New Gods (1984 reprint series) #6, page 30. Jack Kirby.
This week on my Robot 6 column, I took a break from the usual program of talking about art by cartoonists nobody's ever heard of to go in deep on a page by the King of Comics himself, Jack Kirby. I used the gorgeous piece of comics above to talk about Kirby's unusual approach to sequencing, the harmonious quality of his overall page designs (just look at those two white panels!), how his action blocking got a lot sharper after his drawing ability degraded, and the way he rarely did the kind of typical choreographed moment-to-moment storytelling that has since become the "correct" mode of action comics. The Comic Book Resources fanboys haven't jumped all over the thread to castigate me for questioning the validity of some of Kirby's choices, so now's the perfect time for you to get over there and check out what I wrote. Starts like this:
The comics-critical landscape that has sprung up around Jack Kirby — often the man himself as much as his work — in the past few decades can be worryingly polarized. Though there’s plenty of good, clear-headed writing on what Kirby did with and for comics, there’s reams more of both hagiographic praise (which is fair enough, because this is one of the great artists not just in comics but of the 20th century) and the-emperor-has-no-clothes teardowns (which is also fair, because no one short of world leaders can really be said to deserve the amount of hosannas that have been heaped on Kirby).
Of the brickbats most commonly thrown at Kirby’s golden legacy, one of the most compelling is that he very rarely “told a story” in the traditional manner with his sequencing. Especially in his action scenes, Kirby’s storytelling style was often simply too wild to support “correct” sequencing, with each panel giving a clue to the content of the next and every prop and figure grounded in recognizable three-dimensional space. In Kirby fight scenes characters transmogrify from one physical state to another between panels, hurl each other across vast chasms of space before clashing again within an instant, and reveal heretofore unknown powers as the conflicts crescendo. Usually there’s just too much going on in a Kirby fight scene for the traditional values of motion tracking and choreography to hold much sway. It’s also why Kirby comics are so verbose: take out the explanatory word balloons and you haven’t a hope of understanding the specifics of what’s going on half the time. What Kirby captured in his action scenes wasn’t the balletic wax and wane of physical confrontation so much as impact after impact after impact. It’s up to his readers to decide how valuable an approach that is, but its undeniable that he did it brilliantly. Read more