Monday, July 25, 2016

BAB Book Review: Jack Kirby's Thor Artist Edition

Jack Kirby's Thor Artist Edition 
IDW Publishing, July 2016

Doug: On July 16th I returned home from my annual work at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. While it was great to be back home after what had been 11 days away, it was also wonderful to finally lay eyes on this book. I'd ordered it many months ago, and as seems to be true with projects of this ilk I sat through a few publication delays. It arrived just a couple of days before I did, but trust me -- the wait was worth it!

For those of you who were with me a few weeks ago when I offered my thoughts on Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns Gallery Edition, I will again be using photographs of this text as opposed to scans. Similar in size to John Romita's Amazing Spider-Man Artifact Edition (and larger than the Dark Knight book), this is a cumbersome tome.

To get things rolling, how about this two-page spread to greet the reader/viewer?

To you stats geeks, here's the "tale of the tape" -- from the good folks at Comic Book

Jack Kirby’s The Mighty Thor Artist’s Edition
Includes Journey Into Mystery #s 111, 117-118, Thor #s 134-135, Thor Annual #2, plus a gallery of covers, splashes and pages.
  • Publication Date: July 06, 2016 (solicited for May 2016)
  • Publisher Series Number: 42
  • ISBN: 978-1-63140-603-4
  • Diamond Item Code: JAN160388 (In Stock)
  • 15″ x 22″
  • 160 pages
  • $125 USD
  • Initial Reported Sales: No data available yet
  • Variants: none
Right after the frontispiece pictured above you'll find the Table of Contents, which is really nice, and I display it for those of you who might consider at some point purchasing this volume. I especially like that it shows the inkers involved in these artifacts. Toward the end of the post I'll show you some of the samples from the "gallery section", which really, really enhance the already wonderful offerings contained between these covers. Think about it -- six complete Jack Kirby Thor stories!

Once you're into the nitty gritty of the book, this is what greets the reader:

Oh, you said you wanted words? Well that splash sure had 'em! I love the way the page is marked up at the top, and it's amazing the lines that get lost in the printing process. I also enjoyed seeing the trim size of the final product (here at 6 1/4" x 9 1/4"). That brings me to something many of you are already wondering... what of Kirby's margin notes? Karen and I discussed offline how great this book should be, especially in light of the ongoing conversation of who did what creatively between Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Personally, I've always felt that Kirby was the storyteller and Stan was the wordsmith. Does that give one man more credit than the other? To me, no. The symbiosis of their collaboration, the gestalt of the work, is what matters. All the rest seems minutiae in the face of the greater work. My opinion. However, I'm sorry to report that some of those margin notes are not fully viewable in this book. I do not know if that's due to trimming at the printer five decades ago, or trimming in the photo process by IDW Publishing (I assume the former). However, there are abundant pages where Kirby's notes are complete, as in the examples below:

I included the image of Balder below (in civvies, no less) because there's some crazy white-out on his jaw/mouth. I hope my photographic reproduction shows it, as it really leapt off the page at me while looking through.

Here's another shot of the Destroyer, in a great splash from Thor Annual #2; he's a great looking character, one of my favorite Thor villains. And dig the Kirby Krackle!!

A favorite panel in the book. One can see how Kirby might have been an influence on the likes of John Buscema (which he was -- many of you know that Stan handed stacks of Kirby-drawn books to artists new to Marvel, regardless of their pedigree).

Splash pages. What would a Lee/Kirby Thor book be without the Odinsleep? And how about the Big G? Wowza!

Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch made a cameo in Thor #134. Kirby didn't handle them during the Kooky Quartet era, so it's interesting to see his take on the twins. As I said above, note Kirby's extensive margin notes on this page, lost forever to the trimming of the page at some point in the reproduction process.

The High Evolutionary and Kirby machines. That wolf ain't gonna be pretty once the High Ev. gets done with him!

Yes, you in the back of the room. You say you're in need of some more Kirby Krackle? Why... by all means...

As noted above, the end of the book contains a gallery section of awesome covers. I really got a kick out of these, with all their paste-up/white-out/stat glories! I also own the Marvel Covers Artist Edition, and the use of paste-ups was predominant on Marvel's covers. Obviously the logos, corner box art, etc. would have been stats. But you might (or might not) be surprised at how often art was glued onto the cover's bristol board.

Lastly, this Artist Edition contained several of the very earliest Thor pages, from Journey Into Mystery #s 83 and 85. It was a nice idea, and really showed the evolution of the character not only in Kirby's mind, but also from the introductory inks of Joe Sinnott all the way through much of the pages shown in this volume, inked by Vince Colletta. Specifically in regard to Vinnie, and I'm sure many of you want to ask, is it possible to see where Vinnie erased Jack's pencils? I've only been through the book twice, and haven't actually read from it. I also didn't take any sort of care as to "proper lighting". But my first impression is that "no", you can't really see any erasure marks. I will scrutinize further, but can report that I did initially feel disappointed that I could not find any evidence of Kirby's original intentions.

