Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What Titles Should Kirby Have Worked On?

Karen: Since we've been talking about Jack Kirby's return to Marvel, let's play a little game of 'What If' and instead of discussing the books he did work on, let's discuss the titles you wish he had worked on. 

Karen: For me, my number one choice would be The Invaders. I really think it would have been sensational if Kirby had drawn the interior art on the book, with Roy Thomas retaining the writing chores. Kirby drew a number of covers for the title, but never the interior art, which often was handled by my personal nemesis, Frank Robbins. Robbins' artwork, which featured spastic figures that always seemed to be sweating profusely, made me feel uneasy and anxious, and made it hard to read The Invaders, a title I really wanted to love. I think Kirby's style, although it had become more exaggerated by the late 70s, would have suited this book well. His covers certainly looked great. Better than what was waiting inside!

Karen: So how about it? Is there a Marvel title you really would have liked to see the King work on when he returned ? And in what capacity -artist or writer?

42 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Karen,

Superb question. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with the Invaders. I’m not a big fan of Kirby - I can only really see him as a force for good in terms of influence on other artists. I think the Invaders would have been an exception and his blocky, old-world style would have infused the strip with the nostalgia that clearly fuelled Roy’s writing. It would also have given it a silver age feel closer to the Golden Age it harked back to. He could have also come back to Thor, as long as someone else was writing. Kirby inked by Palmer would have been interesting.

I find it a lot easier to say which strips I would NOT have wanted him on: the New Xmen (Cockrum’s more DC house style was perfect for the nouvelle vague they ushered in).

Shang Chi – I always thought that the perfect marriage in comics that never happened was Steranko and Shang Chi. Shang Chi, with its movie references and movie plots & characters would have suited Steranko’s style down to the ground and his art would have been perfect for Shang Chi’s Kung Fu moves. Gulacy demonstrates that that style was perfect for the flow of the action, but imagine if we’d had Steranko’s layouts and design and storytelling as well.

Doc Strange – Kirby should never have been let anywhere near the Doc. He is pretty much the antithesis of what you need on Doc Strange. Likewise Drac.

Kirby was not too bad on Iron Man. That black squiggly thing he did to indicate shadows always bothered me on other characters. I would look at the panels and think ‘where the Hell is the lighting supposed to be in this room to cause those black squiggles in those places?’ It bothered me a lot less with Shellhead. Some very perceptive BAB’er (can’t remember who it was, please make yourself known) said that Kirby’s shading made everything look metallic, which I think is bang on. Maybe that’s why it looks OK on Iron Man if nowhere else.

Richard

Anonymous said...

Sidenote: is it just me, or does Cap have two right feet on that cover? R

Doug said...

Ah, Richard, those feet are only the tip of the iceberg. Make the jump off the link below and check out Cap when his head is shown from the backside -- while on the front of his body!

http://braveandboldlost.blogspot.com/2012/10/wonder-woman-and-captain-america-in.html

Doug

bmcmolo said...

Anonymous and Doug - good call! That is funny.

I think Kirby would've been a hell of a fit for Invaders, good call. I quite enjoy his 2001 series, so I'm thinking maybe he could've taken Warlock or something like that, as well. (Omega the Unknown? Son of Satan? On some other level of the tower, perhaps!)

Edo Bosnar said...

It think by now it's become clear that I'm not the biggest fan of Kirby's second stint at Marvel, and so it's kind of hard to answer the question of what title I would have liked him to work on when I don't really the work he did on the actual titles he was handling.
So, yeah, I agree with both you and Richard: Invaders would have been perfect for him, as long as he was only doing the art. And although I kind of liked Robbins' art on that title, I think Kirby would have definitely been an improvement - especially if Sinnott was doing the inks.

david_b said...

Obviously, Invaders was my first pick as well. It would have been PERFECT, and would have earned a much larger following I suspect.

