This splash page was flipped and used for the cover also.
Scans of original art are from the Kirby Museum's Original Art Digital Archive.
Scans of pencil art photocopies for the Kirby Museum's Pencil Art Photocopy Archive courtesy of the Kirby Family, with thanks to TwoMorrows Publishing.
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More of Bruce Berry's underwhelming inks and atrocious lettering. Colletta wasn't the only one who didn't do justice to Jack's work, unfortunately. As with Vinnie's pages, however, I think Kirby's power still shines through in spite of the less-than-adequate inking and MUCH-less-than-adequate lettering. I really enjoyed this particular issue, but I kind of wished Royer had done it instead of Berry, and I would have enjoyed it even more.
Come on Jostlin' John, isn't it unfair to compare Bruce Berry and Vinnie Colletta on these terms?
He's above average as far as I'm concerned.
OK, his lines tend to be a bit dull and his lettering is just acceptable but the guy is consistent and fairly faithful to Kirby's pencils!
Despite his weaknesses, I would trade Colletta's inking for Berry's work without any kind of hesitation!
...but I think I'd take Colletta over D. Bruce. Sorry. I certainly appreciate the fact that Berry was faithful to Kirby's pencils; and yes, he WAS consistent -- consistently bad. Vinnie at least had a little finesse, and if nothing else, he seemed to understand the most basic principles of inking (like putting thicker outlines around foreground objects and thinner outlines around background objects, in order to create a sense of depth); but I'm really not sure if Berry understood even that much. His stuff almost looks like it was all inked with a ball-point pen or something. There's very little variety in his line weights, it's all stiff and inorganic looking, and even Kirby's rich black-spotting seems to be nullified beyond recognition. And honestly, I don't think his lettering was even "acceptable". I think it was some of the poorest, most unprofessional-looking lettering I've ever seen. So, regardless of how well-intentioned he probably was, I've gotta say that I just don't feel his skills were up to an acceptable professional level for that time, and I'm kind of surprised that both Jack and DC accepted his work. Having said all that, however, I'd still take Berry over most of the inkers that Jack had in the Atrocious Eighties, who seemed largely unaware of which end of the brush they were supposed to use.
I like Berry fine with the exception of the inking he did on Even Gods Must Die where he seemingly decided to get "creative" and introduced all sorts of inappropriate feathering. Other than that in most cases he's Royer-light.
The foreground head here shows plenty of finesse and makes me wonder if Royer didn't have a hand in it.
I'm not sure I understand John's comment about lettering. Really lettering only need be readable, which Berry seems to pull off just fine. I guess on logos and effects lettering he might not be so hot, but personally I never cared much about lettering at all. I guess Eisner, Herriman, McCay, and Steranko did some impressive stuff, but on that level it's more part of the drawing than sign-painting.
It's easy enough to recognize really good lettering. As many people have pointed out, good lettering can make bad art look better, and bad lettering can make good art look worse. Jack was fortunate to work with some really outstanding letterers in his career, like Mike Royer, Sam Rosen, Ben Oda, and the incomparable and immortal Howard Ferguson and Artie Simek. Other (mostly "non-Kirby") letterers whose work I've appreciated over the years include Ira Schnapp, Gaspar Saladino and, more recently, Todd Klein. I'm certainly not the world's top expert on lettering, but just as there are "greats" in the disciplines of writing and drawing comics, there are also greats in the art of lettering, and if you compare the work of people such as those I've mentioned here to the work of the average, run-of-the-mill letterers, you'll see exactly what I'm talking about.
Berry had his moments. The problem is that Berry inked in pen and Jack's paper had a nasty tooth to it so it all bled like hell. Even so, he gave Kamandi and OMAC an interesting, otherworldly look. Carmine shot himself in the foot by going cheap on the inking on Jack's books. If he used Giacoia or Esposito or Woody on those titles I think they would have sold a lot better. The sales on Jack's second Cap run tanked when Giacoia quit the book. Faithfulness is all well and good, but a lot of fans were used to inkers who put a bit more pizazz into the work, especially in the early 70s. I would have liked to have seen Royer lettering all of the books and more seasoned guys doing the inks.
