The Jack Kirby Pencil Test

Jack Kirby’s pencil drawings have a warmth, character and depth that even his greatest inkers couldn’t capture. I’ve always been curious what Kirby’s art would look like if the inking process was skipped, and his pencil art was colored directly. I thought I’d try it myself. I chose a sequence from “The Mighty Thor.” Here’s the original printed version. It’s a classic example of clearly-delineated traditional comic book art, inked by Vince Colletta, Kirby’s main artistic collaborator on Thor:



Here is a photostat of Kirby’s original pencil drawing, printed in The Jack Kirby Collector. I love the softness of the lines, and the rich tonal quality. This is from an old photostat, state-of-the-art in the sixties. One can only imagine what a high-resolution scan of the pencils would look like. Looking at Kirby’s pencil drawing, his oft-cited Alex Raymond influence becomes much more apparent:



I created a layer of flat color:



I softened the forms and added some texture:



Then I added a yellowed newsprint texture to hold everything together:


I did this exercise quickly, as a fun warm-up between issues of Transformers vs. G.I.Joe, but you can see the potential in this approach. It’s a different aesthetic for Kirby that is every bit as valid as the ways his work has traditionally been presented.

“The Mighty Thor” is property of Marvel Comics.

Transformers vs. G.I. Joe #0 will be available on Free Comic Book Day, May 3 2013, for free. I’ll be signing copies at The Beguiling in Toronto.

Godland Celestial Edition will be back in print and the final Godland Volume 6: Goodbye Divine will premiere in June.

Transformers vs. G.I.Joe #1 will premiere in July.


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