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Can someone please explain to me why people make such a fuss about Jack Kirby's art?
To me his art looks the same as every other comic book artist during that time period.
He played with the medium itself in ways most didn't bother. Different shaped panels, characters reaching between panels, showing scenes from multiple angles, etc.
He put a lot of work into shading and small detail, giving even his most absurd cartoon pictures an odd sort of realism.
His human characters are nowhere near as homely as Ditko's. That and his characters seemed more animated, energetic than most. This was because he did romance before monsters and superheroes.
His machines too, people loved his machines.
And of course his funky aliens and monsters.
And his fancy clothing, especially the hats.
And his use of dots.
Also, the man was fast. He could fire out several full issues in the time it took Ditko or Infantino to draw one.
To the extent that Kirby's art looked like everyone else's during that era, it's because everyone else was trying (with varying degrees of success) to follow Kirby's lead. The "King" invented the new visual "language" that his contemporaries set about learning to speak.
But as his greatest panels from the Thor and Fourth World titles proved, no one could bring the same zest to his visual compositions. Check out "The Glory Boat," "The Pact," and any early Challengers of the Unknown issue—the difference is like that between Homer and the successors who followed his lead. Nothing can ever be so inspiring and bracing as the inventor of a new language glorying in what it can apparently do.
What's so great? I say the expressions in his characters are full of life and very dynamic. You can actually feel the emotions the characters he draw gives without needing to read dialogue to explain it to you. His art inspired me to practice with facial expressions so that people can be invested in the characters I draw.
Personally, I always liked the technology/machines he designed. Didn't matter if it was a flying car or dimensional portal, he had a visual style that made you realize almost immediately that it was one of his creations.
Basically what everyone's said. Mind you, that doesn't mean I like Kirby's artwork. Cool-ass designs aside, his characters are as ugly as fuck, and it can be a bit offputting to me. But I can still see why others like it, and he deserves every bit of praise he's got.
edited 1st Sep '17 6:04:24 PM by kkhohoho
Actually, I'd say Kirby's characters are ugly depending on when you're looking at his work. John Byrne, Steve Rude, and Ron Frenz all have styles based on Jack Kirby, but they're based on Kirby at different periods in his career. Still, people will usually dismiss what his human figures look like and tout how much energy he was able to capture in his work.
There's also the fact that we owe Kirby for most of the visual language of American comics. The reason why energy is frequently depicted in comics as a bunch of black intersecting dots ("Kirby dots" or alternately "The Kirby Krackle") is because of Jack Kirby.
He was tremendously fast (he could draw about 5 pages a day), because when he was coming up, he had to be. One wonders what he could have turned out if he'd been allowed to take his time and only turned out the more standard page/page and a half in a day.
On an aesthetic level, I've never really cared much for Kirby, but you can't deny that he's integral to the development of American comics.
edited 2nd Sep '17 10:44:34 AM by Robbery
Yeh, gotta say that in terms of (unique) style, there were basically only three 'big' artists when Kirby was hitting his stride; Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and Curt Swan. Part of that was because DC and Timely/Marvel enforced a 'house style', where all in-house artists had to imitate the style of... well, basically whoever the EiC liked best. And at Marvel, that just happened to be Kirby (Ditko got a bit of an exception because, well, Ditko). So the reason a lot of his contemporaries' art looked like his was because they had to do it that way to keep their jobs.
Well, that and because Kirby was very, very good.
While his anatomy (especially facial) was occasionally a bit questionable, his panel layout was revolutionary, and his design sense is something that's rarely been equalled to this day (seriously, take a look at things. There's a reason Dr. Doom's costume has gone virtually unchanged for fifty years... aside from the unfortunate leather thing we don't bring up . Ditto Galactus, Darkseid, the Fantastic Four, Thor, Orion, etc., etc.).
So... Jack Kirby's art? Incredible design sense (although not flawless... take a look at Galactus' first appearance, eesh...) and creativity, impossible energy (Kirby's art lends a sensation of motion that... well, the only other artist I've personally run across whose work consistently has that kind of raw vigor to it is Osamu Tezuka), a desire to push the medium as a storytelling method that led to the development of the what's honestly probably still the majority of the visual 'language' of North American comics, and all rooted in an incredible speed and a work ethic that had him pumping out an utterly absurd number of strips and books.
Kirby can be an acquired taste for young readers rediscovering him. As he got older, his style became far more expressionistic. By the Bronze Age, his faces/hands were often unnaturally craggy—shaped and lit like granite carvings. His characters are still incredibly dynamic, but also statue-like in some ways. For readers who prefer more naturalistic character designs, or sinuous lines of the John Byrne school, Kirby can take time to come around to, if ever.
Also, "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny. John Byrne, for instance, definitely has been influenced by Kirby's style. Hell, he did two crossover Homages to his work with Batman/Captain America and Darkseid/Galactus.
Byrne did his damnedest to inject Kirby into as much of the DC universe as he could. He tried to sell DC editorial on the idea that the energy released by the death of the Old Gods (which preceded the rise of the New Gods of New Genesis and Apokolips) is what created the various divine pantheons on Earth, as well as modern super humans (he alluded to it in Action Comics # 600, and later wrote a big summer crossover built on the idea).
Comics companies used to make a huge deal about maintaining the specific design of their characters wherever the characters might show up (which is why early JSA comics look so damned weird...each character is drawn to match the style of their individual strip, and their strips might have wildly different visual styles). Marvel used to have what came to be called "Romita's Raiders" who would touch up any art that veered too far from their house style. DC had either Curt Swan or Al Plastino redraw all of the Superman faces Jack Kirby drew during Kirby's run on Jimmy Olsen, when it was part of his Fourth World line.
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