Sorry Chris, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to disagree with you there. What you're saying is you preferred inkers who CHANGED Jack's most personal work to a style that better suited YOUR particular tastes. I agree that Giacoia was a good choice for Jack's 1970s CAPTAIN AMERICA run (from a commercial standpoint--even though the later issues were actually inked almost entirely by John Verpoorten, although Giacoia was still being credited); but if you honestly think any of those guys would have been better than Royer on the Fourth World books, THE DEMON, KAMANDI, ETERNALS, 2001, BLACK PANTHER, DEVIL DINOSAUR,, etc., you're WAY off base. I mean, come on, Mike Esposito??! He was even more expert at erasing backgrounds than Colletta! No one butchered more Ross Andru pages than Esposito. And he was way too heavy-handed with the brush. Look at some of those Gil Kane covers he inked in the early seventies--TERRIBLE. In my view, the only penciller Esposito was really suited to was George Tuska. Thank GOD he never touched any of Kirby's amazingly GREAT 1970s work!!! Royal Royer ALL THE WAY, baby!
I'm going along with Johnny S. on this Chris. The inkers you mentioned had there time with Jack and we know what they could do. It was a breath of fresh air to see Mike Royer come along and be as true to Jack as he was. Pure Kirby with that great Royer slickness.
Well, that's fine with me if you disagree, but the fact is that Jack's books sold better with more decorative inkers. Whatever people think of Vinnie, his style appealed to kids which is why DC used him on a lot of the licensing art. And it's no secret that sales on the Fourth World nosedived when he was canned. Same thing happened at Marvel. Note that all of Jack's Marvel covers were inked in-house. Hardcore fans prefer the straight tracing approach, but it wasn't what was selling in the 1970s. The sell-through on Jack's 70s Marvel titles was in the teens to single digits.
… I sure would be interested if you could bring on some facts backing up your assertions on Jack's books sales figures (especially as far as Colletta is concerned).
From what I read, it has long been believed that Jack's Fourth World titles had been axed way too early, at least without the reliable figures that a knowledgeable business decision would require.
Based on their very short lived run, it's not a stretch of mind to say that DC didn't put a lot of effort to help building up a momentum for them.
Concerning your comment on choosing a cheap inker (which I couldn't agree more with), it goes a bit against your idea of a good business practice since you consider Colletta as a kid favorite at that time.
By the way, I was just a 12 years old kid when I read some Fourth World issues and I already hated Vinnie's inks.
As for Colletta being a decorative inker?
How can you say this from a guy who used to erase … well, decoration from backgrounds?
You are correct about the ink bleeding on Jack's paper.
I remember that Mike Royer said something in that effect, pointing out that, also the paper Jack used was probably perfect for pencils, he had to iron the pages before inking.
...I'm not sure what you mean by "decorative". I have to agree with Krackles. Colletta was hardly "decorative". I THINK what you mean is that Jack's work sold better when it was inked by people who made it look "prettier" -- like Giacoia, Sinnott, Colletta. And yes, that's probably true. But "prettier" doesn't necessarily mean "better". In fact, it often means "more bland and less powerful". Which is fairly accurate as far as Colletta's inks are concerned, let's face it. As a wise man once said, "Great Art is not predicated on its beauty, but on its power." Yes, the sales on Kirby's THOR dropped somewhat when Vinnie went off the book for a while, but not because the inkers who replaced him (like Bill Everett) did inferior work which made the sales drop. As you point out, the kids who were buying those comics just liked Colletta's inks better than Everett's. But the vast majority of them probably also preferred Kool-Aid to beer. And I don't know about you, but I didn't drink much Kool-Aid after the age of about 13. I've drank quite a bit more beer since then, however, because Kool-Aid was just a little too sweet and lacking in power for my tastes once I reached my late teens. See what I mean?
