Comics

Friday Mini Book Review: Kirby: King of Comics

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Mini book reviews of days gone by.

Kirby: King of Comics, by Mark Evanier (Abrams, 2008). Man, is this old fan glad he's lived to see the day when comic book artists get this sort of serious, impeccably reproduced and designed, respected artist giant art book treatment. This book is half coffee table art book and half a mini-bio of the most important superhero artist of all time, Jack Kirby, co-creator of everything from Captain America to the Fantastic Four to the Hulk to the X-Men to Darkseid; with that cosmic villanous creation now dominating the D.C. universe, it's fair to say that both major comic companies are now to a large extent still running on Kirby's fumes.

Kirby's story has its tragic aspects; the nature of work-made-for-hire in the comics industry meant that he never reaped the benefits of the enormous wealth his creations have thrown off over the past half-century; his poor treatment from the companies he built, and from his long-time writing partner Stan Lee, turned him into a somewhat bitter man, though one who always had time for his fans. Evanier writes from the inside; he was a personal assistant and then friend to Kirby for most of the last couple of decades of his life, and is working on a monumental pure biography of the man as well.

While the anecdotes and facts about Kirby's career and some of the sad details of his decline in skill and reputation are interesting and sometimes maddening, what makes this book a joy and a treasure and dominates the readers attention are the art reproductions, from pure pencils to inked pages to full color repros of Kirby's scintillating pages and covers–giant pen and ink Galactus heads! Page after page of pure uninked Kirby pencils! Giant lithe Captain America's bashing through walls! Page-sized sea monsters wrecking the Challengers of the Unknown's boat! Larger than life penciled Hulks leaping right in your face! Penciled Karnaks chopping Krazy Kirby machinery! Psychedelic full color Metron collages! Double-page-spread spaceships dominating the skyline! Va-Va-Voom Barda pinups!– and the "King," as hardworking and dedicated an artist as we've ever known, wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

I'm enough of a fanatic for him to declare, dogmatically, that if you don't dig Kirby, you don't dig LIFE!!, man. As Kirby himself once said of the issue in which he introduced Don Rickles' twin Goody Rickles into Jimmy Olson's war against Darkseid and the anti-life equation, "Don't Ask! Just Buy It!"

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  1. My compliments on your review, Brian, but I’m surprised a libertarian website wouldn’t have chosen STRANGE AND STRANGER: THE WORLD OF STEVE DITKO over this.

  2. I have now added this one to my Christmas list. Thanks!

  3. Look for something about the Ditko book in the Feb. issue of the print version of Reason, OBL.

  4. Frank Miller’s dead right? So I can finally call 300 what it really is? A comic book. Not a “graphic novel”.

  5. Haw haw, childish libbers still read comic books! No wonder you can’t get elected.
    Get out of your mommys’ basements!

  6. Like your mothers attic is any better?

  7. This is the reason why I started reading reason – the writers have a passion and interest in and for life outside the beltway.

  8. “Kirby’s story has its tragic aspects; the nature of work-made-for-hire in the comics industry meant that he never reaped the benefits of the enormous wealth his creations have thrown off over the past half-century; his poor treatment from the companies he built, and from his long-time writing partner Stan Lee, turned him into a somewhat bitter man, though one who always had time for his fans. ”

    Well why didn’t he just enter into better voluntary agreements? Hey, life ain’t fair. Other libertarian talking points…

    Seriously though Kirby was a great man. I’ll have to check this read out.

    And I second Mark, reason’s cultural stuff is the best stuff in it.

    And leftiti, screw you. Comic books are an art form like any other.

  9. Now imagine Dr Doom standing with fist clinched together as he delivers these lines: Haw haw, childish libbers still read comic books! No wonder you can’t get elected.
    Get out of your mommys’ basements!

    And Captain America with shield up, teeth clinched and ready to pounce the evil doers’ ass.

    Easy to do to any of Lefiti posts because they have such a child like, cartoon quality.

  10. leftiti telling people to get out of their mommy’s basements is pretty much the height of irony, no?

  11. Sweet Brian, I look forward to it.

    The difference between “comic books” and “graphic novels” is kind of like “movies” and “films.” It just depends on how pretentious you want to sound.

  12. I don’t know whether I should be proud or ashamed to say that, at my ripe old age of 51, Doherty’s evocation of Kirby-drawn characters (yes, even including Goody Rickles), immediately brought relevant images to mind. Regardless, it was a pleasant montage: second-childhood perhaps. If so, I want more of it, so I’ll probably seek out the book. I’ll look for the Dikto book as well.

    BTW, I remember Evanier from the days of his first publications in such esteemed columns as Metropolis Mailbag. Nice to see fanboys make good.

  13. DC and Marvel may be running on the King’s fumes, but they are also pissing deep into his eye sockets.

  14. From hanging out at the local comic shop from time to time, I can attest that there are more members of Team Gold and Team Blue that buy comics than members of Team Red.

    The owner of that shop was given the honor last year of being drawn into the Amazing Spiderman series. They kept his name but gave him a thin, scrawny appearance similar to the pirate adventure reading kid in the Watchman series whereas in life he looks like a linebacker.

    To be honest, I have always hated everything about Spiderman, from the comics as a kid to the silly depictions of dustbowl Pete’ in the recent movies.

  15. The difference between “comic books” and “graphic novels” is kind of like “movies” and “films.” It just depends on how pretentious you want to sound.

    I dunno. I’m looking at a copy of V for Vendetta, and it sure looks like a graphic novel (ie, a novel with pictures) to me. It sure ain’t a comic.

  16. It was originally serialized, both in an anthology and later as a 10-issue mini-series. I don’t dispute that some works are intended to be read as a novel rather than a monthly story in parts, I just think “comics” as a general term should be acceptable for the medium.

    Using “graphic novel” to describe anything sophisticated, as is often done by snobs who like to brag about how they read Chris Ware but would never touch a Batman comic, is misleading. Regardless of their artistic merits, The Wire and King of Queens can both accurately be called TV shows, since the medium is basically the same.

  17. “From hanging out at the local comic shop from time to time, I can attest that there are more members of Team Gold and Team Blue that buy comics than members of Team Red.”

    I dunno, Red staters might not read graphic novels but they do read super-hero fantasy. There’s this one they have which has a guy with super-strength who loses his powers when his hair is cut, this fellow with healing powers and this omnipotent guy who is kind of like the Beyonder, and others. They can’t get enough of it!

  18. Thanks Brian. I’m a huge Kirby fan and have recently reread his “Eternals” series and have been kinda wanting more. This book looks like a good thing to have.

    One of my regrets in this life is that I never met the King.

  19. Can’t wait to get this and read the Ditko thing in Reason. The Question is one of my favorite characters in any medium.

    And speaking of Darkseid,

    ANTI-LIFE JUSTIFIES MY HATE!!!

    Ok, geek moment over.

  20. CED – this one?

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