Monday, April 10, 2017

Jack Kirby Talk

TAGging along with Shel Dorf amd members of the Tuesday Art Group to visit Jack Kirby at his Thousand Oaks home in 1992. About two years before his death



 This is wonderful art. Not Kirby. Barry Windsor Smith making every muscle lit with beautiful builds of hatching. Probably referenced, placed on a light table, juggled into place just right. And about 10 percent the Impact a Kirby cover would have. With art done 5 times as fast. A good page output for most artists is one page a day average. Kirby usually did 3 or 4 pages a day.
Maybe the most amazing thing about the art is the speed it was generated.
Captain America filling 9 panels with action. Kirby when he did blow by blow did it better than anyone.
 So I met Kirby very late in life after answering the call to come work on cartoons and indy comics in SoCal. Interesting to think about his early dislike of the Fleischer period as an in between artist. His more natural role would be the extremes of the story artist. Not the labor intensive  fill in on walk cycles.
Kirby was a ww2 vet and saw combat in Europe.
He added to the already tough East side, Bowery City kid scrappiness with his Army toughening and training. 
Fight scenes are at the heart of comic books. Comics don't really get their conflicts played out as courtroom drama or palace intrigue. 
Comics duke it out. 
And Kirby could throw a punch on the page.
It's all about impact.
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SPANG!
The early work is finding its way, but it's still Kirby. You could always pick it out.


Before there were super heroes, Kirby did quite a bit of great crime 'pulp' fiction storytelling. A love of noir his generation came by legitimately.
But comics were about selling units. And the kids were buying anything that was monsters. And Kirby excelled at monsters. Maybe even more than super heroes. Early Marvel (Timely / Atlas) years were dominated by monsters and more monsters.
Some monsters like Fin Fang Foom were just too good to be consigned to one shots. It came back in Fantastic Four and other titles.




Hulking monsters threatening global domination and destruction. Usually bested by indomitable human random luck coming up with the perfect secret weapon.

Transitioning from monsters to super heroes is fairly straight forward. What's a super hero going to fight anyway.
The first Fantastic Four cover is straight out the Tales of Suspense sense of monster menace.
This isn't Kirby. But it is someone perfectly aping Kirby for the comic book cover that appears about Hellboy in the movie Hellboy.
Mignola is also one of my favorite artists and part of the reason is how much of the Kirby school of impact and simplicity he absorbed from Kirby.
This blog is named Cosmic Crackle after the effect probably more often called Kirby Crackle.
Like the ever present radial starburst of thin to thick lines, the crackle was the pulsing plasma of cosmic energy the super charged characters typically swam in.
Black overlapping circles of varying size. Punching holes in the minds eye.
Galactus never went anywhere without Kirby Crackle.

 And the Silver Surfer generated as much crackle as any Kirby character.

Black Panther also finds crackle refreshing. 
A Kirby character could feature any number of odd shoulder pads, weird head gear flourishes, capes and such.
But Kirby's best hero character designs were of the skin tight school.
Fantastic Four, Hulk, Captain America, Black Panther, Silver Surfer, Sub Mariner.
Characters that don't want to step on their cape when the big fist fight happens.
Don't give the monsters anything extra to grab.
Leap into action like you're making a dive off the high board.
Shields can be thrown if they slow you down.
Kirby had a lot of people ink his pencils during his incredible prolific career.
The best inkers tried to capture some of the rhythm of hatching and fill that Kirby 'painted' with.
Joe Simon was probably the ultimate inker partnered with Kirby.
But even when the inking is completely cleaned up and loses much of the Kirby energy, it still has crackle.
This kind of inking really puts over the Kirby pencil energy.
 He lived by speed.
Generating 2 or 3 times the number of pages another artist might pencil.
Laying down a simple perspective grid, Kirby would fill pages with ornate backdrops.
Making it up as he went.
Making it up completely different if the setting was ever revisited.

Kirby. Characters created by...
Mind blowing how many great characters he pitched into being.

The Kirby wiki

Novel Inspired by Kirby's creative life,  He and Joe Simon when they were at their peak.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
by Michael Chabon. 

















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