Sunday, May 6, 2012

Pencil and Ink

There is something of a very personal nature in the ability of an artist to take up pencil and brush and bring images to life on a piece of paper. It appeals to me a in way that superhero movies, with all their special effects and spectacle, as entertaining as some of them are, cannot compete with. The individual vision of those creators that particularly touched me growing up: Kirby, Ditko, Lee, Wood, Colan, Steranko, Thomas and many others, brought forth a world of imagination that I could explore in my living room, poring over the artwork and digesting the words. The colors and letters were also a part of that tactile experience. It is  unique and can't be duplicated in the midst of a crowded movie theatre. With a comic you have the ability to stop and admire a panel, concentrate on a scene and appreciate it in your own time. There are no interruptions, aside from ads that you can easily pass over.

When I look at the work of Jack Kirby, I see an individual with an imagination that constantly spread out to the stars and beyond, yet always had a human quality. His work drew me in through his characters, his storytelling and the unending enthusiasm and energy he brought to each page. Steve Ditko did the same in a decidedly different manner. He has the ability to present a world and characters more down to earth than Kirby's, yet, like Kirby, he can invent situations and develop stories that open the imagination. Ditko's characters were more flesh and blood than Kirby's, more vulnerable physically, although Kirby could make you sympathize with a guy made out of orange rocks. These pen and ink figures continue to fascinate me, but it is always because of the artists behind the pencil. Stan Lee contributed greatly by bringing a personality to the characters, by making them interesting and getting the reader to care about their problems. It was, again, a personal touch of the writer that connected very strongly with many people.

Fantastic Four # 8, Nov 1962. Jack Kirby pencils; Dick Ayers inks

Amazing Spider-Man # 1, Mar 1962, Steve Ditko art.

It is interesting to observe that the characters and themes of those early Marvel stories have attracted the consciouness of the public, although the comics themselves are of marginal interest. Will the children of today ever experience the joy of those Kirby and Ditko comics, and if they do, will they hold their attention? Perhaps, like the pulp heroes of the past, the only way they can survive will be through different mediums. In the 21st century movies, cartoons, video and computer games may be the primary venue where a trace of those characters will survive. Crumodgeon (or anachronism) that I am, I'll cling tenaciously to the images on paper. To me they remain a vital, creative and special form of expression.             


Barry Pearl said...

I think that the great creators, Lee, Kirby Ditko, realized that they were creating characters and devising stories and , to some degree, did not limit themselves to comics. They had hoped to see their characters and their creations in other places. And now they have, bringing in a huge amount of people. The papers report that 60% of the people who went to the Avengers movie were men that means, of course, that 40% were woman. And half of the viewers were over 25. This means that many people were introduced to these characters who would have never picked up a comic.

Jack Kirby gave wonder to the Marvel Universe. Steve Ditko gave it awe. On a journey to
the Infinite Kirby took us to the outer reaches of the universe. On a journey to find Eternity Ditko took us into the minds of the Ancient One and Dr. Strange. Kirby externalized the quest for knowledge, Ditko internalize it.

Kid said...

To me, a comicbook is a unique entity - once it's served up on a computer, or an ipad or whatever, it's something different. I want comicbooks to remain comicbooks.

Nick Caputo said...

One interesting question is: will these movies replace comic books? Is there any need for them(and here I mean mainstream, not alternative comics) when they can all so easily be replicated on the big screen?

I hope that's not the case, but I wonder if those who are growing up in 2012 will even know what a comic book is, let alone the influence of Lee, Kirby, Ditko, etc. There is a very real chance that the comic book we grew up with will turn to dust and become part of the forgotten past.

Barry Pearl said...


In my opinion, it already has.

When a “new” medium takes over, it doesn’t destroy the old one, it changes it. AM radio used to have not just music, but TV plays and comedies and music. Now FM has taken away the music and TV does all the drama and comedy.

TV has really taken over and sales of comics have strongly diminished since the 1950s. Cartoons have replaced Little Dot, Casper, Uncle Scrooge and other children’s comics. Now The Avengers, Green lantern are replacing the comics for teens.

I don’t read new comics anymore and you don’t. We see on the movie screen what we read comics for thirty years ago.

“I'll cling tenaciously to the images on paper.” Sadly they are disappearing, along with the pencils. Comics today are images drawn to a computer screen, into a computer. They are not created with pencils. This means what we see is dependent on the programs used to draw, not just the artists who are drawing them. Gone now is the individuality of inkers and colorists…and as you point out, WRITERS. Everything is done by committee.

The types of comics we love now belong to a generation gone with the wind.

nz comic book guy said...

I disagree, I think they are not going to the wind, but indeed, there is something missing. The hand-coloured comics were more vibrant, as was the art. It's all very well to engoy, watchmen and the dark knight returns, but now the dark and gritty comics are everywhere. You can still make powerful comics and make it also almost animated, in the way done by Wood, kirby and Eniser.

I also think that 70% of superhero fans nowadays under 9 years of age generally haven't bought a real comic book in there life.
Just video games and movies.

Nick Caputo said...


Sadly, I agree that young kids likely have no interaction with comic books.

Dr. Mindbender said...

Amen brother!