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  • 3 weeks 2 days ago | DougDowning
    DougDowning's picture

    Not to inflame an old argument, but I think the original credit on this was bogus. It would make a heck of a lot more sense to assume Royer as a default; otherwise, I think it's gotta be Verpoorten.

    I see no signs of Frank Giacoia's hand in this. Everything I've seen of his work on Kirby's Captain America in the mid ’70s and even in the ’60s has a distinct visual style. He honors Kirby's blocky figures and bold use of blacks, but he tends to make the figures look flat and two-dimensional, reducing them to marks on a page. His textures have a rough-hewn quality, often coming across as disorganized and labored. He frequently favors the pen over the brush, inking lines of uniform thickness. (I consider him the 'anti-John Verpoorten', whose brush-intensive style appears elegant, smooth, fast and effortless.) Giacoia's inking is not an altogether bad style for Kirby, but it's not my favorite by a long shot. And maybe I'm pigeonholing him, but this is how I've come to identify his work.

    In particular, look at the ‘squiggles’; they're way too tight and precise. This whole thing is ‘squiggle city’. We wouldn't be feeling them to this degree if Giacoia had been inking. Likewise, the wrinkles and folds in the soldiers' clothing seem too organized. Try comparing this to the cover of 2001: A Space Odyssey #9 (assuming the Giacoia credit there is accurate). The squiggles do not look the same: There's a looseness there, or lack of precision and detail, where it appears as if a single brushstroke is being used, creating a more uniform thickness.

    I admit I find it hard to pinpoint Royer's style, but there seems to be a facile smoothness to it—integrating both brush and pen, as he breaks down Jack's shapes or gestures into their individually inkable components—that feels like a possible match to this cover, and Royer was handling so much of Jack's work at this stage. But the more I look at this, the more I think it could easily be Verpoorten's work. I can't confidently say either way. (And, of course, if it's Verpoorten, then yes, Giacoia may have been involved to some degree, too. The key is: It doesn't look like a Giacoia ink job, so it was either co-inked by Verpoorten, or the original credit was a mistake.)

    I have to confess, I'm not used to ‘zooming in’ to a high level of detail. The more I do this, the more disoriented I get (which is why I'm backpeddling a bit, as I go). I'm going primarily with my gut reaction to the artwork at publication size.

  • 3 weeks 3 days ago | DougDowning
    DougDowning's picture

    The "bi-monthly" thing made me wonder if Marvel were on the cusp of reducing the frequency of publication, as a way to lower costs and give the comic more time to build an audience. If so, there might have been other considerations, such as Kirby's contract (with a specific # of books or pages per month) or their own publishing and distribution agendas, that kept it as a monthly. Then again, perhaps an easily alterable "bi-monthly"/"monthly" indicia was simply a matter of routine at that time; I have no idea.

  • 4 weeks 1 day ago | John S.
    John S.'s picture

    Interesting. For sure the indicia variations existed because of the exact reason you point out, Doug: so the production department could make any necessary changes on an issue-to-issue basis without having to re-set the whole thing each time.

    Looking at the back of the page again, I'd say you're correct about the image being that of the original lettering illuminated by the scanner light as opposed to being a graphite impression. That definitely makes more sense.

    The problem with the series going a little off after #13 has been discussed many times, both here and on a number of Kirby Facebook pages. Obviously Jack buckled somewhat to the demands of the Marvel editors in New York and the results were harmful to both the quality of the stories and the sales of the magazine itself. Having said that, I still think the subsequent material was far better than what we were getting in any non-Kirby comics of the time; it just wasn't quite up to the towering standards set in the first thirteen issues. But there's no denying, for example, that Dromedan was a very cool villain and that the two final issues had a really solid, entertaining storyline.

  • 4 weeks 2 days ago | DougDowning
    DougDowning's picture

    Oh my gosh, there are actually multiple corrections to the indicia. In the published comic, the prefix "bi-" was covered so that it reads "Published monthly". Even the copyright date looks like its last digit was handwritten, as if it had been corrected to "7" and then changed back to "6". I also notice there's a built-in gap around the issue date, apparently to allow room to change this monthly without having to reset the entire indicia.

