Naturally, I can't seem to post images today (when I want to) so follow the links for the images.
I was tagged by Plok a while back on the Jack Kirby Character Design Meme and didn’t realize it. Sorry Plok, I didn’t read your blog for a while, I’ve been off the net, kind of – well reading it anyway. I was out of the office yesterday and away from my computer for most of it so no update yet on comics I'd write cheaply (I know you're all waiting on tenderhooks for that) and I didn't even get to the shop to make a purchase. That probably means I'll miss out on Godland.
I’m not all too sure what to do since my knowledge of comic book history is, shady, at best but non-existent is more appropriate. Which is sort of what I’ve been working to remedy with the help of the public library and my own hard earned cash. Sure I won’t be collecting old issues or anything but with the collections out there I’m reading a lot of stuff I normally wouldn’t pick up if I had to pay collector’s prices for them.
Anyway, I looked up a bit of online Kirby history and I fired up Freedom Force on my PC again to get in the mood. So far Doom, Thing and Silver Surfer have been covered. All great choices in themselves for the reasons stated – inhuman pathos, pride and power, and the streamlined stylized human form.
I wasn’t honestly sure which way to go here with Kirby. I do think that his more garish, throw everything at a character’s costume design is more emblematic of Kirby’s approach to comics in general. I love Omac’s Mohawk (Mohican to you Brits out there) and Black Bolt’s tuning fork field goal setup, but RAB covered him already. I would normally go for Black Bolt because he’s a badass who wants you to make fun of that accessory – but that’s not exactly a comment on his design per se.
There’s the excesses of the entire Fourth World costumes, Galactus, MODOK, and Thor that get countered by the simple jumpsuits of the Challengers of the Unknown, the protohuman abstract of the Silver Surfer and Kamandi as, basically, Thor in his blue fur underpants. I’m also a fan of Captain America being the living embodiment of the American Flag with his warrior’s winged helm – yes it’s a bit gaudy but so is the source material, sorry. Happy Thanksgiving down there by the way.
So what is all this rambling about anyway? Well it’s me saying I found it hard to choose between 3 real contenders. As much as I wanted to go for the emblematic Kirby flourishes I was drawn towards his simpler approach. In other words I tried to find his Revolver instead of his Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
With that I looked at the original X-men. Yeah they’re a bit goofy but they’re also very eye-catching. To me they use old school colouring techniques to their highest with bold contrasting colours draped over different human forms. They look like three character studies – man, woman, hulking man body types that have become the staple of every single superhero creation screen in video games. But they weren’t my choice.
Neither was Devil Dinosaur. I love the look of Devil Dinosaur. I mean it’s a Tyranosaurus but it’s bright red. It just embodies mean, rip you a-twain chompy stompy comic book goodness. Plus he’s always jumping which I’m pretty sure a T-Rex couldn’t do but who cares. He’s mean and totally inhuman in the same way Etrigan embodied the same aspects in a more human form.
Nope, in the end I went with Kirby’s creation that is having the most successful revival these days. Machine Man. Look at him. He’s essentially one colour with a few contour lines that allow the character to divide, extend or have any other deus ex machina apparatus at the main points of figure articulation. Like the Silver Surfer he’s been streamlined which reflects his robotic nature and those freaky bug-eyes keep him from being too visibly human. Not only in their bug-eyed look but in the fact that they clash horribly with the main color of the character. Now, all that streamlining to one side what is it about the character that really makes him stand out for me? It is the fact that all this streamlining allows Kirby to showcase his approach to art through the character. Because the character is a robot with random points of extension, we’re constantly allowed to see the comic in Kirby-rama perspectovision.
So I’ll tag Kevin and Mr. Sterling, if they’re feeling generous, because I know Kevin is a devout Kirby follower and Sterling has a much more encyclopedic knowledge of comics than I’ll ever have. I’ll also tag Kalinara because I really like her perspective and sense of humour.