Joe Kubert: More Than A Legend

In the field of illustration, few men make waves the way they once did when they started out.  The true greats blaze a trail until they finally put down the pencil and never grow stagnant with the coming talents.  That was Joe Kubert and with his passing goes a lifetime of incredible gifts he has given us along the way.

Joe Kubert will be remembered for his War stories; for his barbarian stories; for his school.  But he will also be remembered by this artist as a man who kept up with the times and crafted brilliant works of art every day of his life without any show of wear and tear.  Kubert inspired with textured lines and expressive forms to tell some of the most exhilarating stories in the graphic novel medium.  It’s easy to lose the groove or have your style fade with the oncoming artists, but Joe never let his work become dated.  In fact, he used his artistry to empower his strengths as an illustrator by telling stories that not only suited his style, but stories that carried his own voice through each wonderful endeavor.  Stories that only he could tell.

There’s a lot to be said about a man who started a school for comic book illustrators.  A man with two very popular and talented sons that not only work in the industry, but also teach at the school their father started.  A family of individuals with very different styles that came together to work FOR the art.  It’s powerful and it’s the reason why, when I first looked at colleges, the Joe Kubert School of Art was my top pick.  It had never been done before and it was headed by the master himself.  Though I didn’t have the money, I longed for that experience and to this day I still dream of attending.  What masterful things he could have taught me.  What a different artist I would be.

Joe has left us with a legacy that will not only carry on, but he has also left us as a prominent figurehead of both respect and talent to be revered by generations to come.  And though we artists are quick to site the ones that crafted us; the ones we love; and the ones that helped us develop our own style, deep below all of that pizzazz is the strong foundation that Joe Kubert started and continued being until his death and even now into the future for artists everywhere just beginning to pick up a pencil.

I will remember him always and like the many artists before him, I will never forget what he’s given me and I will strive to keep his work alive for the sake of what I believe to be the most important form of art in existence.  Thank you, Joe.  You aren’t just a legend–you are a hero.

 

Why Comics Matter

People ask me all the time why I read comics.  Why I illustrate comics.  Why comics are important to such a strange and passionate subculture.  My answer is simple and can be applied to any artistic creation.  Every comic is a testament of life.  The lives of every person involved in its publication.  The writers.  The artists.  The editors.  The companies.  The time periods in which they were published.  The ethics and the values of those creators as they poured their passions and talents into a collaborative story.  Every comic from every age is packed full of legacy.  Lives that have gone praised and lives that are overlooked.  Inkers forgotten and writers immortalized.  It’s a medium that combines the best of two art forms into a versatile masterpiece for all avenues of viewers and readership.

In short, Comics are the product of the lives that created it from their very being—all for you, the reader, to enjoy and be affected by.

Comics are life.  So pay your respects to those who are gone and honor the ones who give their lives to their work today.  Because you are witnessing a historical documentation of their lives and the world around them.

Jack Kirby’s 94th Birthday—Hail to the King

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“He created a new grammar of storytelling and a cinematic style of motion. Once-wooden characters cascaded from one frame to another—or even from page to page—threatening to fall right out of the book into the reader’s lap. The force of punches thrown was visibly and explosively evident. Even at rest, a Kirby character pulsed with tension and energy in a way that makes movie versions of the same characters seem static by comparison.”

–Brent Staples, New York Times

 

It’s hard to begin talking about someone as influential and iconic as Jack Kirby.  His effect on the illustration world is so profound and ongoing even after his death that I’m not sure words alone do it justice—much like his epic drawings that could always stand on their own.  There is no artist alive today that doesn’t have at least a hint of Kirby’s style echoing off of each page they draw, every doodle, and every comic strip.

Kirby is best known for crafting Marvel Comics’ cornerstone characters:  The Incredible Hulk, Captain America, The Fantastic Four, The Avengers, Thor, The Silver Surfer and the X-Men.  At DC Comics he is known for the creation of:  The New Gods, Kamandi, OMAC, Etrigan The Demon, and Sandman,.  All of these as well as hundreds of others throughout his life.

Kirby was one of few that changed the game like Will Eisner and Lou Fine before him.  His characters expressed more in body language than anything before him.  With dramatic foreshortening and dynamic figures jumping off of the panel toward the reader, Kirby created a magical and cinematic feeling in all of his work that had never been seen.  Even now when I read a modern comic and see a blast of energy I can easily recognize the particles of energy drawn around the beams—often called “Kirby Dots”.  He had a way with a pencil that turned a minimalistic drawing into a masterpiece of theater.  If you closely examine any of his drawings, the details are carefully added to take advantage of form and figure, which for Kirby was his forte.

Over 24,000 pages of comic book art was drawn by Jack Kirby by the time he died in February of 1994 making him the most prolific comic book artist of all time.  Nobody created more than Jack, who crafted universes upon universes and then onto more and more exciting things.  He never stopped nor slowed and his creativity yielded over 300 characters—more than any other creator to date.  And not just superheroes, but supernatural gothic characters and his most notable Young Romance comics, which is credited as the first romance comic ever published.  There was no genre he couldn’t touch and invigorate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As an artist myself, I find that the further back I go in the history of illustration, the more I learn and get to the source of innovative creativity.  Great artists like Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby have taught me about showmanship and telling a story in a single image.  The drama of the characters can be portrayed with the right precision and emotional context.  I see more and more of Kirby’s mark on my own work each time my pencil touches a page—a clear sign of improvement and growth.  Today, I give a hearty thanks to a legend.  Happy Birthday, Jack Kirby–You will not be forgotten.

Below are just a few characters created by Jack Kirby as well as a link to a full list of his creations.  I implore you to check them out and check some of the modern illustrations that really excite you for the influence of this master of visual storytelling.

 

Kirby Creations:  http://www.marvunapp.com/list/appkirby.htm

 

Wikipedia’s list of Kirby Creations:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Characters_created_by_Jack_Kirby

Gene Colan: A Master To Be Missed

by Alex Tisdale on Saturday, June 25, 2011 at 12:05am

Yesterday the Illustration world lost a great innovator in Gene Colan aged 84.  Best known for his horror stories in the 70’s–namely Tomb of Dracula, Colan is a master of balancing light and dark to set mood and carry tone throughout a work.  As he continued through his Daredevil run for Marvel and then a very lengthy stay on Detective Comics, Colan only got better with progressive techniques and innovative camera angles to set the stage for his heroes.  He was also the co-creator of two of the most popular African American characters at Marvel comics, The Falcon (the first African American ever printed in a mainstream comic and the vampire hunter Blade.

While legends like Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby made their styles the Marvel staple, often Gene embraced the anatomical abstraction and spread energy across his pages like no one else before him.  His penciling techniques were of such a high quality that often publishers would print just his pencils–most notably his miniseries Nathanial Dusk.  As we lose more and more of the artists that shaped the modern world, only now to look back upon them and realize they were guiding us this whole time, it is with great respect and gratitude that we do so.  Thank you Gene and like the others that have gone on before you I will personally remember you and your work through my own illustrations.

Below I’ve gathered some recent articles and images of Gene’s art.  If you have time and are interested, please look at them and see just how much Gene gave us so you can really reflect on the fact that he can no longer give us the joy that filled him with each page of a comic he drew.

Newsarama article where industry artists and writers reflect on Gene’s contributions:

http://www.newsarama.com/comics/comic-industry-remembers-gene-colan-110624.html

Gene Colan’s webpage:

http://www.genecolan.com/

Wikipedia’s Gene Colan article:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_Colan