Sunday, March 24, 2013

Jack Kirby's Sgt. Fury Feature Pages

The early issues of Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos included many feature pages that were likely the invention of Jack Kirby, who may have written some as well. "Weapons of War" debuted in Sgt. Fury # 1 and since the title is self-explanatory, lets let the pictures do the talking!

Sgt. Fury cheerfully introduces the Weapons of War feature. Jack Kirby may have come up with the concept and possibly did the research; Stan Lee likely provided Fury's dialogue. For you completests, Dick Ayers inked, Artie Simek lettered and Stan Goldberg is the primary palette suspect. From Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos # 1, May 1963.

"The Enemy That Was!" is very likely written by Kirby, with some editing by Lee. The style is terse and to the point. It reads very much like his later scripted stories:

 "The german soldier was tough, well-trained, well-disciplined! He carried out orders with unquestioning, deadly efficiency!"   

Dick Ayers inks, Artie Simek letters, Stan G. colors? Sgt. Fury # 2, July 1963

Sgt. Fury # 2 included two feature pages, the second another "Weapons of War". Kirby likely produced this solo as well, with Dick Ayers possibly inking. The use of "quotation marks" was a Kirby stylistic tic that he would use throughout his career. Job number X-300.  

Sgt. Fury returns to introduce another special feature. Kirby pencils and possible script; Dick Ayers inks; Sam Rosen letters; Stan Goldberg colors? Job # X-396. Sgt. Fury # 3, Sept 1963. 

This "Weapons of War" page is signed Lee-Kirby, although there is little copy, so Lee's input is questionable. Sol Brodsky inks?; Sam Rosen letters; Stan Goldberg colors? Sgt. Fury # 4, Nov 1963.   

Kirby's final "Weapons of War" page appeared in Sgt. Fury # 5, Jan 1964. Kirby would depart from the series after issue # 7, returning in # 13 to depict a sensational team-up with Captain America. It would be another decade before he again worked in the genre. This page is signed "Stan and Jack". Kirby inks?; Sam Rosen letters, Stan Goldberg colors. Job # X-537. 

There was one final "Weapons of War" page, which appeared in Sgt. Fury # 14, Jan 1965. Kirby was probably not involved, but neither is the likely suspect, Dick Ayers, who took over Sgt. Fury from Kirby for a long and successful run. The art appears to be the work of Don Heck. Its possible that Heck only inked the piece, but I don't detect another artist under the inks. 

Other feature pages would appear from time to time in Sgt. Fury, by the likes of Dick Ayers and John Severin, mainly in the Annuals (and I may showcase them one day) but when Kirby returned to a war feature, The Losers in Our Fighting Forces for DC, many issues included feature pages similar to those appearing in the early issues of Sgt. Fury. 

Kirby's feature pages began in his second issue of Our Fighting Forces, # 152. Jan 1975. Inks and Lettering by D. Bruce Berry.   

Kirby provides info on the allies and the opposition. Mike Royer inks and letters. Our Fighting Forces # 153, March 1975. 

The "Big Boomers" of World War II. D. Bruce Berry inks and letters, Our Fighting Forces # 155, May 1975.

These special features, both in Sgt. Fury and Our Fighting Forces, gave the reader something extra for their money. They added background into the weapons, attire and hardware of the WWII era, which Kirby experienced first hand. I can't vouch for the authenticity of Kirby's research (if he indeed did the research on his own, although he probably had books on the war for reference) but his gritty style and honest passion are evident. Kirby's sense of drama and superb storytelling was intensified by a feeling of desperation: nowhere did this come through more than in his war stories over the decades in Foxhole, Warfront, Battle, Sgt. Fury and The Losers.             


Kid said...

Kirby himself said he didn't like doing research on things like weapons, etc., so I wonder if it might have been Stan's idea for those feature pages. Not saying it was, mind you - just wondering.

(Hope you don't mind me pointing out that there's a couple of typos you need to take care of, Nick. I won't spoil the thrill of discovery for you by saying what they are.)

Nick Caputo said...

Hi Kid,

Neither Lee or Kirby liked researching, as both have noted, but with the WWII art Kirby could have used material he had at hand in books and magazines. It may well have been Lee's idea to add some special features to the comics, as they also occured in the FF and, of course, the Annuals, but Kirby always seemed to have a special affinity for war stories and may have done the extra legwork.

I never mind having errors or typos pointed out. As long as I don't have to pay you editing fees! :)

T Guy said...

Thanks for posting these, Nick! I'm missing a couple of the Kirby Sgt Fury issues, so nice to at least see the feature pages of them.

And yes, 'The Enemy that Was' reeks of Kirby's writing style.

Nick Caputo said...

T Guy -

I'm glad you enjoyed them. Hopefully I'll spring more suprises on you in the future.

mr ed said...

The original art for the first three pages of your post are all at Heritage Auctions. If you look at the scans with the close-up feature they offer it's clear Kirby's penciled text is on the German Infantry Man page. The penciled text on the other two pages isn't possible to make out.

Nick Caputo said...

Mr. Ed - I've seen instances where Kirby has copied other writers scripts directly onto the page, so its still not a certainty that he wrote those pages.

Teddy I @ Pencil Ink said...

Always loved these Kirby "extras".