyebrows higher so she would look different than Sue? on this cover, it looks like there may have been another change to Crystal’s face and to Black Bolt’s face. Not sure what’s going on with Karnak’s eyes: he looks like he’s seen a ghost. Anybody out there ever seen the original art to this cover? I never have.

Here’s some art from one of the Marvel reprints, so some loss of detail. You gotta love Lockjaw.

I really enjoy pages like this one where Jack tells you the origin of an entirely new race of beings in just a couple panels using all sorts of creative character designs and Kirby contraptions.

Classic Kirby/Sinnott Artwork – FF # 45

Fantastic Four # 45 (Dec 1965). What a terrific cover. One of the best Kirby/Sinnott covers ever, and so early in their 5-year run on FF. Here we have two artists totally at the top of their game combining their skills.

These are HQ images from the published book, so click on the pages if you want to zoom in and look at the details.

Classic FF splash with lots of famous Kirby/Sinnott debris, each brick carefully embellished by Joe.

This next page has beautifully deliniated Kirby/Sinnott machinery (although the colorist obscured most of the details with that dark coloring). Thank god Vinnie didn’t ink this. All that wonderful background detail would have been gone — the Baxter building would have looked like an abandoned warehouse.

Finally, this truly awesome FF splash. Back in 1965, this image symbolized the beginning of a new era in superhero comics. There was nothing to keep Jack’s imagination on the ground and with Joe Sinnott beautifully translating his pencils, the possibilities and potential were endless.

Richard Thompson and Cul de Sac

I know many of you don’t follow comic strips, but I wanted to mention that Richard Thompson — whose art I enjoyed growing up reading the Washington Post — has done his last episode of Cul de Sac. This probably marks the end of an era in newspaper comic strips; many believe Cul de Sac was one of the best daily comics out there and with it’s passing we are watching a final chapter closing in the history of the newspaper comics medium.

Mainly, it’s always sad to see someone have to give up their dream job because of health reasons, but Richard had a great career. I think Cul de Sac was sort of his Abbey Road, so I’m glad Richard was able to do that project and I’m glad that work is something we can always enjoy.

All I can say is I wish Richard the best of luck. He’s a brilliant illustrator, a wonderful storyteller, and a real class act. All of the great cartoonists like Richard Thompson who have poured their hearts and souls into their work over the last 100 or so years sure have really set the bar high for the next crop of cartoonists.

Here’s an article by R. C. Harvey on Richard you might enjoy.

On Richard Thompson and Cul de Sac
BY R.C. HARVEY AUG 22, 2012

Classic Kirby/Sinnott Artwork – FF # 44

This is the beginning of the legendary 5-year Kirby/Sinnott run on FF: Fantastic Four # 44  (Nov 1965). The cover was inked by Vince Colletta.

Unfortunately I don’t have scans from the original first publishing of this book, so I have to use scans from the Masterworks reprints which sadly lose quite a bit of detail since the source for these images are inferior stats and the coloring on this material is at times pretty bad.

The original printed material of this art blows this stuff away, but I think you can see here that Jack and Joe have produced some very solid artwork here, although I do think it takes a little while for the two of them to really mesh.

One thing is for sure, this work is a huge step forward from the Kirby/Colletta FF which was in my opinion, pretty awful. It looked like Vinnie inked FF # 41 over the course of a weekend. Watching how Vinnie handed the Torch’s flame is painful.

Here are a few samples from that book. To me I think the inking on FF from Colletta to Sinnott is like going from night to  day, but everyone’s opinion will vary. Notice especially pages 5 and 11. No backgrounds!! That’s about to change in the Kirby/Sinnott run.

Classic Kirby/Sinnott Artwork – FF # 5

To start off this little tribute to the legendary Jack Kirby/Joe Sinnott Fantastic Four artwork, we have to start at the beginning: Fantastic Four #5 (Jul 1962). There is so much great art in this book, it’s hard to pick just 4 pages to post, so I just went ahead and chose a few of the chapter splashes. It’s especially interesting to contrast the way Jack and Joe were drawing the Human Torch here in 1962 with how they handled the character in the late 70s. Page 13 is especially creative.

