Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Kirby Corrections

While most fans are aware that John Romita, Marie Severin, Herb Trimpe and others provided art corrections and alterations for Stan Lee, it is not common knowledge that Jack Kirby also contributed his share of corrections over other artists work in the early days of Marvel.

In the late, lamented Jack Kirby Quarterly # 12 (Spring 1999), I was intrigued by a column written by Nigel Kitching discussing Kirby's art corrections. Like myself, Nigel thrived on minute aspects of comics art, and his first discovery was one that had completely escaped my notice.

Splash to Amazing Spider-Man # 11, April 1964
This splash was the first image Nigel discussed, drawn by Steve Ditko. Notice anything unusual?

To quote Nigel:

"Spider-Man's head is clearly Ditko - the webbing is organized in typical Ditko fashion. But the body is nearly all Kirby. The webbing on Spider-Man's right hand has been hastily drawn as only a series of lines; Ditko never used this shorthand style. The feet are all wrong: Ditko drew a distinct arched instep." 

While I'm not completely certain that Kirby drew those hands, they may well be a quick attempt to copy Ditko as best he could.   

Nigel continues:

"If you look carefully, you can see the point where the correction artist took over from the original drawing. On the lower part of the torso, the webbing lines are much heavier. The horizontal webbing lines on the shoulder disappear on the arm where the correction artist had forgotton to draw them in..."      

Nigel goes on to explain how Kirby eliminated the groin area, how Spidey's thigh goes up practically to his waist and how differently Kirby draws the boots. Never had I seen anyone so meticulously dissect such work and I was greatly impressed. The remainder of Nigel's article point out corrections that Kirby made to early issues of Don Heck's Avengers. This led me to email Nigel, prasing him for his observations and explaining that I too liked to study art styles and had indeed noticed some of the corrections he discussed. I'll post most of them here, While Nigel and I didn't agree on every drawing, we were on the same page 99 % of the time.

Avengers # 9, Oct 1964. Spash page by Heck/Ayers/Kirby  

As Nigel pointed out, Kirby clearly draws the Cap figure in the center, and likely Thor as well. Nigel suspects Kirby also drew part of Iron-Man's left arm and I agree.   

Avengers # 9, page 10, panel 5

Nigel noted that the Executioner was by Kirby. The foreshortened arm and square fingers point to Kirby's involvement.

                          Avengers # 9, page 11, panel six

Nigel is certain that Cap is drawn by Kirby. I concur. Heck had a specific way of drawing Cap's face. This is also a typical Kirby pose. 

Avengers # 9, page 15

I suggested to Nigel that Kirby likely drew the Executioner figures in panels 1 and 5. Nigel was not totally convinced about panel 5, but agreed on panel 1, and suggested Kirby also drew the Executioners face in panel 4, which I agreed with. 

Avengers #9, page 20, panel 8

This is clearly a Kirby drawn Cap figure.

Avengers # 9, page 21

Nigel noted Panel 3 as Kirby drawn. The figures of Thor, Cap and Giant-Man's hands all have the Kirby look, with the exception of the wasp. I noted Kirby corrections on Cap's face in panel 5. Heck drew Cap's eye slots much bigger.      

Avengers # 10, page 8, panel 6

I suggested the Giant-Man figure to Nigel, who agreed with me, noticing the gloves and Kirby's stylized anatomy. 

Avengers # 10, page 18, panel 5
     Another very clear example of Kirby redrawing a panel.

Avengers # 11, page 9, panel 3.

In Avengers # 11, pencilled by Heck and inked by Chic Stone, we find a Kirby drawn Giant-Man figure. Note the boots and the typical Kirby pose.

Avengers # 11, panels 1 and 3.

I pointed out the Giant-Man figure in panel one as being drawn by Kirby. Note the difference in style from panel 2, which is drawn by Heck. Nigel agreed and pointed out panel 3 also being a G-M Kirby. It seems obvious to me now, and I wonder if Kirby didn't have a hand on the Spider-Man pose as well. 

