This whole year has been marked by many centennial celebrations -- a fact which surprised me even though such accolades for Jack are entirely well-deserved. It's good to know that we still can recognize greatness when numbing mediocrity gets all too much press (as well as electoral votes). However, it seems like almost everything to be said about Kirby's monumental contributions to comics history as well as his artistic greatness has already been covered by the countless testimonials, re-evaluations and personal stories published recently. One recent book alone -- KIRBY 100 -- features 100 comic book artists choosing their favourite Kirby work and writing about what Jack meant to them. It seems like the only thing for me to do is add my little reminiscence to the growing chorus of appreciation.
So back to my earlier statement: in the next several years, as I got more and more into comic books, I found myself not liking Jack Kirby's art. This appears to be a common occurrence with present-day Kirby lovers. This was the Neal Adams era of comic book art: slicker, more polished-looking. To my dumb, childhood eyes, Jack Kirby's art looked clunky and ugly. I was grooving on the JLA artwork of Dick Dillin, the BRAVE AND THE BOLD perfection of Jim Aparo, the gorgeous LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES, WARLORD and GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW of Mike Grell, THE FLASH of Irv Novick, the BATMAN of Marshall Rogers and the intricate maggoty-grave-dirt of Berni Wrightson. At that time, I would dismiss Jack Kirby's art with a simple "I just don't like it". The same, by the way, went for the artwork of the likes of Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane, Joe Kubert and other "old-timers". My favourite artist was George Perez and these guys' art was VERY different to that! But, as with everything, our tastes mature and I began to appreciate the artwork of these guys more and more until I now love them. And no one more than Jack Kirby. I still love the art of George Perez but now I can really SEE Jack Kirby's artwork. The sheer power of it; it's like 3-D without the 3-D! The immaculate storytelling and page composition. Those breathtaking (and justly famous) two-page spreads Jack loved to do. I've actually stared and contemplated Jack's art trying to figure out exactly what he did that no one else seems to be able to do . . . and I haven't figured it out yet. But no comic book art "feels" the same as Kirby. Jack's figures have a weight to them that no other artist has duplicated. Just look at the power of these monumental splash pages and how the figures seems to occupy real space. This is just a random sampling but they're all stunning!
I guess it's the "indescribable something" in Jack Kirby's art that makes all of us celebrate his 100th birthday with such effusiveness and warmth. His influence on the art of comic books is unmatched and his drawing has never been duplicated. We love you, Jack. . .and we miss you.