Thursday, December 02, 2004

I Jack Kirby (or, Now THIS is a better looking book)

Just got the MARVEL VISIONARIES: JACK KIRBY hardback from Amazon, bless 'em. Now, take notice, assholes at Simon & Schuster, this is a great looking book design (by some guy called Patrick McGrath, not a little in thrall to the similar book designs of Chip Kidd and especially Arlen Schumer).

Anyway, as well as anthologizing the work for Marvel of the only man I call The King about as well as you can, it showcases just how damn long his career at the top was. Any time I try and describe my admiration for the man to non-comics fans, I have an analogy based on popular music to describe the length and variety of his career. Imagine if Glenn Miller had re-emerged after the war to become Frank Sinatra, only to change into Elvis Presley, then form The Beatles, then to split and form Led Zeppellin. That just about covers it.

The book also showcases how ill or well-served he was by various inkers over his career. Some absolute stinkers at times. Who was this "Geo. Bell" who inked Sgt. Fury #6? It was George Roussos, doing a characteristically fast job, doubtless to meet an impending deadline. Obviously done with a pen, not a brush, no wonder he wanted a pseudonym.

No such anonymity for the brazen Vince Colletta. The guy absolutely blighted Kirby's run on The Mighty Thor. This body of work is pretty much the equal of Kirby's contemperaneous run on Fantastic Four, but is often overlooked. It hasn't even been properly reprinted yet, god-dammit! And why? Friggin' Colletta! Imagine if the whole run had been inked by Bill Everett, like those last few issues. Man, they looked great.

I already knew I loved the inks of Joltin' Joe Sinnott and Mike Royer over The King's pencils, but I'll also add Chic Stone to that list of great Kirby embellishers - the guy adds a classic blockiness that seems almost the definition of what became the Marvel "house style". It's the style Steve Rude or Mike Allred emulate whenever they draw the Marvel characters for the licensing department, for mugs or bedspreads, that kind of thing.

And then, in 1970 when Kirby goes over to DC and does the best work of his life, who inks those first half-dozen or so issues of every Fourth World book? That's right. F*ckin' Colletta!