Fickle Fandom

By | Tuesday, February 20, 2007 Leave a Comment
In the 1960s, Jack Kirby was what you would today call a "hot" artist. Pretty much anything he touched sold well. Stan Lee frequently put Jack on books whose sales were lagging specifically to get a spike in sales numbers. In the 1970s, his popularity had waned a bit, I suspect, in large part because his Fourth World series was a bit too "out there" for most comic buying fans. In the 1980s, fans seemed to split over their appreciation for Kirby's work, mostly along the lines of whether or not they agreed in principle with Marvel's not returning Jack's original artwork to him.

Today, in 2007, it would seem that Kirby has a relatively small, but devout, following of fans. And those people who don't qualify themselves as fans seem to be genuinely perplexed as to why anyone would like him at all. His art isn't very realistic; the characters have square fingers; what's up with that weird chin squiggle?

Now I could write that off as Jack no longer being a "hot" artist (hard to do from beyond the grave, after all) but Will Eisner seems to have no one complaining about his work. Is it simply the superficial style of the two artists that determines whether or not a large crop of current fans appreciate an artist?

I have to say that it can't be that. After Jack Kirby's contemporaries were folks like Carmine Infantino, Curt Swan, and John Romita. (Before there was a John Romita Jr. in the business to confuse matters!)

Hmmm... as I reflect, though, I recall reading some Spider-Man books as a kid. I was young enough that I didn't really recognize the differences between titles -- I was just interested that it said Spider-Man somewhere on the cover. Given the time period, I had seen Spidey drawn by the likes of Jim Mooney and Rich Buckler, and I was used to that. I distinctly recall being shocked and disappointed when I picked up an issue of Marvel Tales that reprinted an early Steve Ditko drawn story, not realizing at the time that it was a reprint. Looking back now, I can clearly see that I was only looking at the surface level of the illustrations. Ditko's style wasn't shiny enough for my naive (yet justifiable, I think, given my age at the time) all-that-glitters mentality.

Maybe there's something to that. Maybe it takes some maturation of a comic fan's sensibilities to move beyond the "hot" artists. But maybe "maturation" is the wrong word; maybe that's what I want to say it is to give more credibility to myself. Maybe it's not a maturation per se, but something else. Maybe it's just an understanding of the context. Maybe it's simply from increased exposure. Maybe it takes somebody pointing out what to look at, if not the obvious linework.

Newer Post Older Post Home