Sunday, October 28, 2012

Now Uatu Wants A "W"

In some of my prior posts, I've mentioned the beautiful full-page portraits which artist Jack Kirby drew during his time at Marvel. They were always a pleasure for the reader--you'd turn the page, and out of the blue there would be a virtual poster of an image bowling you over with an exquisite rendering of some character or action sequence, usually captured in a dramatic moment, which would invite you to linger on it a little longer than the other pages. They were such treats.

So I knew it would be equally fun to profile some of these portraits for you. And I couldn't think of a better subject to begin with than this larger-than-life character:

In the second Fantastic Four film, Rise of the Silver Surfer, you can't imagine how disappointed I was when the film threw away a hell of a climax (and a great cliff-hanger for a two-parter) by pulling the rug out from under the audience and not presenting the imposing figure of Galactus. (And frankly, that film could have used all the help it could get.) But, thankfully, Galactus has been very popular in comics--and Kirby, in particular, gave us several outstanding representations of the character to whet our (you'll excuse the word) appetite.

The portrait above comes at a time when the "big G," as he's fondly known in reader circles, has become a little desperate. It seems that exiling his herald, the Silver Surfer, to Earth wasn't such a bright idea after all. It's forced Galactus to find planets to sate his hunger on his own--and it turns out he's not that good at it. It's kind of nice to have an advance scout on the hunt a herald out there looking for your next meal while you're descending to a doomed world to start setting up machinery that will make it lifeless. Sending probes is all well and good, but it's not quite the same as having someone out there imbued with a cosmic sense and making up a grocery list of planets for you. So Galactus is on his way back to Earth to have the Surfer sniff out another meal for him--and having a tasty morsel like Earth within arm's reach is probably going to provide the incentive for the Surfer to get the lead out.

I'm still trying to figure out what's going on with his eyes in the portrait above. We've seen countless other pictures of characters whose eyes are purposefully not drawn showing through their eye slits, but the area here seems to match the skin tone of the entire face, so I can only assume Galactus has his eyes closed in--fatigue? Resignation? Desperation? Maybe it's just an "oops" moment where Kirby left out his eyes. No wonder Galactus is having trouble finding a meal.

Here's another powerful image of Galactus which better demonstrates what I'm talking about:

More enigmatic--more aloof. Still, there are many, many shots of Galactus with his eyes in full view, a good deal of them done by Kirby. And look what else is back in full view here:

Now and then, you'll see Kirby or other artists sneak in drawings with Galactus' bare legs, and I never could decide which look on him I like better. The purist in me is in favor of keeping his legs bare, which is how he started out. Then again, he started out with a "G" initial on his chest, which looked ridiculous (with apologies to Superman), so I'm not sorry to see that go. With his legs fully covered, on the other hand, I'm apt to take him more seriously, for some reason.

And speaking of the "big G" initial, here's Kirby's first-ever full-page portrait of him, conferring with the Watcher. (Well, more like brow-beating the Watcher.) And by golly, he's got bare arms here, too:

Man, the women onlookers on the street were probably giving him their phone numbers in droves. (Maybe sending them up by carrier pigeon?) Earth women, yes, but any port in a storm, eh, Big G? And come to think of it, from street level, they were probably able to get a good look up his--well, let's just say Sue got an eyeful.

Of course, it makes sense for Galactus to be drawn from an angle which emphasizes his height. After all, a mammoth threat is probably the way the populations he's terrorized on countless worlds remember him, those who do manage to escape:

And finally, here are two nice portraits which picture Galactus with his machinery and devices:

It's funny how many god-like characters Kirby creates who have a dependency on machinery:

Galactus, the Watcher, the Celestials--all of them make considerable use of mechanical devices. (Wouldn't Tony Stark like to have those contracts.) Even Odin uses devices, to a certain degree, though I wouldn't call it a dependency with him so much as using the occasional tool that channels his power. But it was a nice distraction for Kirby to add to each of these characters--a sort of frame of reference for we mere mortals who have to take in their overwhelming appearance.

Galactus was certainly suited to Kirby's full-page portraits, in that sense--but next time in this series, we'll take a look at a more home-grown menace who also knew his way around electronic devices, and who also rated no less than a full page to display his menace and stature.

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