Kirb Your Enthusiasm (15)
By: Joe Alterio | Categories: Popular, Read-outs

Fifteenth in a series of posts, each one analyzing a single panel from a Jack Kirby-drawn comic book.

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Other artists draw lines, Jack Kirby drew shapes. The shapes were born of some odd undersea palace where all metal has striations, and every hand is carved, rough-hewn, from a crumbly yet indestructible rock. There was no better character than Black Panther — a force of shapes — for Kirby to pour his wet concrete id into. A cultural theorist might have plenty to say about a character called Black Panther, who first debuted in 1966, but he’s less interesting as a metaphor than he is as an artist’s model, perfect for trying out new positions without a distracting cape or foolish headband. Kirby made the character an obsidian void of musculature, an empty shell punctuated only by eyes, a dark knight before The Dark Knight. In panels like this one, from Black Panther #1 (January 1977), he’s a crumpled interrobang as he suffers a blow to the solar plexus here, a crescent of masculinity as he dodges a thug’s bullet there, a silent judging phantom — moving, stretching, punching, leaping. Kirby’s creation could be construed as the floating guilt of a nation as a golem with a 42-inch chest, but only because we see what we want in great art. In my case, a vessel for action.

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CHECK OUT “Cosmic Debris: Kirby in the ’70s,” a series running in tandem with “Kirb Your Enthusiasm” at the 4CP gallery of comic book details | Kirby cutaways and diagrams collected at the Comic Book Cartography gallery | Joe Alterio’s Cablegate Comix and HiLobrow posts about comics and cartoonists, and science fiction | The Jack Kirby Chronology | scans of rare 1940-50s Kirby comics at the Digital Comic Museum | Joshua Glenn on the New Gods generation

POSTS IN THIS SERIES: Douglas Rushkoff on THE ETERNALS | John Hilgart on BLACK MAGIC | Gary Panter on DEMON | Dan Nadel on OMAC | Deb Chachra on CAPTAIN AMERICA | Mark Frauenfelder on KAMANDI | Jason Grote on MACHINE MAN | Ben Greenman on SANDMAN | Annie Nocenti on THE X-MEN | Greg Rowland on THE FANTASTIC FOUR | Joshua Glenn on TALES TO ASTONISH | Lynn Peril on YOUNG LOVE | Jim Shepard on STRANGE TALES | David Smay on MISTER MIRACLE | Joe Alterio on BLACK PANTHER | Sean Howe on THOR | Mark Newgarden on JIMMY OLSEN | Dean Haspiel on DEVIL DINOSAUR | Matthew Specktor on THE AVENGERS | Terese Svoboda on TALES OF SUSPENSE | Matthew Wells on THE NEW GODS | Toni Schlesinger on REAL CLUE | Josh Kramer on THE FOREVER PEOPLE | Glen David Gold on JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY | Douglas Wolk on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY | MORE EXEGETICAL COMMENTARIES: Joshua Glenn on Kirby’s Radium Age Sci-Fi Influences | Chris Lanier on Kirby vs. Kubrick | Scott Edelman recalls when the FF walked among us | Adam McGovern is haunted by a panel from THE NEW GODS | Matt Seneca studies the sensuality of Kirby’s women | Btoom! Rob Steibel settles the Jack Kirby vs. Stan Lee question | Galactus Lives! Rob Steibel analyzes a single Kirby panel in six posts | Danny Fingeroth figgers out The Thing |

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Joe Alterio is an illustrator, animator, comic creator, and artist interested in narrative structure, interactive creativity, and the physical manifestations of story-telling. See more at JoeAlterio.com.