Kirby/Sinnott Fantastic Four Art

I got a bunch of emails addressing a recent post where I talked about my opinion that Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott’s artwork marked a high point in the history of comics. Some people agreed with me, others did not. Thanks for sending those comments in. I don’t want to get into the billionth “who is the best comics artist of all time” debate here, so I’ll continue that conversation in private email. That dialogue did help me decide to do something different here at Kirby Dynamics for the next couple months.

First, a prologue. Obviously these types of “who is the best” conversations can be silly at times. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people argue passionately about who the best basketball player of all time is, or who the best singer is of all time. Those arguments can be reeeeeeeeeally annoying. Plus, it’s all subjective. For example, who is the best film director of all time? I’d probably say John Ford, or maybe Kubrick. Howard Hawks? It’s a tough choice to pick just one.

But I do think that there are times where one individual or one team of individuals transcend the medium they work in. For example, who is the best playwright of all time? Clearly the answer is Shakespeare. Right? I guess you could argue one of the Greek playwrights was the best ever, or you could argue that some modern playwright produced more important work because that work dealt with more contemporary issues, but when the dust settles — I would say that William Shakespeare unquestionably is going to be # 1 on any list of all-time great playwrights. Shakespeare is an example of an individual who transcended the medium he worked in. He stands on a totally different plateau than any other playwright.

I think you can say the same thing about Jack Kirby. Jack Kirby transcended the comics medium — in my opinion he is on a totally different level than any other comics artist in terms of the quantity, quality and creative content of the comics stories and art he produced in the course of an entire a lifetime. Yeah, you could argue maybe that Will Eisner was better than Jack; I knew a guy who said John Byrne was the best comics artist ever; I don’t really follow comics close enough to know if there are any new artists who are producing transcendent work today; and the debate can go on and on; but again, it’s all subjective so I don’t really want to get into that sort of debate here, there’s a zillion other places for that conversation.

What I do want to do is this: let’s say for the sake of argument that Jack Kirby is the best comics artist of all time. So what was his best work? His 40s material? The romance stuff in the 50s? His 60s stuff? 4W at DC in the 70s? How about his late 70s Marvel work or later Captain Victory and Silver Star in the 1980s?

Again, I’ve seen a wide variety of opinions on this one. There is no real answer. I’d say Jack’s entire body of work should be looked upon as one large whole. Imagine having a set of “The Complete Jack Kirby” sitting on your shelf where you could read every comic page Jack ever produced in his life in order — to me that one long narrative is Jack’s masterpiece. Jack did about 40,000 pages of art in his lifetime — a set of books that contained 40,000 pages sure would fill up a lot of shelf space, wouldn’t it?

Althought opinions will vary, I do think there was a high point in Jack’s career where Jack took things to a new level. I think this moment occurred in the late 60s when Joe Sinnott started inking his FF work. In my opinion, Jack’s work with Joe Sinnott set a new gold standard in comics art. It was a perfect pairing of the best artist in comics and the best inker in comics. Because of that perfect union and the wonderful inventiveness and dynamism of that material, I think the Kirby/Sinnott artwork was possibly the most transcendent art ever produced in the comics medium.

Now obviously, many will disagree with me, and that’s fine. No need to deluge me with hate emails defending your favorite comics artist. And many Kirby fans disagree with me on this too. They feel that Jack’s work with inkers like Joe Simon, Wallace Wood, Mike Royer — and especially Jack’s work where he inked his own material — was his best work. And I can’t really argue with that. I actually agree — I think it was all great. But in my opinion, based on the historical context of Jack’s 60s work, and the revolutionary impact that 60s material had on the comics medium and on pop culture, I suggest the Kirby/Sinnott FF books contain some of the best (if not the best) artwork produced in the history of comics.

