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.
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
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.
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.