Sunday, October 06, 2013

Jack Kirby Does Drama

The two greatest Silver Age comics artists at depicting and handling high drama were Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. I've already covered Ditko's amazing talent at drama and angst in earlier essays, so today I want to (very) briefly cover Kirby's ability to use building drama in his stories.

The two-issue story arc in FANTASTIC FOUR #39-40 was commercially supposed to be a way to showcase the relatively new Marvel character of Daredevil. Lee and Goodman had probably not been especially happy with the sales of their new superhero title and so they'd recruited Wally Wood to write and illustrate the title. And the general practice at Marvel was to do crossover stories with the characters to show that everything in the Marvel Universe was connected and contiguous and related. DC already did this to some extent, but their characters were far more autonomous than at Marvel--and this kept fans grabbing more than one title, to watch the continuity that Jack Kirby kept up with his amazing juggling act.

Kirby decided to utilize the FF's greatest villain, Dr. Doom, for this story. It bleeds over in many ways from the FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #2, at the end of which Dr. Doom was basically drugged into believing that he'd killed his arch-nemesis, Reed Richards. Brought out of this drugged stupor, Doom is of course enraged beyond reasoning with the way the FF had fooled him, and so sets about getting a new measure of revenge.

The first part of this story (FF #39) was inked mainly by Frank Giacoia, using the pseudonym of Frank Ray. This was, I've heard, a common attempt to fool editors at other companies so that their competing bosses didn't cop that they were working elsewhere. The inks are okay, but not the best. However, all of the figures of Daredevil in this issue were inked by Wally Wood, the man who was writing and illustrating the DAREDEVIL title. This was a cool tactic on Marvel's part, and I wonder if it was Kirby's idea, or Wood's, or Goodman's. I'm sure someone out there knows the answer to that one. At any rate, it was a cool move and I really liked it when I was a kid.

By the second part of the story, the inks were being done by unfairly reviled Vince Colletta. The inks are not the best, but are decent. However, gone is the gimmick of having Wally Wood ink the Daredevil figures in each panel. Why? I have no idea. Had Wood tired of the move? Was he too busy writing, penciling, and inking the regular DAREDEVIL title? Or had he already moved on. His tenure at Marvel was not a happy one, as he locked horns with Lee and did not appreciate having to give up his writing credits on DD. At any rate, Colletta inked every bit of the issue.

Previously, the main rivalry in the Fantastic Four was between Richards and von Doom. This was always the way it had been and that's what the readers expected. But in this issue, Kirby turned the tables somewhat by focusing on what had become Ben Grimm's absolute, white-hot hatred for von Doom. This animosity builds and escalates over the course of the story which ends with Grimm using his inhuman strength and impervious body to power through Doom's gadgets and to literally crush the villain's body. It's one of the most intense sequences I read in comics when I was a kid and I never forgot it.

This seemingly simple, two-issue story arc shows what a phenomenal story-teller Jack Kirby was. It is a crime that over the years the wrong man has received credit for these accomplishments.

My copy of FANTASTIC FOUR #40.
Inks in this one are mainly by Frank Giacoia, but ingeniously all of the Daredevil figures were inked by Wally Wood, who was writing and illustrating the main Daredevil title at the time.
Most inkers didn't quite know how to handle the Thing. Colletta was no exception. He wasn't the worst inker to delineate Kirby's alter-ego, but he darned sure wasn't the best. However, second-tier inking could not hide the sheer emotion that Kirby poured into his illustrations of Ben Grimm.

The final battle between Grimm and Doom goes on for almost half the book! Doom keeps throwing his earth-shattering technology at Grimm and the Thing keeps fighting through it, eager beyond description to get his hands on the bad guy.

And when Grimm finally gets his mitts on Doom...well, he doesn't pull any punches. He crushes not only von Doom's metal gauntlets, but the flesh and bone fingers beneath them. In a great move, it takes Doom months to physically recover from the beating he suffers at the hands of Grimm. You want drama?! Kirby delivered it up, ten-fold!


Kirk G said...

Mark Evanier has addressed the issue of Wally Wood's inking over Jack's Daredevil figure in The Jack Kirby Collector's FAQ column.
As far as Ben crushing Doom's hands, he literally limps off at the end, and in every further scene, we see him cradling his hands. He tries once more to ruin Reed on his wedding day, but it's not clear if the Watcher's machine "resets" him or not. If so, it might explain why he no longer harbors such an intense hatred.

James Robert Smith said...

Doom does address the injuries he suffered at Ben's power in later issues. But I'm still reading my back issues so I'll have to find the instances.

Would like to read the Evanier piece.

dogboy443 said...

Any idea on the what issues Wood worked on DD? I have the annual introducing the Ani-Men and that's one of my all-time favorites.

James Robert Smith said...

Wood wrote, penciled, and inked Dardevil #5 through #8. Then he inked #9 through #11. He did not get on well with Stan (Steal-the-Credits-and-Paycheck) Lee. In fact, from what I can tell from bits of interviews and letters, he hated Lee's freaking guts.

Wood created and introduced DD's red costume.

Henry R. Kujawa said...

Wally Wood wrote the stories in DD #5-11. He did the pencils for #5-8, and wrote the dialogue for #10. He inked all of them.

One month after Steve Ditko demanded-- and got-- credit AND PAY for writing the stories he did, Wally Wood did the same thing. But after Ditko, Lee balked. Instead, he gave Wood more inking assignments-- and just to STICK it to Wood-- teamed him with Bob Powell on DD #9-11, so that Wood would only be getting paid HALF what he already had been getting for the art! Clearly, that was to "put him in his place".

Incidentally, the credits on DD #9-11 are written in 3 completely different ways, suggesting Powell & Wood worked differently on each issue. Knowing Lee's habit of INACCURATE credits, I believe it's BULLSHIT. Wood wrote the stories, in the form of rough layouts. Bob Powell was NOT doing his own layouts on those, if Wood was writing them. Therefore, Wood did layouts & inks on ALL 3.

The only difference was #10, which Lee made such a BIG F****** DEAL about giving Wood a "chance" to "get it out of his system", while Lee MADE FUN of Wood's talents as a writer IN PRINT in the comics.

To listen to Lee, #10 was the ONLY one Wood "wrote". But this is because Lee mistakenly believes (or at least, acts like it to fool his dumber fans) that writing DIALOGUE is writing a STORY. (This is why I try not to use the word "plot" anymore. The word has been used to denigrate and downgrade what it actually is... WRITING STORIES.)

NICE F****** GUY to work for.

Henry R. Kujawa said...

Read my 4-page blog article on the early days of Marvel's "Daredevil".

James Robert Smith said...

Thanks! Always GREAT to have the true history of what was going on at Marvel and who was actually creating the books and characters.