Kirby is god!
August 27, 2003 4:08 AM   Subscribe

Kirby is god! Tomorrow would have been Jack Kirby's 86th birthday. A creator (or co-creator) of such characters as the Hulk, Captain America, Thor, The X-Men, The Fantastic Four, and numerous others, Kirby gets a warm remembrance from Elvis Mitchell (with lots of references to Michael Chabon's "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay," which was dedicated to Kirby) in the NY Times (Reg. required). A lot of american popular culture was generated by this man in his 50 year career, and it's nice to see him finally get some recognition, especially when someone like Stan Lee tends to hog the spotlight, claiming creator's rights.
posted by jpburns (21 comments total)
I take nothing away from Kirby's achievments, but Tomorrow would have been Jack Kirby's 86th birthday....

posted by Frasermoo at 5:02 AM on August 27, 2003

That's what Mr. Mitchell says in the article? Why?
posted by jpburns at 5:17 AM on August 27, 2003

See, he'd be 86...if he hadn't already been 86'ed. By, uh, heart failure. I dunno.

Mister Miracle was the best comic ever.
posted by cortex at 5:17 AM on August 27, 2003

Yep, it's weird talking about birthdays for a dead person, but it was my (and Mitchell's) pitiful attempt to justify an homage to Kirby.

I feel like I owe so many hours of entertainment to Kirby; first as a child reading his comics (not knowing who he was), and then later as a collector after recognizing him as the creator of so many of those characters and stories that enthralled me as a child. I also have so much respect for the sheer volume of his life's work. This is a man who sat at a drawing board and cranked out so much incredible artwork, and also managed to pay mortgages, and raise kids, and live a full life.
posted by jpburns at 5:35 AM on August 27, 2003

I haven't read comics since I was a kid, and although I didn't know it until today, some of my favorite titles were Kirby creations. I laud him for that. But, looking at the linked illustrations I can now put a name to the drawing style that always turned me off as a kid. I always hated it when one of my comics was in his distinctive style. His stuff always looked flat, blocky and strange to me. It was harder to immerse myself in the stories when the drawings were conspicuously stylized- not that I called it that then. I was always put off and made a bit queasy by the comics he drew, and I had that feeling return today.

I suppose this is heresy, but kids are not impressed by reputation or prior achievement. And if I'd kept that attitude I'd own fewer crap records.
posted by putzface_dickman at 5:43 AM on August 27, 2003

Hey kids, Explore Kamandi's World!
posted by Outlawyr at 5:59 AM on August 27, 2003

I too experenced queasiness reading Kirby comics, but it enthralled, rather than repulsed me. It was simply some of the weirdest media I was exposed to as a little kid. Kamandi issue 10 in particular freaked me out. A bizarre cast including insane giant bats, the giant bacteria Mortococcus, the Misfit with his huge blue head and tiny limbs, Kamandi himself, Ben Boxer and his pals who could turn into steel... the story was tightly paced yet spinning out of control. The overall impression was (and this really sums up so much of Kirby's appeal for me) the action constantly threatening to spill out on to my lap.

From then on I was a voracious reader of Kirby stuff, the Marvel reprints from the 60s up to the Fourth World stuff being my favorite span. He's a major 20th century artist.

And while I'd rather praise Kirby than bash Lee, I feel obligated to note the latter's only real talents: self-promotion and alliteration.
posted by Scoo at 6:20 AM on August 27, 2003

putzface_dickman: I too, never liked Kirby's drawings, and he was probably the first comicbook artist whose name and style I recognized for precisely that reason. His faces look blockish, his poses unnatural and what's with all those squiggly lines?
posted by signal at 6:24 AM on August 27, 2003

Now everyone who reads comic books knows that the Kirby Silver Surfer is the only TRUE Silver Sufer, now am I right or wrong?

