Friday, June 6, 2014

The Art Of The New Gods!


There will never be another creator in comics the equal of Jack "The King" Kirby. The influence of this small soft-spoken Brooklyn-born comic book artist resonates on almost any page of any modern comic you might care to peruse. Kirby is properly given kudos for his work with Joe Simon and Stan Lee, but for pure unadulterated Kirby the first stop is "The Fourth World" and the nexus of that is New Gods.

I can still remember seeing the debut issue of New Gods sitting in the top rung of a classic comic book spinner rack at the local drug store. The logo yelled across the old wooden floors, and the pronouncement that "Kirby is Here!" was all the coaxing I needed. I was a young "Marvelite", but was just at the stage of expanding my horizons when I discovered "The Fourth World".

It blew my mind. I won't pretend I "grokked" it all at the time. I was confused by the sundry super-Hippes, the Forever People. I was unclear whether it was pronounced "Darkseed" or "Darkside", but either seemed highly suggetive. The social commentary inherent in characters like Glorious Godfrey eluded me originally. The Dickensian spirit of Granny Goodness was hidden. And to be totally honest, I never quite got exactly what the "Anti-Life Equation" was. I should've but I didn't...not really.

And maybe the fact that despite my limited understanding of Kirby's opus it still was fundamentally compelling is what makes it resonate in my imagination and memory all these decades since. Coming at the saga as an adult I can glean depth of meaning which eluded my naive boyish self. I can find themes and understanding where before I only sought adventure and excitement. That's the allure of real literature, that's the allure of Kirby's "Fourth World".

And now I've been given the chance (actually I paid rather dear for it to be honest) to read much of the core New Gods saga in the original manuscript, or at least as close to it as we're ever going to come. IDW Publishing has issue six of the first eight issues of New Gods (see below for the issues included) in their "Artist's Edition" format and we have these stories again.

Included with the stories are numerous pages filled with ad art, promos, commissions, and capped by fold-out color images of Metron and Lightray, the images Kirby produced in anticipation of this project. Utterly fabulous. Some of the artwork is inked by the unfairly maligned Vince Colletta and the rest by the great Mike Royer, who adds an afterword to the volume.

I treated myself to this in anticipation of the anniversary of my birth. At 57 now,  I keep getting older, but Kirby's elegant and awesome creation only gets sweeter and richer with time.







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6 comments:

  1. I love your passion for this material, Rip! I am excited about several of these Artist's Editions (not just Kirby's). I only wish the price point was lower!

    Doug

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    1. This is the only one of these I'll likely pop for. It's a special case. I was so excited by the purchase though that I've just finished reading the Fourth World series yet again and those reviews will be appearing over the next few days.

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  2. This looks great! The more I see Royer's inks on Kirby, the more I think he may be the best inker Kirby ever had. I have Kubert's Tarzan in the Artist Edition--they're expensive, but a real treat!

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    1. I personally feel Vince Colletta did a better job on Kirby's cosmic stuff, but I generally love Royer on lots of Kirby from this period. Recently read the originally unpublished "Murder Inc." story in "In the Days of the Mob" and Royer's inks are fabulous.

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  3. I agree with the online criticism that the subtlety of the ink tones was lost, or at least muted by the production on this. And I wish they'd just gone to Kirby originals instead of those funky chapter break blow-ups. If the original covers were not available, then some of the New Gods paintings or pencils that were elsewhere in the book.
    But having said that, this is still a book worth having for the Kirby fan and may be his best work. I've often thought that unadulterated Kirby is beyond the limits of the vision of conventional comics, then and now. There's a reason so many of his pages worked so well as black light posters. Considering the time frame, had the double-sized Silver Surfer comic been given to Kirby rather than Lee and Buscema, it probably would have had a huge impact on pop culture, rather than withering away before our eyes as it did.

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    1. Possible. I'm a big fan of what Stan and Big John did with the Surfer, though it's a far cry from what Kirby might've done. Your points on the lack of cover images is well taken.

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