Mark Evanier has done a wonderful job in this timely tribute to one of the great artistic geniuses of the last century. Really? But wasn't Kirby just a guy who drew trashy comic books? Well, no. He was, in my humble opinion, a graphic artist on a par with Warhol, Rothko, Lichtenstein or any other American artist of the 20th century. He just happened to express his talent in the 'low-brow' medium of comics. But what a talent it was! Evanier has collected together a huge number of Kirby's most beautiful, spectacular and alarming pages in this book, where they are superbly reproduced in large size and full colour. The well-researched text places the work in the context of its time and its place in Kirby's colourful life, from his birth in New York's tough Lower East Side, through a childhood of street scrapping, his creation, with Joe Simon, of Captain America in the 1940s; his traumatic progress across Europe with US forces in WWII; his co-creation of whole comic book genres in the 1950s; his creation of The Fantastic Four, The Mighty Thor, The Incredible Hulk, The X-Men and others for Marvel in the 1960s; his epic unfinished Fourth World saga at DC in the 1970s; his legal wrangles with Marvel in the 1980s.
Here was a guy whose creative output spanned more than five decades, and whose extraordinary talent has been recognised as an inspiration by just about every other artist and writer in the comic book medium since. He has also influenced generations of 'proper' artists, inspired pop stars such as Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles, and is one of the unacknowledged sources behind the original Star Wars trilogy.
If you don't know Kirby's work, this book is a great introduction. If you do know the work, then this is a perfect way to find out more about the genius who produced it.
And as if all that wasn't enough, Evanier has included my favourite Kirby page of all time. Mister Fantastic hangs in space, surrounded by strange planetoids against a jazzy, op-art background. He says: "I've done it!! I'm drifting into a world of limitless dimensions!! It's the cross-roads of infinity - the junction to everywhere!!" And that's a pretty good summary of what Kirby's work is about.