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Author Topic: Did Cary Bates call Kirby a "hack?"  (Read 22056 times)
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JulianPerez
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« Reply #16 on: May 27, 2006, 09:57:49 AM »

Kirby's best work in the period when the seventies-eighties guys derided him, is probably in animation, because when he worked as a concept artist, here all he had to do was contribute raw ideas and let other people handle the details. Thus, things like THUNDARR THE BARBARIAN and CHUCK NORRIS: KARATE KOMMANDOS had stories, but that used the Kirby concepts to tell innovative adventure plots, instead of viewing the characters as an opportunity to be weird.

THUNDARR shows that Kirby's style transcends just craggy "Kirby wiggles." The cartoons looked almost Alex Toth-level polished, nary a wiggle in sight, but there was just something about the THUNDARR characters that immediately suggest "Kirby" despite the fact they're done in the Hanna-Barbera style. Nobody would ever confuse Thundarr for Birdman.

Quote from: "TELLE"
At Marvel, fans of the convoluted cosmic epics and sophisticated melodrama of the post-Roy Thomas school of Marvel writers objected to Kirby parachuting into the gritty, politically-charged (and to my current taste, hopelessly ponderous and pretentious) storylines of Captain America and Black Panther and taking over, injecting a Golden-Age sense of fun and action in his big, chunky style.


While I disagree entirely with that entire sentiment (the Englehart CAPTAIN AMERICA had a James Bond-esque spy groove reminiscent of a more contemporary version of Doc Savage - the Secret Empire, the Serpent Crown, the Falcon, and so forth; many critiques can be put against it, but a series with "Tricky Dick" as a super-villain is certainly not un-fun or even predictable) I *DO* agree with the essential stripped to the core point that you just made: that the reason many people didn't "get" Jack Kirby was because it was jarring to go from Englehart style science fiction adventure, to Kirby style acid trippery. It's like drinking a coke when somebody tells you it's a milkshake. OF COURSE people responded badly to it at the time.

In many ways, it was fortuitous you mentioned Kirby's CAPTAIN AMERICA, because Stainless is ying to the King's yang: Englehart managed to revitalize Cap by bringing him down to earth during the whole "Man Without A Country" stuff. Kirby pulled him the other way. Englehart does trippy stuff, to be sure (the guy admits doing lots and lots of LSD and pot in the seventies and eighties, making him one of the few non-liars of the Silver Age Cheesy ) but the reason a moment like "Woman, you must MARRY that TREE!" in "Celestial Madonna" stand out, is not because it is common, but because Englehart's stuff is so otherwise grounded it stands out.

Englehart knew how to make fantasy elements stand out. For all the crazy stuff in his Celestial Madonna climax, Englehart wrote about the real Vietnam he as a veteran knew, down to using real GI patois.  Kirby on the other hand, used art to suggest different worlds where fantasy elements fit right in: notice the Dr. Seuss-esque prehistoric world of DEVIL DINOSAUR.

Englehart was all about Captain America as a guy. The difference between histrionic posturing and suckerpunch powerful raw stuff is the difference between doing a belly flop and a perfect ten dive. Englehart did character-centered stuff, but IT WORKED BECAUSE ENGLEHART WAS TALENTED, he could make things feel real to the reader. Englehart's dialogue is snappy and beautiful and sounds like something people would say in real life. If you want to "get" who Captain America is, read Englehart.

Kirby's dialogue...well...he's the guy that wrote the most horrible self-introduction ever, even by the terrifyingly low standards of exposition-heavy adventure comics: "And ME, young but COOL Harvey Lockman!" Nightwing's critique was that Kirby didn't draw adventure comics in Neal Adamns realism - well, Kirby didn't do ANYTHING naturalistically; not anatomy (though he did give his figures a sense of solidity), not dialogue, not worldbuilding.

Characterization isn't as important for superheroes as it is for other kinds of stories, and you sort of expect gods to talk weird, but if you have problems depicting - my God -  ENERGY realistically, you're in trouble. "Z-Ray." "Beams of Techno-Cosmic Force." "Cosmi-Current." What happened to good old fashoined infrared and laser beams?

