Caleb Orecchio here with The Power of Kirby and other news.
all images herein are from the collection of comics given to me by my dad and uncle from when they were kids, circa 1976 to 1978. All images are drawn by Jack Kirby.
The Power of Kirby
Jack King Kirby, the powerhouse conundrum who unwittingly created the foundation of modern day popcorn flicks, is undoubtedly thee heavyweight champion of the comic book. Often, I think, it is hard to convince the layperson of the prowess of Jack. The boys who grew to men who are now my dad’s age (just turned the big five oh) have a less fond memory of him.
At the point my dad would have seen Kirby’s work, Jack was drawing at his most “square” – that is to say, to my mind, his most “Kirby.” This was between 1976 and 1978, at the time my dad was 9, 10, and 11 and evidently a connoisseur of comic book quality. This was also arguably one of the lowest points in comics history as far as the amount of good comics on the stands and the amount of money pumping through the industry.
At this point in time Kirby was working on such Marvel titles as Devil Dinosaur, Machine Man, Captain America and Falcon, Black Panther, 2001: A Space Oddysey, Captain America Bicentennial Battles, some Thor covers, etc. Basically, titles that have become very revered by today’s cartoonists. My dear ol’ dad would have none of it though. This is how I know…
My dad had ZERO Kirby comics in his collection as a child. I know this because I inherited these comics when I was seven – my first comics! My dad really liked The Hulk, Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Champions, The X-Men, Marvel Team-Up, Marvel Two in One – stuff like that. It wasn’t until I convinced my uncle (my dad’s younger brother by a year or two) to give me his collection from the same era that I was exposed to Kirby. HE seemed to like Kirby whether he knew it or not. He had a few of the reprints Marvel put out like Marvel Super Action (reprinting Captain America runs) and Marvel’s Greatest Comics (reprinting Lee/Kirby era FF). I have a feeling the covers caught his eye. He even had The Mighty Thor #252 that had a Kirby cover. My dad would have never got a comic with a Kirby cover.
How do I know he’d never knowingly buy a comic with a Kirby cover? Well one day I was meeting him for coffee. I live in Dayton, OH and he was driving from Cincinnati to Columbus for a conference. If you don’t know, Dayton is more or less in between so it’s what inspired my dad to ask me to meet for coffee. Anyway, I thought I’d get to the coffee shop way before him and so I brought along one of those 80’s reprints of New Gods to read while I waited. You know the ones? They had new covers by Kirby and mostly dumb essays by Mark Evanier in the back. Recolored and all that. Basically, my dad would have not been aware of these.
He got there and saw the comic and pointed to it, “That’s an oldie but a goodie.” You have to understand he was referencing his familiarity with Kirby’s drawing style rather than his affinity for the work or his familiarity with the particular book sitting on the table.
“What?” I said, “You didn’t have any of this guy’s comics in your collection. How do you know him?”
He replied with a sour face, “I never liked him. He drew too square. Too blocky.”
“But you know this is him?! This comic came out in the 80’s! You read comics in the seventies!”
“Yeah. His style is distinct.”
This, true believers is one of the many facets to Kirby’s genius. He carves his lines right into the lining of your brain. Whether you like him or not, you cannot forget Kirby. Now, if I had, say, Conan the Barbarian #99 at that table that day I met with my dad, he still would have said that’s an oldie but a goodie but he would have meant it. And he would remember having that comic and reading it and that he liked it probably, but he wouldn’t have known it was by John Buscema or written by Roy Thomas or anything particular like that. He may have just said, “It was cool and I liked the art.”
Do you see what I’m trying to say? Do not underestimate the King. Kirby IS comics. He can draw his way into your dreams and nightmares. He can brand his vision into your eyes forever. So much so that after 40 years have passed, whether you like him or not, you can spot a Kirby drawing wherever it may be – namely at your son’s table at the coffee shop in Dayton, OH.
if you don’t know, now you know
- I think it’s interesting when the mainstream media tries to be hip to comics. They almost always drop the ball. The real cartoonists tend to get the shaft. Like this LA Times article that spends more time on Wayne Brady than it does on the fact that the Hernandez Brothers made it into the Eisner Hall of Fame. Kudos to Rob Clough for fighting the good fight and getting some good nominations out there this year.
- There’s going to be a lot of post San Diego Comic Con news this week. Here is one about comics for kids, particularly girls.
- The proliferation of Wonder Woman fandom is pretty interesting. I think a lot of it stems from the new movie obviously, but also from the book by Jill Lepore. And I’d be remiss not to mention Ron Regé Jr. So when I saw this trailer, I was both surprised and not surprised.
- There is a roundtable discussion over at TCJ.com concerning Gary Panter’s latest book. Also if you didn’t know, Panter is on Instagram now:)
Suzy and Cecil – 7-24-2017 – by Sally Ingraham
Joanie and Jordie – 7-24-2017 – by Caleb Orecchio