Reshaping the comic view

Almost every comic book fan knows that the earliest comics were in the form of cartoon strips that appeared in the daily newspaper. Instead of pages, they were actual strips, kind of like the ones you get when you use a photo booth. Each strip contained a certain number of squares which depicted the scenes of the story. Depending on the comic you were looking at, some would read from left to right while others would read from top to bottom. Some had dialogue bubbles while others just had characters doing whimsical actions without dialogue.

Unlike the comics of those days, however, modern comics don’t have a simple clean-cut square dynamic anymore. No, these days, the pages of comics are much more intricate. Very few scenes are depicted as simple squares; instead they are placed within odd shapes such as rhomboids and trapezoids. Characters are now overlapping each other and are no longer restrained inside their correspondent boundaries. Not only as readers but as an audience, we are able to see the adventures of our favorite characters through 3-dimensional angles; gone are the days where we had to look at our characters in 2 dimensions.

Kirby 4th article

One of the first artists to employ this aesthetic was none other than Jack Kirby. Instead of following the trends of his colleagues, he took a different route by making the comic book reading experience much more immersive for his audience. This could be shown in the comic page above this paragraph. The page comes from The Eternals, a short lived Kirby comic book series from 1976.

Take a minute to examine the image carefully. Try to take in all that’s going on: the spectacular cityscape in the background, a strange flying creature and the character that seems to be leaping over everything. Now go to the comics strip section of your newspaper and compare the two images. I guarantee you most of the art found in the newspaper is not as intricate and complex as the image of  above. One contributing factor to this is that  the  page above is 3-dimensional; meaning you actually feel like you’re in the center of the action as its happening. However, when you read the newspaper comic, its 2 dimensional, thus it feels less alive and the characters feel, well flat.

Thanks to pioneer artist like Kirby, we are better able to immerse ourselves into the world of comics and get involved in the action.

 

To see more of Kirby’s aesthetics, check out these sites:

http://peerlesspower.blogspot.com/2013/10/jack-kirbys-eternals.html

http://www.printmag.com/comics-and-animation/influence-design-inspiration-jack-kirby-art/

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The Kirby Dynamics: Nature vs. Nurture & Child vs. Parent

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If you stop to think about it, you would probably notice that a lot of great stories contain conflicts between child and parent. For example, at the climax of the first Star Wars film, we find out that Darth Vader, the Lord of all galactic evil, is actually the biological father of Luke Skywalker, the protagonist and our hero. Of course, instead of reuniting with his long last father, Luke refuses him, which puts even more strain on their already rocky relationship.

In Jack Kirby’s The New Gods, a similar dynamic is used. Orion, the main character, is the adoptive son of Izaya, the benevolent ruler of a planet named New Genesis. This planet sort of represents a modern utopia with flourishing vegetation and futuristic technology. It isn’t until later on in the story that Orion finds out that he is actually the biological son of Darkseid, the tyrannical ruler of Apokalips. Though Apokalips is literally the planetary twin of New Genesis, it’s features literally resemble that of an industrial wasteland covered in swelling craters oozing lava and fire. Eventually, Orion also finds out that the reason why Darkseid gave him up was due to a peace treaty offered by Izaya. As part of the agreement, the two enemies had to exchange with one another their own sons. In doing this, Izaya’s good-natured son, Scott Free (aka, Mr Miracle) was given to Darkseid.

This comic not only utilizes the child vs. parent dynamic but also the nature vs. nurture argument. Take Orion, for example. While he is born into a tyrannical family with a violent background, he is mainly raised by a man who has the exact opposite values of Orion’s family. This supplies Orion with a benevolent; in other words, he is able to somehow repress his violent genetics and utilize the values that Izaya has taught him. Of course, that doesn’t mean he no longer possesses that evil DNA , as it is shown through out the story that he has a somewhat dark side that he constantly struggles with. Naturally, he doesn’t want to turn into his birth father, so he is guarded and defensive most of the time.

Now, most would probably assume hat Scott Free is now completely brainwashed into turning into an evil psychopath like Darkseid, his adoptive father. But in all actuality, he’s benevolent and was somehow able to escape Apokalips. Unlike Darkseid, Scott is capable as he eventually marries Big Barda.

All in all, in the case of Orion’s genetics and his upbringing, nurture wins; but of course nature sometimes tags along much to Orion’s disdain. When it comes to Scott Free however, nature seems to have won, with nurture taking very little effect.

Kirby. Jack Kirby.

Jack Kirby portraitWhen you watch a superhero movie, what do you think about? Do you sit there awestruck at all the special effects or amazing feats? Or do you simply wonder who was the brilliant mind behind the marvel universe? If its the latter, then you would get plenty of answers since there were several people involved in the creation of most comic titles. One of them you’ve probably already heard of:  Jack Kirby.

Although not as famous as say Stan Lee, Kirby was just as influential in the creation of many comic greats such as the Fantastic Four and Captain America. In addition to writing collaboratively with Lee, he was also involved in other artistic aspects of the comic book industry such as drawing and illustration. Because of his multi-faceted talent, Kirby is now known as the “King of Comic Books”

Like many successful artists, Kirby did not grow up with a silver spoon in his mouth. As the child of immigrants, he spent most of his youth going to the movies or doodling. Wanting to do something creative with his life, he enrolled into Pratt University at the tender age of 14. However, due to his family’s financial struggles, he had to drop out after about a week. Little did he know that his future would have more successes than failures.

As Kirby grew into himself, so did his art. Doodles became elaborate illustrations and imaginary characters began to take full form in his sketch book. Unfortunately, his luck didn’t serve him as well as his art did. He received numerous rejection letters from almost every publishing company in New York. After a long period of unemployment, Kirby decided to try his hand in cartooning strips. This turned out to be very beneficial as it led him into finding employment at Max Fleischer Studios and Lincoln Newspaper Syndicate.

Kirby didn’t step into the Superhero world until he started working for Victor Fox. After that, he was hired to work at Timely Comics Company along with friend and creative partner Joe Simon. During their time there, the two brainstormed a whole world of characters, but none as famous as Captain America. Due its high demand and peaking popularity, the duo created ten more Capt issues. Unfortunately at the of the Capt success, Kirby and his partner left Timely due to the suspicion that hey weren’t being paid enough for their creation.

Kirby and Simon’s next venture led them to working at DC comics where they worked on more cartoon strips. This was also the first time in Kirby’s life where he finally got to write his own scripts for his  characters and get paid for it. This bliss didn’t last long, however, as both Simon and Kirby eventually got drafted into World War II. Eventually, the war finally ended after a couple of years, and Kirby was able to reunite with Simon, to create more comic greats.

From then on until his death, Kirby was able to find employment at a variety of places such as Harvey Comics company, National-DC and National Periodical Publishments. Of course most of his success, wasn’t easy and he often found himself and his family living on an unsteady paycheck. But what matters most is that he was able to push through all those hardships while, at the same time, creating  the stories and characters that we enjoy today.  Yes, the ends truly justified the means when it comes to Jack Kirby.

 

 

 

More info about Kirby’s life could be found at

http://kirbymuseum.org/biography/

(Or you could just simply read his comics to get a personal taste of his work 🙂

Jack Kirby photo was provided by Creative Commons. I do not own it. 🙂