Kirby inks Kirby

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I’d like to spend a few posts to return to the subject of inking, since for me, the individuality of a line is one of the more interesting aspects of art. Since Kirby was obviously his most faithful inker, I will begin with him. What I love about this page is the artist’s use of diagonals in the room’s structure to give the panel a sense of menace and foreboding.

What’s also interesting about this Kirby inked Captain America #2 splash  is when it is compared  to the two panels below it, which appear to be inked by someone influenced by Will Eisner or his studio.

I’ve blogged extensively on the subject of the hodge-podge that was the first ten issues of Captain America, and this issue in particular has some really beautiful inking,  including some lovely work by Reed Crandall, who worked with Eisner as well. Kirby, however, inked most of the splash panels, and they are nearly always a cut above the remainder of the magazine. In this case, Kirby’s inking is crisp and relatively free of ornamentation, particularly when compared to the cartoonishness and stylization of the second and third panels. Kirby’s black spotting is always notable, and in this panel we also have some quality shading in the masks and the structure of the room.

The second image is a double-page spread from the first issue of The Fly, which like Captain America is another Simon and Kirby production, and possibly the first Kirby work that I was exposed to.

This is just a wonderful circular composition, with the web structure used to tie all of the figures and elements together. Notice if you will, that the center of the web is in the approximate position of the Fly’s hand. It is also pretty much at the center of the entire page, and is used almost as a sort of coordinate map from which all the elements, including the other panels are plotted along. We can imagine the web strands superimposed over the lower panels as well, to tie the entire page together as a composition, something that Kirby clearly excelled in. The only flaw I see are the strange black concave areas at the top and bottom of the upper panel, which I can only assume have been put there to visually suggest the wraparound shape of a movie screen. While I love the extreme width of the panel, I don’t really see this peculiar effect as being necessary and on the contrary, for me it detracts from the perfection of the page.

My last Kirby ink job displayed is the cover of Rawhide Kid #32 above, another example of my earliest exposure to the King, which although several years later than the Fly, still falls into the period of my life when my awareness of Kirby was vague and uninformed.

Kirby again uses the  architecture of the room to accentuate the danger that Kid is in. The eye enters the page on the diagonal window frame and cornice running down from the left edge to Barker, the figure in the maroon suit. His pose and pointed gun bring our awareness to the completely off-balance Kid, who is hemmed in by the bay windowed wall, as well as by the flying arrow, and menaced by the Indians outside and the gunmen within. Kirby’s totally functional inking is perfect for this tableau, most notably in his use of a profusion of tight lines to accentuate the solidity of the window frame that envelopes the Kid. Kirby also leaves just enough blue highlights in the ink-black figure to give it kineticism.

These are just three examples of Kirby’s facility in inking his own work.

Image 1-Captain America #3, Jack Kirby & Joe Simon

Image 2-The Fly #1, Jack Kirby & Joe Simon

Image 3-Rawhide Kid #32 Jack Kirby, Stan Lee

1 thought on “Kirby inks Kirby

  1. Mark Clegg

    All I can say is that the architecture of the room on the Rawhide kid cover makes NO sense, except to present the Kid’s perilous position. Good story-telling, bad realism, thus very effective comics. Kirby knew what he was doing, what was important.

    Reply

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