Classic Kirby/Sinnott Artwork – FF # 50

Art from FF # 50 (May 1966). Freshman Comp can be kinda’ boring after you’ve glimpsed the incomprehensible.

Pretty early example of distinctive Kirby/Sinnott crackle taking shape in that panel. Then you also have Sinnott inking perfect circles and shaded planets, plus bursts of light using speedlines with a few comets thrown in — this is what I’ll call archetypal “Kirby/Sinnott Cosmos.” As their collaboration goes on, we’ll see this visual stylistic approach used frequently when illustrating outer space, cosmic battles, and other dimensions like the Negative Zone. Eventually even the water will broil with Kirby/Sinnott crackle.

My guess is that Jack took a look at these published books, liked what Joe was doing, was impressed with the effect Joe’s impeccable craftsmanship achieved, so over time Jack started using more and more crackle, resulting in a heavy dose of Kirby/Sinnott cosmic energy pouring out of the pages of every future issue of FF.

Here’s a nice scan of the cover of FF # 50.

I’d love to see the original art for this cover. Incredibly boring background. I wonder if these aren’t all paste-ups and there is another rejected cover floating around somewhere.

Below is the copy of the FF # 50 cover scan I have in my K-files, so you can see the quality is much better in a nice HQ scan of the published image, plus the coloring in the original is more subtle in terms of it’s brightness.

You can also see small changes to the reprint art, for example notice the speed lines behind Silver Surfer are different. The Surfer is colored differently. In the image of the Torch on campus, the buildings are all dark brown in the reprint, whereas in the original more care was taken to shade the buildings making them look 3-dimensional. Also in the original notice how the grass is colored brown which gives the image a feeling of fall, while the reprint colorist used green. Understandable, after all, grass is green, but it just leaves you scratching your head when you wonder why the reprint colorist chose to change certain things and leave others the same.

Unfortunately I don’t have great scans from this book — these are from stats and at times the super-bright coloring simply muddies the artwork, which is too bad because this just gives you a hint of how great the original printed artwork must look. Here are 4 pages to give you a sample of what’s in the book. If any of you out there have HQ scans from the original published book, please share them with us. Maybe I have some Kirby scans I can trade with you.

This book marks the conclusion to Jack’s epic Galactus Trilogy. I could write an analysis of the story, but so many people have already done that, and my main goal here is to focus on Jack’s illustrations. Suffice it to say, this series completely redefined superhero comics storytelling. I can only imagine the impact these 3 books must have had on kids growing up in the 1960s used to reading the comparatively tame Superman and Batman stories in the DC comics.

The Galactus Trilogy must have been a tremendous breath of fresh air — maybe even a little consciousness expanding — and when those kids all grew up and went to college, the impact the Kirby stories had on those kids probably helped the comics medium take a major step forward in terms of it’s creditably and respectability. Jack showed that comics can be epic visual literature, and Sinnott’s high level of craftsmanship helped make this series a classic.

I wonder how many times Marvel has reprinted this series? Unfortunately Jack’s family will never see another penny for his work on the Galactus Trilogy even if Marvel reprints it a thousand more times. Maybe since Joe Sinnott is still alive, hence the Marvel Death Clause hasn’t kicked in, he gets a few pennies for reprints? Or maybe the inkers aren’t considered important enough for reprint royalties? If anyone knows what Marvel’s current policy towards their veteran pioneer artists are, please share.

I’m not sure if the original artwork to this series has ever surfaced, which is strange because just about all of Jack’s 60s artwork is in the hands of collectors. Here’s a page supposedly from FF# 48 that I’m convinced is a clear forgery. I discussed it in this post: FF 48 Splash? Or a Forgery?

Anyone ever seen any examples of original art from the Galactus Trilogy books on the market? One guy on the old Kirby-l claimed to have seen the art, and he said Jack’s margin notes next to this panel said something like “Reed tells Galactus to @#$% off!” — but that’s pure hearsay.

Any of you old Kirby-lers remember who told us that? As far as I recall, that was the only person I ever talked to who claimed to have seen the original art to that book. Obviously it would be great to see scans of that art so we can see Jack’s margin notes.

To whoever has the Galactus Trilogy: please send us scans so we can study them. 🙂 And no, I won’t be holding my breath waiting for them.

Since the Galactus Trilogy artwork was not returned to Jack it must have been stolen from the Marvel warehouse by someone, so you’d have to think that person/persons has all three complete books. That must have been a pretty big pile of large artboard to lug home. Free Kirby/Sinnott art! How wonderful would it be if the thief or the current owner of this stolen Kirby/Sinnott artwork returned the art to the rightful owners — Jack’s family and Joe Sinnott and his family. Unlikely since these 3 books are worth millions of dollars, potentially 10s of millions since the original art from this book is considered a “grail” to virtually every comic art collector.

When I collected Jack’s art in the middle of the last decade a lot of comics art collectors got mad at me when I made statements like this — they wanted a page from this book for their collection very badly, and feared the books would never surface if people like me questioned the provenance of the art. The ironic thing is that if the thief/current owner of the Galactus Trilogy returned that original art to Jack’s family and to Joe Sinnott, I would think the Kirby Estate and Joe’s family would sell most of the artwork at auction, so comics art collectors would still get their hands on it.

One final thing, does anyone out there think Jack’s editor Stan Lee had anything to do with writing this 3-part story aside from maybe telling Jack to try and come up with a super villain that was even bigger and better than all of his other creations? I wouldn’t even be surprised if Jack came up with the idea for Galactus on his own, and Stan’s only contribution to the Galactus Trilogy was adding text to Jack’s visuals based on the directions in Jack’s margin notes. Obviously Lee’s blurbs were an important element of the series (although for the life of me I’ve never heard anyone quote a Lee line of dialogue from these books) but for Lee to suggest every idea in this story was his (aside from Silver Surfer which Lee did admit was a Kirby creation) strikes me as absurd.

Whether you think Lee inhibited Jack’s creativity with his editing or not, whether you think the story itself is lame or not, whether you even like Kirby stories/art or not — there is no denying that the Galactus Trilogy is a turning point in comics history. It’s a high point in the medium where in 1966, Jack Kirby along with his collaborator Joe Sinnott showed that “superhero” genre comics art can be more than men in tights colliding — comics can explore the fate of planet Earth and the cosmos themselves. With the Galactus Trilogy Jack is beginning to explore characters who are more like Gods than mortal men, although they must still grapple with human problems (like being hungry) 🙂

Jack would continue this exploration in his 4W series and with books like the Eternals, but this is Jack’s first step beyond the status quo of the traditional secret-identity superhero comic. With this series of stories Jack showed that comics can be transcendent. Heroes can battle the Gods and rise victorious, heroes can glimpse the mysteries of the universe and survive transformed. Whether you like these books or not, there’s no denying this series showed what the comics medium is capable of — anything. All it takes is a sharp pencil and some imagination. And if you’re lucky, a collaborator like Joe Sinnott who will put 100% into helping you bring your vision to life.