CURVE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (15)
August 13, 2023
One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of reconsidered passions, reassessed hates, and reversed feelings everywhere in-between. Series edited by Adam McGovern.
LEE & KIRBY or KIRBY & LEE
My love of comics began as a boy when my mother would bring them back for me from the local market. One in particular, Kamandi #35 by Jack Kirby, struck a chord which resonates to this day. Although it was a Spanish-translation Editorial Novaro version, under the heading of “Superman,” it filled me with wonder and horror simultaneously as the story graphically portrayed a mutated cosmonaut oozing out of his suit, reaching outwards. I wasn’t just seeing art but being immersed in this intense new universe. And while I did not understand the nuclear holocaust aspect of the book, the story struck me at an emotional level. Kamandi was my own first “exposure” to Jack Kirby’s work.
Years later, I found myself viewing Jack Kirby not as the talented artist many people believed. My assessment was that the Lee/Kirby grouping was always far too generous towards Jack “King” Kirby. I was under the impression that Stan “The Man” Lee was an uncontainable creative powerhouse. An intelligent man who sought out good artists to bring his ideas to life. Further, I felt Jack Kirby was fortunate to have been hand-picked by a genius.
As my love and appreciation for comics grew, my understanding of both men began to change. I saw a pattern to the storytelling in their separate works. After devouring Lee and Kirby together and apart, as all comics readers do on their journey of fandom, I saw a new reality. Kirby was the powerhouse and Lee, a marketing master, was Jack’s amusing editor.
Lee may have had some plotting input, but his main recurring contribution was editing Kirby’s text. Among the pages of one of Kirby’s pre-Marvel works, Challengers of the Unknown, I saw art and story talent which would be the foundation of the Marvel storytelling magic. The Challengers of the Unknown characterizations were oddly similar to those the Fantastic Four would later have, yet lacked all Lee involvement.
Later, Jack Kirby’s Fourth World line was the final key in unlocking my view of both men’s creative talents. It had in full display Jack’s gift for creating incredibly immersive worlds through words and pictures. I appreciated the artist, the creator, and learned to adore The King. The Fourth World’s tighter continuity, the sheer abundance of characters and the big concepts of opposing metaphysical dualities in these books not only affected how I saw both men, but how I saw comics as a powerful medium for storytelling.
Lee and Kirby, or Kirby and Lee, released their potential in a medium that could touch on any subject. Stan Lee’s contribution to comics can never be overstated. His marketing skills, visions of what comics could be and recognition of others’ talents made Marvel what it was. While his role cannot be ignored, it should not be elevated as the main creative force behind Marvel Comics. That rests on the shoulders of giants like Jack Kirby. Long Live the King!
CURVE YOUR ENTHUSIASM: INTRODUCTION by Adam McGovern | Tom Nealon on PIZZA PURISM | Holly Interlandi on BOY BANDS | Heather Quinlan on THE ’86 METS | Whitney Matheson on THE SMITHS | Bishakh Som on SUMMER | Jeff Lewonczyk on WHOLE BELLY CLAMS | Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons on HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER | Nikhil Singh on LOVE ISLAND UK | Adrienne Crew on CILANTRO | Adam McGovern on MISSING PERSONS | Art Wallace on UFOs | Fran Pado on LIVERWURST | Lynn Peril on ELTON JOHN’S GREATEST HITS | Marlon Stern Lopez on ADOLESCENT REBELLION | Juan Gonzalez on STAN & JACK or JACK & STAN | Christopher-Rashee Stevenson on BALTIMORE | Josh Glenn on FOOTLOOSE | Annie Nocenti on SIDEVIEW MIRROR | Mandy Keifetz on BREATHLESS | Brian Berger on HARRY CREWS | Ronald Wimberly on GAMING AND DATING | Michele Carlo on HERITAGE FOODS | Gabriela Pedranti on MADONNA | Ingrid Schorr on MAXFIELD PARRISH AND SUE LEWIN | Mariane Cara on ORANGE.
JACK KIRBY PANELS | CAPTAIN KIRK SCENES | OLD-SCHOOL HIP HOP | TYPEFACES | NEW WAVE | SQUADS | PUNK | NEO-NOIR MOVIES | COMICS | SCI-FI MOVIES | SIDEKICKS | CARTOONS | TV DEATHS | COUNTRY | PROTO-PUNK | METAL | & more enthusiasms!