Wednesday, August 15, 2012

World's Greatest Workhorse

A comic book title (series of 12 issues) that I got a kick out of was a series that came out in 2001 entitled "The World's Greatest Comic Magazine," a sort of retro look at the Fantastic Four and the stories that might have taken place right before Jack Kirby left the book.

It wasn't a bad effort, being written and drawn in the style of Stan Lee and Kirby, respectively. But Kirby's attention to detail is sadly missing, and many panels look rushed. Still, I enjoyed it for its homage to inexpensive books that churned out classic stories and characters, one after the other.

Artist Joe Kubert passing away recently had me thinking a little about his parallel history in comics with Kirby--both having long and distinguished careers, both learning the business from the ground up, and each known for their unique style. Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott were the penciller/inker combination that defined the Silver Age "Fantastic Four" for me. I never took well to Kirby's writing whenever I'd pick up other books that featured it. I think he focused on writing for the "kid in all of us," not realizing that readers don't want to be treated like kids. Contemporary comics were read with more active imaginations and discerning eyes. Kirby, instead, took a character like the Black Panther and mired him in a crazy collector's hunt for an antique frog. That aside, his creativity on the drawing board was unparalleled.

He was also a workhorse. I couldn't begin to tally the number of heroes (and villains!) that he dreamed up on a regular basis. If memory serves, he worked on three monthly books simultaneously--Fantastic Four, The Mighty Thor, and Captain America--and launched successful titles like The Avengers, The Incredible Hulk, and X-Men, as well as countless covers and fill-ins for other books. The man was all over the place.

If you're curious about Kirby's work, you can read a lot of interviews with his peers as well as sample some unpublished work in The Jack Kirby Collector, which analyzes his work in depth. An interesting collection of interviews and essays examining his life and work (and tons of artwork samples), as well as Kirby's split from Marvel, can also be found in the Jack Kirby retrospective from The Comics Journal Library.

Well done, old man. They broke the mold with you.

Jack Kirby: Self-Portrait

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