    (Incidentally, the "bi-monthly" correction gap starts around issue #4 and then closes in issue #9. Prior to that, in issue #3, there was a widening of the indicia and a gap on both sides of the frequency, as if to allow for correction. In #9-11, the gap persists, but occurring after the frequency. Finally, in issue #12, it tightens up fully, with no gap. Not sure why we need to know this, or if we do, but there it is.)

    Also, it occurred to me: It's not actually graphite that reveals the original misspelled title, but the strength of the black ink, illuminated by the scanner light (possibly aided by bleed-through). Unless Royer's board was covered in graphite, the paper wouldn't tend to pick up impressions from his inking.

    I just recently read this whole series for the first time, and this issue stood out to me as a particularly good one. I enjoyed being brought back to the characters stranded at the temple (Ajak and Doctor Damian) and learning that Celestials can convert beings into capsule form, as stored atoms. A fun concept. My favorite aspect of the series are concepts like this, doled out on a need-to-know basis, plus Kirby's talent for juggling multiple characters, settings, and plot strands. It works well up through issue #13 (The Astronauts), after which the book gets kind of squeezed into the mold of a standard superhero title and loses its unique storytelling fizz.

  • 5 weeks 1 day ago | John S.
    John S.'s picture

    Good observation, Doug. I agree with your assessment. The graphite impression on the back of the page definitely says "FOUTH", not "FOURTH"; so that must be the answer to Patrick's question. I also agree with your analysis of the lettering styles, which suit the art perfectly.

    The other typo is on page 22, panel 2, where it's spelled "FORTH".

    I noticed another mistake on this page which was corrected in time for the printed version. The indicia says "January, 1976 issue"; but in the actual comic it shows 1977, as it should. It looks like someone went in and changed it manually before it went to press, although there's no trace of the change showing here. But forget the bonus points. I want a No-Prize for all this eye strain!

    Looking at this issue again made me remember why I loved it so much when it first came out, about forty years ago. Has it really been that long? I guess that means we're only about ten years away from final judgement by the Fourth Host. Let's hope we pass the test!

  • 6 weeks 26 min ago | DougDowning
    DougDowning's picture

    Good eye! If I'm reading it correctly, the original was misspelled as "FOUTH", hence the paste-up. (Bonus points if you can spot another 'Fourth Host' typo elsewhere in this issue. Drove me nuts, as it was already a heady passage without a homophone mix-up adding to the confusion.)

    I think the style variations, like drop shadow, are used to help differentiate each word and make the title more readable—especially when words are squished together, as above—as well as to make the display type more visually interesting. In the comic, the words are also colored differently, adding to the effect. The same technique can be seen on the last page of this same issue (for the teaser to the next issue, 'City of the Toads').

  • 17 weeks 4 days ago | Krackles
    Krackles's picture

    … Will it bring some new art?

  • 44 weeks 2 days ago | Erik Larsen
    Erik Larsen's picture

    The redlines were done BEFORE the coloring and used as a guide to indicate where highlights belonged. The red lines were removed for print.

  • 51 weeks 5 days ago | John S.
    John S.'s picture

    Kirby's story of the Panther and the Collectors, which ran from issue 1 through issue 7 of this series, was unquestionably the best Black Panther story arc ever written. Princess Zanda and Mr. Little were superb supporting characters and the entire adventure was loaded with imagination and excitement from beginning to end.

    I sometimes wonder if the idea for the super-avaricious Collectors was inspired by Kirby's observations of comic book fans and their often unhealthy collecting mania, which was already extreme in those days and has only grown worse in the ensuing years.

  • 1 year 1 week ago | Mike T
    Mike T's picture

    IMO, the sculpture of the Thing foreshadows the look he attained in the Coletta and Sinnott years. Elsewhere is evidence that even during the Ayers period, Jack drew the Thing's skin more as rocky plates than as the lumpy clay look we see after inking for most of the first 4-5 years. I'm curious as to why Chic didn't ink the Thing more like this, and how much of that is attributable to the way Jack might have drawn him in those days.

