Tuesday, 3 August 2021

KIRBY'S KOVER KLUNKERS - MISTER MIRACLE #13...


Copyright DC COMICS

For all my admiration of Jack Kirby's artistic talent at its peak, there's no denying that his powers were on the wane by the time he moved to DC Comics in 1970.  I think there came a time in Jack's life where he decided he wasn't going to knock himself out on a page (or at least a cover), and simply do what was acceptable in order to tell the story - no bells and whistles.

How else can you describe the above cover?  Everything's wrong about it, from the perspective to the size of the train, which looks diminutive in comparison to Ted, Oberon, and Big Barda.  The train itself only vaguely resembles a member of the 'locomotive family' and appears to be a complete invention by Jack, with no reference to any photographic source material whatsoever.  A clear example of 'drawing from memory' when the memory is a vague and indistinct one. 

Sure, it still does its job, but had Jack's reputation rested solely on this standard of artwork, it's doubtful he'd be held in such high regard as he is.  Just what was he thinking?  Feel free to tell me and your fellow Crivvies in the comments section.

However, before you do, read that dialogue balloon again.  "Stop him!"  From what - trying to escape?  Shouldn't that be "Stop the train!", however unlikely a prospect that is?  I suggest a better balloon would be "He'll never free himself in time... this could be the end of Mister Miracle!"

Of course, by the time Ted said it, it'd be too late, but I suppose we should make allowances for 'dramatic license'.   

33 comments:

Rip Jagger said...

I cannot concur that Kirby's talents were on any wane when he first arrived at DC. His early Fourth World stuff is as good (if not in ways better) than what he'd been doing at Marvel toward the end. I agree that with his stuff does begin to wither later in the decade and by his return to the Fourth World in the 80's he was not at full power. some of the fall off that you detect might well be because of a distancing from the material, as by this moment he'd been forced to mostly shut down the Fourth World and concentrate on Demon and Kamandi, both of which many feel are among his best things at DC. I know OMAC gives people the whammies, but D. Bruce Berry was inking more and more and he was not as effective as Royer nor even as effective as Colletta. But that's something we'll never agree on I suppose.

Kid said...

A little disagreement is all right, RJ, I don't mind dissenting opinions from my own. Kirby was on the wane towards the end of his Marvel days, as can be seen from how his artwork looked when inked by Bill Everett and one or two others. Vince Colletta managed to dilute Jack's growing 'eccentricities' as regards his art, but once Royer took over with instructions to ink as was pencilled, then his decline became more apparent. As you say though, it was even more obvious later in his career. Can't agree that the Fourth World was as good or better as his Marvel work. It could have been interesting, but his scripting killed it for most readers, which is why it never sold.

Rip Jagger said...

I cannot agree at all about Bill Everett's inks -- loved that short period of time he did the King's stuff. I see that Kirby's style changed in his latter years at Marvel, though I do not hold that these changes were by definition deficiencies. I think we have a difference in what we like in artwork generally. I get the sense you like smoother art and I tend to cotton to work that's a bit rougher in texture generally. I've always found that Joe Sinnott, as good as he was on a powerful penciler like Kirby, could smother a less defined artist with his brushes. But to each his own amigo. I'll be making my argument for the relative merit of the Fourth World in some later posts at the Dojo, so I know we'll discuss that again.

Kid said...

You're always welcome to express your opinion on Crivens, RJ, even if it disagrees with mine. That's what blogs are for. As regards Everett, apparently sales dropped on Thor on the issues he inked, and I thought he made the pages a little too cartoony-looking. Colletta was good on Thor, though I'd have loved to see John Severin inking the strip. Consider these examples: When Jack first drew the Silver Surfer, Norrin was fluid, flexible, and graceful; however, it wasn't too long (and it may have been the reduction in the size of the artboards that caused it) before all Jack's figures (Norrin included) were stiff, stilted, and blocky, with heads that were bigger for their bodies than previously. It was a subtle decline perhaps (at first anyway), but it was a decline. And sadly it got worse as the years passed.

McSCOTTY said...

I thought at the end of his time at DC Jack produced some of his best art in years on Atlas for the First Issue Special comic before producing the Dingbats ( nuff said). Oh Severin inks on Kirbys pencils on Thor would have been interesting. Overall I think Kirbys time at DC first time around was good and productive, Kamandi was a great comic as was the Demon. And although I never liked New Gods that much it was crammed with great ideas. But I have to agree he really produced some poor art at that time as well, I have a Forever People comic with Kirbys art that looks like he produced it in a couple of days. Still what a legend the guy was.

Kid said...

Can't agree about Atlas, McS, especially as it was inked by D. Bruce Berry, who must've been one of Jack's weakest inkers. Also, Jack gave Atlas muscles in his torso that don't exist in a real human form, which is something he often did I suppose, but he went overboard in this instance. I remember seeing that First Issue Special in a local R.S. McColl's, but I passed as it didn't look that great. It's in my copy of The Jack Kirby Omnibus Volume 2 and I just checked it to remind myself. Sadly, Jack's days at the top were behind him and he was living off his reputation as 'King'. (Ironically a title that Stan Lee had bestowed upon him.) However, when he was at his peak, he was great.

baggsey said...

