Mike T's picture
Posted by: Mike T | March 19, 2014

My first C.A.

This page is a personal favorite. It's also from the very first Captain America I ever owned (something like my 3rd Marvel and 3rd Kirby), and one of the best twelve cents I ever spent. Still have it, in fact, but I must have cut a page out of it to put on my bedroom wall or something, because I later had to buy another copy at many times the original price to get the missing page.

Jack's storytelling in this issue is SO compelling. In fact, it's unparalled anywhere, except possibly the beginning of Lord of the Rings. Jack and Stan were in top form here, and this page is one of so many in the book that are so memorable.

Panel 1: Cap blasts one bad guy into another--by the underside of his chin no less--causing bad guy #2 to miss with the gun shot. This probably seems like just the usual fare to seasoned Kirby affectionados, but seriously, only Jack could have come up with such an unprecedented image. The action e-x-p-l-o-d-e-s. Cap at ground zero, battle savvy and unstoppable. Wow!

Panel 2: Red Skull pops up out of nowhere, smugly taunting Cap. Cap is so caught off guard that he forgets he's in the middle of a swarm of bad guys. Who thinks of this stuff anyway?!?!? You can easily imagine that if you were in his shoes, it would happen to you too. Lordy! This is not brand Eccch, that's for damn sure. Love the shape of Cap's head, and the sinister Skull too.

Panel 3: The hero falls, almost pleading for the girl he loves as consiousness drains. As he does, the inscrutable Skull casually lights a ciggie! Fargin' Iceholes! Can there be anything more evil, anyone more diabolical? The thug is also quite frightening in a very cool-looking helment.

Panel 4: A logical progression, but OMG! Completely vulnerable, our hero's identity will be exposed to the bad guys. The reader is now on the floor with Cap, up close and personal to witness the atrocity as it unfolds. The King's use of negative space excels as usual. The draping of Cap's mask is both surprising and beautiful as it is clenched and pulled away. "Will you kill him now, master?" It just doesn't get any better (yet somehow it does).

Panel 5: Vulnerable Cap is now seen looking down from above, victim of "nuclear tape" (!) that actually is a microkirby circuit, applied by a minikirby tweezer tool. Just beautifully imagined and executed.

Panel 6: CAP IS NOW ON THE HOOK, SLAVE SLAVE SLAVE TO THE SKULL! No matter where he goes he can be snuffed out with a mere stroke of the Skull's thumb. Triumphant, towering, evil Skull (seen from below), crazed hatred in his eyes. Krackles, is that you?

Freaking genius. Every panel is a masterpiece. My 12-year old mind was blown. And this is just a single page from a book of 20.

Syd's inks here add a golden age feel. The lighting/shading reminds me of Kirby/Wood's Sky Masters--not at that level, but then again, what is at that level? (nothing I can think of.) You can tell Syd was cold for panel 1, which looks unfortunate when you zoom in, but not bad when reduced to comic book size. Lucky for us he warmed up, and the inking is simply outstanding on panels 2-6! The blacks are gorgeous. I love the linework too: The hatching, the hair, the Krinkled Kirby Klothes... Just look at that ear in panel 5--wonderful! Simply wonderful.

Another personal observation: I'd bet Syd put more time per page on C.A. than any other inker that year. I don't peg him as prolific, I see him as someone who stared and squinted and thought and re-worked a lot of his panels until he was happy that he'd done the most he could with them. Some of his other pages were more rushed, but with the meager page rates Marvel paid its ink artists back then, this is totally understandable. Even Syd's worst was better than quite a few others who inked Jack.

Of course that's just my opinion. Someone's bound to disagree sooner or later, but if so, I feel sorry for anyone who likes Kirby who can't appreciate this magnificent piece of art.

MRE1957's picture
Posted by: MRE1957 | June 9, 2014

I echo your sentiments on Shores.

Syd's inking added such a unique and different quality to Jack's pencils (as compared to Sinnott, Ayers, Colletta and Giacoia). It reminded me of the reprinted Simon & Kirby 1940s Cap stories I was reading in Fantasy Masterpieces at that time—which make sense since I later learned that many of them had been inked by Shores! My favorite Cap issue that Shores inked in the1960s was #107 featuring Dr. Faustus in "If The Past Be Not Dead." The splash page was amazing!

Mike T's picture
Posted by: Mike T | June 9, 2014

Sheer greatness

That issue (107) was sheer greatness! It was such a great story, and far from the beaten path of superhero yarns at that. Stan and Jack (or at least Jack) poured a lot of creative energy into this title at this time, determined to make the mag a success, which they did. 106 and 107 were the best one-shots in comics that year (which is saying a lot).

I agree with you on that splash too--such impact!

Syd did seem to add that golden age feel to CA, though that's not the reason why I admire his inking. It's his use of shadow and the realism he imparts to the King's pencils that grabs me.

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