Which brings me to your point about the Fourth World books. Since they were more like "beer" TO BEGIN WITH, and less like "Kool-Aid", a lot of the kids who were buying comics like THOR (or FANTASTIC FOUR, or SUPERMAN, or JUSTICE LEAGUE, or ARCHIE, or whatever) were never buying the Fourth World titles anyway, so having Colletta on them probably made no difference to the sales. The reason the sales dropped was because the sales dropped on almost ALL of DC's titles when they raised the price from 15 cents to 25 cents, killing their profitability. When they went back to the standard 32-page format, at 20 cents a crack, they sold better and became profitable again. But by that time, it was too late for books like NEW GODS and FOREVER PEOPLE, since they were NEVER huge sellers, REGARDLESS OF WHO WAS INKING THEM. Not only that, but it's a generally accepted fact that a lot of DC's books at that time had VERY bad distribution. As a kid reading comics during the first half of the seventies, I can tell you that I can't remember EVER seeing a single one of Kirby's DC books on the stands, except for a couple of issues of KAMANDI. But the well-known superhero titles from both Marvel and DC were EVERYWHERE.
"Note that all of Jack's Marvel covers were inked in-house." If you're talking about the covers Jack did for books he didn't write and draw, my answer is: of course they were. They were also laid-out (in thumbnail form) in-house by Marie Severin or John Romita, since Jack never read any of those (mostly lousy) comics and didn't know (or care) who a lot of those (mostly lousy) characters were or what those (mostly lousy) stories were about. Those covers HAD to be inked in-house in order to keep the characters ON MODEL. But if Jack's art didn't help those comics sell better, it's highly unlikely he would have done so many of those covers. And, as was the case with the covers Jack did for HIS OWN BOOKS, it was also beneficial to have them inked in-house for PRODUCTION reasons. By the way, I was about eleven years old when most of Jack's Marvel books came out -- inked by Royer -- and I LOVED them! So did most of the other eleven year olds who read them, I'll bet. So who knows, maybe Royer's inks weren't quite as off-putting to kids as some people seem to think.
"Hardcore fans prefer the straight tracing approach..." Tracing?? Honestly, if that's all you think there was to Royer's approach, you don't know much about inking.
"The sell-through on Jack's 70s Marvel titles was in the teens to single digits." Huh??? If by that you mean that the newsstand sales on Jack's titles was, for example, say 13,000 copies or 8,000 copies per issue, all I can say is "Bullshit!" Let's see the figures. The FACT is that NONE of Jack's Marvel titles from the seventies EVER had Statements of Ownership published in them (except CAPTAIN AMERICA), so perhaps you could tell us where you got that little tidbit of information. Oh, but here's MY little tidbit of information, from the Statement of Ownership from CAPTAIN AMERICA #207, March, 1977 -- which accounted for the preceeding 12 issues, all of which were done by Kirby: "Total paid circulation: Average no. copies each issue during preceeding 12 months: 165,147; single issue nearest to filing date: 223,260." THOSE are the FACTS, Chris.
My opinion is an artist is best off inking his own work, and if he doesn't then the best choice is an inker who is in sync with the pencils. This has nothing specifically to do with Kirby, but is an across the board preference on my part. As good an inker as someone like Wally Wood was, I'd much rather that Wood had been able to make things work by penciling and inking all his own work.
Does the Ditko/Wood combination work? Sure it does, and it's interesting to see on those occasions, but I'd trade it for more Ditko inked by Ditko, and Wood inked by Wood. I like an artist because of their personal style, and don't want to see that style abridged by another hand.
The likely reason the sales of Thor dropped in 1969 is because all of Marvel's books showed a decline in sales in 1969 after going up since the start of the decade. The most likely reason is when Perfect Film bought Marvel, Marvel was no longer being distributed by Independent News a subsidiary of DC. Free from the restrictions placed on it by Independent News Marvel increased the number of titles it was publishing, and while total sales increased due to more comics on the newsstand, the sales of the individual titles began going down, and that trend didn't reverse until around 1980.
