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To tell you the truth, Harry, I think that Wilton page actually looks pretty good. Jack’s brushwork is already quite accomplished, even at this early stage, with fairly effective black-spotting throughout. I’m not sure if he wrote it (he probably did), but the word-flow is smooth and the balloon placements are all as they should be (unusual for many Golden Age comics). Jack’s lettering was always quite good and the art itself shows lots of strong detail work. But the best thing about it is the masterfully smooth, effective visual storytelling, which was already abundantly evident in his early work. The boy had talent, no doubt about it!
Perhaps it is a matter of taste, but I find Kirby’s inking on this peace way below what he became capable in just a relatively short time later. I have to say I am quite surprised that you discribed Jack’s lettering as “always quite good”. Frankly I find Jack’s letter amateurish (as was Joe Simon’s). I suspect both Simon and Kirby felt the same way as they both stopped lettering once they became successful enough to pass on the respondsibiltiy to more capable hands.
Huh. I guess it is a matter of taste. I admit Kirby’s lettering wasn’t as good as Howard Ferguson’s–but whose was? I do feel that Jack did some pretty impressive title lettering early in his career, though. Check out his work on “Comet Pierce”, “Mercury”, and particularly “Wing Turner”. Those are quite well done. And I honestly think even his body-copy lettering (captions and balloons) looks fairly good by early Golden Age standards.
Compositionally, the only real problem I can see with the page above is with the placement of the caption in the large introductory panel. It should have gone in the upper left of the panel, where there’s a big “hole” in the art, instead of in the lower left, where it’s obscuring important pictorial elements. You’re right though, it is interesting to see how different people can view things differently; as you pointed out that you felt the panel was cluttered and unfocused, while my take on it is that it’s supposed to look that way, since it’s depicting what Kirby describes in the caption as “a maelstrom of feverish activity, noise and much excitement….” So if he had moved that caption up out of the way, I think it would have worked.
Since all the titles you mentioned were done with Joe Simon as the editor, it is not at all clear that they should be credited to Kirby. And comparing Jack’s “body-copy lettering” (the primary work of any letterer) with those of other early Golden Age is faint praise indeed. Because many (most?) early Golden Age works were lettered by the same artist who penciled and inked, it often was very poor.
I have no big problems with the composition, but like I said the inking was not that great. And excusing the inking on the splash-like panel as due to Kirby’s purposely dipicting ia “feverish activity” overlooks that the same poor inking appears throughout the page where such an excuse does not apply.
I have to agree with Harry regarding the inks on this strip. They lack a clear focus. Even if you forgive the first panel as intentionally cluttered, panel 5 and 8 are telling, in that the foreground, middleground, and background are all handled with equal attention to detail, and line weight. Everyone learns their craft one step at a time, and future masters are no different.
Judas. I now have to disagree with both of you. Even if the line weights in panels five and eight are relatively uniform, both those panels are still quite clear. So they both fulfill their purpose of serving the story — as do the other panels on this page.
Fullfilling “their purpose of serving the story” is not the same thing as good inking. Jack’s inking would improve in just a short time as shown in the earlier post that I linked to. Further Kirby would in time become a great inker. Are you claiming that the inking on this Wilton West piece is anywhere near as good as Kirby’s later inking?
>sigh< You mean that DR. HAYWARD page? Yes, I do think the inking on this page is better than the inking on that page. It's bolder, more textured and more interesting. I guess we're just not going to agree on this, Harry. I feel that the number one purpose of the art in a comic IS to serve the story. After all, the play's the thing. If the play ISN'T the thing, then why are you doing it in the first place? And if you can add some nice surface effects on top of that, all the better–as long as they don't distract the reader from the story by drawing attention to themselves. In other words, they should enhance the storytelling experience, not compete with it. I think that's what Jack's inking has done here. I'm not saying it's GREAT, and of course I'd agree with you that he became a much better inker later on. All I'm saying is that I think this page is actually fairly good by the standards of 1938. And that may be saying a little more than you think it is, considering that Kirby's work of the time compares quite favorably with the contemporaneous work of other comics greats like Will Eisner, Bill Everett, etc.
You are right, we are not going to agree on this. I mentioned in my post Kirby was better than most contemporary comic book artists. Not surprisingly, since he had been working at it longer, Will Eisner was certainly more advanced than Jack. But had Kirby left the business after working for Eisner I have not the slightest doubt that he would have been completely forgotten from the history of comics. While showing promise, his art was no where near the level it would obtain in a few short years.