But even here when we're talking about the various Kirby beams and rays, we see the strength of Kirby as a creator come the 1970s: he does little things, very subtle things that make us think that something he came up with is weirder than we could possibly imagine. For instance, Orion's "Astro Force."

At first, "Astro-Force" was a straightforward phenomenon: despite the pretentious title, it was pretty much some kind of death ray that came out of Orion's space exercise bike, right? Yes, UNTIL "The Glory Boat." There, Orion says, "They took all of my equipment...but not ALL! I can still CONTACT the ASTRO-FORCE!"

"Contact" the Astro Force? Don't you mean "fire," or "activate?" Just by changing ONE WORD, Kirby suddenly suggested that the Astro-Force was something vastly weirder than we had been led to believe. What IS the Astro-Force, that it can be contacted? I think my mind was just blown.
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Kurt Busiek
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« Reply #17 on: May 27, 2006, 06:12:50 PM »

Quote from: "JulianPerez"
THUNDARR shows that Kirby's style transcends just craggy "Kirby wiggles." The cartoons looked almost Alex Toth-level polished, nary a wiggle in sight, but there was just something about the THUNDARR characters that immediately suggest "Kirby" despite the fact they're done in the Hanna-Barbera style.


What you may be seeing there, prhaps is that the lead Thundarr characters were actually designed by Alex Toth, not by Jack Kirby.

Kirby designed the backgrounds and the incidental characters, but the leads are all Toth.

kdb
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JulianPerez
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« Reply #18 on: May 27, 2006, 07:28:57 PM »

Quote from: "Kurt Busiek"
Quote from: "JulianPerez"
THUNDARR shows that Kirby's style transcends just craggy "Kirby wiggles." The cartoons looked almost Alex Toth-level polished, nary a wiggle in sight, but there was just something about the THUNDARR characters that immediately suggest "Kirby" despite the fact they're done in the Hanna-Barbera style.


What you may be seeing there, prhaps is that the lead Thundarr characters were actually designed by Alex Toth, not by Jack Kirby.

Kirby designed the backgrounds and the incidental characters, but the leads are all Toth.

kdb


Uh! Did not know that. The backgrounds in THUNDARR was absolutely amazing - I'm reminded of the giant beached cruise ship on the side that people lived in, but everything was on the side. Amazing! (Especially during that battle with the bat-creatures.)

What did Gil Kane do and what did Kirby do in CHUCK NORRIS, KARATE KOMMANDOS?
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"Wait, folks...in a startling new development, Black Goliath has ripped Stilt-Man's leg off, and appears to be beating him with it!"
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« Reply #19 on: May 27, 2006, 08:32:51 PM »

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What did Gil Kane do and what did Kirby do in CHUCK NORRIS, KARATE KOMMANDOS?


Don't know, sorry.

kdb
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« Reply #20 on: May 27, 2006, 09:54:31 PM »

The credits only say:

Other crew
Alfredo Alcala ....  creative consultant  
Gil Kane ....  creative consultant  
Jack Kirby ....  creative consultant  
Doug Wildey ....  creative consultant  
 
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0165166/fullcredits
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« Reply #21 on: May 27, 2006, 10:29:27 PM »

Quote from: "JulianPerez"
Englehart managed to revitalize Cap by bringing him down to earth during the whole "Man Without A Country" stuff. Kirby pulled him the other way. Englehart does trippy stuff, to be sure (the guy admits doing lots and lots of LSD and pot in the seventies and eighties, making him one of the few non-liars of the Silver Age



Unfortunately, Stainless was often paired with crappy artists.  A problem the King didn't have.  Plus he can still blow your mind as a writer --everything from Galactus to Capt. Victory.  No drugs needed (Kirby was a vet too).  And I think his Cap was very human in the 70s.


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What IS the Astro-Force, that it can be contacted? I think my mind was just blown.
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JulianPerez
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« Reply #22 on: May 28, 2006, 10:39:14 AM »

This is speculation, of course, but It's not hard to believe that the guy who created a FIGHTING FETUS, for the love of Stan, wouldn't be somehow responsible for something as bizarre as the Super-Ninja ('I'll have my VENGEANCE on you, NORRIS!")?

