cover to Iron Man #80

Iron Man #80, November 1975

A friend on mine once opined that this Jack Kirby cover was “the worst [he’d] ever seen.” I can’t agree with him on that — I think it’s rather fabulous. To be fair, however, Kirby wasn’t a particularly brilliant cover artist; his genius lay in storytelling panel by panel rather than in composing a single, compelling image. In addition, he was usually required to produce a cover for a previous issue while he was working hard on the story and art for the next one. Kirby had little interest in looking back and so it was hard for him to revert to the mindset he’d had while telling the story of that (to him) old issue. He’d quickly dash something off and get on with the important the work at hand.

Given the date, this cover must have been one of the first things he drew on his return to Marvel after several disappointing years at DC, and it stands head and shoulders above anything from the 74-75 period at DC. He may not have been too happy at having no choice other than to return to Marvel, but he was determined to make the best of it. This cover, at least, shows some of that renewed vigour.

Many fans complain about Kirby’s mid-&0s work at Marvel, but I genuinely think of it as a high water mark in his career. The Eternals is a brilliant piece of work, the first 13 issues being as good as anything he ever did, and Machine Man shows a master of the craft attempting to create the Graphic Novel — Will Eisner beat him to the punch, but Kirby deserves credit for trying.

It’s also interesting to note that, while the busiest year of Kirby’s career was 1962, he was still churning out pages by the dozen during his Marvel stint. This was a man of sixty, remember. By my reckoning, in 1977 alone he produced some 800  pages, covering monthly issues of Captain America, The Eternals, 2001: A Space Odyssey, as well as the bi-monthly exploits of Black Panther, plus two annuals and the covers for his books. In addition he drew a heck of a lot of covers for books that he wasn’t drawing. No wonder, then, that to help keep up the pace, many of these covers were drawn over layouts produced by Marie Severin. 800 pages! It’s not for nothing he’s called the King — he was a drawing machine!

Image ©2010 Marvel Characters, Inc