  • 1 year 13 weeks ago | Krackles
    Krackles's picture

    As interesting as any Kirby's stories could be (nothing much to argue against this statement, isn't it?) he was trying to break new ground by digging a tiny niche inside a genre that wasn't in fashion anymore. I don't foresee a long future for a comic that relies on such a narrow concept. On the other end, yes it could have been interesting to address this subject matter in an anthology comic magazine or within other genres.

    As for DC, they lured Kirby away from Marvel hoping to repeat his success at the House of Jack's ideas.
    They probably merely wanted instant hits with new superheroes comics!

    No wonder they didn't seem to care for Jack's ideas to expand comics format and genres outside the superheroes.

  • 1 year 14 weeks ago | John S.
    John S.'s picture

    If a publisher wants to break new ground, he has to try new things. That's what Simon and Kirby did for Crestwood in the late forties with YOUNG ROMANCE, and romance subsequently became the best-selling genre in all of comics. But by the early seventies, its popularity had faded greatly and part of the reason was because no one had ever tried to expand the genre beyond the types of stories they had been doing twenty years prior. With this magazine and its (also unpublished) companion, SOUL LOVE, Kirby was trying to do just that. He should have been given the opportunity.

    As far as the editorial direction of Kirby's black-and-white magazines was concerned, I've always been of the opinion that there should have been just one magazine, published in an ongoing anthology format, in order to accommodate all the different ideas Kirby wanted to explore. In that way, each issue could have been devoted to a different theme. So, for example, we could have had an issue of gangsters, followed by an issue of mystery/horror stories, followed by an issue of romance, followed by an issue of sword and sorcery, followed by an issue of science fiction, or whatever Jack felt like doing. And he would have had the freedom to revisit any of those concepts any time his mood, or the sales, dictated it. Since the two published mags were promoted as part of a larger "Speak Out!" series, I think that actually would have been a great title for DC to use for such an ongoing anthology publication: SPEAK OUT! Magazine.

    I realize this is all relatively unimportant now, since it's all past history and what's done is done; but I really believe Kirby's ideas for magazine-format comics would have been far more successful if DC had been more willing to stand behind his efforts.

  • 1 year 14 weeks ago | Krackles
    Krackles's picture

    At least we know that Klarion's physical appearance is based on one of Kirby's fans.

  • 1 year 14 weeks ago | Krackles
    Krackles's picture

    John, let's not deprive Infantino of some business practices credit. His catholic background might have played a role but I believe, business wise, he saw in Kirby's concept a major flaw: It's a niche inside the romance niche market with a very narrow potential readership. Is it so surprising that DC Comics, a major publisher, didn't bother to give a try?

    As for diversity and mature reading, I come from a place where the superheroe genre (and market dominance in USA) is still seen as an oddity, at best. As much as I trust Kirby's ability to craft many great stories out of this subject matter, it could have benefitted from a broader scope and a wider audience!

    If I were Kirby's editor, I would try first to help him maximise his creation's market potential; working from inside, Kirby could have touched on more mature subjects within other genres.

    Why confine this subject in a niche? What's wrong with adventures? (By the way, speaking of adventures, I wasn't pointing at superheroes)
    What's wrong in using more successful genres as a springboard and get a chance to push the enveloppe?

  • 1 year 15 weeks ago | John S.
    John S.'s picture

    One of the techniques Kirby used for creating the Demon series was to do take-offs on popular movie monsters and use them as antagonists for Jason Blood and Etrigan. For example, in issue 6 we had the Howler, who was Jack's version of the Wolfman; in issues 8 to 10 we had the Phantom of the Sewers, who was Jack's version of the Phantom of the Opera; and in issues 11 through 13 we had the Baron Von Evilstein story, which was another of Jack's versions of Frankenstein.

