Thursday, December 16, 2010
Face-Off: The 1970's Marvel Cover Art of Jack Kirby and Gil Kane
Doug: OK, so go ahead and accuse me of being an Avengers-zombie. I don't mind. One look at the art samples in this post, and you'll say "here we go again". But there's a method to my madness -- today I want to look at some of the cover work of Gil Kane and Jack Kirby in the mid-1970's, and I thought the best way to do it was to look at their work in a relatively close period of time and on the same characters. What better place to do that than on the covers of the Avengers?
Doug: Using my childhood first impressions (so we're talking 1972-75, give or take; I would have been 6-9 years old then), I'll say now that both men's art has been an acquired taste. In my youth Kane was the guy with the weird body contortions and nose upshots, and Kirby was the guy who drew blocky fingers. It was only much later that I became privy to such issues as pacing, story lay-out, camera angles, etc. After my epiphany, I've become an admirer of each man (although I'll continue to maintain that there were many draftsmen in the Bronze Age era who were better).
Doug: I think if you look at the composition of each of our six samples you'll see the frenetic energy for which both artists were renowned. On the first three covers (above), all of Kane's trademarks are there -- the odd (shoot -- uncomfortable!) twisting of the bodies, the illusion that movement has just/is about to happen, and accurate anatomy (although stylized).
Karen: I definitely see the hand of John Romita Sr. at work on issue 139 - I don't know if he inked the entire cover, but those faces all look like he's either redrawn or put his own style on them.
Doug: On the Kirby examples (below), the samples all seem to evoke more power and less fluidity (Avengers #155 the exception in our examples). I think you'll also note that throughout his career Jack really didn't want to be bothered with the intricacies of the human body (note YJ's left arm on #156 -- seems off to me). As to the lay-outs, each man seemed to favor the Renaissance-era triangulation of figures, with the exception of Kane's effort on #134 where he used more of a columnar design.
Karen: I really felt his work had lost something at this point. Unmistakeably Kirby, but the layouts seem awkward and the figures rough.
Doug: So what do you think? What are your memories of these guys' work, especially when the interior art was by someone else? Do you have a fave or least-fave cover from this era? If you comment, include a link for us!