DC’s latest Kirby archive has been out for a couple weeks but I have only just recently received my copy from Amazon. I thought I would provide some comments about what I consider a very important book. Before I do that I first must avoid legal prosecution and say that I was involved with this book although in a marginal capacity. I am credited in the book for providing some restorations and scans. Technically that is correct but the only restoration I did was the cover of Real Fact #1 which I had already restored for personal use and was provided to DC with the raw scan for their use if they so desired. I did provide some scans but only for a handful of covers. So my involvement in the book is even less than some previously issued Simon and Kirby archives.
Much of this book has never been reprinted before, or at least in this country. There are a few pieces that Simon and Kirby did for Real Fact Comics upon their return from military service. Regrettably “Pirate Or Patriot?” was not included in this archive. This is surprising since the cover and another story from the same issue were reprinted. The largest part of the book is devoted to work that Jack Kirby did during his second period of working for DC from 1957 to 1959. Among this are reprints from titles like House of Secrets, House of Mystery and My Greatest Adventure. I usually refer to them as horror genre but of course this was done during the Comic Code period so perhaps mystery, fantasy or in some cases science fiction would be better descriptions. The only superhero genre included are some Green Arrow stories and there is also a single western story.
During his first period of working for DC with Joe Simon, Kirby had a lot freedom in plotting and rewriting scripts. Unfortunately during his return to DC that was not the case. Still Jack did manage at times to have some creative input into the writing most notably in the Green Arrow stories which were unlike any other superhero stories published by DC at that time.
Artistically the work Kirby did reprinted in this archive was just fantastic but that can be said about the art from any part of his long career. What really sets the work in this archive apart is the inking. Fans often argue about who was the best inker of Kirby’s pencils. Personally I feel they almost always get it wrong. There was no better inker of Kirby art than Jack Kirby himself. Kirby was a master of the brush and of course he knew better than anyone what he was trying to achieve in his pencils. During his partnership with Joe Simon Kirby would often ink his own work but usually in collaboration with other inkers. In later years Jack’s work was generally limited to pencils with the inking assigned to others. But during the late 50’s Kirby did a lot of his own inking either alone or with some help from his wife Rosalind. The inking of the higher profile Challengers of the Unknown art was normally done by other artists but the horror and Green Arrow art was largely inked by Kirby himself so this volume has a lot of Kirby inking Kirby. Kirby inked it in a style that is just beautiful. I love this inking style so much I once wrote a serial post ten chapters long on it (Jack Kirby’s Austere Inking) with a chapter devoted to the material now covered in this omnibus (Chapter 7, DC).
Of course many fans do not need to be convinced of Jack Kirby’s talent. For them what is important is how well done is the reprint. There is a lot of disagreement on how restoration should be handled on material from older comic books. Reprinting from the original comics is fraught with difficulties with results that are almost guaranteed not to please everyone. I am happy to say that is not an issue that needs to be addressed here. Most of the line art in this volume was taken from the original film. You just cannot get better than that and it shows. The work had to be recolored but that was all done in a manner faithful to the original comics. It is hard to believe anyone will be dissatisfied with the results. The only negative comment that can be made about this volume is the size of the book which requires that the art be reduced somewhat in size. Of course had the original size been maintained the volume’s cost would have had to been higher.
To sum up; interesting stories, great Kirby art, Kirby inking Kirby, reproduced from the original film. As far as I am concerned this is a must have book.