A second title..? The shortlived 'Inhumans' title. Seriously, he's been given credit for creating them, his blocky style would have worked well for their bombastic, shattering powers, not to mention coincide with the MGC reprint title.

William said...

I have been reading the new book "Marvel Comics: The Untold Story", (a great book and a MUST READ for any Marvel or comic book fan in general) and to tell you the truth Kirby got screwed over pretty good by Marvel, especially in the area of them not wanting to return his artwork. And because of this treatment it seems he became very bitter and a bit of a jerk in his later years. He made wild claims that he single-handedly created the entire Marvel Universe and that he created ALL of the characters (including Spider-Man) and that he both wrote and drew all the stories. The only credit he gave Stan Lee was that he filled in the dialogue in the word balloons, but Kirby also claims that he wrote most of that as well in the margins of the artwork.

By the time Jack made his return to Marvel, Stan Lee was content to just leave him alone and let him do whatever he wanted. Kirby was given his pick of titles to work on, and free reign to do anything he wished without any editorial interference, and unfortunately it shows in his work on Cap. Kirby says that he was only interested in working on comics that he both wrote and drew, so there is little chance that he would have worked on the Invaders unless we was writing it too. It would have been great though if he would have just done the art and let Roy Thomas (another guy who eventually became a bit of a bitter jerk himself) write it. I think it would have been one of Marvel's best ever titles and a true classic.

If Kirby was just willing to do the artwork, I would have loved to see him back on the Fantastic Four or the Avengers as well. That would have been cool. He did some great Avengers covers during his second stint at Marvel.

Rich Gignac said...

When Kirby returned to Marvel there was an anticipation on which titles he would illustrate. One phrase that was bandied about was- "The King to draw a king"!! Rumors had Kirby on a new Sub-Mariner book, Ka-Zar, Dr.Doom...of course he worked on the Black Panther. I,personally would have liked to see Jack on Namor's book !

William said...

BTW Karen and Doug, you guys should both definitely read "Marvel Comics: The Untold Story" by Sean Howe and do an article about it afterward. There is literally unlimited interesting material we could discuss contained in that book.

Just a suggestion.

david_b said...

William..

I'm DYIN' to start reading that book. I made mention of it a few weeks ago. Creepy to read all the drug references, still believing a lot of it is exaggerated, but it is interesting.

M W Gallaher said...

Kirby was evidently more comfortable on the fringes of the Marvel universe, and there were a couple of series published at the time that were appropriately isolated that I think would have benefited from Kirby.
SKULL THE SLAYER had quickly become such an inconsistent comic that noone could have objected over Kirby just doing whatever he wanted with it. And given that setting--dinosaurs, aliens, lost kingdoms, time travel, etc--I can't think of anyone better than Kirby to run with it.
Soon after Kirby started at Marvel, they cancelled WAR OF THE WORLDS. If I'd been in charge, I'd have given Kirby a chance to continue the title, with free reign to follow entirely different characters on a Martian-conquered future Earth, if he so desired (as I expect he would have preferred, anyway).

Doug said...

Actually, William, if I can speak for Karen I know she's about halfway through that book. I've put it on my wishlist for Christmas, so perhaps late in the winter we'll get something posted about it.

I've heard nothing but good things about the book.

Doug

david_b said...

Again, I wouldn't have put Kirby on FF when he returned.. A title like FF needs to continue to grow and stay fresh and current.

'The Inhumans' would have benefited greatly, Kirby probably would have felt right at home again, and it wasn't doing too well sales-wise, so seated next to the MGC title on newstands, it would have made perfect sense.

Edo Bosnar said...

M.W. Gallaher, I have to respectfully disagree with you about the prospect of Kirby taking over Killraven (War of the Worlds). Kirby was already given free reign on one character, Black Panther, on whom Don McGregor had done stellar work and pretty much ignored everything that went before. I would have hated it if he had taken Killraven, with all of those rich stories crafted by McGregor and P. Craig Russell, and turned it into a sequel of Kamandi...