I can't agree that Kirby was on the decline at this point, Kid, although that cover is very strange indeed. I What are those extraneous rocks doing on the rail tracks? The people on either side of the train seem separate to the action, or transplanted from another piece of artwork. The actual splash page inside the comic is a better rendering of the scene, and a quarter-side shot of the train shows it to be rendered as though Kirby is going for a version of the Big Boy locomotive.

Giving Kirby the benefit of the doubt, that month in January 1973 Kirby had 3 comics published - Mister Miracle, Demon and Kamandi. That is a huge amount of drawing ,so any deficiencies can be put down to quantity over quality, I think, rather than a diminution of artistic powers.

Eighteen months later Kirby was doing a fantastic run on The Losers, which I believe he entered into with much enthusiasm, which shines through in the quality and inventiveness of the artwork.

Royer has risen significantly in my estimation as a Kirby inker, much as I disliked his work back in 1973. I had liked Vince Colletta's work (at that time not knowing that he had a habit of raising much of Kirby's detail). But I now see that Royer knew how to retain the raw power inherent in Kirby's pencils.

Kid said...

Kirby seemed always to have a lot of work on, B, yet he seldom drew clunkers like this earlier in his career. That's why I see it as evidence that his artistic powers were on the wane. I've got a few of Kirby's Losers mags, plus the collected edition of his run, and again, I wasn't overly impressed by the art. It had started to look like these 'open' drawings you see in a colouring book and was much too cartoony.

Colletta may have left out some detail when inking Jack's mags, but I think he gave more to Jack's pencils than he ever took away. Jack tended to clutter his panels, and the cover of Journey Into Mystery #83 is a prime example of him putting in too much 'detail', which is why Stan had some of the Stone Men deleted. That was a wise decision, but had Vince inked that cover and decided to omit some Stone Men, no doubt he'd have been slated for it when fans eventually saw the original version.

Royer inked Jack mainly according to the pencils, warts and all; Colletta made the musculature more realistic-looking, and rendered Jack's 'squiggly lines' in a more acceptable way. In the main, I prefer Colletta to Royer on Jack's DC work, and the Jimmy Olsen and Mister Miracle mags looked the better for Vinnie's involvement in my estimation.

Fantastic Four follower said...

Great post.Having loved Marvel comics all my life I find it hard to criticise the last year that Jack spent at Marvel.FF #92-102 include some of my personal favourites of the run(#94,95,96,100)likewise Thor 169-179(#169,170,yes the Thermal man,I know;171(one of the great covers)#172,177(amazing cover).But as much as I tried I could never warm to The 4th World comics!If Jack had stayed at Marvel Stan would have edited the comics,limiting the avalanche of ideas into a structured planned natural growth similar to the evolution of the gold standard Fantastic Four.Plus the dialogue would have been more reader friendly and Stan would not have cancelled those books(IMo).The artwork in those DC books was still fantastic,it was the characters I failed to connect with.But think of this.....108 FFs including 6 annuals!!!! I love Adams and Steranko but Neals longest run was Deadman in Strange Tales...11 issues and Steranko did last 18 issues on Nick Fury in Strange Tales, but they were only half issues comprising of 10 pages.Jack was at the top of his game roughly 1958 (challengers) until sometime im 1973 and included 50 plus issues of Captain America.We were blessed.Think of this ...If Neal adams had done 102 issues of Avengers and we thought he dropped off in the last 10 issues an objective critic would probably say it should have happened much earlier.Love those DC issues artwise but not storywise and maybe thats the kicker...jack drew,stan dialogued and my life is infinately richer for that combination!!And yes Kid you are right that is a poor cover but its still Kirby whic is similar to disliking a Rolls Royce because of the colour..........still a Rolls Royce.Brilliant post my friend.

Kid said...

Interesting and passionate comment, Triple F. If the Fourth World stuff had been done at Marvel, I suspect that none of them would've been given their own mags right away, instead making guest appearances in the FF and other titles to begin with to see how readers took to them. However, on your last point, I'd say that my criticism of MM #13's cover is similar to disliking a Rolls Royce because it's got all sorts of things wrong with it and doesn't run very well - nothing to do with the colour.

Fantastic Four follower said...

Fair point Kid,well put.I am the least objective marvel /kirby fan but you are right of course,that cover would be in no-ones best off!

Kid said...

It's a case of 13 being unlucky for some - especially Jack in this instance and not the readers either. Definitely not one of his best.

McSCOTTY said...

Good point on the long runs Kirby did on FF etc Sadly Neal Adams new art isn't even a patch on his mid ,80s work.

Kid said...

I guess that's a result of just getting old, McS. All our talents (if we're lucky enough to have any) fade in the end.

baggsey said...

