Special Edition Podcast

Booksplode #37 – New Gods by Jack Kirby

Show Notes

Thanks to our awesome Patrons, we’re proud to present another Booksplode!

What’s a Booksplode? It’s a bi-monthly special edition show in which we take a look at a single graphic novel or collected edition, something we really just don’t have time to do on the regular show.

This month, Josh Flanagan and Conor Kilpatrick take a look at New Gods by Jack Kirby by Jack Kirby, Mike Royer, Vince Colletta, D. Bruce Berry, Don Heck, & Greg Theakston!

Running Time: 00:54:14

Music:
“Immigrant Song”
Led Zeppelin

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Comments

  1. I think there is a tendency to look for a drop off when an artist gets older.
    I’ve hear it critiqued here often from everyone from Kevin Conroy (which was said almost 8 years ago) to Jack Kirby listening here.
    If you can legitimately show me where Jack’s art “got worse” I would love to see that diagram.
    Carmen Herrrera, Kandinsky, DaVinci, Mark Rothko, Frank Lloyd-Wright all created some of their best work in their 50-60’s and beyond that.
    And in Kirby’s case at a volume that double or tripled most modern day artists who can’t seem to manage one monthly book on time.
    Look I’m not saying it doesn’t happen but some actually get better and don’t fall to pieces.
    Jack Kirby at 55 is virtually any comic book artist today at 30.

    • First…Bravo for a Carmen Herrera name drop. You had to pass by Frank Stella, Ellsworth Kelly, Josef Albers, Victor Vasarely and Bridget Riley to land on that one, unless art history classes highlight different artists now since a couple decades back.

      I would say, in reality, it’s more nuanced than any binary (good/bad) mindset would make it and the comparison to the artists you mentioned is not straightforward.

      Most of the mentioned artists forged a new aspect of art in their 30s, then proceeded to investigate that same newly discovered aspect for the remainder of their careers, instead of continually inventing even more new aspects. The result was those artists making some of the best versions of their work later in their lives. Like one honing a craft of their own making, but resulting in a practice that may seem repetitive and limiting. (Artists who spent careers in continuous reinvention would be more like David Hockney or Bruce Nauman)

      Kirby, as an illustrator, relies more on eye hand coordination and technical proficiency, which can diminish with age. Also the actual Kirby hand is obscured by his reliance on inkers, who influence the finished work, making it difficult to judge accurately.

      My observation would be that the subtlety and variation in Kirby diminished over time, as he relied on previously invented techniques all the while his creativity blossomed, but that it depends upon the comic and the page and the panel.

      Kirby’s creativity and inventiveness surely did not diminish in his later years (submit evidence: Marvel Treasury Edition of 2001 A Space Odyssey; just pandemic-splurged an original copy and it’s amazing, a must own) However, also on evidence are his reliance on techniques invented years prior (people become more blocky and similarly shaped, including heads, body types and facial expressions; reuses story telling techniques e.g. the canted close up shot of the eyes, foreshortened figures falling in into corner of panel)

      I’d love to be on topic and detail his New Gods work, but I library read it last summer and, boys, I empathize, as it was touch and go to finish the book by the due date, so I don’t have it handy to flip refresh through.

      So, of course.
      Of course, people are still vital and creative in their 50s and 60s and beyond.
      Of course people rely on established techniques to create (especially in a production medium) as it’s difficult create new artistic world views constantly.
      Of course an accurate assessment of Kirby’s work is difficult due to his collaborators
      Of course the New Gods are worth reading.
      And of course I wrote an indulgent too long didn’t read post.

    • In the context of this book (New Gods collected edition by Jack Kirby) the artwork falls off after page 289. It’s noticably less detailed. It’s still very good, but it’s not prime Kirby, hence it “got worse.” If you have this collection you can actually see it. It’s not a knock on Kirby nor the work, it’s just a thing that’s noticable.

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