Jack Kirby Collection Sixty-Eight (magazine review).

The Jack Kirby Collector # 68 is full of features on the work of the world’s greatest comic artist. Probably the main item here is an interview with the King by J. Michael Straczynski of ‘Babylon 5’ fame and Larry DiTillio which was broadcast on radio in 1990. No new information here really but Kirby seems to have been in a good mood. There were some questions from callers. One dared to ask how the collaboration with Stan Lee worked and was surprised by Jack’s answer: ‘I wrote the story. I wrote the complete story. I drew the complete story.’ Well, there’s quite a lot of evidence that he did.

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‘Kirby Kinetics’ by Norris Burroughs is an on-going examination of Kirby’s art and compositional skills. It features several pages from issue # 13 of ‘Sgt. Fury And His Howling Commandos’ in which Captain America and Bucky featured prominently. As it happens, I have been reading the ‘Essential Sgt. Fury’ lately and was struck by the beauty and simplicity of the art. Around this time, as Burroughs shows, Kirby tended to use a five panel grid. The wide panel would show a panoramic scene or a major piece of drama, Cap throwing his shield over a distance, and the other four would show the lesser action of the story. This period in Kirby’s Marvel career has been overshadowed by the more obviously spectacular later work but I think it’s his best for actual storytelling and tight plotting.

The art analysis continues with ‘Seven Panels Of Incidental Brilliance’ in which Shane Foley picks the pictures. In general, it’s an appreciation of how much extra Jack squeezed into his work. The first is Page 1 from Thor # 141 ‘Tales Of Asgard’ and shows Thor, Fandral, Hogun and Volstagg descending a flight of steps into the palace of Xandu. There are nineteen figures in the panel and a wealth of architectural detail. The other featured panels are interesting examples but the one I liked best was from Fantastic Four # 94, page 7, panel 1 which has Johnny and Ben in their bedroom at Agatha Harkness’ house. This was one of my favourite FF stories as it showed Kirby’s mastery of shadowy horror, aided by the gorgeous inking of Frank Giacoia. The bedroom is packed with spiffy Kirby designs.

Subjecting comicbooks to the sort of in-depth criticism usually reserved for Nobel prize winning novels is a quirky endeavour but the results can be interesting. ‘The Perfection Of Thena’ by McClean (first name unknown) is an almost Freudian examination of the character of Thena from Jack Kirby’s late Marvel series ‘The Eternals’. McClean ranks ‘The Eternals’ as equal to the ‘Fourth World’ stuff in terms of depth and resonance. Maybe. Shane Foley has an article ‘Decoding ‘The Road’ which examines some of Kirby’s meaning in ‘On the Road To Armagetto’, a 25 page piece that was absorbed into ‘The Hunger Dogs’. Both these writers are looking at the truth and passion of Kirby the storyteller as opposed to Kirby the spectacular artist.

This is also the approach taken by Michael Aushenker in ‘Jack Kirby: Writing “Machine”, a look at the mere nine issues of Machine Man produced by the King in his last days at Marvel. Machine Man just wanted to live in peace and try to be a human being. Interestingly, the series was continued by Steve Ditko, the other star of 60s Marvel and the whole lot is soon to be released in a new collection.

A note on the letters page states that ‘The Jack Kirby Collector’ is put together with submissions from Jack’s fans around the world. No payment is made for submissions but you get a free issue of the issue it appears in if it’s accepted. The policy means that the contributed articles are a labour of love from dedicated fans rather than glib opinion pieces from cynical hacks. It’s a bit hit-and-miss for quality but this issue is the most interesting I’ve read for a while and like every other it features vast swathes of Jack Kirby‘s wonderful art.

Eamonn Murphy

August 2016

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 98 page magazine. Price: $10.95 (US). ISBN: 919-449-0344. Direct from them, you can get it for $ 9.31 (US))

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Eamonn Murphy

Eamonn Murphy reviews books for sfcrowsnest and writes short stories now and then. Website:

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