In 1972 Jack Kirby was one of a few artists approached by the Los Angeles Times to provide their version of the “Pioneer Plaque” – a gold anodized aluminum plaque that NASA attached to Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11. These spacecrafts were expected to be the first human-built objects to leave the solar system. Astronomers Frank DRAKE and Carl SAGAN devised the plaque and commissioned Sagan’s wife Linda SAGAN to produce the art. Pioneer 10 was launched in March of 1972, and Pioneer 11 in April 1973.
The Los Angeles Times published work from James McMULLAN, Victor MOSCOSO, Peter MAX, Virgil PARTCH, Allen JONES and Jack KIRBY (with black ink art by Mike ROYER, and color by Kirby) in their 12 September 1972 West Magazine supplement.
Writer and Kirby historian Mark EVANIER told Kirby Museum Trustee and Jack Kirby Collector Editor/Publisher John MORROW, that he spent a considerable amount of time reconstructing the “zip-a-tone” background on the Pioneer Plaque that he used in his Eisner Award-winning book, “Kirby: King of Comics”.
At 2009’s Comic-Con International: San Diego, Kirby art collector and writer Glen GOLD, offered his newly acquired Pioneer Plaque original art to be scanned by the Museum for its Original Art Digital Archive.
After John Morrow and I noticed that the piece did not have zip-a-tone, I knew a comparison to West Magazine was necessary.
Thankfully, artist and Kirby historian Greg THEAKSTON recently gifted many of his Kirby papers to the Museum, one of which was a copy of West Magazine.
And there’s the mystery: two pieces, each with distinct Kirby color art. One with zip-a-tone. Is one a stat? Did Mike ROYER ink two?