Meanwhile, comic books are 12¢. Whatta bargain! 'Specially if you're zipping down to Pop's Sodium Shop to finger through the spinner rack and tug out copies of Marvel's flagship title, Fantastic Four. This is the period where Stan Lee and Jack Kirby stretched the boundaries of superhero comics just like Mister Fantastic stuck in a taffy pulleven more so than when they reinvented the whole genre back in the early sixties. Stan's scripts became more frantic, funny and frenzied; Jack's artwork became bigger, bolder, more energetic and powerful than every before: a perfect storm of widescreen entertainment that could be rolled up and stuck in yours back pocket. Each and every month in the pages of FF, Messrs. K. and L. assured the public their production would be second to none. We got such huger-than-life characters like The Silver Surfer and Galactus, Psycho-Man, Black Panther, and the Uncanny Inhumans (featuring Kirby's most gorgeous creation to date, the lovely
As Jack experimented with larger panels, huge multi-spread splash pages, dynamic fight scenes and introspective character portraits, he also brought a radical new technique for the first time to Fantastic Four: his famous (some might say infamous) photomontages. In these innovative panels and pages, Kirby would Photostat his artwork over a photograph (sometimes in black and white, sometimes colorized or tinted) to create a collage unlike anything else seen in Marvel comics. At their best the photomontages approached a realistic 3D; even when they visually failed (usually due to the relatively poor printing processes of the period) they were still bold visual experiments. Let's hop in Doctor Doom's Time Machine (just kick those Arby's wrappers out onto the floor...Victor kinda lives outta his Time Machine), set the controls for 1964 and beyond, and tune into wonders of the fourth-dimensional mind of The King, Jack Kirby:
Fantastic Four #29 (August 1964)
Click on any image to King-size
Fantastic Four #32 (November 1964)
Fantastic Four #33 cover (December 1964)
Fantastic Four #33 (December 1964)
Fantastic Four #37 (April 1965)
My favorite part of that last one? Stan's earnest explanation of why the photo might seem a little muddy in reproduction:
Give yourself a No-Prize, Mister Lee!
Fantastic Four #39 (June 1965)
Fantastic Four Annual #3 (1965; takes place chronologically between issues #43-44)
Fantastic Four #48 (March 1966)
Fantastic Four #51 (June 1966)
Fantastic Four #55 (October 1966)
Fantastic Four #62 (May 1967)
Fantastic Four Annual #6 (1968)
Kirby would continue the visual photomontages in his later work, most notably in various issues of his Fourth World books over at DC. It's a pity he did his work before the age of Photoshop, before the dawn of much-improved printing procedures, wider ranges of printed color, and deluxe paperbut then again, knowing how innovative the man was, he'd probably now be amazing us with a technique light-years beyond anything we'd seen. If Stan's scripts filled us with a sense of action and adventure, then Jack's artwork gave us its energy and power...and in his photomontages, awe and wonder over the vastness of unexplored space, undersea, or the Negative Zone.
So, in short? Jack Kirby: Genius. But, you knew that already, right?
Also, see Rick Veitch's homage to the Kirby photocollages here!