Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Simple Kirby/Ditko Contrast.

My two favorite comic book artists of the Silver Age emerged from Marvel Comics. The creations and the stories that flowed from these men amazed me as a kid. Their work was like magic.

But they were very different. Kirby was all about inspiration, and Ditko was introspection. Kirby was power and solidity. Ditko was strangely frantic.

No more for today...for now I am extremely tired. Too tired to even muse further on the works of two of my childhood idols. I always had the impression that Kirby's work inspired and pushed Ditko to new heights. And that Ditko's work pushed Kirby to go places he might otherwise have never considered.

Ditko's style had been evolving for some time, and he was breaking out and pushing boundaries. His hero was front and center, always.

The thrust of Kirby's work seemed to be about gravity, drama, danger.
Ditko showed action. It was as if you were not seeing a snapshot, but witnessing animation and had merely opened your eyes in the middle of a melee.
Kirby's symbolism was simpler than Ditko's. A sledgehammer as opposed to a scalpel.
There had not been comic art quite like this since Jack Cole had taken his leave of the industry (and this mortal coil).
Kirby, too was always pushing boundaries of the form and experimenting with the medium in which he'd found such a powerful place.
There was always something frenetic even in the most weighted of Ditko's graphics.
Tension and drama without even the slightest hint of action.
Perspectives comic fans had never (or rarely) seen from a creator.
Power and brilliance combined. A frozen moment.
Ditko's crowning philosophical statement, artwork that has no equal in superhero comics.
Kirby drama, again. His stab at dissecting a familiar (and poisonous) philosophy.


Kirk G said...

Are you suggesting that Steve and Jack had a competition going on...much like Paul and John in the Beatles tried to outdo each other?

James Robert Smith said...

I don't think they competed in the traditional sense. Ditko himself expressed distaste at the very idea of this when he would refused awards. But I do think that they inspired one another. And I also suspect that there was an unspoken friendly struggle to outdo one another when they were both doing the monster comics for pre-hero Marvel. Those critters were fantastic!

Blev said...

Another contrast that strikes me in seeing these covers juxtaposed is how Ditko had a classic sense of the human form. Often, his drawings of Spidey had the look of late Greek statuary, only imbued with much more movement, But Kirby's figures looked to me as if he'd decided to break the normal constraints of what he knew was real physiology in order to express his own ideas. Real human forms couldn't contain the power he imagined, so he designed new human forms that could.

James Robert Smith said...

I agree completely.

Lawrence Roy Aiken said...

Ditko was a king-hell draftsman. For someone who adhered to such a rigid and joyless philosophy like Objectivism, his characters really exploded on the page. I find myself drawn more to Ditko's work than Kirby's, if only for the kinetic movement. Still, there's no denying Kirby's sense of the epic. His storytelling was a lot more imaginative, too, whereas Ditko couldn't resist the urge to preach.

James Robert Smith said...

Yeah...the sheer emotion and rage generated from a Ditko story was something to experience. Kirby stories were packed with emotion, too--sometimes with anger, but not on the primal level of a Ditko yarn.

Kirby was actually the most natural storyteller of the two. Ditko, on the other hand...there's something about his best work that won't let you go. Between 1964 and 1974 or so, if he wanted to he could create just about the finest comics work being done.

And, of course, Kirby's imagination could not be equaled. He created 90% of the early Marvel Universe all by himself. In fact, the only parts of that mythos that he didn't create were dreamed up by Mr. Ditko.

And, of course, they had no help from their credit-stealing editor.