On History: Kirby's Superman

By | Tuesday, October 28, 2014 Leave a Comment
The perennial problem with studying Jack Kirby is that he was so damned prolific that it's almost impossible to keep up with everything he's done. Even twenty years after his death!

I stumbled across this Superman piece recently; I think it's the first time I've seen it. It was a pin-up Jack did for Superman #400 in 1984. My guess is that Jack actually drew this in 1983 (writer Elliot S! Maggin's introduction is dated Feburary 1984). This would have been significantly after he had drawn the man of steel in his Fourth World stories of the 1970s, but shortly before he began work on the Super Powers comic that ran throughout 1984.

What I find interesting is Superman's face here. Back in the '70s, DC felt Jack's rendition of Superman's face was too off-model and had them redrawn (often by Al Plastino or Murphy Anderson). Jack's illustrations were left largely intact for Super Powers but tweaked a bit with the inking, as Jack never seemed to get a good handle on Supes' hair.

And while it appears to me that inker Terry Austin did make some adjustments to Superman's hair in this piece, it remains remarkably in Jack's style, and feels very organic to the art. It doesn't feel pasted on, or overly redrawn. If I hadn't looked at so much of Jack's art before, I might assume that's precisely how he pencilled it.

And what's more, there's a hint of a resemblence to Christopher Reeve in there as well. It's not a definitive likeness, but the mouth and eyes seem to bear more than a casual similarity. I half wonder if Jack was doing that deliberately and just missed the mark a bit, or if Austin deliberately played up some initially accidental similarities while he was inking.

Of course, I have been known to have been seriously wrong about Jack's work before, so maybe I'm just making up a bunch of unfounded garbage!
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