Jack Kirby's pencils

11 replies [Last post]
kctobyjoe's picture
Joined: December 24, 2012

I am STILL confused and I figure most of you here are seasoned informed members and know from what you speak

I KNOW Bristol board was the medium of choice for pencillers

Anyone know what # pencil they used? HB or ???

I know there was this photo machine which shrunk down the pages to printable stat pages; did the *inkers* do the bristol board FIRST and then it was 'shrunk' to these stat pages? I see some of the stat pages appear to be inked DIRECTLY and for SURE there is cut and paste depending on what it is a splash page; cover etc...
I say that because of my next statement and SOME experience using these inks; their dried appearance is unmistakable to one who used them

As a pre-CAD draftsman in one of my career 'jobs' we used **India Ink** for inking some stuff such as Warning or Caution labels or just plain text...using the Le-Roy lettering template system...prior to Auto CAD and other PC based drawing tools. Is this the same ink of choice that the inkers used or was it something altogether different?

If this is mundane anyone with a URL on how all this is done is a welcome to post it for me!

I won't be insulted ;-)))

kctobyjoe's picture
Joined: December 24, 2012

i kinda get it now I suppose; you can have either format 'exist' prior it going to the printer

DUMB question is Royer and Berry 'still with us' ?

Did Kirby ever concern himself with smearing of the pencils...could someone answer (even IF I ASKED already) what number pencil he did use?

Since I worked on VELLUM (on the board) an HB pencil for example was EASY to smear; any number beyond an H were harder and at like 6Hh SCRIBED into the paper; HB softest I believe then H; 2H ; 3H etc...

Were he drawing on mylar and I don't think ANYONE ever did; the B designation kicks in...
HB softer and easier to smudge; etc (Dunno if ever an H for 'plastic led) as I called i t to draw on mylar
2B; 3B; 4B; etc...
I don't recall a SPECIAL designation for an HB 'plastic lead' as *I*called it...
You just kinda' KNEW

Krackles's picture
Joined: September 19, 2010
Born 2B Lead

Royer is alive and well.
Still working and available for commissions. You can visit his website: http://www.michaelroyer.com/.

Berry passed away in 1998.
Whatifkirby.com has a short bio online: http://www.whatifkirby.com/artists/d-bruce-berry.
You also could use Google.com, it's quite convenient.

Kirby used a B or 2B lead pencil.

kctobyjoe's picture
Joined: December 24, 2012
I AM NOT A TROLL; I am a 54

I AM NOT A TROLL; I am a 54 year old retired IT professional

I DO NOT have all the answers; SORRY if my questions seem infantile to all the EXPERTS here

I call them the way I seem them; if this is annoying to you I AM SORRY

My observations are as they are; I will look at some of the 'pictures' I have seen here and give examples of items that look like 'ready for production' and cut and paste items. The cover for FF 87 which is one thread I am subscribed to says it all; CUT AND PASTE. There are other SLICK 'images' ALSO reproduced here that have NO CUT AN PASTE and may already be pre-production images like one cover for Jimmy Olsen I saw; to even an IDIOT they are markedly DIFFERENT. I WILL PLACE hyperlinks to the items in question when I get a chance to check ALL the links I am subscribing to; YOU LOOK FOR YOURSELF!

I DO appreciate those who have answered all my questions and some quite extensively!!!

As someone who LOVED art (dabbled a bit; failed) and was a CAD professional AND Draftsman for YEARS as well I can appreciate the tools the artists use ( AND OF COURSE THEIR TALENT) to bring to life something with pencil and ink and brush on bristol board or vellum or a shovel like Lincoln did!

This is no small feat to me!

Krackles's picture
Joined: September 19, 2010
Original POV

kctobyjoe, the heart of the problem might be that we are not understanding what you say.

Explain what you mean with: "pre-production" and "ready for production".

The Kirby Digital Archives is a collection scanned directly from Original Art Boards
Some pages are pristine clean without any production fixes, corrections or add-on. Some pages have touch-ups, white-outs, cut and paste of original art or stats glued or tapped on it.

The production department may work directly on the original art OR on a stat. Sometimes a board carries more stats than actual art but if there's at least one piece of original art it should be considered as such.

All the pieces from the Kirby Digital Archives are either complete pages of original art or mostly art with some cut and paste of new art or stats.

What more are you asking for? Are you trying to turn us crazy?
Enjoy the Art, damn it!