So what I decided to do for the next couple months is this: I’m going to go through all the late 60s Kirby/Sinnott FF books in chronological order, and pull what I think are 4 of the best pages in each book. I’m apprehensive about doing something like this because I don’t want to bore you if you’ve seen all this stuff a million times — and Jack did so much other great work (for example, all of his FF books are filled with great stories and art) so I hate to focus on one thing for a few months — but I was thinking I have over 1000 posts under my belt here, so it might be fun to try something different.

Plus this seems like a nice opportunity to pay tribute not only to Jack’s visionary FF work, but also to his terrific collaborator: the great Joe Sinnott who many believe is the best inker ever to work in the comics medium. This might be a nice way to take a moment to say thanks to Joe Sinnott for all his hard work on Jack’s artwork over the years. I think Joe Sinnott’s remarkable craftsmanship, his discipline, his tremendous work ethic, his passion for perfection, and really just his huge heart helped Joe transform Jack’s 60s pencils into something truly special. Something transcendent.

Granted, comics aren’t that big a deal anymore — there are a gazillion other things out there to entertain and inspire us — but in the late 1960s, comics were still a relevant medium, and I think the Kirby/Sinnott FF work was miles and miles ahead of any other superhero comics art being produced in that era, and the material still resonates with readers today. So starting tomorrow, I’m going to post 4 Great Kirby/Sinnott pages a day from all the Kirby/Sinnott FF books. For those of you who’ve read the books, I hope you enjoy the stroll down memory lane. For those of you who might not have seen the material before, I hope you find Jack and Joe’s art as fun, freewheeling, and inspiring as I do.

Fantastic Four # 76, Page 18

Photograph of a piece of original artwork from Fantastic Four # 76, page 18 (Jul 1968). Kirby/Sinnott. Sent in by a reader.

Another great example of a Kirby crowd scene with pedestrians in front of a Kirby-esque New York cityscape looking towards the heavens.

Fantastic Four # 72, page 16

Fantastic Four # 72 (Mar 1968), page 16. Kirby/Sinnott.

This is actually a pretty average page in terms of it’s visual impact, but I wanted to take a moment and say: in my opinion, the Kirby/Sinnott FF period represents a high point in the history of comics art. Sure, you could argue there have been better artists or more important artists in comics before or since, but I think the late 60s Kirby/Sinnott artwork was on a completely different level than anything being produced at that time in terms of it’s dynamism and craftsmanship.

You may not find the Kirby/Sinnott arwork to be the best ever produced in the history of the comics medium — because we all have different tastes — but you can’t argue that this late 60s Kirby/Sinnott material was unlike anything on the newsstands at that time in terms of it’s sheer visual inventiveness and power. I suspect this arwork has had an influence on probably every artist who is working in comics right now.

I’ve said many times before that the Kirby/Sinnott artwork represents a high point in comics as visual literature, and I personally don’t think any comics artist or artists will ever top it in terms of how original, powerful and popular it was during a particular era. Late 60s Kirby/Sinnott comics art set the gold standard for quality comics storytelling.

And I understand all the arguments against what I just said, but to me, for example, I don’t see anything topping the Beatles in the 1960s in terms of the impact and relevance a rock band can have on pop culture. In the same way, I don’t see anything topping the impact the 60s Kirby/Sinnott material had on pop culture in terms of comics. Certainly Lennon/McCartney are more well-known than Jack and Joe, and obviously there are lots of great comics artists and there will be many many more as the decades pass, I just think that Jack and Joe’s work was transcendent.

But I’m biased, I enjoyed reading that stuff as a kid in the 70s buying the FF reprints off the spinner rack at the local 7-11, so I’m sure that experience had a big impact on me. It’s probably better for me to say Jack and Joe’s FF work is my favorite comics art. And maybe those guys produced the best comics art of all time. Like everything I’m sure things like that will be debated for all time, if anyone even cares about comics a hundred years from now.