Btoom! Kirby vs. Lee (2)

By: Rob Steibel
June 29, 2011

Fantastic Four Page 3, panel 2 (published)

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Fantastic Four Page 3, panel 2 (original art)

I think Kirby’s directions are fairly simple here because the image is self-explanatory: “He shoots up so fast, Blastaar’s shot misses him.”

Then, in the top left-hand corner, Lee’s production note in the circle says, “Space between the two balloons.”

[HiLobrow recently published a series of 25 posts, by 25 authors, each analyzing a single panel from a Jack Kirby-drawn comic book. That series was followed by additional Kirby exegetical commentaries, of which this series of five posts by Rob Steibel is the final example. Series intro here.]

You can see someone made a stat of the original artwork, then pasted the original second dialogue balloon lower on the image. Lee may have felt there was too much blank space above the character Blastaar, and this revision made the image more balanced. Look at how perfect each one of Joe Sinnott’s straight-edge lines are throughout the entire image, but whoever made the change inserted the roof of a building over the second dialogue balloon which is somewhat wavy. Certainly not something a kid reading this comic book would ever notice, but still an interesting glimpse into the step-by-step process taking place.

On the right hand side of the page, Lee wrote a note to a member of his production staff, Sol Brodsky. The note says: “Sol, explosion comes from his fingertips! See pg 15/2.”

If you look closely at the artwork, you can see someone used white-out to obscure the area over and under Blastaar’s arm, probably to get rid of some Kirby/Sinnott crackle or the depiction of an energy blast. Lee writes in the margins in the second circle, “More speed lines,” which you can clearly see were added to the image because they are fairly shaky, once again, much different than Sinnott’s impeccable line-work.

In many respects, none of these little changes make a difference. This is one of my favorite images from the Kirby/Sinnott Fantastic Four series — I love the visual look of the character Blastaar shooting powerful bursts of energy from his fingertips, and the resulting mix of speed lines, Kirby debris, and famous Kirby/Sinnott crackle that visually represents the impact — so it could be argued that Stan Lee’s changes actually help the composition and make the image more powerful. Plus, as editor, Lee is focused on continuity: he wants the characters to behave in a relatively consistent and easily recognizable fashion. So, although the editorial changes seem like nit-picks on one level, I think this panel is a great example of how the Kirby/Lee/Sinnott collaboration worked very well.

I wonder if Lee was the one who inserted the sound effects. Obviously they were inked by Rosen in this book, and you can see traces of blue-line pencil underneath, so they may all be Stan’s idea. I don’t know about other readers but I never even noticed the sound effects as a kid. I wonder if some readers do actually read that “BTOOM!” text, or it simply serves as a visual element that Lee felt gave the page more of a wallop.

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CHECK OUT “Cosmic Debris: Kirby in the ’70s,” a series that ran in tandem with “Kirb Your Enthusiasm” at the 4CP gallery of comic book details | Kirby cutaways and diagrams collected at the Comic Book Cartography gallery | Joe Alterio’s Cablegate Comix and HiLobrow posts about comics and cartoonists, and science fiction | The Jack Kirby Chronology | scans of rare 1940-50s Kirby comics at the Digital Comic Museum

KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM: Douglas Rushkoff on THE ETERNALS | John Hilgart on BLACK MAGIC | Gary Panter on DEMON | Dan Nadel on OMAC | Deb Chachra on CAPTAIN AMERICA | Mark Frauenfelder on KAMANDI | Jason Grote on MACHINE MAN | Ben Greenman on SANDMAN | Annie Nocenti on THE X-MEN | Greg Rowland on THE FANTASTIC FOUR | Joshua Glenn on TALES TO ASTONISH | Lynn Peril on YOUNG LOVE | Jim Shepard on STRANGE TALES | David Smay on MISTER MIRACLE | Joe Alterio on BLACK PANTHER | Sean Howe on THOR | Mark Newgarden on JIMMY OLSEN | Dean Haspiel on DEVIL DINOSAUR | Matthew Specktor on THE AVENGERS | Terese Svoboda on TALES OF SUSPENSE | Matthew Wells on THE NEW GODS | Toni Schlesinger on REAL CLUE | Josh Kramer on THE FOREVER PEOPLE | Glen David Gold on JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY | Douglas Wolk on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY | MORE EXEGETICAL COMMENTARIES: Joshua Glenn on Kirby’s Radium Age Sci-Fi Influences | Chris Lanier on Kirby vs. Kubrick | Scott Edelman recalls when the FF walked among us | Adam McGovern is haunted by a panel from THE NEW GODS | Matt Seneca studies the sensuality of Kirby’s women | Btoom! Rob Steibel settles the Jack Kirby vs. Stan Lee question | Galactus Lives! Rob Steibel analyzes a single Kirby panel in six posts | Danny Fingeroth figgers out The Thing | Adam McGovern on four decades (so far) of Kirby’s “Fourth World” mythos | Jack Kirby: Anti-Fascist Pipe Smoker | BTOOM! Kirby vs. Lee, by Rob Steibel

SIMILAR HILOBROW SERIES: SECRET PANEL —Silver Age comics’ double entendres | SKRULLICISM

What do you think?

  1. It’s amazing (to me at least) how clear and sharp the images of the originals are compared to the muddy colors of the finished comic books. Having said that I still prefer the old style comics over the cleaner, photoshopped type that are being published today. Brings back childhood memories I guess… Great series!

  2. Another effect of separating Blastaar’s two word balloons is to create a visual gap in time between his first statement (basically, “I’ve got you now!”) and the second (“Darn—you got away!”).

    It’s also notable how Sinnott and the colorist cleared space around Triton’s head in the busy background.

  3. As a kid, I *did* read the sound effect words, often out loud. I always appreciated the ones that managed to convey some sense of time unfolding within the sound, like this “BUH” that precedes the”TOOM!” Neither one syllable nor two.

  4. Hi Steve.

    Thanks for checking out the article.

    Steve wrote: “It’s amazing (to me at least) how clear and sharp the images of the originals are compared to the muddy colors of the finished comic books.”

    Me too. I’ve only seen a handful of Jack’s originals up close — but in my opinion, the scans don’t capture how spectacular these originals look when you can look at them in person.

    A guy named Tom Kraft has a website called whatifkirby.com where he’s beginning the daunting task of trying to collect HQ scans of Jack’s original art. Hard to do since so many Kirby originals have been scattered to the winds, are in private collections, or are in some cases exchanged on the comics art collecting underground since their provenance is questionable.

    Maybe after the Disney-Marvel vs. Kirby lawsuit is over, Disney-Marvel might consider reprinting some of Jack’s stories at their original size using photographs taken from his originals, with margin notes intact.

  5. J. L. Bell writes: “Another effect of separating Blastaar’s two word balloons is to create a visual gap in time between his first statement (basically, “I’ve got you now!”) and the second (“Darn—you got away!”).”

    Excellent point.

  6. John Hilgart writes:

    “As a kid, I *did* read the sound effect words, often out loud.”

    Thanks for sharing that. It’s funny, analyzing that image may be the first time I ever really noticed a sound effect. I totally ignored them as a kid reading comics, focusing totally on the artwork itself. Shows how many times we all react to a piece featuring text/images in completely different ways.

    Thanks again to you all for the comments.

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