The main villains of the 10-year-long, 27-issue Warren Ellis/John Cassaday masterpiece Planetary were a group who called ominously called themselves The Four. Basically, they were a perversion of the classic Stan Lee/Jack Kirby Fantastic Four, whose popularity maintains fifty years after their creation. Where the FF wanted to spread their technology and discoveries to advance mankind, the Four hid everything they found, jealously guarding their (usually stolen) technology and conducting bizarre experiments on human beings. Considering Planetary was an exploration of comics history, having the antagonists be a twisted parody of one of comics' longest-standing teams was a great touch on a great comic.
One of my favorite visual references to the old FF comics came from Planetary #6. I can't take credit for discovering this. I originally read it over at the Planetary Comic Appreciation Page, which, in my opinion, is the best source of Planetary annotations on the web. (Quite possibly, it is also the only complete one.) In the panel below, the disguised William Leather – the Four's Human Torch pastiche – reveals himself to Planetary field agent Elijah Snow:
Here is the original 1962 Lee/Kirby scene from Fantastic Four #4. Namor, the Sub-Mariner (missing since his Golden Age adventures) is revealed from his disguise by the Johnny Storm, the Human Torch we know and love:
Suburban L.A. was not the most exciting of places to live without a job or a car. One spring day, I decided to develop a hobby. Down I went, hoofing it through three parking lots, to the local Wal-Mart. I picked up some undershirts, fabric paint and printing paper which had glue on the back, like a post-it note. Utilizing my awesome Photoshop skills and my girlfriend's pen-knife, I made some t-shirts. As far as original designs go, this was my crowning achievement. I did not use a pre-made stencil, although I'll admit that Jack Kirby's art takes to stenciling better than most:
Unfortunately, I only later realized that undershirts show off pit stains like they're proud of it. Gross. I still have the stencil, however and here's the PSD in case anyone wants to make a Galactus shirt of their own. There's two layers, each to be printed on a separate sheet to form the head. The text was just a standard stencil font.
Okay, now here is how you make it. It requires:
- Sticker paper
- A small paint roller
- Fabric paint
- A pen knife
- A t-shirt
- A smooth, thick surface that can be slipped inside the t-shirt - I've found that hardcover textbooks are perfect for this.
- Print each layer of the PSD on a separate page of sticker paper.
- Make the stencil by cutting the dark sections out of the sticker paper with the pen knife.
- Slip a surface inside the shirt so that it splays out. (I've found hardcover textbooks are perfect for this.)
- Align and apply the two halves of the stencil to the shirt.
- Paint over the stencil with the roller until you can no longer see the color of the t-shirt beneath the paint.
- Carefully peel off the stencil.
- Let dry overnight. Do not remove surface inside t-shirt until dry.
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.
Say, Lee/Kirby-era Invisible Girl, what exactly are you doing on this mission?
Well then, how about you, contemporary Invisible
Girl Woman? Still keepin' up morale?
Sorry! Forget I even asked!
And now, with a musical interlude, L7: