Pitchfork   The Dissolve   Festivals: Chicago | Paris

Five Great Jack Kirby Comics

The comic book artist and writer would have been 96 today. We take a look at some of "King" Kirby's greatest and strangest moments.

Article By Plastic Crimewave, August 28, 2013

Nothing Major asked comic lover and artist Plastic Crimewave to muse on his favorite works by the comic book godfather Jack Kirby.

I fell in love with Jack Kirby's work before I even knew who he was. I had seen reprints as a young lad in Marvel books from the library with the origins of Thor, Hulk, etc.—even the famous cover of "Amazing Fantasy #15" featuring the first appearance of Spider-Man. His art burst off the page, and I soon realized this was all the vision of one man. I marveled at how Kirby integrated eye-popping collages, unreal cosmic machinery, and abstract characters without heads into his work. Soon I also realized how some inkers obliterated detail and ruined his pencils, that he also did stuff for DC Comics, and that his work went way back to the '30s. The man practically invented the modern comic book—pioneering genres like romance, patriotic heroes (Captain America), western, and wacko dream-interpretation comics in the medium.  

It's impossible to perceive his entire sphere of influence, or truly pick favorites, but today I've tried narrow it down to my top five:

1. The Fourth World
When Jack moved over to DC and got super-friggin-cosmic with now-classic characters like Darkseid, The New Gods, Mr. Miracle, and weirdo renovations of Jimmy Olsen, the Guardian, etc. Cloning, Whiz Wagons, Boom Tubes, Death as a black skier, and other madness could not be ruined by often-shitty inks by Vince Colletta and tyrannical editor Carmine Infantino having other artists redraw faces on Kirby's Superman.

2. 2001: A Space Odyssey series
Some of Kirby's finest galactic majesty, starting as a one-shot over-sized Treasury Edition, and then morphing into a bizarre regular series featuring a giant-headed infant divinity and Mr. Machine, who later became Machine Man.

3. Devil Dinosaur
One of Kirby's oddest characters, as the red satanic dinosaur does not even speak! At least, his sidekick/rider/monkeyboy Moon Boy does! Bizarre prehistoric fun for all.

4. Kamandi
Taking riffs from Planet of the Apes, Kamandi is one of Kirby's most imaginative worlds. We're thrust into a post-apocalyptic nightmare future where humans are now the pets, often held captive by apes (sound familiar?), but he expands it to include anthropomorphic dogs, tigers, bats, and too many odd creatures, characters, robots, and divinities to list. At least the human Kamandi could speak and reason. Whew.


5. Mighty Thor around issue 180-200
Often featuring gorgeous deep inky-inks by the legendary Bill Everett (who put Marvel/Timely on the map in the '30s by inventing the Sub-Mariner and by being an early fan-fave artist in his own right), Kirby's mythological superheroics may never have looked better, a stark contrast to the usual so-thin-they-crack Thor inks of Vince Colletta (can you tell I hate that guy?). 

Runners up: 

Cosmic Fantastic 4 sagas with Galactus/Silver Surfer/Him/Negative Zone/etc.

'40s and '70s Sandman

Your Dreams

Black Magic

The Thundarr the Barbarian cartoon show.