                                Avengers # 11, page 14, panel one

This is one of the few panels Nigel and I disagreed on. Nigel believes this is a Kirby corrected Thor, but I feel this is likely Heck's work. Although the figure does have a Kirby-ish look, the pose, especially the left leg, looks more Heck than Kirby to my eyes. Also, note the hand which is touched up. Thor was clearly holding his hammer in his hand, but  in the previous scene Thor was without his hammer. Nigel was able to contact the great Chic Stone, who inked the issue. He had this important information to pass on:

" Jack did many "touch-ups" on other pencillers; work when Stan thought certain figures lacked dramatic impact."

Stone also belived that the Thor figure was "definitely pencilled by Jack" To Nigel's credit he admits that Stone's saying so doesn't make it positive. Artists sometimes are unable to discern styles, sometimes even their own after some 35 years had passed.  

Daredevil # 2 June 1964, page 2 -Orlando/Colletta/Kirby?

I'll close with a few possible Kirby corrections that I pointed to in my correspndence with Nigel way back in June of 1999. The above page from the second issue of Daredevil is interesting. Many artists struggled with  drawing the Thing, from Steve Ditko to Dick Ayers. This version looks a little too close to Kirby's, and very different from Orlando's style. Unless Orlando swiped from Kirby, I suspect this was Kirby redrawing or fixing up Orlando's figures. Further evidence points to someone else working on the Thing, as I don't see  Vince Colleta's fine line inking on the figure. I'm uncertain if this is Kirby inking though.     

DD # 2, page 3

Here are a few more figures from page 3. To my eye they look very much like Kirby Thing figures circa 1964, particularly panel 3. The remaining panels which featured the Thing on this page are too small to decipher, but are likely "pure Orlando/Colletta" figures (why bother to touch up such small figures)?. Am I 100% convinced Kirby drew these panels?  Nope, but the evidence points pretty strongly to Kirby.  

Strange Tales # 131, April 1965. Bob Powell pencils; Mike Esposito inks

Thing figure by Kirby?

The cover to Strange Tales is clearly drawn by Bob Powell, but the Thing's pose, his hands and his figure bear the mark of Kirby. Powell's Thing looked more ape-like, and this figure looks very much like Kirby's original. 

Strange Tales # 131, page 7, panel 5

Finally we have an interior panel from the same issue, drawn by Bob Powell, with inks by Dick Ayers. Again, the Thing's pose and figure have the Kirby look, although his features and poses in other panels drawn by Powell do not look the same. It is possible Kirby touched up a few other Thing figures in the story, but nothing jumped out at me like this panel did.    

And there you have it, an examination of some of Kirby's possible correction work at Marvel. While Sol Brodsky was the production man at the time, there were time constraints, and Stan would likely want the characters to look right. If Kirby were in the office it would be best to go to him to make the changes, since he designed most of them. Stan was also not above asking anyone who walked in the door to fix a page or panel, as we've seen in an earlier post with Ditko correcting a Kirby panel. I find this stuff to be of immense interest (at least to me and Nigel), so I hope a few others do as well. In the future I may point out some interesting art fixes by folks like Marie Severin, Herb Trimpe and Paul Reinman.      

My sincere appreciation to Nigel Kitching. I urge anyone interested in this post to seek out Jack Kirby Quarterly #  12 to read Nigel's complete article. The issue is filled with great artwork and features. The cover alone is worth the price, using Kirby's unpublished X-Men # 10 cover, nicely colored by Nigel himself.  


Barry Pearl said...

Great stuff! Must have taken a lot of time to scan everything in!

Kid said...

Yup, I'm one of those who find stuff like this fascinating. Keep up the great work, Nick. Another reputed Kirby touch-up on Ditko art is Spidey's legs on the cover of ASM #11.

Nick Caputo said...


Yep, it did take time to do all that scanning, although it took even more time to write the post, since 90% of it disappeared while I was composing it and I had to reconstruct everything (and this cimment had to be rewritten after the first one disappeared as well!)


