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17Feb/101

We Are Who We Are

I've always kept a folder of images hanging around on my hard drive. Sometimes I'll go in there for inspiration or just to witness a little museum of my own making. Perhaps I could start a Tumblr like a pair of friends did, but god knows I have my hands full with this blog. So here is one particular favorite from my collection:


Photo co. here

This is Alan Moore and Jack Kirby at some comics convention presumably between 1986 – when Watchmen began its run – and Kirby's (born in 1917 as Jacob Kurtzberg) death eight years later. Moore was one the more prominent horsemen of comics' British Invasion during the 1980s when, for better or worse, the medium took a turn toward dark and more “adult”-oriented storytelling and art. Heroes gained human features and human weaknesses. Like any revolution, this one went way overboard; darkness begat senseless ultraviolence, clever self-reflexivity begat pointless referentialism. But whether you enjoy him or not, there is no doubt that Moore's hand was one which pushed the medium into a new era of creativity.

In the same way that Moore and his ilk transformed comics, Jack Kirby invented them. Teamed up with the much more recognizable Stan Lee, it was Kirby's brush which gave birth to the Fantastic Four, The X-Men, the Hulk and many other characters and teams for both Marvel and DC. In the 1970s he was given nearly free creative reign at DC. This resulted in not just in the creation of Darkseid – a favorite among villains in the DC universe – but also with the injection of the beat and hippie culture as a genuine aesthetic (comics, as a rule, tend to run a a bit behind the dominant counterculture). In the pages of his Fourth World books, he developed a psychedelic line, mixed media and wrote with the pounding urgency of youth. Kirby opened the door that Moore would later kick open (and Grant Morrison would, later still, take off the hinges and reattach upside-down.)

So there you have it. Two men embodying two generations which pushed an entire medium, its audience in tow, well past its comfort zone and closer still toward artistic legitimacy.

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  1. Great! Love the observation about Kirby bringing over the Beat and hippie culture; it’s before my time, but you can’t love comics too long without learning about it! I was trying to recall other Kirby villains at DC besides Darkseid that may have been FF villains in utero…


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