Monday, February 29, 2016

Kirby Kovers Week, Day 1!

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I'm continuing with theme weeks while I try to get posts further ahead (I've got a vacation coming up with the family in April, so I've got to get ahead while I can), so this week is all Kirby Kovers! Well, it should be... it depends on how many I've got left in my archive that haven't been posted here yet! We'll see what happens!

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First up is Fantastic Four #63. By this point, Kirby had really hit his stride on the FF, where he had reached his peak. Since his run as artist and co-plotter/co-writer with Stan Lee, the only times the book really approached this same level of greatness was the John Byrne, Walt Simonson, and Mark Waid runs, in my opinion. This cover is a great example of why Kirby was King at Marvel: There's pretty much no background at all, yet the cover doesn't feel like it was phoned in at all. Kirby let the action speak for itself, between the Sandman battling the Thing and the Torch, and especially with Blastaar battling Mr. Fantastic while Sue looks on. Every character has more or less an equal presence on this cover, and it all fits together very nicely! 
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I've noted before my appreciation of Kirby's western covers, and Two-Gun Kid #69 is another example of this. No two characters had the exact same clothes, or even the exact same cowboy hat! The scene is set very well, and Kirby's sense of design told him to make Goliath the centerpiece of the cover. Note that even as the villain's pushing back the crowd behind him, at the same time Two-Gun seems to have backed away from this menace, almost to the point of backing out of the cover of his own book!

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From the Simon & Kirby days, here's the cover of Adventure Comics #81, with one of those awesome symbolic covers Kirby often did the best! Obviously, the Sandman and Sandy weren't really giants compared to the trio of crooks, nor did they push a giant hourglass on them... The only thing that really mars this cover was that it looks like Sandman's right arm shouldn't be behind the bar of the hourglass -- I can only imagine it wasn't drawn that way, but rather got messed up when it was inked, and nobody really noticed it.

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Even when Kirby was inked by someone else (in this case, John Romita), there's still a lot of Kirby showing, as you can see on Ka-Zar #12. The telltale sign that this was Kirby's work is mostly in Ka-Zar's face, although the dynamics also spell "Kirby" to me. I'd love to have seen the un-inked cover, though!

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Next, we have Strange Tales #91, with one of the classic Kirby monsters! This alien looks like he must've been a distant relative of Groot, eh? I love the haunted look in Chuck Dawson's eyes (that name sounds very familiar, I wonder if it was reused later on?).

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The cover of Strange Tales #78 is one of my favorite Kirby monster covers... you don't actually see the monster, but rather the telltale shadow of it, given that the shadow is really telling the truth. This same concept was used humorously in a number of Mad Magazine features, if I recall correctly, and I believe it was also copied in one of the Godzilla movies (Godzilla Vs. Megalon), where the aliens were really giant cockroach people, but the only giveaway was when you saw their shadows!

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Next up we have Rawhide Kid #39, and what's great about this cover is it's an example of where Kirby deliberately made the buildings out of scale with the people in order to heighten the action on the cover (he did this again, or was it earlier, in the Fantastic Four issue where the Avengers get in the middle of a Thing/Hulk battle). Looking at the size of Rawhide compared to the buildings, either this town was built the same as Main Street in Disneyland, or the people there were giants -- or it's Kirby's use of artistic license!

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Next it's Machine Man #5, and this series is probably my favorite of Kirby's 1970s books when he came back to Marvel. Now, I don't know if Kirby had any input on the coloring of the covers (I'm guessing not), but this one does suffer from an overuse of blues and purples. If Ten-For had been colored differently, it would've made MM pop way more. Kirby's work was getting much more stylized by this point, resulting in some figures looking kind of stiff (MM's folded arms look weird due to the stylization, but one only really notices it after seeing this cover a few times). A nice touch was that even though the cover is largely symbolic, Kirby still had the fingers of the grasping hands of Ten-For casting shadows on the Earth!

More Kirby Kovers tomorrow!

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