Museum for the King

The Jack 'King' Kirby virtual museum is open for business.

I never liked Kirby's art during my youth, when I was a fairly obsessed comic collector. To be fair my prime was well past his, during which he more or less invented Marvel Comics (Stan Lee's vocal protestations notwithstanding). I've always thought of comics as a medium of the artist- you can give the greatest script in the world to a crap-ragous artist and the result is going to be garbage.

Kirby was boldly and expressively cartoony. His figures always looked like they'd been carved from a block of stone, and his only concession to detail were thick, black squiggles of ink on every available surface.

By the time I started reading comics "seriously", a new realism was marching over the horizon, spearheaded by Neal Adams. Lots of lines, lots of detail...just what my preadolescent mind craved. The favorite artists of my comic maturity were all obvious descendents from the Adams school- guys like the early Bill Sienkiewicz, before he became a Russian Furturist...the final expression of the Adams style was John Byrne- Adams streamlined, with all the threatening edges removed.

And actually, the Adams realism turned out to be a dead end...comics are comics, not movies or photo albums. Eventually, the heirs of Adams begat their own heirs, guys who took Neal's line-heavy realism to the only place it could go- grotesque exaggeration.

As I aged, I began to switch alligience from the heirs of Adams to the heirs of Kirby, formost among them Frank Miller, who took Kirby's monumental style to its extreme with the Sin City series, comic story as woodcut novel. An even more direct successor is Mike Mignola, who even goes in for the thick black squiggles.

Now that I'm old and don't really read comics other than the occasional graphic novel that catches my eye, I have a better appreciation and respect for ol' Jack. I still don't like his art that much, but I can appreciate the bottomless energy and creativity he brough to the medium. And in the battle of descendents, his followers administer a hearty ass-whipping to the neo-realists.

So cheers, Jack.

You created so many other brilliant characters, it would be petty to hold Devil Dinosaur & the Forever People against you.


Don Gerard said...

What a great blog! I'm going to bookmark it for sure!

If you like comics, check out Milk & Cheese!

My brother and I went to see Frank Miller's "Sin City" on the big screen in Pittsburgh and I loved it. He was not as jazzed. I was all, like, "didn't you ever read any of those Richard Thompson books or the Dark Knight graphic novels?" and he was all, like, (deadpan), "Ah, no."

baxie said...

Even my wife liked 'Sin City' (the movie).

She wanted to see it because she usurped my old Sin City tee-shirt (circa the first mini-series, whenever the hell that was....gad i feel old) and wears as a nightshirt.

Yes, it's a little disconcerting to go to bed and be greeted by Marv's .45.

I have the Milk and Cheese fridge magnets. I'm embittered that one of my favorite comic tees of all time (the Milk and Cheese classic, i think it was their first one, "Gin Makes a man Mean....everyone booze up and riot!") was STOLEN by a former roomate and is now out of print. >:

if you enjoy Milk and Cheese, I urge you to check out their spirtual forefather Reid Fleming.

You know Evan Dorkin was checkin' that shiznit out before M&C sprang from his brow.

And I hate to be the one to break it to you, I know it probaby comes as a nasty shock....but your bro is a HOPELESS SQUARE. =/

baxie said...


Richard Thompson is a badass guitar player, but not exactly what I'd call hard boiled.

I think you meant Jim Thompson, writer of certifiably hard-boiled fiction.

If you like his stuff check out the ouvre of one Charles Willeford, also certifiably hard boiled, if in a more literary vein.

He's best known for his Hoke Mosely series (ably portrayed by Fred Ward in the movie 'Miami Blues'), but his favorite book of mine is 'Cockfighter', about a trainer of fighting cocks who vows not to speak until he wins the big competition.

Also made into a fine film starring one of my favorites, Warren Oates and featuring a cameo by Willeford himself.

It's not a patch on the book, but as movie adaptations go it's top drawer.