Born in 1917 as Jacob Kurtzberg, Jack Kirby is recognized as the most important person in comic book history. One could make a good argument that the title belongs to Carl Barks, Robert Crumb, Stan Lee, or Wally Wood. They are all inarguably giants of the comic book world. But take a look at the characters Kirby created or co-created over a career that spanned nearly 50 years: Captain America, Sandman, The Fantastic Four, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Ant-Man, The Avengers, The X-Men, and the Silver Surfer. Who else can boast of such a star-studded stable of comic book characters, all of whom are global household names? Only Kirby!
My favorite Kirby character is one of his less well-known creations, at least among the non-comic-book-reading public. I was 12 years old when I discovered Kamandi in early 1973 at a friend’s house in Boulder, Colorado. He had the first three issues of the comic. The first issue’s cover showed Kamandi paddling a life raft through a flooded and abandoned New York, with the Statue of Liberty tilted like the tower of Pisa. It was a rip-off from the ending of Planet of the Apes, the 1968 movie that was (and still is) one of my favorite films. Nevertheless, the image was powerful and exciting. I opened the comic book and started reading.
I read all three issues twice that afternoon, sprawled on my friend’s living room floor. It was the greatest thing I’d ever read. Kamandi was a teenager, the last surviving human on a post apocalyptic Earth now under the control of different animal species that behaved, dressed, and walked like humans: dogs, tigers, wolves, rats, lions, and apes. Kamandi wandered from place to place, fighting for his life, trying to survive in a world filled with “beasts that act like men!” and “men that act like beasts!”
Before Kamandi, I didn’t really like comics. After Kamandi, comics became the most important thing in my life for years. They are still important to me, and Jack Kirby is still my favorite comic book artist and writer.
This book contains scans of the original art from six early issues of Kamandi: 1, 2, 5, 6, 7 and 9, along with the covers and some pencil sketches. The art is reproduced full-size, as Kirby drew it, which is why the book measures 12 x 17 inches. The book is part of IDW’s fantastic Artist’s Edition library, which features high-quality scans of original comic book art. From IDW’s web site:
While appearing to be in black & white, each page has been scanned in COLOR to mimic as closely as possible the experience of viewing the actual original art—for example, you are able to clearly see paste-overs, blue pencils in the art, editorial notes, art corrections. Each page is printed the same size as drawn, and the paper selected is as close as possible to the original art board.
The photos here show how large this book is compared to the comic book. (I bought this copy of Kamandi in 1973, the day after I read the comics at my friend’s house, from Mile Hi Comics in Boulder. When I was 16 I met Kirby and he autographed the issue on the front page.) It was a treat to re-read these and see details of the art for the first time. Going through this, I re-experienced the excitement of reading Kamandi on my friend’s living room floor all those ago.
Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth – Artist’s Edition
by Jack Kirby
2015, 160 pages, 12 x 17 x 1 inches
$100 Buy a copy on IDW
The Silver Age of Comic Book Art manifests the magic and majesty of the Marvel and DC classics from 1956-1970
The Silver Age of Comic Book Art is a sparkly remastered new version of the long-out-of-print coffee table book that first came out ahead of its time in 2003, before all the beautiful Chip Kidd-designed superhero books, before many do-gooders depicted in these pages – Captain America, The Flash, Thor, Green Lantern, The Avengers, Dr. Strange, Green Arrow, Nick Fury and more – made it to the big & little screens. IMHO, more so than any other book on the subject, and more even than the bombastic blockbusters, this book manifests the magic and majesty of the Marvel and DC classic comics and characters from The Silver Age (1956-1970) and does so by focusing due attention on eight artists responsible for their creation: Carmine Infantino, Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, Gil Kane, Joe Kubert, Gene Colan, Jim Steranko, and Neal Adams.
By way of uberdynamic spreads chockfulla judiciously juxtoposed images, ouvre-compressing cosmic collages, and the hubris-if-it-wasn’t-done-right method of replacing words in original comic balloons with choice quotes from the artists themselves, Schumer achieves the fantastic feat of making the reader experience the awe a kid in 1964 must have felt upon first gazing upon an earth-shattering Jack Kirby spread in Fantastic Four, or having Neal Adams’ art in Green Lantern / Green Arrow punch you in the face with its wrenchingly emotional realism, or being thrown off-kilter by the angular other-dimensionality of Steve Ditko’s Dr. Strange.
Appropriately, two of comics’ most influential writers wax testimoniacal, in their signature styles, about this sublime celebration of super artists:
Alan Moore: “A lovingly crafted tribute to the superhero comic of the 1960s, The Silver Age of Comic Book Art recaptures the four-color visionary surge of the era, its jet-age psychedelic rush of imagination and the titanic, luminous figures, both real and imaginary, that glittered in its firmament. For a brief moment in the late 20th century, it seemed as if the spirit of the age wore a vivid leotard, a chest emblem, and traveled in a strobing blur of speed lines. For anyone with any interest in or affection for that moment, this beautiful volume is indispensible.”
