Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Kirby: King of Comics, by Mark Evanier

I picked this up from In Stock Trades a few months back when they had a sale, and wow, am I glad I did. I had been eyeing this book ever since it was released (In 2008), but never bit because of the high price. I'm glad that I grabbed a copy, and I'm glad that I put down the book I was reading on August 28th (Kirby's birthday!) and picked this up. What better way to honor and remember the man known as "The King" than by enjoying this lovingly written, beautifully illustrated book...?

 KIRBY: KING OF COMICS is part coffee-table book, part retrospective, part biography, and all gorgeous. I had read comments that led me to believe that this was NOT a biography of Jack Kirby (Supposedly author Mark Evanier is working on a comprehensive biography...), but it'll do until Evanier gets the full version done. Evanier tells a comprehensive-enough overview of Kirby's life, both personal and professional, complete with anecdotes from those that knew him best. The book is packed to the gills with Kirby art, comics, comic strips, sketches, promotional work, covers, cartoon art, collages, and photos, and the large format really gives the dynamic linework the opportunity to shine in a way I've never seen before.

 Evanier tells Kirby's story with no bias, which is a nice extra. He's very up-front about his friendship with Jack and his wife, Roz, but he never sinks to the finger-pointing and blame that so many Kirby fans often do. It's nice to see a fair and balanced look at the man and his career that doesn't have chapter after chapter of Stan Lee hate. I'm of a mind that Stan and Jack were both indispensable parts of the Marvel machine, and that machine was never the same after they split up. 

 When I was a kid, picking up a book with Kirby art was always a disappointment. I would let the Kirby books sit at the newsstand day after day, only picking them up when I had already purchased every other possible book. I wanted John Byrne, John Buscema, Keith Pollard, Bill Sienkiewicz, Brent Anderson, Dave Cockrum, Paul Smith....I had no time for the ugly art being produced by dinosaurs like Kirby, Herb Trimpe, Sal Buscema, etc.

 Now that I'm older and wiser, those are three of my favorite artists....the power, creativity, and dynamism that they brought to each panel was amazing....and I'm happy to be a fan at a time when so much great work from the past is readily available. If you're already a fan, this book will undoubtedly make you more of one. If you're not a fan, you will be when you're done reading. Amazing stuff...I dare you to read this book without a big, childlike smile on your face.

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