Thursday, August 12, 2010

Kirby Before Marvel: Anatomical Structure

The Kirby style most people are familiar with is the superflat 70s and 80s Kirby. At least that's the style people generally imitate when they draw in his style.

I love his 60s Marvel superheroes, not just because of his iconic surface stylings, but because of how solid his drawings were. You can see that even better in his earlier comics.
Kirby is known for making up muscles that don't exist, but the forms the surface muscles lay on tell me he actually has a very good feel for real anatomy.
Look at the beautiful and solid shapes of Thor's arms. Absolutely amazing! -and the upshot of the barrel chest. Very convincing.

He drew great hands too - and they weren't flat and squared off like his imitators draw them.

I think Kirby is not merely a stylist, but a fantastic draftsman who must have studied and drew everything he saw all the time. The guy could draw scenes in any locale, in every genre and from any angle. -And he had to do tons of these drawings every day because he was a comic book artist. By comparison, a magazine illustrator had a leisurely job. He could pose and copy live models and spend a lot of time on a single scene.

Ger Apeldoorn has been posting a lot of 50s Kirby art from DC comics and you can really see how solid and studied his skills were before he settled into what is known today as the Kirby style.


HemlockMan said...

They don't call him "King" for nothin'. He was probably the greatest comic book artist of all time when you stack up what he could do (which was EVERYTHING!!!), the speed in which he could accomplish it, and the sheer volume of work he could create. Keep in mind that many, many comic books that are attributed to other artists were actually pencils and inks over layouts by Kirby. In 1962 alone he produced over 1200 pages of comic book artwork.

He was one of a kind. I doubt we'll ever see anyone like him in comics ever again.

RooniMan said...

Kirby is a one-of-a-kind artist.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating drawings from the great Jack Kirby. I personally liked his 50s style the best now that you've linked to it.

Anatomy doesn't seem too useful if we can't already draw well with construction and make a decent cartoon drawing with such a concept. It's tempting me right now, but I know it's not gonna do me any good at the moment. Kind of like how a lot of cartoonists now think they're "cool" just because they can draw in the flat style better than anyone else, even though it keeps getting recycled and watered down year after year.

Anonymous said...

And oh yeah, this is off-topic, but it kinda made me mad today at how close-minded many of the kids I know from high school can be, and I thought you'd be interested in hearing about it, since in that other post you did, you mentioned how modern day newsreporters are like high school kids who can't be taken seriously. It also kind of scared me when I even heard one of them say this.

In one of my classes, my group started talking about what films they saw over the summer, because a few of them, including me, had to watch a film for a history class assignment. Somehow, I asked a few members in my group what version of this particular film they watched (they both had watched a color version from the early 1990s, fairly recent, IMO), and it quickly devolved into two people saying that they wouldn't watch the older versions simply because most of them were produced in black and white, and also expressed their resentment for those films in general. It was probably one of the most baseless assumptions I had ever heard from anyone in such a long time. They painted black and white movies under the same brush, acting like only the color films would be any good or exciting, while the B & W films would be super boring and dull.

Okay. Enough ranting. This was going to make me so furious on the inside if I didn't share it with anyone. I hope I didn't waste your time with this.

talkingtj said...

theres several aspects to kirby's style that no one ever talks about-it was always exciting and fun! those dynamic two page spreads! the wide panoramic views! the sense of chaos unleashed! the cosmic majesty! then there are the themes-family, dysfunctional but loving and supportive.societal structures- the mighty on top, the weak on the bottom, and how easily that could change! he was a true undereducated intellectual who had a very wide and open view of life, no one has matched him no one has equaled him. when you get right down to it theres only been a few people who have really made the comic book industry what it is today and kirby comes in as number 1!

Neil-W said...

I always thought Kirby drew exactly how he looked , he was solidly built , short but tough as a rock.
I love the story recounted in Men Of Tomorrow about a thug who turned up in Will Eisner's office (Kirby's boss at the time) And Jack comes in all 5 foot 2 of him and asks Eisner if the guy was bothering him or needed beating up Eisner just turns to thug and says 'He's our best artist' and the guy just leaves.

Martin Juneau said...

What makes it ironic is how the good Kirby, with his great sense of structure and anatomy is rarely idolised by today's peoples mostly as "DeviantArt", like better to draw like in Sonic, Pokemon and post-80's saturday morning cartoons. It's also the same for contemporary comics nowadays. Now i feel like to read a McDonald survive test than a real comic with actual plot.

akira said...

john have you read Kirby's challengers of the unknown? i think Roz even inked a few issues. it's such an awesome story about guys who survived an accident in which they should have died, so they go out to seek all kinds of crazy daredevil adventures

The Butcher said...

Do you think it's rare that such an excellent draftsman also has so much style or do you think any good draftsman can add his own style if he applied himself?

Nicholas said...

"Superflat" (as one word) actually has an entirely different meaning in art:

Kirby art is definitely not superflat.