Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Kirby Kovers #3

This time around, the first Kirby Kover is Captain America #7, which features a pose of Cap and Bucky that must be one of the most-swiped Kirby poses around (next to, perhaps, Fantastic Four #1). I think even Simon and Kirby swiped it themselves at least once! I recall reading in All in Color for A Dime how Timely's covers tended to be overly busy, but this one isn't too bad... of course, the eye is immediately drawn to Cap and Bucky swinging in, and then to the Axis madman about to cut the rope holding the mace over the woman's head (you know, for the of me, I can't recall her name right now)... and then there's three -- count 'em, three -- Axis agents shooting at Cap and Bucky (whose hair is mysteriously colored yellow instead of orange). The only thing that mars this cover at all is how Cap's shield is drawn... instead of being the convex disc that we're all familiar with, it's almost drawn as a flat disc here! If the concentric circles had been done just a bit different, this would've been avoided. But let's look again at that Cap figure... surely, there's not too many humans who could assume that pose (most of us just aren't flexible enough to even try)... the legs are nicely positioned, full of Kirby anatomy, great posing of the torso and head... ah, then there's the arms... they're almost as awkward as the shield... I wonder if time constraints made it so that this cover had to be rushed to completion at the last second, and Kirby intended to redraw the arms and shield?

Next up, it's Fantastic Four #14, with one of the earlier appearances of the Sub-Mariner in the Marvel Age! Again, it strikes me how Kirby would be so bold as to show us the back only of the issue's villain (like last installment's Absorbing Man figure on Journey into Mystery), with the starring characters being rather small! Heck, their heads are bigger on the upper left-hand corner than on the cover image itself, except for Sue! Note that nobody's really static here... Namor is in a ready stance, while Reed, Ben and Johnny are all ready to lay into him... Even though Sue's tied up, she's still in an action pose! An interesting thing about this cover is that it was inked by Steve Ditko, and there weren't nearly enough Kirby-Ditko collaborations back in the day. The only reason I even realized this was Ditko inks was looking at Sue's face... Sturdy Steve kind of overpowered Jack's style inking Sue's face there, as he looks totally like a Ditko woman. The inking on Namor, though is really nice.... at first glance, I wondered if maybe Wally Wood had inked it, as it's got some Woodesque touches!

Next, we have Jimmy Olsen #145! Now, let me first begin by saying that as much as I love Curt Swan's rendition of Superman, I think that Kirby really did a better job of presenting Superman in a way that showed how powerful he really was. For me, the only thing that really mars this cover is the obvious pasting-over of the heads of Superman and Jimmy Olsen (I've read that Kirby never drew the s-shield quite right, and that always had to be corrected in the production process, although I can't imagine Kirby having trouble drawing anything!). The Newsboy Legion are looking just as great as they did in the Golden Age, and then there's Angry Charlie... certainly living up to his name! It's an interestingly-designed cover... and one that certainly strikes me as odd... it doesn't really look like a Kirby-designed cover at all, does it? Here's a theory: The artwork of Jimmy and the Newsboys against Angry Charlie was originally part of a larger piece Kirby intended to use for the cover, but someone at DC objected to it, so Kirby drew a Superman figure to be used that was pasted in, with other elements added (note the lack of connection between lines around Superman and the Superman figure itself). Certainly the plain background outside of the inset was unusual for Kirby at the time!

Last, we have Captain America #214. One of the amazing things about Jack Kirby is how his style continuously evolved over the years he worked drawing comic books. Looking at this cover compared to the first cover this time around, you can recognize both as being Kirby, but so far as the graphics go, there's a world of difference! As Kirby progressed as an artist, he became more stylized, boiling the essence of his graphics to a pure graphics style. If you really analyze his later work, there's even more muscles that no anatomist can identify, nothing looks "real," yet it's all more than acceptable. It's brilliant, really. I can't think of too many other artists who refined their styles as much as Kirby did, getting to a pure style unmistakable for anyone else's (Carmine Infantino comes to mind... his 1980s work bears a resemblance to his 1960s stuff, but is even more stylized). And here's a bizarre observation: It's a very clean, polished style... there's nothing there that doesn't need to be there, so far as detail goes. I think so many comic book artists these days are enamored with the idea of making things look realistic, putting in way too many details into their art, and it comes out looking more muddy than anything else. With Kirby, you got the dynamics, power, and action! Here, Cap's blind and all but entirely helpless, a situation he's not familiar with (although the guy in the green and purple can't be seeing too much better, given how badly his shot was placed). There's that wonderful Kirby Krackle from the energy beam, and the Falcon looking through the window at his partner, powerless to do anything about it. It's really a great-looking cover! Note, too, how much better Kirby's drawing the shield in perspective than he did 30-some-odd years earlier.

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