Anonymous said...

Hi Doug,
Yeah. You know how everyone hates Colletta for completely re-drawing artists work? Is it me, or is WW pure Colletta and Cap not so much? Jack could have used a save from his Thor buddy there.

Another good one is the cover of FF3 where the Torch has 2 left hands. That one is actually highlighted in Overstreet. Brutal !

Richard

Doug said...

I don't know how much Vinnie redrew, as much as he's notorious for erasing lines the pencillers put down on the art board!

Doug

humanbelly said...

Y'know what? The bits of images I can track down of Jack's work on "Destroyer Duck" are EXTREMELY impressive-- such an amazing departure for him. Is that late, brief period for him ever refered to or talked about? Honestly, I love what I've seen of it-- thinking about acquiring that series, even.

But man, beyond the Invaders, I do have trouble coming up with a title I would have wanted to see Jack take over on his second-coming at Marvel. His style was just so out-of-synch with the evolving realism of that period. I don't think I would have put him on any of the mainstream titles at all-- and wish they hadn't w/ Cap (my buddy Bryan & I dropped the title on the spot). But--- hey, how about Deathlok the Demolisher? Sure, it was Rich Buckler's baby-- but Rich had a BIG ol' case of Kirby-influence behind him, and Jack was definitely the superior visual story-teller. Effectively outside the mainstream MU continuity. . . gritty noir setting. . . lotsa gadgety tech weapons and stuff. . . and a very quirky narrative model that might have actually suited Jack's offbeat mental channels.

Hmm. The more I think about it, the more I like it. . .

HB

Dougie said...

Suggestions of Dr. Doom or the Inhumans (taking us right back to the end of the Silver Age) sound appealing. How about Super-Villain Team-Up with an assault on Attilan by Doom and his pawn, Namor? Subby vs. Black Bolt, anyone?

The other 70s title I would like to see Kirby on would be the Champions ( although I think Jack wouldn't have been a great fit on Ghost Rider). The adventure of two mutants and a slinky spy on Mount Olympus!

My third proposal is a bit more obscure: Red Wolf. I'm picturing Space Gods descending on Las Vegas and crazy Texas tycoons a la The Duke of Oil.

Doug said...

Dougie --

SVTU had actually crossed my mind as well.

As to the Inhumans, I'm a little jaded on that one, as Jack's writing on the first two issues of Amazing Adventures was so bad. I reviewed those stories once upon a time -- you can access them on our sidebar.

Doug

david_b said...

No one's mentioned Thor yet..

Another book with dwindling sales numbers by the mid-'70s, but unlike Invaders and Inhumans, still had awesome art by Big John.

Garett said...

Great cover with Master Man, and I agree Kirby on Invaders would've been dynamite.

William I just read Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. Compulsive reading! Hard to put down.

I always liked that Wonder Woman cover by Ross Andru. Too bad the interiors were never as good.

Kirby on Conan, or some sword and sorcery title? Hulk?

William said...

Hey david_b, I agree that reading about all the drug use by a lot of the writers and artists was somewhat shocking and a bit of a bummer as well. However, it seems that most of that stuff was going on in the 70's, and mostly by the guys who were creating the more counterculture fringe type books.

The most shocking thing to me was how demanding so many of those guys were. People like Englehart and Gerber would practically insist on complete autonomy on all their projects and they would accept virtually no editorial interference. As a result they would occasionally do things like destroy the Earth or the entire universe and then have it undone through time travel or remade by beings like Eternity. So basically everyone in the Marvel Universe has died on more than one occasion and then been brought back by magic or what not. I found that a bit disconcerting myself.

And, if anyone would question or try to alter their stuff in any way they would fly off the handle and quit. Then they would be hired by DC, and would eventually get into it with the management over there and quit again, and be rehired by Marvel. I couldn't believe how many times they got away with burning their bridges just to have them rebuilt. Heck, I would have just been so happy that I was actually getting paid to make comics that I would have probably been easy to take advantage of I guess.

