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Year of the Artist, Day 5: Jack Kirby, Part 5 – The Fantastic Four #29

10-06-2013 03;56;33PM

Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Jack Kirby, and the issue is The Fantastic Four #29, which was published by Marvel and has a cover date of August 1964. These scans are from Marvel Masterworks: The Fantastic Four volume 3, my copy of which was published in 2010. Enjoy!

Kirby started getting more like “Kirby” as he worked on FF, and I happen to like issue #29 because of something he did in the issue, for the first time, I think. But we’ll get to that! First, we’ll notice that his Ben Grimm has evolved into the more “superheroic” Thing and less of the monstrous Thing. Sure, he’s still the Thing, but he looks more like a friendly cartoon character by now than an ugly monster:

10-06-2013 03;41;32PM

It’s interesting that he kept Ben’s “lower-class” face even after he became the Thing, again implying that Ben is someone you can trust, as opposed to Reed’s elitist look. But Kirby has also changed Reed a bit, too, which is interesting:

10-06-2013 03;55;05PM

Reed looks much older than he did in issue #1, and his lined face and slightly wider eyes make him less of an aloof, vain aristocrat and more of a man of the people. Kirby’s inker here is Chic Stone, and he’s someone else I don’t know much about, but his thicker lines make Reed’s face seem more earthy and therefore more trustworthy. Kirby also has added some width to Reed’s face, so it’s not quite as thin and pointed. By now, the reader knows that Reed is a good guy even if he can be kind of a dick, so Kirby and Stone’s face reflects that change.

10-06-2013 03;46;28PM

One thing Kirby always did well in his superhero work is come up with fantastic machines, and when the FF stumbles into the home of the Watcher, he has some fun with it. We’ve already seen some of his machinery even back in the early 1940s, and this is similar – giant, weird structures that manage to be breathtaking and dazzling but also seem to retain some Soviet tendencies of brutal architecture. Look at Panel 3 and the line of … pods? stretching backward out of sight. It’s beautiful but also somewhat totalitarian. The machine in Panel 4 dwarfs our heroes, turning them into cogs in a vast clockwork. Yet it’s amazing, too. Kirby’s use of perspective in Panel 3 adds to this feeling – the row of machines feels endless because of the way Kirby curves them to infinity. This is a good use of tension in Kirby’s work – his machines are always impressive, but there’s also the sense that they could overwhelm the human element at any moment, and Kirby fights against that. This becomes more evident as Kirby gets older.

10-06-2013 03;50;48PM

I just like this sequence. Sue, proving that she’s at least as useful as Abraham Lincoln’s mother, tips the Red Ghost into a “matter transmitter,” and Kirby shows him falling to … what? Who knows? It’s a cool visual! Note how Kirby makes it appear that the Red Ghost is actually moving just by using a simple swirl in the background as the villain gets smaller. It’s a simple effect, but still cool.

Finally, a device that Kirby uses for, I think, the first time in this comic – multimedia. That is, inserting photographs into the comic and then superimposing his own drawings over them. I know he did it later in FF to much better effect, but I don’t have a copy of that in color. I’m sure someone else did this earlier, but maybe not? Anyway, it’s not an entirely successful panel, but it’s still something different:

10-06-2013 03;43;59PM

The Red Ghost takes the captive Four to the moon, and Kirby uses photographs instead of drawing the moon. As this was done in 1964, I tend to think he used a photograph of a model (it looks that way, anyway), but it’s still an interesting way to depict the panel. I think the technology wasn’t quite there yet to make this successful, and in the context of the comic it looks really weird, but Kirby got better at this, especially when he did more abstract things with the “Photoshopping.” I do wonder why he didn’t just draw the moon. It’s not like there are a lot of details on the moon’s surface, after all.

Kirby kept working for Marvel for another 6-7 years, but I actually don’t own any comics from that period of his life. Yes, I suck. So we’re going to move on to 1970s Kirby, but at another time. I’ll be back to Kirby in a while. I don’t want to get too burned out on the King. Instead, tomorrow we’ll begin looking at another artist who defined Marvel in the 1960s, and we’ll see where he got his start in the 1950s! Be here or be square! In the meantime, you can check out the small-but-getting-bigger archive!


After I read this issue, I immediately screencapped those three panels of the Red Ghost falling into [Kirby shit] and made them my Facebook cover photo. Because of my choice of profile picture and the fact that the Facebook design has it obscuring part of the first panel, I accidentally created the following exchange:

Red Ghost: “What’s HAPPENING to me? What have you DONE? Why… why do I feel so STRANGE?”