ken bastard
ken bastard's picture
Joined: September 22, 2010

Most artists in the pre-computer days drew on 2-ply Bristol board either a vellum finish (textured surface) or plate finish(smooth). Which ever which one was used was an artists preference. I believe Jack preferred vellum. As to pencils that too was an artists preference. Anything from a plain old #2 pencil to expensive drawing pencils. Lead hardness varied. Some pencillers used a non-repro blue pencil to draw with. We'll get to more on this later.
After the penciller was done drawing on the bristol he sent the pages into the company. At this stage they would be lettered either from a script, or in the case of Stan Lee, from writing right on the pencilled bristol.
Then the pages might be photo-stated. As you've seen here they did this before they went to the inkers. I don't know how extensively this was done. Apparently it was done so the artist pencilling a series could keep track of continuity. My guess they were statted before inking as a time issue- getting the story back to the artist quicker.
Photostats were made in a big camera in the production dept. Basically you are taking a picture of the artwork and reproducing it on photo paper. Using the camera you could resize the artwork to whatever size you needed.
Then the pencilled pages went to the inker. He used various brushes and dip-pens to blacken in the pencil lines for a better printing resolution. Darker lines held the color better. There are many many brands of India ink. It was my understanding that a lot of guys used Higgins Black Magic. It was considered the most opaque and would give you the best line while using a brush. The brush that was used extensively back in the day was the Winsor-Newton #2 watercolor brush. There are HORDES of dip-pens that the artists used. Too many to mention.
After inking the pages went back to the company where the Editor made corrections. You see this stuff all the time on old pages with parts whited out or whole sections of the page cut up and repositioned. This is also where logo's and pasted on blurbs are added.
Then the pages were prepared for the colorist and the printer. I'm not as well versed in the process here as it's more technical than creative.
Getting back to the blue pencil. It's used so that after the pages are inked the inker or production people don't have to erase the pencil lines left. The blue color doesn't show up in the photo-statting process thereby eliminating the remaining pencil lines without erasing them. This method is still used in photoshop though you could really pencil in any color and remove it in the computer.
Hope this answers a lot of your questions. Ken

kctobyjoe's picture
Joined: December 24, 2012

THANKS Ken; I have to read that a few times and see if in *my* mind all my answers are there

I find it odd then that SOME of the art here at the Kirby collection is *sometimes* a stat of a ready to produce comic page with EVIDENT cut an paste elements; price; titles etc where some are a polished/finished product with NO evidence of pasted in elements; I'll assume some are the pre-production (cut and paste) copies; reproduced here for our pleasure existing before the actual 'master' is made (and we are lucky to see those) and some are 'picture perfect' ready for the printers.

Like we did with our CAD equipment and our LeRoy templates and inks; creating a CAUTION label for instance, following OSHA design/guidelines but when it got to the camera. POOF! Perfect!!! WE used blue (+) squares to the dimension and of course blue dimensions that went bye bye when 'shot'

So the inkers used both brushes and dip-pens (quills?) WOW; I am STILL amazed when I think of some of the inking done by Royer and Berry of open mouths of some of Kirby's creations; perfect lines VERY close together and VERY discernible as such. MAN what steady hands!!!

Thanks for taking the time

Krackles's picture
Joined: September 19, 2010
Please, don't mind!

Don't you feel alone in your line of thinking?

Tom scans art directly from the board artists used to pencil and ink, get it?

Ken and Patrick already have answered you extensively:
A page of original art had to go through some production tamperings with cut, paste, art revisions, adding a logo or whatever was necessary before sending the board for mechanical reproduction.

drdroom's picture
Joined: February 13, 2013

Are you by any chance a troll? (Google "internet troll" if you're not sure what that is.) This constant confusion of original art with stats just seems more like a provocation than anything else. My apologies if this not the case. One last time: the images at this site are scans of ORIGINAL ART, pieces of bristol board which were physically drawn on by pencillers & inkers. Some of them, mostly covers and splash pages, have some stat elements glued onto them, most panel pages don't. It is that simple.

Frank Fosco
Frank Fosco's picture
Joined: January 9, 2011

All 1190 pieces in the gallery are original pieces of art handled by Jack Kirby, his letters, inkiers, Stan Lee and some production people. No photostat, no copy--what was once a blank board, pencil and ink were applied to these you see in the gallery. Any copies or stats you see on this site are outside of the gallery in other articles of interest.

kctobyjoe's picture
Joined: December 24, 2012

Pre= production like what we used to sent to the photo shop to create the original name plate or whatever; in this case the FINISHED page; cover; whatever.

I worked for Uncle SAm for 33 years; holding different positions; PART of my career as a DRaftsman of course we drew oon vellum or mylar OR near teh end ALL CAD

WE created Warning and Caution and Information plates (etc) on EVERYTHING Uncle SAM supplied to the GI's in any conveyance. I understand THAT way of doing artwork and making a product; comics of course are different

Something READY FOR PRODUCTION would be a flawless cover or page with NO cut and paste; 'ready to shoot' or actually a reproduction of the page as YOU OR I WOULD SEE IN THE COMIC ITSELF
As soon as I can I will send URL examples of what I mean.

I am TRYING To learn everything I can and IF I seem a simpleton I AM SORRY

FF87 cover



must look at ***PUBLISHED*** version Tab to see a STARK difference. NO CUT NO PASTE NO NOTES NO NOTHING!!!

and this is considered WHAT Then???

Krackles's picture
Joined: September 19, 2010
Simple Tone

Both example you gave is, indeed, Original Art Page and would be what you call "pre-production".
The first one (FF cover) has cut and paste job done by the production department. The second one (Jimmy Olsen Cover) is particularly clean because the logo and lettering were done, by Mike Royer, directly on the board and is fully part of the whole "Original Art Page". It's not the usual way to produce covers which used to have a lot of cut and paste all over. That's because it's a "recreation". Royer has been commissioned to recreate a complete inked cover (art, lettering and logo) from recreated pencils by Tom.

Both page would require to be shooted on a stat, a photo process that clean up the art by eliminating black value below 50 % (roughly), like pencils, blue pen, light stains, etc…. The printer would then use a stat and acid to create a reverse plate needed to transfer (print) the black (lines and fills) on the comic paper.
This stat would be what you call "ready for production".