Stan Lee: “Not only is Arlen Schumer’s The Silver Age of Comic Book Art a spellbinding book about a magnificent art form, but it’s one of the publishing world’s great rarities – a book about art which is itself as much a resplendent work of art as the subject it so beautifully depicts. Every page of The Silver Age of Comic Book Art is a visual feast for the eyes. In honoring those artists whom the author considers the best of the best, Schumer, by virtue of his stunning layouts, incredible use of color and brilliant selection of awesome artwork, has proven himself one of the most exciting designers of all.”
The book ends with a bonus section that covers five more artists in hyperspeed, and leaves you rarin’ to dig back into the original comics, with a more appreciative set of peepers. – Jeff Newelt
Tell Me Something I Don’t Know is Boing Boing's podcast featuring artists, writers, filmmakers, and other creative people discussing their work, ideas, and the practical side of how they do what they do.
Bill Boichel is the owner and proprietor of Copacetic Comics, one of the greatest comic book stores ever. They are located in Pittsburgh, PA, and specialize in independent comics, music, film and literature. Bill has worked in comics retail for over 35 years, and has seen comic books go from disposable entertainment found on newsstands to an art form that is now accepted in galleries, museums and universities.
In this episode, Bill discusses the significance of Carl Barks and his impact on the American comics community. We talk about Barks' challenges with creator's rights, and similar struggles faced by artists like Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, and Jack Kirby. Bill ponders today's comics landscape and history. We survey Copacetic Comics' extensive inventory of small press comics and find out how Bill manages to keep up with such a dynamic and diverse art form. You can experience an online version of his store at copaceticcomics.com, where Boichel posts extensive reviews and promotes the books he carries. But the best way to experience it, and it's worth the trip wherever you are, is to find your way to Pittsburgh and visit in person.
Also: We've got a T-shirt bearing TMSIDK's smart aleck logo! Challenge people with your shirt to tell you something you don't know. Everyone loves a know-it-all.
This episode of TMSIDK is sponsored by Warby Parker. Try out 5 pairs of prescription eyeglasses for free and get three-day shipping with the offer code TELLMESOMETHING.
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Peter Bebergal points out the uncanny similarity between this panel from Jack Kirby's The Eternals #1 (1976) and the fossilized "space jockey" in Ridley Scott's Alien (1979). I have a feeling Kirby was inspired by the Mayan space jockey image that Erich von Däniken touted as proof of alien visitation in his crackpot science classic, Chariots of the Gods (1968)
The "Destruct Room" in Jack Kirby's comic book OMAC (1974) was a place where stressed-out people could act on urges to smash things. Forty years later, there's a real Destruct Room.
Break Club is a club in Buenos Aires, Argentina where members (predominately women) go to break shit with a stick, shatter bottles against the wall, kick stuff, and all around have the best fifteen minutes of their day. It's like a one-sided Fight Club.
I love Thumbtack Press, because they make excellent art prints, offer high quality framing of the prints they sell, and pay their artists a very good commission. I've been offering my work at Thumbtack Press for years, and couldn't be more pleased with their service and product quality.
Today, they introduced my latest print, Flower, Daughter of Googam, which is based on a painting I did for a Jack Kirby Museum benefit art show. You can buy the print in a variety of formats and sizes, including stretched canvas, which looks very much like a painting.
Titan Books has just released a new volume in their The Simon and Kirby Library. This one is called Crime. They've kindly given us permission to run a complete story, which you may read after the jump. This one is about Guy Fawkes, the chap who almost succeeded in blowing up King James and England's Parliament in 1605.
Often featuring real-world criminals like Ma Barker, Al Capone, and Pretty Boy Floyd, and true-to-life events like the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, these adventures were torn from post-prohibition headlines. Explosive enough to draw the attention of the congressional committee on juvenile delinquency, they remain action-packed for today's graphic novel audience.
These are the best of the Simon and Kirby Crime comics, fully restored and collected for the first time.
This Saturday (October 15) at 5pm, legendary rock club Maxwell's in Hoboken will open its Kirby Enthusiasm art show in its front room. More than 30 visual artists have contributed work paying tribute to "The King of Comics."
At 7pm, in the back room, the Kirby Enthusiasm rock show will start, with WEEP (featuring the Venture Brothers' Doc Hammer), WJ & The Sweet Sacrifice and (formed for this occasion) The Boom Tubes!
If you're at New York Comic Con, Maxwell's is easy to get to from the Javits Center - take a ferry at 39th Street across the Hudson to Hoboken North and walk a few blocks to 1039 Washington St.
The art is awesome - the music is gonna rock - Kirby Enthusiasm!
Here's my contribution to the show: A 24x24" painting of Carroll Baker starring in the reel-to-reel tape audiobook, Flower, Daughter of Googam.