By Ryan Penagos and Tom Brevoort
You'd be hard-pressed to find a long-time comic fan who isn't a fan, admirer or follower of Jack "the King" Kirby. There are magazines, books and websites dedicated to his art.
And that's no surprise. His style was (still is, really) energetic, emotive, flashy, engaging...pretty much everything you want iconic comic book art to be. And, well, that's kind of the point. Kirby's one of the founding fathers of the Marvel Universe and his pencils helped to not only define Marvel Comics, but to rejuvenate comics as a whole.
Today, August 28, would have been Kirby's 90th birthday. I wanted to showcase some great Kirby art (my list would've been mostly monster covers, with a few super hero and MODOK-emblazoned books tossed in for good measure) on Marvel.com and looked to Executive Editor Tom Brevoort to lend a hand.
So Tom's chosen to share just under 40 of his favorite Jack Kirby Marvel covers, along with a few words on why each cover means something to him. Enjoy the art, read Tom's latest blog entry
for more on the King and search out as much Kirby art as you can. You won't regret it.
AVENGERS #4 – Even if you have no idea who Captain America is, this cover immediately tells you that he's important, and commands your attention.
AVENGERS #16 – The first time the line-up change concept had been done. How can you not be excited to find out who the new Avengers are when Cap so obviously is?
AVENGERS #23 – A simple exercise in power and presence by the always-strong combo of Kirby and Romita.
CAPTAIN AMERICA #193 – And another one by Kirby and Romita. You couldn't draw a Cap figure in a more extreme stance.
FANTASTIC FOUR #8
CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #1 – Time has blunted its impact somewhat, but what a ballsy cover this was when it first saw print! And even at this young age, Kirby can already draw super-heroic action better than anyone.
FANTASTIC FOUR #8 – I can remember paging through the early Marvel Indexes in the late '70s, and letting my imagination wonder as to what the stories in these early books were like. Covers like this one were at once kind of creepy and strangely evocative.
FANTASTIC FOUR #33
FANTASTIC FOUR #39
FANTASTIC FOUR #33 – Kirby was on the vanguard when it came to incorporating graphics into his illustrations. He experimented with collage work all his life, as on this striking cover. Were he still alive and working today, I have no doubt he'd be using the computer to achieve similar effects.
FANTASTIC FOUR #39 – Simple, striking and moody.
FANTASTIC FOUR #48
FANTASTIC FOUR #51
FANTASTIC FOUR #48 – A daring choice. Rather than showing us the villain, Kirby creates a palpable feeling of anticipation by showing us the stunned FF, Watcher and gathered crowds.
FANTASTIC FOUR #51 – For a guy who's so renowned for depicting wild action, Kirby was equally good at nailing mood and emotion, and conveying subtlety.
FANTASTIC FOUR #61
FANTASTIC FOUR #92
FANTASTIC FOUR #61 – A personal favorite. Every character is completely in character here, and wonderfully drawn.
FANTASTIC FOUR #92 – A novel choice, putting the reader in Ben Grimm's eyes.
FANTASTIC FOUR #164
FANTASTIC FOUR #177
FANTASTIC FOUR #164 – Kirby's first FF cover after returning to Marvel. He takes the somewhat-dated Marvel Boy design and manages to make it look dangerous.
FANTASTIC FOUR #177 – The first real Marvel comic I bought. There was a real love affair with copy in this period—almost everybody on this cover is saying something. But it definitely gets across a feeling of jeopardy and chaos.
FANTASTIC FOUR #200
INCREDIBLE HULK #5
FANTASTIC FOUR #200 – Kirby's last FF cover, and one that perfectly sums up the central conflict that's the spine of the series.
HULK #5 – You got a great sense of situation on these early Marvel covers. What competitor's title in 1962 promised more action, more mayhem?
IRON MAN #80
IRON MAN #80 – Simple and elegant—even with Iron Man's stupid, temporary nose.
KID COLT, OUTLAW #116 – The copy really makes this, but Jack is still able to wring some drama out of these sort of silly hybrid western/super hero covers.
NOT BRAND ECHH #1
MARVEL TREASURY EDITION #11 – Not quite as iconic as the earlier Romita FF cover, but still a very nice example of Jack's late style, with the rougher-hewn inking approach that mimicked his pencils a bit more closely.
NOT BRAND ECHH #1 – A comedic cover that's not terribly different from what Kirby would do with a straight cover.
RAWHIDE KID #47
NOVA #4 – Somehow, having Nova come face-to-face with a Kirby Thor crystallized him as a "real" Marvel character in my eyes.
RAWHIDE KID #47 – You can tell, just by looking at this piece, that Kirby really enjoyed drawing that riverboat.
SGT. FURY AND
SGT. FURY AND
SGT. FURY AND HIS HOWLING COMMANDOS #13 – Man, every kid on Earth must have been waiting for this story since FURY began and Cap came back.
SGT. FURY AND HIS HOWLING COMMANDOS #16 – When they weren't just dressed-up super hero covers, you could really get a sense of Kirby's war experiences from his SGT. FURY covers. The sense of defeat and exhaustion on the part of the Howlers is palpable.
STRANGE TALES #90
TALES OF SUSPENSE #29
STRANGE TALES #90 – At this point, Jack was having to design a different mammoth monster almost every week. Orrgo's big, expressive, hypnotic eyes helped him stand out from the pack.
TALES OF SUSPENSE #29 –I love the fact that the Martian monster on this cover appears to be tossing the city up and down lightly in his palm.
TALES OF SUSPENSE #31
TALES OF SUSPENSE #48
TALES OF SUSPENSE #31 – The big question on this cover is why a giant, fur-covered monstrosity would need to be wearing an iron mask in the first place—to protect his secret identity?
TALES OF SUSPENSE #48 – Another cover that just screams excitement. You just can't wait to find out how and why Iron Man has changed so dramatically.
TALES OF SUSPENSE #58
TALES OF SUSPENSE #82
TALES OF SUSPENSE #58 – What an absolutely masterfully thrown punch. And great copy from Stan.
TALES OF SUSPENSE #82 – Great color choices in holding the background and the montage characters green, heightening the sense of otherworldly menace.
TALES TO ASTONISH #34
TALES TO ASTONISH #41
TALES TO ASTONISH #34 – How could you ever forget a cover like this one once you'd seen it?
TALES TO ASTONISH #41 – An incredibly bold choice, making the star of your series almost too small to see, and emphasizing his diminutiveness.
THOR #127 – One of the most copied cover compositions ever. You can almost feel the grief and sorrow radiating off of Odin.
THOR #139 – A textbook example of power and mystery. Orikal seems as far above and beyond Thor as the Thunder God is from ordinary mortals.
WHAT IF? #11
THOR #177 – Jack's last great THOR cover, the kind of kinetic poster shot he did better than anything else.
WHAT IF #11 – This is one of the goofiest, most self-indulgent concepts ever put to paper, but Kirby keeps it from being an out-and-out farce (though it does read better if you've met all or most of the principles involved.)
X-MEN #16 – Great sense of scale on this X-Men piece—they're so completely dwarfed by the Sentinel Master Mold that they're forced to climb him like a mountain before they can fight him!
X-MEN #17 – The coloring really makes this piece, a moody, nightmarish mystery image—who is that standing in the doorway who's laid the X-Men low?