Friday, August 28, 2009

Today is the King's birthday!

Before we get into it, let me make a confession: I wasn't always a fan of comic book legend Jack Kirby.

Yes, I was a moron.

OK, maybe "moron" is a bit harsh. I can see where Kirby's distinct drawing style and tendency for sudsy, overblown dialogue wouldn't be everyone's thing. It certainly wasn't mine for a while. "What's with these blocky heads?" I'd ask myself. "Why does everyone have square fingers, and why is everyone's mouth open like that?!" I'd complain. "And why won't these people shut up?!?"

Of course I was too young and too shallow a comic book reader to understand Kirby was a trailblazer. I didn't get it when he drew panels that somehow translated the cinematic energy of film into four colors. I completely overlooked the new ways he laid things out, and his use of collage went right over my head. And of course I didn't know enough then to realize this was all new. No one had done it before. Not like Jack Kirby.

Now I devour Kirby stories like a starving man at a Las Vegas buffet. Now I realize that the melodrama Kirby employed was a distinct decision on his part, guiding it beyond what could have been empty bombast to something that has the weight of opera. Really, it's that good.

On top of all that, it's just plain fun. Monsters, superheroes, romance and things that defy easy definition — Kirby did it all. And for that, I'm grateful. Today would have been Jack Kirby's 92nd birthday, but whenever I read one of his stories I think it's his readers who received the real gift.

In honor of the mind-bending imagination that was the trademark of the man called "King," take a couple of aspirin and head over to Zaius Nation, where you can read an early Kirby story called:

Oh, hell, I can't resist; here's one of my favorite Darkseid panels while I'm at it:

And finally, something from Gavin Jasper over at 4th Letter; I think Jack Kirby would approve.


Scott said...

I didn't get him at first either -- I remember my folks got me an issue of his "Sandman" series from the '70s, and I thought it was the worst thing ever. But I also kept reading it over and over, so something must have clicked somehow... :)

Joseph said...

Consider me a member of your club, gentlemen. I just couldn't get behind Kirby's Black Panther at the time (the blocky heads didn't do it for me, either). Thankfully, I have aged and now understand the genius of the King.

Maxo said...

Funny how everyone insists comics are only for kids, but Kirby seemed to produce stuff a person had to grow into to fully appreciate.

Thanks for the comments, guys!