Fifteenth in a series of posts, each one analyzing a single panel from a Jack Kirby-drawn comic book.
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 | Danny Fingeroth figgers out The Thing |