Sunday, January 15, 2012

Embellishing The King - The Kirby Poll Results!


Not surprisingly, Joltin' Joe Sinnott won this little impromptu competition. He's clearly the main man when it comes to classic Kirby inkers, his brush giving a heft and depth to Kirby which had hitherto not been seen. The team of Kirby and Sinnott on the Fab 4 has yet to be topped after over forty years. He's a worthy winner indeed with 15 votes and 36% of the total.


Second was Mike Royer, the main man for Kirby after he left Marvel and struck out on his own at DC. Royer was brought in by Kirby after many objected to the work of Vince Colletta, the inker DC put on the King's work. Royer then became Kirby's go-to inker for the balance of his career, others stepping in only when Royer was unavailable. I'm not surprised at Royer's 11 votes and 26% of the total.


The third place winner is Wally Wood, an artist renowned for his own pencil work, but who brought a real shine and polish to Kirby's work in the relatively few times he inked the King on some issues of Challengers of the Unknown, Sky Masters, and a few Marvel covers. He brings home 6 votes and 14% of the total.


Fourth place is shared by two great artists. First is Dashing Don Heck, who inked Kirby very little, but always with great effect. Heck was Kirby's own choice to ink his work when he was shopping around the New Gods to publishers. Heck's career was a bumpy ride, especially at the end, and one only wonders what might have been had he and Kirby been able to work together more with his crisp edges. Heck had 2 votes for 4% of the total.


The other guy in fourth place is Wild Bill Everett, the Golden Age dynamo who created among others, the Sub-Mariner. Stan Lee was loyal to Everett in his later years and made a place for him in the Bullpen, often as an inker. When Everett inked Kirby it was all good as he brought a real brightness and energy to the King that only Royer would match in later years. Everett also had 2 votes also for 4%.

A gaggle of artists gleaned 1 vote apiece and 2% of the total vote.


Joe Simon got a single vote, and Kirby's original partner probably deserved more. But his influence on Kirby is often difficult to detect, but there's no doubt that the sum of the total of Simon & Kirby was more Simon that we suspect.


Darling Dick Ayers is the surprise on this poll to me. I thought this masterful artist and early Kirby inker of record in Marvel's early days would get a few more. His strong brushwork really gave weight and heft to Kirby's monsters and to his early FF work. Ayers was broken out as a pencil man in his own right after a few years, but early Marvel is defined by this tandem.


After Ayers, Chic Stone became the go-to inker for many Kirby epics at Marvel, giving an ethereal glow to much of the King's lofty work on Thor, the FF, and Avengers and more. Stone elevated the King's pencils in a way no other inker ever did, and brightened them immensely.


Vince Colletta is the guy who is hated by more Kirby fans than any single other fellow. Despite giving Kirby's pencils on Thor a rarified and other-worldly feeling suitable to the mythic context, he was derided for daring to erase some of the sacred Kirby's pencils. But this argument suggests an inker is just a glorified tracer and that's not the case. I argue (and I'm the guy who voted for him) that Colletta's choices often improve the clarity of Kirby's storytelling. Was he taking shortcuts, perhaps, but it's final product you have to judge, and the Kirby-Colletta team created some elegant artwork to my eye.


Bruce D. Berry is the inker who stepped in to take over when Mike Royer was called away from Kirby's DC work. Berry is a dandy inker, but I always found that while his finishes are well polished there's a lack of depth which sometimes minimizes the impact of many of the sequences. Berry though did a lot of great work for the King.

And alas some inkers got 0 votes and sadly 0% of the vote.


Frank Giacoia is probably the greatest Kirby inker to get no votes. Giacoia was apparently a strong personality, a guy with more talent than discipline if stories are to be believed, but his edgy lines gave a real clarity to Kirby's pencils, a power that few other inkers could match. Giacoia is one inker who seemed as strong at his game as Kirby was at his.


George Klein inked Kirby some, but little in the heyday of Marvel. His work on the King on Thor is mostly what I remember and it was warm and inviting stuff. He gave Kirby a real soft quality few other inkers could match. Klein died way too soon or perhaps he'd have done more great work with the King. Perhaps then he'd have gotten a vote.


George Roussos sometimes known by the name "George Bell" inked a bunch of Kirby's early work at Marvel and while I like his tough style, it's not surprising he's not a fan favorite, and frankly I'm not surprised he didn't get a vote.


But Syd Shores is another matter. Shores was a true pro who gave Kirby's work on Captain America a real shimmer no one else ever did. He was a strong stylist and there's not denying work that he did, not unlike Sinnott, Shores was not afraid of Kirby's pencils and really gave them a power. I was expecting a few votes for Shores to be honest.


Michael Thibodeaux was a later inker of the King, on some of his 80's projects and has taken some of the Kirby concepts and revised them for the modern reader. Thibodeaux does give the King a real lively look, but like many later inkers he seems intimidated by the work and doesn't quite know what to do in all instances. I'm not surprised he got no votes.

Thanks to everyone who took a moment to cast a vote in this utterly meaningless, but nonetheless fun poll. This has been far and away the most successful poll I've run here. These things don't prove anything really most of the time, but hopefully they give us something to talk about and if perchance an eye has been opened it's all been well worth it.

Thanks again.

Rip Off


  1. I don't think it's entirely accurate to say that Colletta was taken off Kirby's DC books because many people objected to him. His bad rep amongst certain sections of fandom didn't really come about 'til later. Rather, it was Mark Evanier and Steve Sherman who seem to have been the primary influence in getting Vince jettisoned.

    In fact, initially, there was a fair bit of resistance to Mike Royer taking over - it took some fans a while to accept him.

  2. I didn't mean to suggest that DC was getting letters about it. I doubt that, but you're right taht the objections from Evanier and Sherman sure played a part, and I have to think their opinions did reflect some larger feeling about Colletta's effect on Kirby.

    I disagree with that assessment, by the way.

    Rip Off

  3. Glad Joltin' Joe very deservedly won.

    Was never a fan of Vince Colletta. I can see your point about his inks giving Kirby's Thor work an "other-worldly" quality, but, in general, thought that he made Jack's art look somehow "dried out". Even felt that as a kid in the 1960's, reading them for the first time.

    Thanks for the fun poll.


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