    Since I didn't read the Witchboy issues until the early nineties, I was under the impression that Klarion was Kirby's version of Damien from THE OMEN. But when I went back and checked the dates, I discovered that film wasn't released until June 1976, about three and a half years after Klarion's first appearance in DEMON #7. So, while I understand Witchboy's physical appearance was based on Kirby fan Barry Alfonso, it remains a mystery as to just where Jack got the inspiration for this superbly devilish character. And who knows, considering the similarities, it's even possible the creators of THE OMEN were inspired by Kirby's Demon/Witchboy stories!

  • 1 year 15 weeks ago | John S.
    John S.'s picture

    I mean, I agree that Infantino's Catholic background must have been what prompted him to reject the magazine, but I certainly don't think Kirby should have put it aside in favor of still more action/adventure stories. I love superheroes as much as anyone, but there were already enough of those and not nearly enough of other genres -- particularly something like this, which had never before been explored in such an interesting and sensitive fashion in comics.

    Kirby was the King of ALL genres of comics, including romance, and the stories in this magazine were particularly mature and well-crafted, so I think they definitely should have been published and not to do so was yet another lost opportunity to push the medium forward. One of the problems with American comics (unlike Japanese and European comics) is the overemphasis on superheroes, to the exclusion of nearly everything else -- and it's one of the reasons American comics are now selling so badly.

    If comics are ever going to grow up, they need to embrace more mature subject matter handled in a more mature fashion -- which this issue would have done, without sacrificing any of the drama the audience had come to expect from creators like Kirby. And again, I'm not knocking superheroes, I'm just saying that comics are capable of telling other types of stories just as well -- particularly when they're done by talented people. Like they say, variety is the spice of life, and the fact is that in the late forties and early fifties, when American comics had the most variety in terms of subject matter, they also had their best sales EVER.

    It's interesting to speculate what would have happened if Kirby had presented this magazine to Martin Goodman instead of DC. Knowing Goodman's penchant for publishing sensationalistic material, I'm quite certain he would have accepted it in a heartbeat. In fact, I'd be willing to bet his only objection would be that the stories weren't nearly sleazy enough!

  • 1 year 15 weeks ago | Krackles
    Krackles's picture

    Come on, Tom!
    Let's give your august audience some gutsy art to drool over… It's been more than one year already that you put us on diet.

  • 1 year 15 weeks ago | Krackles
    Krackles's picture

    One could guess that Carmine's catholic italian ascendance may have influenced his decision?
    Despite Kirby's interesting handling of the subject, I'm not fond of the concept and I'm glad Carmine didn't give a go for it because I'd rather get more action/adventures packed stories from Kirby!

  • 1 year 15 weeks ago | Krackles
    Krackles's picture

    Meanwhile… Tom and Randy are sleeping on the job?

    For the sake of Giacoia, wake up you lazy procrastinators!

  • 1 year 16 weeks ago | John S.
    John S.'s picture

    …and it wasn't meant to be hung on a wall. It was meant to be the Contents Page of a magazine. I'm still a bit surprised by Carmine Infantino's decision not to publish this magazine, based on moral objections, and I really have to wonder if he even read the stories it contained. While it's true that divorce was a controversial topic at the time (and still is to some degree), I think Kirby's handling of the subject matter was exceptionally objective and mature in these stories and deserved to be seen.

  • 1 year 17 weeks ago | John S.
    John S.'s picture

    Merci mon ami!

  • 1 year 17 weeks ago | Krackles
    Krackles's picture

    I agree with Jostlin' John, that's Frank Fearless brushwork.
    Good catch!

  • 1 year 17 weeks ago | John S.
    John S.'s picture

    …the cover date was clearly September 1976, not July, as listed in the sidebar. Also, this cover was inked by Frank Giacoia, not Johnny Verpoorten. Just sayin'.

  • 1 year 44 weeks ago | Krackles
    Krackles's picture

    Are you kidding us, Lee working for free?
    He was too busy grabbing money out of his artist's plots and story developments.

  • 1 year 45 weeks ago | Krackles
    Krackles's picture

    Waittaminit, did you really believe borrowing one of my favorite lines would go unnoticed?
    Don't try again to steal the old chicken-scratching routine from the rightfully entitled Scratchletta!