Why not close with a bang? One of the best ongoing tussles in all of Marveldom...

Doug: EPILOGUE!! On July 21st IDW Publishing announced at the San Diego Comicon that 2017 will see the publication of the first volume (read that again, effendi) of the Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four Artist Edition. The book will contain Fantastic Four issues #s 82-84 and Annual #6, all inked by Joe Sinnott. You know this guy cannot wait for that. In fact, I've recently fired up the sell-off machine again, so some books and action figures are going to get converted to cash for this baby. Of course I'll let you know if and when I have it in hand.


Redartz said...

That is one fine-looking book, Doug! A person could spend hours poring over those pages and pages of awesome artwork. I was particularly fascinated by the cover gallery; as you noted, the paste-ups and editing devices stand out. They provide a nice glimpse into the process of designing those covers that were intended to grab our attention on the newsstands.

And then, you reveal an upcoming Fantastic Four edition! This really is a Golden Age for fans/students of the medium of comics...

Anonymous said...

By the bristling beard of Odin!

Doug, you really hit the jackpot when it comes to comics for Thor enthusiasts. This book would find a place of honour on any Thor lover's bookshelf. Can't go wrong with Thor by Stan and Kirby!

- Mike 'until Thor starts using Mjolnir as a meat tenderizer' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Garett said...

Great review Doug! Enjoyed seeing the white-out, and Kirby's notes. Also how the art still glows in B+W, like the Galactus page.

Karen said...

I have the pleasure of seeing images from these IDW books before the rest of you, thanks to Doug, and this Thor title was a particular thrill. Despite finding Colletta's inks to be lacking in many circumstances, with Kirby on Thor, they were a perfect match. Seeing the raw pages makes me love this work even more.

Anonymous said...

I would like to have this one!
In my humble opinion, Kirby's Destroyer is the definitive Destroyer. Kirby drew him with a large head, which made him very creepy looking to me. And that energy (Kirby Krackle) cascading off him makes him genuinely scary. Yikes!

Doug said...

Thanks for all the comments, friends. This is (well, all of them are) a truly amazing book. IDW had published several Artist Editions of Jack Kirby's DC work (Kamandi, Mister Miracle, etc.), but this is the first collection of his Marvel pages. While I've not read an entire story from any of the Artist Editions I own, they are mesmerizing simply to leaf through. I go to them often when I need an original art fix. The creative process, as I've said many times before, is wonderful to dig into.

And Mike -- holiday in T&T? You're early!


Doug said...

Off-topic, I wanted to share Marvel's latest collections solicitations -- tons of great Bronze Age love coming our way. The Golden Age of Reprints, indeed!


Anonymous said...

Naw, Doug, I'm on vacation - but I gotta go back to work tomorrow! :(

- Mike 'time flies when you're having fun' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Martinex1 said...

I really enjoy the samples from the IDW collections - they definitely fill my curiosity about the process and craft from the great comic creators. I really like a few examples today - the Mr. Hyde and Cobra page, though from what I consider the early Kirby period, is my favorite. And the more noticeably classic Galactus is tremendous. I like the panel with the High Evolutionary and the cover with Ego - all awesome. I look at the pictures differently when they are just inks. Different details pop out at me when not colored. And many fine points are not obscured.

Regarding Marvel's coming collections, I am looking forward to the Captain Britain and Alpha Flight offerings.

Off topic - but since he graces a Kirby cover - did you see that Kurt Russell is going to play Ego the Living Planet in the second Guardians of the Galaxy movie? That should be interesting.

Edo Bosnar said...

This is some nice material, and I'm sure the book is an attractive package, but I have to say I still don't quite get the appeal of these artist editions - just because they're soooo expensive, even with all of the discounts. For that money, I'd just get a big stack of 'normal' reprint books...

Thanks for the link to the solicitations. The one that really caught my eye with the complete Captain Marvel by Jim Starlin volume. I have almost all of that material already in an Essential book plus the Death of Capt. Marvel graphic novel, but I'm seriously considering an upgrade - having everything in color and in a single book to boot is quite a tempting prospect.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review. Some images look glorious, like "The Destroyer" - it doesn't seem to suffer from Colletta's defacement of Kirby's art. Other pages, however, have been marred beyond recognition. Stan Lee and management should've listened to Kirby when he asked that Colletta be replaced.

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