Monday, October 8, 2012

The 3D Man

I suppose I can understand why we don't generally see a lot of double-page artwork in comics. My quick answer would be that, since an artist only has X number of pages to work with, they can't often indulge in taking up two entire pages just for one scene--as opposed to a normal page, which can hold a number of different panels that move the story along.

The flip side of that is that, if you ever come up short with a story, or otherwise want to extend a story so that it takes up more issues, full- or double-page artwork can be very handy. That might help to explain the balance which writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby struck in their work together at Marvel. There are many stories of Lee's I can think of where the writing and stories were exceptional--but there were more than a few stories where his writing and character dialog were sparse. And perhaps as a result, Kirby's full-page art began to appear more frequently in their later work together--which is also possibly why the dialog on some of those pages was at times rather unsensational, almost "phoned in." But that's just me thinking out loud.

As I've mentioned before, while Kirby did pencil a few double-page spreads in his Marvel work, they were disproportionate to his full-page "portrait" art. And there were some oddities in that mix, having to do with Kirby superimposing characters onto black-and-white stock backgrounds:

Today we might say that Kirby was dabbling in 3D. :)

Strangely enough, his double-page work in The Mighty Thor, a comic where I would have thought he could truly stretch his artistic legs in this respect, was almost nonexistent. There were the examples above, plus a two-page rendering of Ego, the Living Planet at one time--but nothing else that I can think of. That left Fantastic Four, which, like Thor, had its moments but was otherwise just as bare of it. And there were so many instances where I would have liked to have seen it. There was the scene during Sue and Reed's wedding, where there was practically an orgy of heroes and villains fighting it out--a Kirby classic in the making, which only got a half-page of art; or the FF in battle with the Frightful Four; or any number of scenes during "The Battle of the Baxter Building" with Dr. Doom; and certainly their encounter with Galactus warranted it.

Unless I'm mistaken, this is the first double-page art that Kirby ever did for Marvel, from Fantastic Four Annual #1:

As you can see, joining the pages is practically impossible, due to the top, center, and bottom of both pages being out of alignment--if you merge one, the other two shift out of place. But it's a splendid scene nonetheless. Somebody will still have to explain to me, though, why someone as regal and such a stickler for formality as Namor would feel it's perfectly fitting to appear among his subjects in just a casual pair of trunks--particularly on a day when you're finally returning to your subjects as their ruler for the first time. As Fran Drescher would have chided him, you only get one chance to make a first impression.

That's not to say that Kirby couldn't churn out double-page artwork--quite the contrary. When he returned to Marvel in 1976, this time it was at the helm of his own work, doing both story and art on several projects. As a result, he had the luxury of injecting any format of artwork which suited his own dialog and stories. Next time, we'll take a look at such artwork from his work on Captain America, The Eternals, and, God help us, Devil Dinosaur.

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