Sunday, October 4, 2009

Imagination Envy (Or my man crush on Jack Kirby)

I must say...I have a pretty good imagination. My idea generator is sleek, it's fast and all the ladies love it. My mind is coursing with comic book concepts, feature film pitches and best sellers. There are only a few people that make me say...damn, why didn't I think of that. One of course is Alan Moore. After reading works like Watchmen...his alarming reboot of Swamp Thing and the amazingly surreal and comedic Top Ten...I found myself thinking, " Wow! I never thought of comics like this before!". For me, Alan Moore has expanded the medium of comics because he is an artist; a thinker who uses the platform of scripts and panels as a portal into his world of ideas. And he's never afraid to adapt those sophmoric superheroes or those mythological snippets from his childhood into engaging stories that celebrate the adult and child in all of us. Then there's Grant Morrison. His recent take on Superman is perhaps the best representation of my favorite comic book ever. If you haven't read All Star Superman then go out to your local comic shop and demand your copy. It truly does not get any better than this. Grant Morrison is good at thinking outside the box when it comes to reinventing classic concepts but he also knows how to drill down on that special ingredient or nuance that made the character special in the first place. Last but not least, there's Warren Ellis who purges his imagination and thoughts on a monthly basis through about 7 or 8 different titles that I never miss picking up. He is a violent, twisted, intelligent mess of a man who must have some very deep, dark issues he's dealing with, but his internal conflict makes for brilliant social commentary, ridiculously entertaining comics that will be mined for ideas later by filmmakers and other comic writers alike, and his brain seems to be packed with peculiar notions. Read No Hero, Ignition City, Gravel and Black Summer. These three men give me nightmares as a writer; they are the idols that I aspire to be like. They make me think. They make me say "wow". But there was another creator before they all came along and he had more to do with the type of writers they are and the kind I am becoming...he was the king. He was Kirby.

Jack Kirby is my favorite comic artist of all time. He was also the most dynamic idea man that ever existed. His mind was prolific and creative simultaneously. He helped midwife comicdom's greatest patriotic hero into existence; He almost singlehandedly created the Marvel Universe and then migrated to DC Comics and was the architect of the funkiest, most cosmically grand space opera of heroes and heroines known to real comic book fans as Kirby's Fourth World. And that was just his work in comics. But I'm not writing this blog to give you a retrospective on the career of a comic titan fanboys righteously hail "The King". I'm writing this to express why I love Jack Kirby. I love Jack Kirby because I love comics. Because he loved comics. There was nothing greater than my Dad bringing home a bag full of colorful comics and finding that Kirby had illustrated some of them. The Fantastic Four, Thor, Captain America, Nick Fury. You name it. He drew them all and they damn near exploded out of the comic book into your face. He held nothing back when he drew those characters. Jack Kirby was the equivalent of Saturday morning to me. What I mean by that is, every time my eyes had the opportunity to behold his masterful pencils, I got that giddy feeling you used to get when you were a kid...everyone is asleep in the house and it's early Saturday wake up in your pajamas and sprint to the t.v to watch six or seven wonderful shows that will shape and mold your childhood. That's what Kirby art was like for me. His characters screamed and roared. They traveled through space and time in mind bending apparatuses such as The Boom Tube or The Fantasticar. He reinterpreted Norse mythology for the comics and created a cosmic saga that could convince any kid to go nuts over ancient Norwegian legends. The cherry on top was the fact that he always tried to incorporate black characters. He created the Black Panther, to me one of the coolest and most tragically underused and misunderstood characters of all time. In his offbeat and somewhat uneven, but absolutely stunning nonetheless, New Gods saga...he introduced DC Comics first black character...The Black Racer. He was acutely aware of the changing shape and dimension of our country and world. He knew heroes came in all colors and he was not afraid to venture into the unknown and let his imagination build new worlds. Worlds that make us feel like that little kid sitting on the couch with the remote...watching cartoons. I want to dream like Jack Kirby did. So Hail to King Kirby. We can only hope he's watching and guiding our hands.



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