Thanks. I didn't discuss the ASM # 11 cover since its fairly well known that Kirby corrected the Spidey figure, but since I posted many Avengers corrections here, my next blog may deal with the mystery of the cover to Avengers # 11 and who drew the Spider-Man figure. (and you may read this is the post ever appears!)

BeerbohmRL@gmail.com said...

Thanks for this fascinating look at such comics minutiae. This type of talk went on for years at comicons I set up at for 45 years now as of this June. Blogs coupled with art posts lays it all out. Hope to get more in to my own in the short term once I find more time, best, Bob

Nick Caputo said...


Glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks!

Barry Pearl said...

I am just having so much fun with this post I am going back time after time and is looking at stuff. It's a lot of fun.

I'm really not getting into anything controversial, but you probably know it's on my mind. Comics is such a collaborative medium and so many people a part of the process to put out just one comic. This blog shows how many hands go into making just one comic.it's amazing. That is why I like seeing, with you, all those artist portfolios that we have seen. You not only see where the art has been retouched but where the lettering has been changed also. Also you see the notes in the margins on where they wanted the changes. Gosh I wish the art was saved for everything and we would be able to see the originals

Nick Caputo said...

If I had three comic book wishes, one would be to see every page of original art with Kirby's margin notes. I'd also like to see all the pages with margin notes by Heck, Ayers, Colan, Romita, Buscema, etc. THEN, I'd ask for Ditko's notes, which were written on seperate sheets of paper. I can dream, can't I?

Barry Pearl said...

Niuck, after seeing the Wood, Romita and Simonson Artist Profiles, I die to have just one for Kirby and one for Ditko

Nigel Kitching said...

Nick you are a decent chap for crediting me. So often people don't do this so it's appreciated.

Nick Caputo said...

Nigel, Nothing decent about it. You deserve credit for your observations, although I understand what you mean.

Nigel Kitching said...

Just want to mention that when I was very interested in this subject of corrections and was planning an article for The Jack Kirby Quarterly I wrote to John Romita, Chick Stone and Steve Ditko. I got a wonderful response from Stone and Romita. From Ditko I got a curteous but blunt 'I don't want to discus this' type of answer. Had this come from Romita or Stone I think I would have been a little hurt but from Ditko - well, let's just say it was not unexpected.

Nick Caputo said...


I've spoken to John Romita, who is always willing to talk about comics and his peers, and was lucky to get a hand written letter from Chic Stone. I've also corresponded with Ditko, but I'm quite aware that he is not interested in going back or discussing minute alterations from that period, which I also respect.

Ferran Delgado said...

Congrats Nick and Nigel for finding such small corrections and for your comments around them. I also share your interest on corrections and made some research of my own.

I worked as a letterer for spanish editions of Silver Age Marvel Comics, and it was a joy when we received second generation stats with such quality and sometimes unretouched.

It was a pity that I was so rushed at the time that I couldn't xerox it, but when we received that high quality stats, margin notes were visible. I regret about not making copies, but deadlines were my first priority.

At least, thanks to an art collector I could locate an FF issue with some of the corrections that I detected at the time but that I forgot about it.

Right now I'm trying to discover the retouching in covers via comparisons of the printed covers versus the spanish editions, and I'm finding many intersting details.

I also noticed that many of the unretouched stuff was also used in Essential, and other series of reprints.

Nick, since you mentioned ASM #11 cover, I don't know if you have the unretouched cover, but if not, you can download it from here:

Congrats for your blog, and I'll look forward to dive on it.

Ferran Delgado said...

I just noticed that the Official Marvel Index to the Amazing Spider-Man #1 included the unretouched Ditko cover with the original Dr Octopus' face, not shown in the image I have from the spanish edition.

Nick Caputo said...


Thanks for your interest and for your wonderful blog that has been showing many minute changes on covers and interior stories. I greatly enjoy discovering many I had never seen before. I hope others take a look: