Translator and manga scholar Matt Thorn replied to some of my thoughts on Jack Kirby a while back. I thought I’d reprint his comments here (I’ve added some markers just to make it clear who’s speaking.

[Noah:] He [Jack Kirby] draws awesome monsters, though. Which is no small thing, and which I really appreciate about him.

Matt Thorn:What you said. Kirby was much, much better (IMHO) at drawing the ugly and grotesque than at drawing the beautiful, which is probably why D.C. took the embarrassing step of having someone re-draw Kirby’s Superman. I prefer Kirby’s take, but the whole thing about Superman is that he’s all shiny and handsome and sparkly, right? Kirby’s Superman looks like a college wrestler with a chip on his shoulder. Which is very cool, but, yeah, not the image of Superman D.C. wants to convey (then or now). The Thing is probably the character that is most iconically Kirby in my mind. Grotesque, and yet sympathetic, and somehow just very cool, in a very anti-Superman kind of way.

[Noah:] Haney’s not subtle, and the quality varies obviously. But he’s way more attuned to a world outside his skull than Kirby is.

[Matt Thorn:] Noah, I think you nailed it there. Kirby seems unable to successfully step outside of the world inside his own skull. His half-hearted attempt to write “groovy slang” illustrates that he didn’t know much about or really care much about the world outside his skull, at least not after WWII. And that is of course fine. As others have noted above, many great artists are enormously successful at being what I controversially characterized as “self-indulgent,” and what Mike more generously characterized as doing work that is “personally meaningful to them.” Whether you see it as a feature or a bug, I think it’s fair to say that Kirby’s worlds are more or less self-contained, and while they may speak to “the human condition” at large, he was never one whose work really reflected the world outside his door.

Which, AGAIN, is PERFECTLY OKAY.

 

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