Friday, October 08, 2010

Lee and Kirby or Kirby and Lee

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are like the Beatles of comics, and there's only two of them!
This mighty Marvel team had a magic chemistry that is still unsurpassed. Lee's talent for melodrama and comedy was the perfect counterpoint to Kirby 's dynamic, heavy artwork. On his own, Kirby wrote stories loaded with excitement yet with little humor if any. Maybe he was trying to distance himself from the Marvel style, but there was a noticable lack of the humor and irreverence that Stan gave as relief to Jack's monumental seriousness and intensity of his solo work.
The top image is from Marvel's answer to Mad magazine, "Not Brand Echh!" (a shot at DC comics, Marvels archenemy in the golden years) where the zaniness was full tilt.
The years from 1966 to 1968 were, in my view the peak years, with Fantastic Four, Thor, Captain America, and my personal favorite - Sgt Fury and his Howling Commandos. Notice Fury talking smack to the Nazis as he beats the crap out of them.
The grey tone panels are from the super serious New Gods series, stories devoid of humor, perhaps for the better, as the subject matter is heavy, almost religious.
Especially enjoyable are the zany asides and editorial comments from Stan, sometimes right in the middle of some cataclysmic, earth-shattering Kirby action.They never seemed to distract, mainly because the art is so powerful and mesmerizing. I still love the way Stan wrote credits, giving wacky nicknames to the other writers and artists - as well as to himself - usually billed as Smilin' Stan, or Stan "The Man" Lee, with "Jolly" Jack or Jack "King" Kirby, Gil "Sugar Lips" Kane, and the rest. This fun-poking still gives me pleasure deep in the lonely nights, "'Nuff said!" Excelsior!


Rooniman said...

Ahh Marvel, those we're some times.

Anonymous said...

I don't usually read superhero comics, so I really don't know too much about how Jack Kirby and Stan Lee worked together, but the draftsmanship and quality on these pages is at an all time high. What would you recommend to someone like me if I wanted to get into the Marvel comics a bit more?

Jim Smith said...

Roberto: If you can't afford the original issues which are way overpriced but still worth it, then I suggest the compilations of anything from the 60s, especially 1966 to 1969 or 1970. This was Kirby and Lee in their prime. Also Gene Colan's Iron Man, and Submariner. He also drew Dr. Strange.

Elana Pritchard said...

Raditude. Jim, you should do more talkey posts like this one!

Eric Noble said...

I actually enjoy Kirby's work at DC, mostly his work on the Fourth World. Perhaps it is too serious, but it feels like a Cosmic Odyssey, and that appeals to a sci-fi guy like myself. I just enjoy Jack Kirby in general. I love his work on The Fantastic Four, as well as Thor. I think Vince Colleta did a nice job with Thor at least.

Anyway, I love Gene Colan's work as well. His work is so dynamic and alive, even when the characters are just standing there talking. Another good book with Gene Colan artwork is Howard The Duck. Forget the shitty Lucas film and go with the real Howard.