O Say Can You See: The Greatest Patriotic Super Heroes of All-Time
Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be doing theme weeks, with each week devoted to comics from one decade. This week’s decade: the 1960s! Today’s page is from Tales of Suspense #19, which was published by Marvel (although the indicia lists “Vista Publications”) and is cover dated July 1961. I borrowed this and several other comics over the next few weeks from Howard Harris, my comics retailer, who was nice enough to let me take them home and scan them. Enjoy!
This is yet another fun story with no credits, but as it’s a Marvel book from 1961, we can assume Stan Lee wrote it, and Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers signed it, so that’s something. This is a few months before Fantastic Four #1 (that came out in August, but I don’t know if this arrived in stores in July or a few months before that), and it’s interesting to see what Lee and Kirby were doing with themselves before they decided to revolutionize the industry. “Hey, Jack, want to draw a big broccoli monster?” “Sure, Stan, what the hell.”
I suppose it doesn’t matter who wrote this story for our purposes, since the splash page has only the name of the story on it. Kirby doesn’t give us a hugely dynamic splash page, but he was always a good designer of things, and Broccoli Monster is nice and creepy. Kirby puts an artificial panel border in on the left side, with that rock and the tree growing on top of it. This is so Broccoli Monster can emerge from behind something, which is of course scarier than if he just appeared in the panel. Kirby makes the leaves on Broccoli Monster’s head look like hair, and of course the gaping holes look like eyes and a mouth. Kirby makes sure that the sight lines between the monster and his victim, Scared Bald Dude, are perfectly matched up, so that we follow Broccoli Monster’s line of sight to Scared Bald Dude’s eyes. By placing Scared Bald Dude in the foreground, Kirby helps make Broccoli Monster seem even bigger – we would expect things in the background to be smaller, but Broccoli Monster is still bigger than Scared Bald Dude even though he’s further away from us. The arm of Broccoli Monster and the arm of Scared Bald Dude frame the panel and balance it nicely. Although this isn’t a terribly exciting page, Kirby still creates a lot of tension and makes sure it’s a nice drawing.
Kirby was probably happy to start drawing superheroes, because it can’t be easy coming up with all sorts of weird monsters month after month. Although he was pretty good at it!
Next: Today we had Kirby, so of course tomorrow we’ll have to have more Ditko! Yes, I know we had Ditko yesterday, but this is 1960s Ditko! He’s all groovy and shit! I know you can find more Kirby and Ditko in the archives!
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