Kirby is one of the most celebrated, and legendary figures in the comics industry. Co-creator of Captain America with Joe Simon, and countless others alongside Stan Lee. Including the Fantastic Four, Thor, Iron Man, the original X-Men, and Black Panther. Kirby’s reach and influence spans far and wide. Getting his start in animation, before diving into the comics industry in 1936. Working in various genres, before exploding, alongside the popularity of superheroes.
Comic artists of the time, especially at Marvel, were encouraged and instructed to mimic Kirby’s style as much as possible. Given copied pages of his pencil work to ink-in, just to get a feel for how Kirby drew characters. Placed scenery. Structured a page. Kirby is easily one of the most important figures in comics, who’s style defined the look of many stories his pen didn’t even touch.
Primarily associated with Marvel, thanks to all the amazing creations his name and talents are linked to. In late 1970, however, Kirby signed a contract with DC. Moving to the competing company, and created a whole new mythology. The Fourth World, and the New Gods. Mythology DC is still drawing from nearly five decades later. With characters such as Mister Miracle, and Darkseid. According to Sean Howe in Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. Pages of Kirby’s work on these new books, would be smuggled into the Marvel offices, where the artists and writers would marvel at Kirby’s work, and see just how he was improving. How they could compete with the legend.
Despite Kirby’s legendary status, his influence on the industry, and his immense talent. DC took every drawing Kirby did of Superman, and switched out the artwork of his face, with the work of Al Plastino!
According to Brian Cronin, author of Was Superman a Spy? And other Comic Book Legends Revealed!:
“Kirby had Superman guest star in his Jimmy Olsen stories, to establish these New Gods in the DC Universe, but when he did, strangely enough, DC had a different artist redraw Superman’s face! Al Plastino, who was a popular Superman artist during the 1950s (and drew the first appearances of Brainiac and Supergirl), was brought in by DC to redraw Kirby’s Superman faces to make them appear consistent with the way the hero looked in his own comic book (which was drawn mostly by artist Curt Swan)”
What’s strange about this, is the fanfare DC made, over having the talent of Jack Kirby working in the DC Universe. The simple idea of having Jack Kirby, the legendary artist, drawing one of DC’s flagship characters, and the originator of superheroes as a whole, should have been enough of a draw. But even with his talent on bored, it seems that even in the 70s, DC is more concerned with keeping their continuity intact, than letting a legendary artist express their own views and style for a legendary character.
All Books used for this article, are available here:
Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed
Fourth World by Jack Kirby’s Omnibus
Marvel Comics: The Untold Story (P.S.)