Some Early Jack Kirby Techno Art

Things did not work out as planned and I am unable to provide this weeks post as I intended. Rather than just skip a week I thought I would provide some examples of early Kirby techno art.

Science #4 (May 1940) “Cosmic Carson”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

Kirby’s early work was for syndication although some were repackaged into comic books. The syndication format and the subjects that Kirby worked on were not conducive for displays of advance technology. But when Kirby started to do actual comic book art much of it was science fiction and techno art quickly made its appearance. Where did Jack get his inspiration for this work? I have not seen any earlier comic books by other artists that was anything near as impressive. The special effects from early science fiction movies were really not that great. Perhaps Kirby’s inspiration was from art used in pulps but unfortunately that is an area that I am largely unfamiliar.

Blue Bolt #2 (July 1940) “Blue Bolt” page 5 panel 4, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

When Kirby began helping Joe Simon with Blue Bolt he began to use an abundance of techno art. Another example of techno art from Blue Bolt #2 should be seen in next week’s post.

Marvel Stories v. 2, n. 2 (November 1940) “Queen of Venus”, art by Jack Kirby
Larger Image

Kirby also did some pulp work and techno art made its appearance there as well. Pulp art is interesting because generally it is not inked like comic books were. Instead it generally was drawn on special paper that had a special surface that would break pencil markings into dots suitable for reproduction. Kirby may not have been very comfortable with this process and he often used his pencils very much like he would a brush so that grey tones were neglected and instead the art is built up with crosshatching.

Race to the Moon #2 (September 1958) “Island in the Sky”, pencils by Jack Kirby

Most of the work that Simon and Kirby did was in genre that simply would not call for the use of techno art. There was one story in Fighting American with a science fiction slant but for whatever reasons it has no examples of real techno art. There was not much in the way of techno art even when Simon and Kirby returned to science fiction in the short lived but marvelous Race to the Moon. The best would be various space transport vehicles but even these seem weak in comparison with what Kirby did previously.

Double Life of Private Strong #1 (June 1959) “The Menace of the Micro-Men”, pencils by Jack Kirby

But Jack had not abandoned techno art. It appears again in final work that he did with Joe Simon. In a few years later Kirby’s use of techno art would blossom in comics like the Fantastic Four. But that is a topic I will leave for others to pursue.

4 thoughts on “Some Early Jack Kirby Techno Art

  1. John S.

    A couple of quick questions here, Harry. I notice you’ve credited both pencils and inks on that panel from BLUE BOLT #2 to Kirby. But hasn’t Joe Simon mentioned on a number of occasions that this early material was laid out and inked by him, with only finished pencils being done by Jack? Looking at the art style in this particular panel, I’m inclined to believe that claim. Secondly, do you have any idea who lettered the story? It looks like Kirby’s lettering to me.

  2. Harry Post author

    I’ll be discussing Blue Bolt #2 in my next week’s posts which hopefully will anwer your questions. However I will comment about your questions about layouts. Without credits layouts are difficult to determine. In the past I have used noticed some features that can help in suggesting whether someone supplied layouts. For instance Joe uses an unusual and warped architecture perspective in some of the the Fox covers he did and when I find the same perspective in some Simon and Kirby covers I attribute the layout to Joe. I have also used panel layouts to disprove the claim that Kirby did provided layouts to S&K studio artists (with some exceptions). Unfortunately neither of these methods works in this case. Kirby used a different layout for the earlier stories he did without Simon but it would be expected that he would use the same panel layouts as Joe in a story they both worked on. Unless I find a physical evidence to the contrary, I generally accept Joe’s statements as being accurate. But it is one thing to say that Joe often supplied layouts and another that he did so in a particular case. Until I can find some feature in the art in question that I can point to as evidence, I prefer to leave the questions of layout to the reader.

  3. Luke Blanchard

    The second panel on the “Cosmic” Carson page strongly recalls the cover of Marvel Science Stories v1 #3. To be fair, part of the resemblance comes from the red colouring of the aircraft.

    The aircraft could also be compared to the dirigible-like aircraft of the Mongols (kept aloft by “repeller rays”) in early Buck Rogers stories.

    Some early SF movies had elaborate models. Examples that spring to mind include Metropolis, Just Imagine and Things to Come.

  4. Harry Post author

    In my hast to post something I guess I was not clear in what I was referring to as Kirby’s techno art. I was not talking about drawings of futuristic technology. After all most science fiction comics include that. I was referring to the the elaborate and aesthetically pleasing devices that Kirby so often drew in the silver age and beyond. It was the ray gun in the Cosmic Carson story that fits the bill while the rockets on the same page do not. Even the space transport from the Race to the Moon does not really fit the bill but was included as the closest thing in that title. The early science fiction movies I have seen do not have anything like the elaborate devices Kirby liked to draw. I have not seen Metropolis for some time but while I remember fatastic architecture I do no recall elaborate devices. I could be wrong.

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