What if Jack Kirby was a Photoshop expert?

August 22, 2011
New God, Issue 5, Page 1, Published

Jack Kirby is best known for his powerful layouts and pencils. But Jack wasn't only about pencils, he had a facination with the fine art of collage making. Many early 60s Fantastic Four and Thor issues, amoung other titles, had his wonderful imaginative collage ensembles. In most cases, inked characters were added later in the production process. The collage was usually done separately with the penciled figures inked on a different page. Jack continued using collages in his personal, 4th World work at DC Comics in the 70s. The main problem back then was the printing process for comic books. It was inadquate for the details his collages offered, not to mention the paper was newsprint quality – terrible and couldn't support most of the 4-color process range of colors. 

So when a recent colorful collage to The New Gods, Issue 5 was added to the Jack Kirby Original Art Archive last month, it made WiK members think of what this beautiful collage would look like unaltered by the printing process. It made me think, What if Kirby was a Photoshop expert and what if the printing process was up to today's comic book printing quality? For instance they wouldn't have had to convert the collage to gray-scale and add flat colors like the drab published version, left. So Pascal Lise (WiK member: Krackles) and Frank Fosco (WiK member: Frank Fosco) took it upon themselves to explore what if. Below are the results.

The first collage is Kirby's original art collage untouched, next is Frank's version with the collage brightened and cleaned up and last is Pascal's interpretation with a great motion blur added. Click on any of them to see larger versions in a slideshow.

One can only speculate what collages Jack would have created if he was a Photoshop expert and created his masterpieces directly on the computer, but perhaps here is a glympse. 

New Gods Original New Gods Frank New Gods Frank

Interested in more Kirby collages? Click to see more in the Gallery section »

Frank Fosco's picture
Posted by: Frank Fosco | August 23, 2011

re: Waittaminit

So now that we all know who Krackles is. I think Pascal accomplished the exact reaction he wanted to get. I kinda like it on it's own merit with it's over the top application. Really has Metron clipping along at an accelerated speed.

Krackles's picture
Posted by: Krackles | August 23, 2011

Spawn of 90s

Hehe, I was really expecting a comment from you, Erik!
I pointed at Image since they kind of started the computer coloring craziness but, really, it's applying to each publisher.

Still, I vividly remember an ugly cover for the first issue of Spawn (See the connection now? ;-)

Erik Larsen's picture
Posted by: Erik Larsen | August 23, 2011

It doesn't look like Image Comics to me.

--Not that I'm an expert or anything.

It looks more like the sort of thing DC and Marvel produced in response to Image.

Krackles's picture
Posted by: Krackles | August 23, 2011

Dropping the pencils

Mark Evanier said and wrote several times that Jack didn't want to draw comics anymore when he joined DC.
He first hoped to launch and produce a line of comics based on his concepts that other artists would work on.

Krackles's picture
Posted by: Krackles | August 23, 2011

I'm tanking Sherman!

I always do when a piece of Kirby's history is unravelled, thanks for sharing it!

Tom Kraft's picture
Posted by: Tom Kraft | August 23, 2011


The order of the collages is updated and copy edits in place. Thanks for indicating the error.

Krackles's picture
Posted by: Krackles | August 23, 2011


Before I take too much punishment, I have to step in and clarify the intent of that piece.
Cagleart is pretty much spot on because… well, because that was exactly what I was going for:
over-the-top, heavy handed computer coloring and production style that started in the early 90s and still is plaguing today comics.
Look at it now as a take on "What if Image Comics had produced Kirby?"

I guess, it was worth to mention after the piece has been posted, after all, because the reactions have been interesting in that it also shows how conservative we are when it comes to our shared love for Kirby's work and comics in general.

Honestly, not being in the knwowledge, I would have reacted exactly as cagleart did, word for word but, now, after having worked on it, this experience makes me wonder:

What if Kirby had really done it this way?
Would we have reacted the same way?

Frank Fosco's picture
Posted by: Frank Fosco | August 23, 2011

re: Too little, too late.

Hey, Steve--truly an honor to have you on this thread. I understand how Jack could feel about computers. It was a while before I got on board with them. It's only been a few short years that I've been messing with them--finally got with the 1990s. I still don't have a cell phone.

That had to be a momentous occasion to be present at that time to see Jack calling it quits. Wow. End of an era.

Steve Sherman's picture
Posted by: Steve Sherman (not verified) | August 23, 2011

Too little, too late.

Way back around 1989 or so, I was working on an Amiga computer using a program that was similar to Photoshop. I was doing animation and layering of images. I offered to bring the computer over to Jack's house and show him how it worked but he just wasn't interested. I even offered to take a drawing and scan it in, but Jack just didn't have any interest. It wasn't too long after that he put down his pencil and called it quits. Can't tell you what a shock it is when Jack Kirby tells you that he won' t be drawing anymore.

Richard's picture
Posted by: Richard (not verified) | August 23, 2011

agreeing with cagleart

I think you've got the image order out of whack in your text: Pascal's motion blurred version is the last one, but you describe it as coming second. Anyway, as cagleart indicates, the blurred and processed version is really intrusive and overpowering. I'm not entirely opposed to modern techniques being applied to vintage art, when it brings the finished product back into line with the artist's original intent. But without that artist around to say what he would have wanted, you really have to be restrained. Go too far and you're basically declaring yourself Jack's collaborator.

cagleart's picture
Posted by: cagleart | August 22, 2011

Interesting question

Very interesting question indeed. And interesting examples. The straight-ahead "restoration" one is pretty neat. But the example with the motion blur: UGH. It shows some of the worst excesses common to "overenthusiastic" Photoshop users (and some current comic-book colorists). The unnecessary extrusion effect added to the lettering (which adds what, exactly? Plus, it's totally at odds with the lettering style). The goofing around with the thought balloon. And the motion blur, which obliterates the artwork. These are all just distracting, and seem to be motivated by "hey, see what I can do!" rather than by serving the underlying artwork. Fun and challenging to do, no doubt, and certainly showing off great Photoshop chops -- but the result is not pleasing. My opinion of course.

John S.'s picture
Posted by: John S. | August 22, 2011

Very Nice Work, Gentlemen!

The King would be proud of all the care, enthusiasm and talent you invested in these. Now aren't you glad I thought of this idea? Email me and I'll tell you where to send my royalty check (lol)!

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