My favorite part of any given episode of CHUCK NORRIS, KARATE KOMMANDOS was that, like the MR.T cartoon, it started off with a live action portion featuring Chuck Norris giving a sanctimonious sermon about how we can apply this story to our own lives. Yep, how we can apply the lessons of an episode where Chuck finds a secret school of Ninjas on Mt. Fuji, or where he has to recover an army sattelite that crashed on an island of zombies.

My favorite sermon was Chuck saying, "There are some people in this world that believe that all our problems can be fixed with violence." And my irony-o-meter EXPLODED

Weirdest of all was the fact that Chuck talked about the story as if it really happened. "Yeah, now that was one tough scrape there with Super Ninja.." Actually, considering Chuck Norris's reputation...I'm not 100% sure it didn't happen, actually. I mean, this is the guy who once performed a roundhouse kick with such force, the power of the blow travelled back in time and killed Amelia Earhart. A guy who can watch "Sixty Minutes" in twenty minutes.

While I love Kirby's 70s output, my one problem is that it often feels like the fact that the story is set using this character is an INCIDENTAL factor. In all fairness, this is not true of his CAPTAIN AMERICA, which had the spirit of the bicentennial all over it, in contrast to the cynical Watergate-era Englehart Cap.

The best example of this is Kirby's BLACK PANTHER. Something as important to the character as WAKANDA (y'know, the country the Panther is the KING of) is not even mentioned until Princess Zanda threatens to blow the place up in issue #5 or thereabouts, and even then, the place isn't even actually seen; the Panther's Kingdom is almost an afterthought. No aspect of the Panther's skill as a scientist is employed. In fact, Chris Priest later retconned away the Kirby BLACK PANTHER by saying that the Kirby stories were set in an alternate future where the Panther had suffered brain damage...and it's hard to argue with this. Considering the incredible world that surrounded the Black Panther created by Don MacGregor in JUNGLE ACTION, not making use of MacGregor's Wakanda and supporting cast is almost criminal. Cheesy

And Steve has had, not just good, but GREAT artists, too - Dick Dillin in his JUSTICE LEAGUE run, in his DOCTOR STRANGE run, Frank Brunner (whose only other Marvel book was, to my knowledge, Gerber's HOWARD THE DUCK), and for the LOVE OF GOD, Marshall Rogers in DETECTIVE COMICS.

I forget who it was that worked with Stainless on FANTASTIC FOUR in the 1980s, but that guy was pretty good.

Whatever happened to She-Thing? One of the more interesting supporting FF characters. And that story where she and the Thing kissed in that lost city was a love story so beautiful I CRIED.
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« Reply #23 on: May 30, 2006, 01:21:53 PM »

I have nothing important to add, but I wanted to thank Julian for enough obscure and bizarre references to send me reeling for the rest of the day:

Chuck Norris Karate Commandos (?!!!?!)
Fighting Fetus?!
She-Thing?

And my favorite, "Orion's space exercise bike"! Priceless!  :lol:

Although before this discussion I'd never have thought of Kirby in the same light as Otto Binder, it occurs to me maybe The King had trouble in the 70s and 80s because, like Otto, his genius lay in his ability to generate a limitless stream of amazing but inherently GOOFY concepts, a strength in the hip and fun-loving Silver Age but a definite liability in the often pretentious, pompous atmosphere of the Bronze Age.  In a time when comics read like pseudo-Shakespearean drama as penned by the writing staff of Days Of Our Lives, it's no wonder Kirby's stuff stuck out like a sore thumb.  He peddled oddball fun in a time when readers, and other creators, were totally obsessed with their own self-importance and the "literary value" of funny books that solved all the world's problems between ads for Hostess Ho-Ho's and Duncan Yo-Yos.

Personally, I think the dark truth nobody wants to admit is that Kirby would be no more welcomed by the readers of today than he was twenty-five or so years ago.  Deceased, he's a giant.  Alive, he'd be unemployed.
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