Dougie said...

Becoming one with the universe by getting it on with a plant in the Far East?

Drug use? Y'think?!

Dougie said...

I seem to recall from my Black Magic Kirby book that Mr. K didn't care for barbarian characters like Conan.

But how about EVIL EYE, a series starring Prester John the Wanderer?
I've wondered if his magical land of Avalon was meant to be Attilan.

I'm picturing battles with Yeti. pygmy tribesmen, pirates and Fin Fang Foom!

Inkstained Wretch said...

Yes, great question, Karen. I kind of disagree with him drawing the Invaders though -- I think that by that time his art had evolved in a way that wouldn't have really worked with that title. It was too futuristic and cosmic to convey the necessary retro vibe (unlike, say, Jerry Ordway or Rich Buckler).

What should he have done? I think the suggestions by Richard for Iron Man and by Dougie for Super-Villian Team-Up are both solid. Both feature characters he was involved in creating but did not do on a regular basis so he would be familiar with them but would not have exhausted all of his ideas regarding them.

I'd like to have seen what he could have done with the Hulk too, another character he started then handed off to others. I really like the Defenders covers featuring the Hulk that Kirby did around that time.

Other titles I would have liked to seen him on: Nova, Micronauts and Marvel Two-In-One. I think his art would have suited them all well.

Doug said...

It's too bad the concept of "Untold Tales of X" hadn't been thought of in 1976. I think of the great job Bruce Timm did on Avengers 1.5, and Kirby would have been perfect for a series set back in his own heyday. An Ant-Man revival, stories that filled in gaps in the Avengers, etc. would have been a lot of fun.

But again, with a writer at the helm.

Doug

William said...

Yes, I think we all agree that Kirby should should not have been allowed to completely write his own stuff. Plotting or co-plotting, sure, but he definitely needed some help refining his ideas and dialogue.

With that said, I really like the suggestion of Kirby on Iron Man. He already tended to make everything look metallic anyway (even cloth costumes), so Iron Man would have been the perfect character for his blocky, futuristic style.

Anonymous said...

As a writer...sad to say, NOTHING. As artist: Thor!!

Edo Bosnar said...

HB, I think Kirby's late phase does get discussed in some corners of the blogosphere. Personally, I'm quite fond of his work from this period, as I mentioned in previous comments. I really like Captain Victory and Destroyer Duck (written by Steve Gerber), which started off really strong, in terms of both story and art (it's also a bit caustic, but I suppose that's understandable, given the reason why the series was launched). I think it's pretty easy to track down the back issues cheaply.

Garett said...

I wanna see Kirby write and draw Archie! Imagine that.... : D

M W Gallaher said...

Edo Bosnar, you'll note that I meant to suggest, in my proposal that Kirby do War of the Worlds, that he had continued the series, but *not* the character of Killraven. Since MacGregor's & Russell's series was cancelled, I was imagining Kirby following some completely different characters. Under a title like "War of the Worlds", there was room to branch out.
Like some others, I considered Super-Villain Team-Up, but from what I understand of Kirby, that wouldn't be a concept he'd gravitate to. Doing a series where the leads always had to ultimately lose? Not the Kirby style...

Comicsfan said...

And in what capacity -artist or writer? (Good lord, K--please tell us you offer that choice in jest!)


But as to the main question, I suppose I'm already on record as being very curious about how Kirby would have been as artist on the first Silver Surfer series.

vinyl records said...

Hi, I'm new here. I think Jack would have been terrific on Micronauts.

Doug said...

Vinyl Records --

Welcome! Thanks for the comment.

Doug

Karen said...

Lots of interesting comments folks. When we decided to take this look at Kirby's return to Marvel we thought it might generate some real conversation and that appears to be the case. I think it's always hard to see a legend on the decline, which clearly Kirby was at this stage. I did ask whether you wanted to see Kirby draw or write, because I've seen people ardently defend Kirby's writing, even though I'd say most fans find it weak, at best.

