Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Appreciate JACK KIRBY!
Confession #1: I didn’t understand Jack Kirby until just a few years ago.
I know, I know. Don’t rake me over the coals about it. It’s just a thing. At least I admit it.
See, I was a Bronze Age kid whose ultimate artist was (and remains) Neal Adams — who is, from a draftsmanship standpoint, about as opposite from Kirby as it gets. Forgive my layman’s terminology but Adams is all about lithe photorealism and Kirby is about expressionistic dynamism.
As Young Dan, Kirby‘s art even frightened me a bit. I wasn’t weaned on his Marvel work and the earliest I was aware of him was from this ad for his portfolio:
That was unsettling to a kid like me. I liked my escapism realistic, if that makes any sense. Where others, especially older kids or college students, probably dug its groovy far-outness, I was a little frightened by it. I think it was that dude in the back with those things on his shoulders that put me over the top. So my earliest impression of Kirby was kind of intimidating.
Confession #2: Until this month, I’ve never owned an IDW Artist’s Edition. For one thing, there’s the cost. These ain’t cheap. And if I’m gonna spend $100-$125 — or more — for a book, it better be something I’m really gonna dig. For another, there have been far more Marvel books than DC books.
As much as I like Marvel, I don’t have the same sentimental attachment to the House of Ideas as I do to DC. I really love John Romita’s Spidey, for example, and I admit I was tempted there. Same with David Mazzucchelli‘s Daredevil — because I figured that was as close as I was likely to get to a Batman: Year One edition. (Please, IDW and DC! Please!)
But while those have called my name, the allure just wasn’t strong enough for me to pull out my debit card.
Now, before you write me off completely, I was preparing our weekly HOT PICKS a couple weeks ago, and I saw that Scott Tipton of Blastoff Comics (a comics writer himself) had selected the Kamandi Artist’s Edition among his recommendations.
And when I saw the pic of the cover, I stopped dead in my tracks. This was the one.
I admit vacillating a bit, but I knew the time had come. I have for quite some time had a soft spot for Kamandi and I acknowledge that a good degree of it comes from its Planet of the Apesness. That cover to #1 borrows a great deal from the climactic moment of the first Apes film, but it just grabs you and makes you look at it.
I couldn’t stop thinking about the book. I was just dying to see Kirby‘s original artwork up close, on this title in particular. Over the last 10 years or so, I’ve really learned to understand and appreciate the muscular power of his art. There’s so much energy in it, well beyond the classic Kirby Krackle.
I can only imagine what it’s like to see the world through the eyes of someone who creates such kinetic, exaggerated imagery.
The book lives up to its promise. It covers Kamandi‘s first seven issues, though it’s missing some issues and pages. That’s what can happen in an Artist’s Edition. No matter. If you’re looking to read the story, there’s a synopsis covering what’s missing.
But in this edition, story is secondary. This is about the art, studying the lines, the inks, the white-out, the lettering. When I first opened to this spread I audibly gasped and blurted out, “Oh, my God!”
This is spectacular artwork and my response was so visceral that in that moment I finally understood, on a primal level, what Jack Kirby was all about.
There’s so much to look at that reproducing pages here is almost pointless. This book, like Kirby‘s art itself, is all about scope.
But I had to share some of it because this book is magnificent.
Best part, though?
This label on the spine:
June 21, 2015
like the author i was way behind in appreciating Kirby. i even mocked it at one point. im a comic fan from the 80’s and that’s after Kirby’s peak. i thought his stuff was so anatomically incorrect after following people like Adams, Perez, Byrne, Sienkewicz etc. back then i wasnt really aware of how much he did, and had no idea how much he had actually CREATED for both companies through the decades. Kamandi, New Gods, Forever People, Eternals, 2001, Devil Dinosaur, Demon – this stuff is all just so crazily creative! in this second wave of collecting during my lifetime i have discovered Kirby the most. and while i have the full runs of this stuff its still taking me years to look through it all. i cant wait to start going after his FF’s and early Marvel stuff.
i dont have any artist’s editions, but this would make a great companion to the kirby Kamandi run (an apocalyptic comic classic! the issue about Superman’s costume is great – #29). Kamandi is a very underrated series. and there’s nothing like looking at a page of original art and seeing all the linework…that goes for almost every comic artist actually.
June 21, 2015
I was 10 when I was given someone (an adult’s) comic book collection. It had a huge number of early Marvels, mostly Kirby, plus the New Gods, the Eternals and Kamandi. I really didn’t like Kirby’s art, for all the reasons that I would come to love it 30 years later. I, too, loved Neal Adams, John Byrne, Craig Russel and Barry Windsor-Smith (still do, for that matter). But you do do tempt me to splash out…
July 7, 2016
I like what you wrote and I am on the same wavelength. You might very well enjoy The Hayfamzone Blog where I write about comics myself!
July 7, 2016