Kirb Your Enthusiasm (15)

By: Joe Alterio
March 2, 2011

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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2011: KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (Jack Kirby panels): 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 | Adam McGovern on four decades (so far) of Kirby’s “Fourth World” mythos | Jack Kirby: Anti-Fascist Pipe Smoker

ALSO ON HILOBROW: Joe Alterio’s Cablegate Comix | HiLobrow posts about comics and cartoonists | HiLobrow posts about science fiction | The New Gods generation

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2014: KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (typefaces): Matthew Battles on ALDINE ITALIC | Adam McGovern on DATA 70 | Sherri Wasserman on TORONTO SUBWAY | Sarah Werner on JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | Douglas Wolk on TODD KLONE | Mark Kingwell on GILL SANS | Joe Alterio on AKZIDENZ-GROTESK | Suzanne Fischer on CALIFORNIA BRAILLE | Gary Panter on SHE’S NOT THERE | Deb Chachra on FAUX DEVANAGARI | Peggy Nelson on FUTURA | Tom Nealon on JENSON’S ROMAN | Rob Walker on SAVANNAH SIGN | Tony Leone on TRADE GOTHIC BOLD CONDENSED NO. 20 | Chika Azuma on KUMON WORKSHEET | Chris Spurgeon on ELECTRONIC DISPLAY | Amanda French on DIPLOMA REGULAR | Steve Price on SCREAM QUEEN | Alissa Walker on CHICAGO | Helene Silverman on CHINESE SHIPPING BOX | Tim Spencer on SHATTER | Jessamyn West on COMIC SANS | Whitney Trettien on WILKINS’S REAL CHARACTER | Cintra Wilson on HERMÈS vs. HOTDOG | Jacob Covey on GOTHAM.

2013: HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (old-school hip hop tracks): Luc Sante on “Spoonin’ Rap” | Dallas Penn on “Rapper’s Delight” | Werner Von Wallenrod on “Rappin’ Blow” | DJ Frane on “The Incredible Fulk” | Paul Devlin on “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | Phil Dyess-Nugent on “That’s the Joint” | Adam McGovern on “Freedom” | David Abrams on “Rapture” | Andrew Hultkrans on “The New Rap Language” | Tim Carmody on “Jazzy Sensation (Bronx Version)” | Drew Huge on “Can I Get a Soul Clap” | Oliver Wang on “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” | Douglas Wolk on “Making Cash Money” | Adrienne Crew on “The Message” | Dart Adams on “Pak Jam” | Alex Belth on “Buffalo Gals” | Joshua Glenn on “Ya Mama” | Phil Freeman on “No Sell Out” | Nate Patrin on “Death Mix Live, Pt. 2” | Brian Berger on “White Lines (Don’t Do It)” | Cosmo Baker on “Here We Go (Live at the Funhouse)” | Colleen Werthmann on “Rockit” | Roy Christopher on “The Coldest Rap” | Dan Reines on “The Dream Team is in the House” | Franklin Bruno on The Lockers.

2012: KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (Captain Kirk scenes): Dafna Pleban: Justice or vengeance? | Mark Kingwell : Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | Nick Abadzis: “KHAAAAAN!” | Stephen Burt: “No kill I” | Greg Rowland: Kirk browbeats NOMAD | Zack Handlen: Kirk’s eulogy for Spock| Peggy Nelson: The joke is on Kirk | Kevin Church: Kirk vs. Decker | Enrique Ramirez: Good Kirk vs. Evil Kirk | Adam McGovern: Captain Camelot | Flourish Klink: Koon-ut-kal-if-fee | David Smay: Federation exceptionalism | Amanda LaPergola: Wizard fight | Steve Schneider: A million things you can’t have | Joshua Glenn: Debating in a vacuum | Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons: Klingon diplomacy | Trav S.D.: “We… the PEOPLE” | Matthew Battles: Brinksmanship on the brink | Annie Nocenti: Captain Smirk | Ian W. Hill: Sisko meets Kirk | Gabby Nicasio: Noninterference policy | Peter Bebergal: Kirk’s countdown | Matt Glaser: Kirk’s ghost | Joe Alterio: Watching Kirk vs. Gorn | Annalee Newitz: How Spock wins

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What do you think?

  1. I dig your form-over-content take on Black Panther, Joe. He originally did have a cape, I think — but you’re right that he’s much more fluid-protean-emptyvesselish (and less Batman-like) without it.

  2. “Crumpled interrobang” – perfect! You can see the restlessness of Kirby’s creativity when you posit it this way. He turned the limitations of a character who was almost a silhouette into a showcase for his compositional skill.

    As I’ve been going through the entries in this series I’ve been thinking, “Where’s the punching?!” But as I looked down the list of contributors I knew in my heart that Joe would pick a shot of dynamic action violence.

  3. Thanks, David and Josh! I fully appreciate Kirby’s functional storytelling skills, but there is something nearly *edible* about the jagged, hashed, swooping line work of Kirby. It’s like his brain itself was holding the pencil.

  4. Great description of Kirby’s art, Joe! Black Panther’s costume design was the simplest [kinda like Alex Toth’s The Fox] and, so, Jack hadda bring everything he knew into that form to make it rock. Plus, SHAPES. If I’ve learned anything from Kirby it’s that, when he abandoned accuracy, he made it all work with shapes and brought it to a 4th World level. Just look at that panel. It’s broken but it’s right!

  5. Now I feel really bad that I questioned Joe’s use of “interrobang.” PS: Now that David mentions it, I think this is the only punching panel in the series!

  6. I’d go see that shrink, the one who used Kirby rorschach blots to plump my psyche, any time.

  7. This panel also features one of my favorite Kirby-isms. Check out the Panther’s hips and what should be his glutes. That looks an awful lot like a groin, instead. He seems to have done this during fight scenes (early Avengers pages with Cap have this a lot). “That punch was so hard that…”

  8. Yeah, the BP here sorta looks like those Masters of the Universe action figures whose torsos swiveled around completely.

  9. I don´t know if you´ve invented the word “interrobang” and what it means exactly, but it is my favorite new word. Sounds like the perfect name for site that does exactly what is done in this series – maybe it would be a cool name for another series of his kind. And honestly: why aren´r you people publishing this series as a book with some extra essays and great reproductions of images – by which I mean a pulpy look, of course or maybe even some cheap paper as part of the point – you know: Pulp Scholarship.

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