Twenty-third in a series of posts, each one analyzing a single panel from a Jack Kirby-drawn comic book.
I’ve been learning how to draw faces. Or, I guess I should say, relearning how to draw faces. The comics that made me really want to draw comics myself are mostly by masters of subtly conveying emotions: Chris Ware, Seth, Charles Burns. Perhaps that’s why, as a novice cartoonist, I never really learned to draw emotionally expressive faces — to the point where my characters are called “not believable” and “boring” in critiques.
So now, as I prepare to draw my next long story, I sit and look in the mirror (usually in front of the refrigerator, which is about the only thing my magnetic pocket mirror will stick to). I put on an hour’s worth of music and draw my face over and over again in different positions. I’ve found that it’s easier to hold the pose and make it believable if I cry out with the appropriate cackle, grunt, whimper, or whinny. It usually takes about fifteen minutes to produce any faces that I like, but I think — I hope — that I’m gradually becoming unstuck. The theory is that if I can draw the extremes of human facial expression, I’ll be able to pull back and allow my characters to emote normally.
As I continue to study comics, it’s no longer only the emotionally restrained comics that do it for me — I also enjoy the over-the-top comics against which my favorite cartoonists, in their emotional restraint, were reacting. For example, the close-up of Darkseid’s ugly mug, shown above, caught my attention as I read through Jack Kirby’s The Forever People #4 (August 1971). A classic Kirby face, effectively rendered in ink by Vince Colletta, it’s both frightening and evocative — even without eyes! Also, the fact that Darkseid almost never smiles makes it all the more terrifying when he does so here.
Forget the corny writing. Forget that the joke at which Darkseid is supposedly laughing so hard doesn’t make much sense. Just look at that craggy smile and imagine a 53-year-old Jack Kirby cracking it back at himself in the mirror.
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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 |