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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 175: Mister Miracle #5

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 1970s! Today’s page is from Mister Miracle #5 and was published by DC and is cover dated November/December 1971. This scan is from the trade paperback Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus volume 2 from 2007. Enjoy!

She can exercise with me, ifyouknowwhatimean

This is a fairly ridiculous splash page, but what the heck, right? Kirby’s bombastic prose is the second thing to capture our attention (if you don’t know what the first thing is, I worry about you), and it’s suitably silly: “See Big Barda! See how she exercises! Big Barda is tough! Big Barda is incredibly strong! Big Barda comes from Apokolips!” I mean, really. Kirby tries to get us into the story by pointing out that without Barda, we wouldn’t get to meet “Doctor Vundabar and his Murder Machine,” but come on.

The art, of course, is wonderful. Barda is only stretching, but that allows the King to angle her body so that, when we’re confronted with her sexy midsection (which cannot be ignored!), we follow the plane of her right arm down to Scott Free, her husband, who gets the first dialogue we need to read. This is important because the opening narration leads to the giant title balloon, which is right above the other gentlemen speaking. Kirby doesn’t want us to go there yet, so the balloon blocks us from reading further, while the line of Barda’s arms point us right to where he wants to go. Usually, the biggest image on a splash page directs us to the next page, but Kirby doesn’t want us to do that. So Scott’s dialogue and gaze point us back over the page, right through Barda’s crotch (once again, an artist subtly directs us to the sexy parts) and along her shapely left leg to the men to whom he’s speaking. Placing one man inside the arc of her legs is both a function of space and so that the men frame her leg, making it more noticeable (as if it needs to be). The men confirm who Scott is, that they’re there on business, and something we already know – that Barda “sure is a lot of girl to watch!” Finally, you’ll notice that Barda’s expression doesn’t betray anything – she’s slightly amused by the attention, but not overly so.

Kirby’s drawing of Barda herself is interesting. She’s not thin, and her breasts aren’t overly large for someone of her size and proportions. She’s not ridiculously muscled, but she looks powerful. Kirby doesn’t make her waist too tiny and her ribs don’t stick out – in fact, the way he draws the bend in her side is more realistic than we usually see in that she has a bit of fat there, which you’ll see even in the most toned bodies. Her ankles look a bit too thin, but we can excuse that given how well the rest of the drawing looks and how incidental they are to the effect Kirby is going for. We can’t see in this drawing, but in others, it appears she’s wearing flat shoes, another indication that Kirby, while not above cheesecake, at least tried to make it “realistic” cheesecake.

The final interesting piece of information that we get from this splash page is the setting. If we don’t know anything about Scott and Barda, we at least know that one of them lives in that nice house in the background. Scott is dressed in normal clothing, while Barda is wearing a slightly otherworldly bikini (it looks like a bikini, of course, but Kirby “Kirby-fies” it enough so it doesn’t look like every other bikini you might see), so we can surmise that Scott probably lives in the house. Of course, they both do, but we can’t know that from this page. Scott, the house, and the wall form a nice triangle, grounding the triangle formed by Barda’s legs. Both of these triangles help balance the page, which was thrown off a bit by the angle of Barda’s arms. Geometrically, this is a well designed page that also shows the tension between the mundane (Scott, the house, the men) and the outre (Barda). It’s not surprising that Kirby designs a page well, but it is fun to see him do it so sexily!

I can’t imagine this page wouldn’t get you to read more. Well, I can, but only if the reader were crazy! Don’t be crazy, people!

Next: I can never escape Batman! Sad but true! Find more comics with the Dark Knight in the archives!

12 Comments

Nobody was better than Kirby at grabbing you by the throat and daring you not to keep reading.

Travis Pelkie

June 23, 2012 at 5:34 pm

Barda is built like a brick shithouse, which is one reason that Superman/Batman Supergirl comic/Apokolips DVD didn’t work, because Michael Turner drew her as a skinny waif like all the other girls he drew.

King Kirby rules!

I might be one of the few that thinks so, but Kirby’s writing really aged well. I mean, he was overly dramatic and such, which of course was the norm, but he didn’t overwrite like Lee or the EC crews, and I actually really like his dialogue. Most people can agree that his stories were great, and everyone loves his art, but it seems like people always look down on his writing. I mean, I could never make it through much of Sternako’s stuff without wanting to skip some of the writing.