—Crimson Tide
posted by bwg at 6:31 AM on August 27, 2003

Aww... man! I thought you meant this Kirby.
posted by jiroczech at 7:12 AM on August 27, 2003

I understand that Stan "The Man" gets all the press, but come on, Kirby NEEDS a writer. (Ditto, Ditko...)
posted by byort at 7:23 AM on August 27, 2003

How many Lichtenstein pop-art pieces were swiped from Kirby? At least two I can think of, off the top of my head. Has anyone ever gone through Lichtenstein's oeuvre and traced(*) all the original panels and their artists?

(*) Do you see what I did there?
posted by Hogshead at 7:26 AM on August 27, 2003

There was a Lichtenstein exhibit at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art that had the original comics he used as source material next to the paintings that resulted. It gave me even more respect for Lichtenstein, since the things he changed turned a cool comic panel into a much cooler and more emotional work of art.
posted by Outlawyr at 7:46 AM on August 27, 2003

Oh, come on, everyone knows Lichtenstein based everything on the blown-up Joe Kavalier print he saw in Sam Klay's office. Man.
posted by COBRA! at 7:51 AM on August 27, 2003

Kirby was a design genius. He may not be to everyone's taste, but he virtually invented the modern look and feel of comic art and heavily influenced pop culture at the same time.

I think Stan gives credit to Jack pretty often. Because of the bizarre way that they cranked out books together, who created what was often somewhat of a fuzzy topic. Both men seemed to think that they were the "primary" creator.

Aren't all artists egotistical?
posted by hipnerd at 8:51 AM on August 27, 2003

Kirby was a design genius.

Exactly! Let's face it, he wasn't exactly a master of realistic human anatomy or subtle facial expressions, but the excitement of his composition and design as well as the pure power and adrenaline that fueled his work make him a genius.

(Otherwise, of course, he drew kneecaps that were larger than heads. But more power to him that he got away with it!)

Oh, and, McCloud's Destroy! is a brilliant homage to King Kirby, as well as the loudest comicbook in the universe.

posted by Shane at 9:14 AM on August 27, 2003

I am more of a Ditko fan, but my Kirby FF collection was what I spent my time and money collecting. The man was al over the board depending on what year you were looking at. None of his style ever rubbed off on me, but his approach sure did.

A young Gil Kane worked as Kirby's assistant at one time, and he talked about how Kirby drew. He said the man started drawing one of his bombastic splash pages with the universe exploding or some such thing by drawing the bottom of someone's foot and working his way up from there. No circles on sticks for him.

He could do anatomy, he just chose not to. He got something more dynamic by drawing shape.
posted by thirteen at 9:40 AM on August 27, 2003

As a teen I used to copy Kirby's panels from old Marvel comics to try and get that dynamic style and get into argument with Bryne fanatics over who was the better artist. I think Joe Sinott and Vince Colletta deserve mad props, as I feel they were his best inkers.
One only has to look at the current crop of DC cartoons on TV (Teen Titans, Batman Beyond) to see his influence.
posted by black8 at 10:06 AM on August 27, 2003

Yeah, Bruce Timm apparently appreciates him too.

Sinott is great. Colletta... man... I wish I could go back in time and break his fingers and keep him from muddying Kirby's work. But that's just my opinion.

Me, I think Mike Royer was made for him.
posted by jpburns at 10:28 AM on August 27, 2003

> Kirby was a design genius.

I dont like the word genius tossed around, but he certainly was well above par. I've got a couple early X-Men Kirby covers framed in the other room and when I pass by it looks like dated 60s art, but right next to them are a couple other non-kirby X-Men covers and the difference is striking.

I used to think Kirby was just a relic of his time, until I saw what passed for comic art back then. He really did bring composition and artistry to the format.

Sure, you can spot a Kirby a mile away with its loud design and wacky robots, but I think that's a good thing.
posted by skallas at 11:23 AM on August 27, 2003

Loud design? I just found it dynamic, distinctive, and powerful.

But to each his/her own...
posted by jpburns at 12:13 PM on August 27, 2003

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