Hawkguy: “Because… BOOMERANGS.”

Art is amazing.

Greg, you should log onto the Twomorrows site and get yourself some back issues of the Jack Kirby Collector. Some of them are available as a PDF version for less than $5.00. The all Fantastic Four issues like #9 are great. Lot of uninked or uncolored pages to view.


tom fitzpatrick

January 5, 2014 at 3:44 pm

It’s good to see Mr. Burgas back on a daily blog for a year. If he has the time to do it, than all the better for us all! :-)

I hope that one of the other artist that you intend to dissect on your list, will be the legendary artist: Barry Windsor-Smith.

His art has changed over the years, starting with Conan the Barbarian (Marvel). It would be interesting to see what you have to say about him.

Best cape book of the Silver Age aside from maybe Spider-Man. Incredible to re-read to this day.

You probably already have these mostly written up, but I’ll ask anyway. Can you do both a Colletta issue and Sinnott issue, both of which you can find in his Fourth World stuff, if that’s where you’re headed? I don’t ask to bash Colletta, as I’m not artistically discerning enough to really have a horse in that race, but mainly because I’m interested in what differences critics see and the reasons why Colletta is considered the “bad” Kirby inker with Sinnott the “good.” Or maybe you’ll disagree and challenge that notion completely. Either way it would be interesting.

Elpie: Of course, boomerangs!

Iron Maiden: Thanks for the link!

tom: I haven’t done BWS yet, but he’s definitely one I’ve considered. We shall see!

Cass: Actually, I haven’t swung back around to Kirby, so I’m still taking suggestions about him. I am comparing inkers in another post, so I wouldn’t have a problem with comparing Colletta and Sinnott. Thanks for the suggestion – when I get back to Kirby, I’ll remember to see what’s what with those two.

you mention, in your intro I think, about tracking artists over the course of their careers, (hopefully) as they improve on their craft, commenting that it might be depressing were the reverse true

that is actually a series I would be interested to follow. I can’t think of many 70’s stalwarts that haven’t gone the other way – and got worse and worse as the years have gone by. Byrne, Wrightson, Gulacy, Neal Adams, Starlin, and yes, Barry Smith immediately spring to mind. A high burnout rate that perhaps says something iniquitous about the industry.

I won’t even start on the list of star creators who appear to have gone a tad loopy…

that said I actually groove on BWS at the very start of his comics career, as a Kirby Klone. at least back then he had the excuse of youth and inexperience on his side – plus, reportedly, drawing on benches in Central Park…

mister mud: I think some of those artists you mention didn’t necessarily get worse, they just calcified. Byrne today looks very similar to Byrne 30 years ago – he found a style and stuck to it! I’ll definitely check out some of those artists – I’ve already thought about Adams – but I would like to be mostly positive here! :)

Can I recommend for Simonson and Giffen? Those two guys did great work in the 70s and both have (in my opinion) continuously grown as artists. Simonson keeps getting better and Giffen, well, he’s kind of reverted to his 70s style but remains an excellent storyteller.

You know whose art has changed a lot over the years? Kyle Baker. I’m a fan of his work in every stage of development, but man, Shadow-era Baker is hardly like Plastic Man-era Baker at all.

Roman: I’ve already thought of both Simonson and Giffen. I haven’t gotten to them yet, but I’m definitely going to!

buttler: As with a lot of artists, I just don’t own a ton of Baker’s work. I probably have enough of it, because you’re right – it’s changed a lot. He’s an intriguing candidate – I have thought of him, but I might have to get some more of his work before I start writing about him.

Mudassir: Yeah, it happens occasionally! :)

Cass: Sinnott didn’t ink Kirby on the New Gods or any of his DC stuff…he stayed at Marvel. Kirby’s main inkers at DC were Coletta (who was painfully bad) and Mike Royer. I think D Bruce Berry did some inking there as well, but when I think Kirby at DC, I think Royer, who was perfectly faithful to the pencils.


January 9, 2014 at 3:01 pm

Not to slight you Cass, but can you really not see that much of a difference between Kirby/Colletta and Kirby/Royer?

IMHO Colletta on Thor was ok, it kind of fit, but it was a train wreck on the 4th World stuff, just really out of place.

Royer was a far, far superior inker for the 4th World.

Colletta’s thin line/scratchy inking and sparse spotting of blacks makes the New Gods look weak and static.

Royers much bolder inking and vigorous spotting of blacks really gives them a majesty and sense of power that is utterly lacking in Colletta’s work.

Plus he was much more faithful to Kirby’s pencils.

So when’s Liefeld getting spotlighted? :D

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