It's too bad Kirby was so insistent on writing though; I think there might have been a place for his art, despite its somewhat outdated look. I think Sub-Mariner might have been an interesting idea. He didn't have a book at that point ( I think it had been cancelled prior to his return) but it could easily have been revived.

I am in the midst of "Marvel Comics: the Untold Story" and it's been a good read, although many of the incidents related I have read elsewhere- basically in the authors source material. I do think it will be worth a post (or two) once my comrade in arms has a chance to read it.

Edo Bosnar said...

M W, duly noted; and sorry if I came across a little abrasive. I sometimes find it hard to word comments in discussions like this so they don't sound like I'm gnashing my teeth and pounding away furiously at my keyboard.

Edo Bosnar said...

By the way, and sorry to go off topic, but is anyone else occasionally having problems with those captcha images before posting? I only managed to get that last post up after four tries: the captcha images I get feature a photograph of a number plus a distorted word, and in this case, and quite frequently in the past few weeks, the photograph of the number is so blurry (or sometimes it's really tiny) that there's no way to make them out - and yes, I've tried copy-pasting the image to another program to enlarge it, doesn't help.
Think there's any chance of alerting blogger about this problem and actually getting a substantive response?

Matthew Bradley said...

Heartily second both Karen's suggestion of a Kirby INVADERS and the praise for THE UNTOLD STORY. Didn't get a chance to jump in on the recent discussion, but despite my disappointment with Jack's Bronze-Age run, I think he is probably the definitive Cap artist. As for Howe's book, I've heard the same complaint leveled against it about many of the anecdotes being familiar ones, but since I haven't read much in the way of fanzines or earlier books, most of it is new to me, and I'm loving it.

On a slight tangent, the INVADERS thing makes me wonder if Roy and Jack ever collaborated. Maybe a S.H.I.E.L.D. installment or two in STRANGE TALES, where Roy scripted and Jack did the layouts, but I can't think of anything else. Am I overlooking something obvious?

Doug said...

If Roy and Jack ever did work together, it must not have gone well. Hence, the creation of Funky Flashman and Houseroy...

Doug

Anonymous said...

Have to say, I think Karen's idea of having Kirby on the Invaders is sheer genius, as long as Roy still wrote and edited it. Sure, it never would've happened, considering Kirby's disposition at the time, but it's a wonderful dream. The book actually worked under Robbins and Colleta, which is nothing short of a miracle. I could only see it improving under Kirby.

In a related idea, how about giving Kirby a chance with The Liberty Legion. He wouldn't be constrained by continuity much, if at all. The LL was made up of such a goofy assortment of characters, that I think a series on them would've lended itself well to any number of Kirby's wacky plot-threads. A time-travel meeting between the LL and Henry Kissinger? Or Dvil Dinosaur teaming up with the Ll to stomp some Nazi a**? Why not?

I remember Super Villain Team Up as being about as lame as Secret Society of Super Villains. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't remember anything salvageable. for those two losers. I don't Kirby would've helped much.

Anyone remember that What If with the 1950's Avengers? I believe Kirby drew the cover for that. That's another idea for a series I can imagine working under the King.

James Chatterton

William said...

Karen, I am about 95% of the way through Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, and I too already knew quite a bit of the stuff that is covered in the book, but it gets more interesting (and more depressing) in the later chapters as Marvel literally crashes into to 90's. There is a lot of information in those chapters that I didn't know quite as much about in detail. Looking forward to seeing what the author's take is on the state of Marvel today.

Kid said...

I perhaps wouldn't have minded seeing Jack draw Thor again, but only if Vinnie inked it. Jack drew a cover to Marvel Premiere (#26) featuring Hercules which Vince inked, and it was almost as good as his classic '60s Thor work. You can see the cover here: http://kidr77.blogspot.com/2012/08/jacks-back.html

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