One more comment on MM #13....take a look at page 2 of Kirby's Justice Incorporated #2 from 1975......it's the same train with the same POV shot, but no Mister Miracle this time.

Kid said...

Took a look, B - it's not exactly the same train, but a similar 'type'. though it's a bit more realistic-looking (as in looks like a train). Still not a great drawing as it's a little off-kilter.

Fantastic Four follower said...

Artwork decline in Comic Artists varies but I think Ditko and Kirby declined dramatically in the 70s.Adams has still retained his basic style(with the exception of the awful colouring that he insists on doing,though he is nowhere near his 1968-1973 prime when he was the greatest comic artist in the world!!!Gene Colan did not deteriorate dramatically whereas Don Heck did.Steranko and Smith still retain style but again it's 50 years since their heyday!

Kid said...

I wasn't too keen on Adams' Supermen mags, Triple F, as his art looked a bit sketchy to me. Colan had serious eye problems and I'd say his art did decline for a good while as a result of that, but he had an eye operation in later years and his work improved enormously. As for Ditko, I can hardly look at his later 'preachy' stuff - truly dreadful.

McSCOTTY said...

You can certainly still see hints of the "Adams genius" in some of his new work but for me (as an BIG Adams fan) there are too many standard Adams poses in his books (lets forget some of his storylines) and as Kid says its very sketchy at times - saying htat his recent FF comic was very nice in places. For me John Severin, Joe Kubert and Alex Toth all kept a very high standard of art right until the end. Ditkos last comics were indeed dreadful.

Kid said...

I'll have to track down that FF ish, McS - I haven't seen it so far. Is the story okay? I don't know what Ditko was thinking with some of his later stuff. There were stylistic similarities to his earlier work, but comparing Spider-Man and Doctor Strange (and his Warren work) with the Rand-inspired stuff - well, it was night and day, wasn't it?

McSCOTTY said...

Adams FF was a 4 issue limited series (Fantastic Four - Antithesis) its not written by Adams but by Mark Waid so better than normal. I enjoyed it as it was like an early 1970s FF comic (though not a Kirby classic). Adams art is really good in places but again there is a bit of an over reliance on those Neal Adams facial grimaces with clenched jaws and bared teeth etc. The inking is a bit "thick" (that's as technical as I get) and the Thing in some places looks a bit strange - but overall it was fun read and a one of the few comics I actually read in recent years as opposed to just skimming though the pages. I think 4 issues was enough though.

Fantastic Four follower said...

Night and day is being kind Kid!However his 60s Marvel work was just incredible!

Kid said...

It'll probably be issued as a collected edition, McS (if it hasn't been already), so I might get that if I see it. I couldn't swear to it, but I don't think Adams has ever drawn the FF in their own mag before, has he? Just guest spots in other mags.

******

Best thing he ever did, Triple F, along with the Warren work.

McSCOTTY said...

Pretty certain he only drew the FF in the Avengers etc but never an actual FF comic until now. Ditko in the 60s was simply brilliant - I love his small 3-5 page monster/mystery stories and Spidey of course.

Kid said...

Yeah, '50s and '60s, totally terrific. Loved Dr. Strange as well. '70s onwards, his art went from mediocre to rubbish. What a transformation, what a shame.

Fantastic Four follower said...

Just a thought on late 70s Ditko. He did a Hulk issue #249(I think) about jack frost or ice warriors which was very good and also a filler issue of Daredevil in the Miller run #162 which again kind of rolled back the years. Perhaps the inkers helped but regardless they look good.

Kid said...

Ooooh, I'd have to disagree with you there, Triple F. The Daredevil fill-in (right after Miller's Born Again) was dreadful I thought, and I wasn't impressed at all by the Hulk mag either. Nowhere near the standard of his earlier work. But if you like 'em, you like 'em.

Dave S said...

Ditko drew some stuff for Valiant Comics in the 90s that I remember as being pretty good and (at the time) quite modern looking while still having a distinctly Ditkoish look.

Kid said...

I bought Ditko's Speedball by Marvel and thought it was almost a return to form, DS. Years later though, I saw stats of his pencils for it and realised that the inker was responsible for diluting Ditko's cartoony style and toning down the excesses. Maybe it was the same with the Valiant comics?

Dave S said...

From memory, it might have been Brett Breeding who inked Speedball. He was an inker who tended to do finishes over pencil breakdowns, so he may well have "polished up" Ditko's art, maybe to fit the Marvel home-style at the time.

Kid said...

I think Jackson Guice (if I've got his name right) also inked some issues, DS. What a difference he made when compared to the stats of Ditko's pencils.

Dave S said...

Actually I think you're correct and I've misremembered. Good artist though, Guice. One of those pencilers whose style evolved over the years and kept pace with newer artists. I think he is still working in comics now.

Kid said...

I know Guice did some issues, but I don't think he did all of them. My Speedballs are in a filing cabinet next to me, but I can't be bothered digging through it to check. I did a post on Speedball once, so maybe the info is in that.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...