Favorite Cover Artist Countdown # 3: Jack Kirby

What? Jack Kirby’s not NUMBER ONE? Well… no. I don’t consider him the greatest comic cover artist of all time. In fact, I don’t consider him to be the best interior artist of all time. But Jack WAS, no doubt about, the overall greatest comic book artist of all time. The sheer span of his career, the importance of his creations, the energy he put into his work… Jack stands alone. He’s the greatest.

But… we’re talking about covers in specific, and in this category I put him at number three. It took a couple specialists to put nudge him out. It’s funny, though… Jack probably had single MONTHS where he did more interior art than they did in their entire careers. That’s one of the nine million things that made Jack so special.

What DID make Jack so special? I could go on and on…. but in many ways, like so many times, it was Jack himself who said it best.

Favorite Cover Artist # 3: Jack Kirby

Let’s just get something out of the way immediately. In the field of “Most Important Covers in Comic Book History,” Jack Kirby ties with Everyone Else All Put Together. In fact… he probably edges them out. The following is a gallery of some of Jack’s covers, most of them depicting the first appearances of characters that went on to have a fair smattering of success in the industry and popular media as a whole.

Well... this hasn't been a bad gallery of covers so far, has it? I dare say you might have recognized some of the above. In fact, if Jack's entire career had been nothing more than the above covers, he'd still be remembered as one of the greats. As it is, you can add in countless other covers, and perhaps 25,000 pages of material. You read that number correctly.

Okay... Jack didn't actually DRAW this cover. But... that's Jack himself in the overcoat, posing for a photo cover, because comics are FUN.

Grottu and Gomdulla were two of the very first characters I ever used when I began writing for Marvel Comics. Seriously.

Sky Masters was a relatively short lived comic strip by the art team of Jack Kirby and Wally Wood. So, you know... full on artistic genius. This particular piece of art is visible in the intro video of Jack Kirby, posted above.

Let’s run us a little gallery here… shall we?

An unused cover for Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's last real work together, a Silver Surfer graphic novel. The final cover was an Earl Norem painting based on this art. Norem's art is good... but the cover decision was a bad call. You don't go wrong when you go Kirby.

Jack Kirby was friends with Frank Zappa... because that's just how strange this world truly is.

Kirby’s pencils for Captain America # 105… and then the eventual cover, after it had been reworked by a squadron of other artists.

A couple of classic Kirby Fantastic Four covers, including the first appearance of Doctor Doom. You can watch Jack draw Doctor Doom in the following video.

Here’s a 23 minute video of Jack drawing Doctor Doom. It’s blurry and has a good deal of extraneous noise, etc… but it’s still a major treasure just to watch Jack draw.

Jack Kirby in his home, staring at one of his few drawings of Spider-Man. Of all the "big" characters... it was probably Spider-Man that was Kirby's biggest foil. The two of them just never seemed to get along. Jack's other nemesis was Superman... kind of. When Jack was drawing Superman for DC, Superman's face / head (as drawn by Kirby) were often reworked by other artists. I've seen copies of the original pencils, though... and it seemed to me that Kirby was doing a truly fine job. I guess it just wasn't acceptable "house" style.

Jack's drawing of himself introducing earlier of his works. I think he should have drawn some "Kirby crackle" around himself. He deserved it.

It’s “More Gallery Time” time.

Unused pencils for Sandman # 1… though as you can see the finished cover ended up very similar.

Towards the end of his career, Jack did a galaxy's worth of work in the field of animation. While it was a loss for comics, it DOES mean that there are quite a few pieces of Kirby art that now exist just in the pencil stage, which is fantastic. You really have to see Jack's pencils to understand the energy that went into his works.

Speaking of pencils... here's a repo of some of Jack's pencils for the "lost" issue of Fantastic Four. Jack was taken off the title and moved on to other works, but not before he'd done a substantial amount of work already on the issue, which was never published. This is the splash page that Was To Be.

I think that Jack was always at his best when depicting the "old gods"... and the Celestials are a case in point. Galactus, of course, is Jack's best known creation of the "old gods" persuasion.

More Jack Kirby pencils... this one an oddity. A convention booklet from 1971. I WANT TO GO TO THAT CONVENTION!

Will Eisner, with Jack and Roz Kirby. Unfortunately... I never met Jack. The closest I came was a sad visit with Roz at a memorial dinner shortly after Jack's passing.

Jack Kirby. Captain America. And the United States. HURRAH!

Nobody drew the poetry and granduer of chaos quite like Jack Kirby.

And now, let’s play this post out with a closing gallery. In this post overall, you’ll note that I’ve tried to do an overall perspective of Jack’s works, and show a few things not normally seen. Some original art, monster work, etc. Jack was so prolific that I could do lengthy posts on pretty much any genre this comic medium has ever seen. There is room for all of us on the shoulders of this giant… but I know that he would have said to step off and make our own path… and that’s one of the reasons he will always be the greatest.

4 Comments

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4 Responses to Favorite Cover Artist Countdown # 3: Jack Kirby

  1. I’m not ashamed to say I got all choked up scrolling down this page. Every one of those covers meant something to me, and looking at them now made me misty-eyed.

  2. Paul Tobin

    Kirby chokes me up a lot. Watching those videos of him talking, especially.

  3. Theologien

    I know Jack made a lot of contributions to the success of Marvel, but there is a treasure trove of stuff he did in the late 40’s and early 50’s, especially in conjunction with Joe Simon that are great. Too bad you didn’t cover more of this work.

  4. Paul Tobin

    Agreed. There’s probably more I’d add, in retrospect!

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