Thursday, August 21, 2008

Thursday... that EL DIABLO dude again, and the Genius of JACK KIRBY and WALLY WOOD!

Okay... I know I mentioned EL DIABLO yesterday, but the damn thing is almost out, and I'm going to talk about it again! I can't stress enough how much fun this book is to work on. Not only am I inking my pal and favorite artist, Mr. Phil Hester, but I also get to work with my talented and lovely friend, Mr. Jai Nitz. That's not all, though... I also get to work with one of may favorite editors, the charming Nachie Castro. And, in an embarrassment of riches, EL DIABLO is being colored by my old friend and Green Arrow mate, Mr. Guy Major!

Phil got to design this new incarnation of EL DIABLO, and the character is really fun to play with. Here's another li'l peek:

I should mention here that El Diablo is owned by DC COMICS.

Now, on to today's art scan. As Barry Smith (screw his "Windsor") once said, failing to acknowledge that Jack Kirby dominates the comic book art form is about as foolish as failing to recognize how important Pablo Picasso was to 20th century fine art. I own a few nice Kirby pieces, including today's example, inked by another brilliant artist, Wally Wood.

Kirby and Wood worked together in the late '50s on a space/action strip called SKYMASTERS. Of course, over his fifty year career, Kirby was inked by a wide host of talented (most of the time) inkers. Standouts included Joe Sinnott, Mike Royer, and my personal favorite, Frank Giacoia. The paring of Kirby and Wood, though, is truly unique, and truly special.

I don't remember ever seeing copies of Kirby's Skymasters pencils, but I assume they were pretty loose. These days, most pencillers work as if their inkers are nothing more than glorified Xerox machines, nailing down every little detail as tightly as possible. Not so in the olden days of the '40s, '50s, and '60s. Back then, the pencillers worked fast and loose, confident that their inkers would have the skills to not only faithfully render the work, but also add depth, texture, and blacks as needed. On Skymasters, you can see the vitality of Kirby underneath, but it's all covered by that unique and lovely Wally Wood sheen.

In today's example, which was the final panel of the strip I own, Kirby has designed a great closing shot. The lead character is framed by his two friends, looking out at the reader, having just seen something the reader should desperately want to see. It's a great cliffhanger moment, composed perfectly by The King.

Wood adds his own stamp to this panel, applying his fantastic double lighting technique to the faces as only he can. The faces are still Kirby, but Wood has definitely prettied them up. The inking on the hair (something that really separates the inking men from the boys) is amazing. It's also cool that this panel includes some of the famous Wally Wood gadgetry in the background.

Take a good look at that gadgetry. When you see Wood's spaceship interiors in print, they look very tight and clean. When seen up close, though, these tech elements are really quite loosely rendered. I think there's a valuable lesson there. Templates, french curves and technical pens are no way to make exciting comic book art. Wood's approach of handling even clean, technical elements with a little spontaneity results in a much more visually interesting finished product.

Okay... enough of my spouting. Enjoy the genius, and come back for more tomorrow!


I honestly don't know who owns Skymasters at this point. Do me a favor, though... check it out thoroughly before doing anything stupid!

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