What I’m Reading, Part 4 (The King)

Thursday, January 10th, 2008

Okay, I’m going to start this post off with a shocking revelation: When I was a kid I wasn’t a fan of Jack Kirby. In my defense, he was just a little bit before my time so most of my exposure to him was in reprints, but that’s not much of a defense.

One of the coolest presents I got for Christmas was some copies of the really nice Marvel Masterworks books that Marvel has been publishing for quite awhile now. They were always a little pricey for me to buy for myself, but as Christmas presents, they kick butt! I got the first couple copies of the X-Men, and the first couple copies of the Fantastic Four. I’d read, or was familiar with, a lot of the stories already, but to read them all together on really nice paper with nice bright colors, they’re beyond awesome.

So back to King Kirby, as a kid I was wrong, wrong, wrong. Better late than never, right? Looking at his work now that I’ve got a little perspective on it, I realize how truly great a storyteller he was. Somehow he manages to draw all these dynamic figures leaping and flying all around but it’s always in service to the story. I’m never ever unclear about what’s happening. It’s a very bold contrast with a lot of superhero comics I’ve seen where the characters look like they’re posing, or just jumping around and I have absolutely no clue what’s going on, sometimes even after I’ve read the story.

Now I’ve always known that Kirby was the foundation for almost a whole generation of comics artists. I think one of my favorite artists, Barry Windsor Smith, started out his work at Marvel trying to emulate Kirby’s style before developing his own elegant look. It’s great that they’ve got these Masterworks books because it feels a bit like I’m discovering The King for the first time. When I was a kid I always wanted to draw comics for Marvel. I kind of feel that way again.

Any advice or suggestions would be totally welcome. If you don’t want to leave a comment, send me an email. I’d totally appreciate it.