Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Captain Complainy: Kirby Equals Unsexy

I'm reading "Was Superman A Spy?" by Brian Cronin, a collection of legends about the comics industry from his blog 'Comics Should Be Good'. I came across the one about how in the 70's DC comics hired artistic legend Jack Kirby away from Marvel amid great brouhaha and fanfare, then proceeded to advertise and crow and count their money because they had Kirby as an artist!
Then they went and PASTED other artists' illustrations of Superman's face over Kirby's faces to match the 'house style'.
I've gotta say, I'm deeply conflicted on this one. Morally? I vehemently object to hiring and praising a guy to his face for his ground-breaking NEW LOOK and then re-doing his art to look like the regular stuff. That's low, brother. However... Aesthetically? I'll just have to say it, I'm in complete agreement.
Kirby's Supes is on the left, and Al Plastino's Curt Swan-style Supes is on the right. Maybe it's just me, but Kirby's Superman's face looks like a squashed toad. As do most of his male AND female characters. Creepy bug-eyed men and women with wide, weird maws.
I'm dead serious. Why are Kirby's Reed Richards and his Thor always shouting things toward the reader with outstretched arms and a grimace of what appears to be constipation?
I first realized this while staring at a 'pin-up' Kirby did of Sue Storm (Richards). It just didn't DO IT for me, you know?
The man drew a HELL of a good monster. He drew SQUAJILLIONS of good monsters.
Thing, Hulk, Mole Man, Mole Man's horrifying underground armies, every screaming ugly weird-ass troll and freaky-deaky nightmare for over a decade at Marvel was probably his doing. And let's not forget Etrigan, Darkseid, Granny Goodness, Desaad and every other creepy thing the darkness ever congealed over at DC.
AND his regular, ordinary, down-to-earth HUMAN people look like toads! I'm slightly ashamed of my own stomach-knotting jealousy, but they do, they DO look like toads!
I KNOW Jack was the King! I KNOW he inspired a generation of artists! But look at one of the guys he inspired for a moment. John Byrne. An example of a student whose skills surpassed his teacher in his very earliest years, at least in certain areas.
This is how John Byrne draws Sue Richards of the Fantastic Four.
And this is how Kirby draws the same woman.
OH! I'm kidding! Too soon!
I hear you baying for my blood. 'How dare you denigrate Mighty Kirby? Pistols at dawn on planet Apokalips, sir! My Female Furies shall disembowel you!'
Well, I say, bring it. Your Kirby Furies against my Frank Cho Furies and we'll JUST SEE whose are sexiest in the cold light of day!
(Or something else threatening that makes more sense.)
Look, the last thing I wanna do is crap on Kirby. The man was an Art Master whose shoes I'm not worthy to shit in. Is his art dynamic? Hells, yeah. Was he prolific? NOBODY could match his output. Did he work himself to death in relative obscurity and revolutionize an industry that gave him (while alive) little credit? I venture YES. He worked his butt off for a pittance, an early grave and just oodles of post-death accolades from everybody who ever read him. Were his drawings of women (or men) sexy? I venture NO.
I also have to assume he wasn't trying to be. The beauty of his work is in the STRAIN and the PAIN, the eye-bags, the veins-a-poppin', the bared tooth and claw, the bristly beards, the calloused hands, the wailing mouths, the sunken, haunted eyes. The dark side of humanity.
Assuming that's what you think is beautiful.
If I stared at stuff like that all the time, I'd never get any sleep!
So... very... tired.

1 comment:

Bookmonkey said...


Congrats on being added to the "Best of the Blogs" section of that guy with thie glasses for this post!