You definitely aren’t alone. I love Kirby’s writing. The Fourth World is some of the most brilliant stuff I’ve ever read.

I’m betting that Robert Crumb would love this page, given his penchant for big, shapely girls! He would have drawn her legs and feet much bigger (which would be fun to see if he felt like drawing her), but Barda looks to me like a classic Crumb girl!
http://tinyurl.com/7k2xnes

I love this image.

First, Barda looks like what she is: an athletic woman. She is still sexy, but her proportions are realistic(-ish) and her body type is appropriate. Her expression is more blank than bemused, but Kirby was producing a comic a week.

Second, the story-telling is really strong. It is a straight forward piece of dialog and, yet, Kirby manages to make it dynamic. There is the obvious foreground image of Barda, but Scott Free is in a defensive position. It is natural given that three strangers are ogling his wife, but it creates a little mini-conflict.

Third, the page reads really easily. There are three speakers: the narrator, Scott and the ogler. Still, it flows really easily,

I feel awful even noticing this about a Kirby piece, but does Barda have some Liefeld-esque feet going on there?

Travis Pelkie

June 24, 2012 at 1:34 am

No way, Ash, it’s that all along, everyone who laughed (laughed!) at Liefeld for the way he draws feet has not realized that he’s been doing a tribute to the King all along! It’s been a secret homage to the King all this time, and we’ve all laughed at him, thinking he just sucked! No! No! Liefeld is more awesome than we ever knew!!!

I need my meds.

I think ‘Homage to the King’ would be a good name for a Prog Rock band.

“Her ankles look a bit too thin, but we can excuse that given how well the rest of the drawing looks and how incidental they are to the effect Kirby is going for.”

Um, no. You don’t get to “excuse” weak art just because of “how well the rest of the drawing looks.” Incidentally, those are NOT “ankles”; they’re deer hooves. Compare Barda’s “ankles” to Scott’s. Scott, who is physically shorter than Barda (even given the perspective in this page), has NORMALLY proportioned legs. For some strange reason, Kirby’s decided to add an anatomical structure between Barda’s calf muscle and her ankle. (If you look at your own leg, there’s really not that much space between the bottom of your calf–specifically the gastrocnemius, that sort of bulgy muscle at the back of the calf–and your ankle.)

As for Barda’s chest, honestly, you could take the bikini top off, and I doubt you’d see any breasts. That bikini top looks like its sole purpose is to ensure you do realize Barda’s a woman. Kirby was NEVER very good about drawing large women (I mean, physically large or even bulky) and real cleavage (Barda is, for all intents and purposes, an alien so there’s no real reason she couldn’t have large pendulous breasts; human females who do a lot of weight training–especially bodybuilders–do tend to have fairly small breasts compared to their body size because the breast is mostly fat, and weight training is designed to burn fat). I’m not suggesting that Barda should have helium boobs but this is just the opposite extreme.

And, really. What’s up with Scott’s outfit? From his pose, he APPEARS to be working out as well, but he’s dressed in street clothes. You’d think he’d be dressed as “comfortably” as Barda. (The pants are definitely too tight to be a karate outfit or even sweatpants though not as tight as his Mr Miracle ensemble.)

I also defy anyone to try any kind of exercise with his/her legs spread as wide as Barda’s are. (Take a closer look. Her leg spread is almost as wide as her outstretched arms.)

I know a lot of folks think Kirby’s the very end but I’m not one of them. He’s got his share of faults but way too many people simply overlook them because he’s “the King.” (Just remember, kings are no better than the rest of us.)

Joseph: Honestly, the only complaint I can get on board with is with Barda’s feet. My point is that comic book artists from time immemorial have had problems with feet, so I don’t have too much of a problem with Kirby’s being strange. I do excuse it, because I’ve seen so many great artists have problems with feet. I don’t know why, but that’s the way it is.

The rest … well, I think you’re wrong, but that’s okay. That’s why we have independent brains, after all. I don’t think I overlook Kirby’s faults, mainly because it took me years to appreciate how good he was (when I first started reading comics I didn’t like his art at all), but maybe I do overlook them. I don’t agree with your assessment of this page’s faults, though. But that’s fine.

I will argue until I am blue in the face that Jack Kirby drew incredibly beautiful, sexy women. And this just page proves it for me.

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