Over the weekend I finally got the chance to head up to California State University of Northridge that is currently holding an exhibit of Jack Kirby original artwork. The show is titled Comic Book Apocalypse: The Graphic World of Jack Kirby. Here is a description of the exhibit from the press release;
The exhibition “Comic Book Apocalypse: The Graphic World of Jack Kirby” will feature the works of comic book artist Jack Kirby, co-creator, designer and original artist of famous characters such as Captain America, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and the Black Panther. About 100 pieces of Kirby’s work will be displayed and a roughly 200-page, full-color catalog will accompany the exhibition.
English professor Charles Hatfield, curator of the exhibition, said he wanted to show Kirby’s works because of their graphic power and great historical impact on American popular culture. Hatfield said when it comes to Kirby, you either “go big or don’t bother at all.”
“We call the show ‘Comic Book Apocalypse’ because when you’re dealing with Kirby, nothing less than the end of everything is at stake,” said Hatfield, author of the book “Hand of Fire: The Comics Art of Jack Kirby” and winner of a 2012 Will Eisner Comics Industry Award for Best Educational/Academic Work. Hatfield said the exhibition will be the largest gallery show in the United States to feature Kirby’s art and the first held at a university.
There was a pop-up show in New York in 2013 by the Jack Kirby Museum but this is the first time that a large-scale gallery show of Kirby’s artwork has been seen by the public. The show is currently running until October 10th 2015 so if you live in Southern California or are planning to visit this is a must see the collection of Kirby artwork and rare items.
The show has a nice cross-section of Kirby artwork from his earliest Boy Commandos #3 page 11 (1943) to some of his last published work Street Code in Argosy (1990 but created in 1983). It covers both Marvel and DC along with some of his independent work. There was a whole room devoted to one of his most beloved creations Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth that actually had the most pages from a single title.
They also had some pages from the very rarely seen 2001: A Space Odyssey adaptation and subsequent series. It’s one of the more unusual Kirby books that most people don’t realize that is where Machine Man came from.
There was also some of his collage work from 2001, Spirit World and Hunger Dogs graphic novel. Kirby mixed photographs and line art to create some of his most striking work. To be able to see them up close just shows the beauty of the work. I find this to be some of Kirby’s most innovative work and outside the box approach to comic book art.
There were even a few unpublished cover designs and unused pages in pencil form that just shows his raw artwork that you never get to see. You can really see the power of his designs and layouts that are bold and powerful.
There was a number of comic books of his work including some rare older non Marvel and DC work. There was also the first ever San Diego Comic Con convention program that Kirby did the cover artwork for.
They also had a great interactive display on an iPad of the progression of his artwork. First there was the raw pencil art, then the inks with some cleanup work still left and without the final lettering, then finally the finished printed page as published. This was very fascinating to see how the artwork progression works.
We were lucky that when we went on Saturday there was a panel discussion with guest speakers, Diana Schultz, Ben Saunders, Andrei Molotiu, Glen David Gold, Scott Bukatman, Adam McGovern, Mark Badger, and Charles Hatfield. In attendance I ran into Scott Dunbier from IDW and Jamie S. Rich Senior Editor at Vertigo. After the discussion the panelist signed the beautiful exhibit catalog that was produced for the show by IDW and it is a wonderful book with the artwork from the exhibit and discussions about Kirby artwork and impact on the comic industry. I was lucky enough to get it signed by the panel members.
The exhibit has been a real success for the University and there has been discussions of possibly having more exhibits based on the comics industry. It would be great to see more exhibits with comic book artists that are far under appreciated by the general public and hopefully the Jack Kirby exhibit will spark people into discovering the rich history that the comic book medium is filled with.
Below are some of the pictures that I took of the exhibit. I used my Nikon D3300 camera and used both the 50mm and the 18-55mm lens without the flash and only the lighting of the gallery. There is no way that any of these pictures can capture the artwork that you can only experience it by looking at it in person. I have included nearly all of the pieces but I must emphasize that no photograph can capture the subtle details of Kirby’s work and that if you are able to go to the exhibit it is a must see for any true comic book fan. For those who can not make it to the show I hope that the photos will give you a glimpse into the exhibit and hopefully this will be the first of many shows like this at the University in the future.
For more information about the show and the dates and hours of the exhibition here is a LINK to the CSUN site for the show.