I think one reason Marvel had growing sales on their titles in the early to mid-60's was brand identification. Like EC the company didn't publish a whole slew of titles under the direction of a bunch of different editors, and so loyal fans were able to buy everything the company published.
Patrick, I know this isn't near as true for US comics but this is the usual way of producing comics in many other countries.
Except for some studios, the division between pencilling and inking is an alien concept for artists (or fans) who, sometimes, work on their own coloring and writing in addition to pencilling and inking.
I must admit that some penciller/inker associations made for some very interesting experiences but I prefer an artist to be his own inker.
As a perfect illustration (pun intended), who can argue that Joe Kubert, inking his own work has anything to do with Kubert inked by whoever?
Luckily he did most of his inking.
It's very unlikely that Bruce Berry had trouble with the ink bleeding on the Kirby pages he worked on. By the time Berry came aboard, Jack was using the blue-lined paper supplied by DC, not his own, and from all indications (including Kirby's own assessment of it), that paper had a good surface for inking. I haven't zoomed much of the Berry-inked art in the gallery, but at a quick glance it doesn't show any signs of excessive bleeding.
John, Mike Royer mentioned ink bleed was a problem with the paper Kirby was using around that time.
Royer: "Jack's paper was perfect to pencil on, but incredibly difficult to ink on. I don't know if he got a good deal on the paper, and I'm not being critical, but there was a period of about a year where before I would ink the pages, I literally stood at the ironing board and ironed the pages. In putting all the detail on the paper, the fiber was so worn out that every stroke I put down would bleed. I ruined a couple of irons that way with carbon clog. But it was something I did willingly, because I always felt that the original should be perfect."
...I think he was referring to the paper stock Kirby was using for the first two or three years at DC. Take a look at some of the earlier DC pages in the gallery (through 1972, roughly) and compare them to the later pages. What it looks like is that Jack, at some point, switched from using his own paper to using DC paper. And I think that's what Royer is referring to in that quote: the FIRST paper Jack used. Because you'll notice that Mike said, "...there was a period of about a year..." inferring that it only lasted for that long, and after that he no longer had to iron the pages. Why not? Because Kirby started drawing on DC paper at that point. Also, either Mark Evanier or Steve Sherman (I can't remember which) once recounted the story of how Jack initially rejected DC's paper stock as being too slick ("probably chosen by an inker"), and assigned them the task of going to a local art supply store to find a more appropriate paper stock for Jack to pencil on. So, by the time Berry came on board, Kirby had switched over to using DC paper almost completely. I say "almost" because the page pictured here looks very much like it was drawn on a leftover piece of Jack's original paper, which is strange for a book that was done so late in his DC tenure. Probably he had run out of DC boards at the time and had no other option but to go back and use the stuff he had used initially. But in any event, you can go back through the gallery and look at a selection of DC pages from Colletta, Royer and Berry, compare the different types of board the art was drawn on, and I think you'll probably agree with my conclusions. One of the main telltale signs is the nature of the blue-line demarcations on the boards themselves. Some of them look like they were drawn on by Mark or Steve, while others were clearly pre-printed by DC's paper supplier.
There are some late Kamandis with the non-DC paper that Berry's line really bleed on. I believe Jack bought his own paper earlier at Marval however I can't recall seeing any bleeding lines on any pages...
It's not my intention to trash all of Berry's work, and as I said, I certainly do appreciate the fact that he was so faithful to what Jack laid down; but while there may have been some bleeding on some of the paper he used, that still doesn't account for what I would consider to be the problems with his inking, like the dead lines and so forth. Granted, if the ink is bleeding all over the place, that is going to make it more difficult to do a good job, but the problems were apparent even when he used better paper. And incidentally, that's one more thing that set Royer on a much higher level: he found a very ingenious way to overcome that problem. I mean, how many inkers would think of literally ironing the pages to make the surface more workable?!