Tentacle Tuesday Masters: Jack Kirby, Part 1

I probably don’t have to explain who Jack Kirby (1917-1994) is, but just in case: he’s the undisputed King of comic books, the one of most influential comic book artists and writers of the United States, and an undisputed titan of comics and culture.

I also recommend reading Learning to Love Jack Kirby, an earnest and personal story of how the author (Chris Sims) came to appreciate Kirby and, at the same time, a pretty good overview of some of his most memorable characters and comics.

« I’m tempted to say that you don’t really get Kirby until you develop the ability to look beyond the surface of a story and see how much craftsmanship it takes to look as simple as his comics, but that’s really just covering up my own initial revulsion. There were plenty of kids who encountered Kirby at the same age I did and wound up loving him from the start; I’m just a slow learner. But I do think there’s something to the idea that it just has to hit you right for everything to make sense, and once you’re there, you’re there forever. And the good news is that Kirby’s contributions to the medium are so vast, so unavoidable even a quarter-century after his death, that even just scratching the surface of superhero comics means you’re encountering them all the time. »

Now that we have part over with, shall we continue to the tentacular part of today’s post? Kirby didn’t do anything in half-measures, so I’d like to think that we have some epic, larger-than-life, cosmic tentacles on offer. As it turns out, there’s quite a lot of ’em scattered throughout Kirby’s mind-boggling career, so today I am concentrating on Kirby’s work for DC Comics in the 1970s.

Seriously, there’s all kinds in here.  A sea ball of yarn is our exhibit A.

Sequence from O’Ryan Gang and the Deep Six, scripted and penciled by Jack Kirby, inked by Vince Colletta, and published in The New Gods no. 4 (August-September 1971).

This may be a take on the old head-of-Medusa, but Gargora doesn’t mince words, and when she says someone can’t escape, well, she’ll deploy some tentacles to catch them:

Splash from Witchboy, scripted and penciled by Kirby, and inked by Mike Royer, and published in The Demon no. 14 (November 1973). Random fact of the day: Freud considered that the hair on Medusa’s head is often represented in form of snakes, because as snakes are penis symbols derived from the pubic hair, they serve to mitigate the horror of the female castration complex. …When someone tells me that are into Freudian theories, I back away slowly.

Some monsters crush you between their limbs – this is no different, but instead of two legs, there’s a “crushing mass of tentacles”. Don’t feel bad, Etrigan, no-one could break free of *that*.

Page from The One Who Vanished!!, scripted and penciled by Jack Kirby, and inked by William Stout and Mike Royer (don’t miss co-admin RG’s 3-part, exclusive interview with Mr. Royer!), published in The Demon no. 15 (December 1973).

You might argue that these aren’t tentacles at all, but the creature is described as a “flying octopus”, and who am I to argue with Kirby’s description?

Page from The Busting of a Conqueror!, scripted and penciled by Jack Kirby, and inked by D. Bruce Berry, published in OMAC no. 4 (March-April 1975).
Page from The Spy, scripted and penciled by Jack Kirby, and inked by D. Bruce Berry, published in OMAC no. 6 (July-August 1975).

One must have one proper sea monster in a Tentacle Tuesday, and this one’s a beauty:

Page from The Invasion of the Frog Men!, scripted by Michael Fleisher, penciled by Jack Kirby, inked by Mike Royer and published in The Sandman no. 5 (October-November 1975).

Last but not least, plant tentacles!

Page from The Lizard Lords of Los Lorraine!, scripted by Gerry Conway and Paul Levitz, pencilled by Jack Kirby, and inked by Mike Royer, published in Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth no. 40 (April 1976). Kamandi was my first exposure to Kirby, and it bowled me over.  It’s a good illustration of what he can do (and did over and over again), actually: create a universe with its own rules and a perfect internal logic. There are no boundaries in such a place, no limited number of characters – it just lives and breathes as it pleases, and one is but a passerby who gets to witness a few key scenes. Reading Kamandi teleported me into his world with such ruthlessness that I was quite disoriented when I’d have to stop reading.

« His incredibly unique art style and bombastic storytelling made him one of the most imitated creators in western comics history. Kirby Dots are named after the artist’s distinctive rendering of Battle Auras, also nicknamed, “the Kirby Krackle”. He died of heart failure in 1994 at the age of 76, or at least that’s what Galactus wants us to believe. Due to his speed in creating well-received comics, there exists something called the “Kirby Barrier”; breaking the barrier means that you’ve created a quality comic in under a week, a surprisingly difficult feat. » |source|

Don’t forget to visit the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center!

~ ds

7 thoughts on “Tentacle Tuesday Masters: Jack Kirby, Part 1

      • gasp65 July 4, 2019 / 13:43

        Hi Eddie — thanks for dropping by… hope your visit was fruitful and pleasant!


  1. Ellen January 20, 2023 / 11:26

    I have read about forty or fifty years of comics containing Jack Kirby’s art. Others can sing his praise but his later work degenerated (for me) into two ironclad rules.
    1) All heroines must have a frame about their face as part of their costumes.
    2) If clothing can wrinkle, it will do so over-enthusiastically.
    I’ll leave aside the bombast and bathos – they could be the writer.
    Some artists get better with age. I don”t think Jack Kirby was one of them.


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