Friday, August 12, 2011

Jack Kirby Hidden in Plain Sight

DC published a Jack Kirby piece and credited it solely to the inker. As far as I can tell, that miscredit has stood for over 35 years.

"Modern Technology and the 'Get-Away Car'" was a two-pager published in the house fanzine Amazing World of DC Comics 10 (January 1976). The contents page credited it to John Costanza. As of this post, the Grand Comics Database indexers credit the pencils and inks to Costanza and give him a tentative writer's credit. Perhaps, the GCD entry says, it was intended for Plop.

Costanza certainly inked it. But Kirby wrote and penciled it. Obviously a gangster piece was meant for In the Days of the Mob, the 1971 black-and-white magazine DC put out under the imprint Hampshire Distributors. I imagine Kirby intended it for #1, but the higher-ups shelved it for two pages of Sergio Aragon├ęs cartoons.

Of course Kirby did humor—From Here to Insanity and Not Brand Echh, for example. But John Costanza never tried to draw in Kirby's style anywhere else. I think more Kirby shows through here than under Tom Sutton's finishes in some issues of NBE.

I would have thought the writing shouts Kirby. To repeat one of the first things I said in my blog: writers have individual styles. If they didn't, who would have cared that Stan Lee scripted over Jack Kirby's plots in the Sixties but Kirby scripted for himself in the Seventies? Was I wrong? If Kirby had hired John Costanza as a front and credited him with the scripts on the Fourth World books, would nobody have carped about the emphatically non-Lee captions and dialogue?

I see, for instance, the typical Kirby emphasis in unusual parts of the sentence, and the idiosyncratic use of quotation marks:

At the RAPID rate of recent advances in things mechanical, a simple adjustment by an amoral, money-hungry mechanic could add a "CAPTURE-PROOF" appendage to the standard "GANG WAGON"!

Since nobody else seems to have caught it in over a third of a century*, I guess I can't fault the Amazing World editors for not divining the correct credits in an inventory piece (I'll assume that the Costanza inks were applied a few years prior to 1975). Certainly DC wouldn't be petty enough to treat Jack Kirby as a non-person soon after he left the company. No more than they'd erase the Siegel and Shuster credits from Superman reprints...

At any rate, I repeat what I said in my Teen Titans post—the credits may not tell the whole story.

*Actually, it was caught soon after it was published—see the comments.


  1. Nice to see you blogging!
    I think Mark Evanier pointed this out back in 1976 - just that no one listened to him. Let me send a link to him....

  2. SangorShop, thanks for remembering that Mark posted on this before there was an Internet to post on. Mark, I missed your pointing this out back then; but I'm not surprised to hear that you did!

  3. It did not take a lot of great detective ability for me to know that Jack drew that story. I saw him draw it.

  4. It is so obvious that Kirby both wrote and drew the piece that it is astounding that an error like that remains. If it hasn't happened yet I'll try to make the correction on the GCD and credit you and Mark Evanier.

  5. Martin,

    As a GCD indexer I was able to update the Kirby info, crediting you and Mark Evanier. I was also able to update the Starlin info as well.

  6. I also reckon this was inked by Neal Adams. Just look at those hands in the last panel. Don't suppose anyone will agree with me though

  7. Martin, JKQ editor Chrissie Harper tells me the story was published and credited to Jack in TJKC #16, and is also credited to Kirby in the Twomorrows Jack Kirby Checklist.
    BTW, Do I recall it being mentioned somewhere you have written an article which makes the case Kirby wrote many of the S&K stories during the 40's and 50's? It certainly has long been obvious to me Kirby did the lions share of the writing, and that around 1951 Simon is absent from anything completely penciled by Kirby.
    Why hasn't the article seen print?

    Patrick Ford

  8. Nigel: Adams on this?

    Patrick: It's good to see that this Kirby work has already been presented correctly credited; it went under the radar on my Internet search before posting.

    I haven't written an article on Kirby's 40s-50s writing, but Rich Morrissey, say, may have passed my opinion out into fan circles that Kirby did almost all of the final scripting. Even where Ed Herron or Otto Binder are known to have submitted scripts for particular Captain America stories, I see Kirby supplying his own dialogue and captions. I'll try to post some examples eventually!

  9. Martin, Despite having every issue of TJKC I'd completely forgotten the article in issue #16 until Chrissie mentioned it.
    I have the same sense about Kirby's writing as you do. Both his writing and art have always been "square fingered" if you get what I mean. That's intended as an appreciation of Kirby's dialogue and art, personal style is something that gives me a lot pf pleasure, and Kirby's got a boat load of it.
    Aside from just the way the material reads (it's voice), there is also the fact there is a lot of unpublished Simon and Kirby material still in pencil, and almost all of it shows Kirby's printing in the captions and balloons.

    I sure can't see Adams on that two page story. Maybe Bob Oskner.

    Patrick Ford

  10. Patrick, I do see John Costanza in the inking; that much of the original Amazing World credit I go along with.

  11. Martin, I'm sure you are right. I have no frame of reference for Costanza, but I can't see Adams on that story based on the several Fourth World covers he inked over Kirby. When it comes to heavy handed inkers, Adams makes Murphy Anderson look like Mike Royer.

    Patrick Ford