Originally published in hardcover format way back in in 2004, Marvel Comics has released the Marvel Visionaries Jack Kirby collection in trade paperback today. Running 352 pages, this collection houses Kirby’s early work in 1940 all the way up to one of his last Marvel stories in 1978. It’s a doozy of a collection and it’s amazing to see how his style changed over 40 years. There are also plenty of interesting tidbits to learn from the collection — here’s the top 3.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Celebrate the career of a true Marvel Visionary! Comics’ premier storyteller for over 40 years, Jack “King” Kirby brought new vitality and imagination to the medium, and set the standard for every artist to follow! This volume collects some of Kirby’s most monumental moments – including his earliest Marvel work, the debut of Captain America and the coming of Galactus! From the mystic fantasy of the Golden Age Vision to the western world of the Two-Gun Kid, Kirby’s work spanned all genres and touched every corner of the Marvel Universe!
Why does this matter?
Marvel has re-released many of their Marvel Visionaries collections in trade format this year, including a collection for John Romita Sr., Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, and John Buscema. With Jack Kirby now in circulation, you can own in trade a wide swath of stories from Marvel’s greatest creators.
1) Red Raven #1 was Kirby’s first solo comic and it was ahead of its time
This book opens with Kirby’s Red Raven #1, which he did all the art for. It’s an interesting take on Greek myth, revealing their involvement in World War I. Coming out in August 1940 it’s fascinating to read this and consider how Germany invading Poland in April 1940 may have influenced this work. The art style is certainly not what we think of as Kirby-esque just yet, which is a reminder we find our style after years of practice. Captain America followed this series, but Kirby and Stan Lee didn’t start to really dig into the new era of superheroes until 1961 with Fantastic Four.
2) There was a Vision before there were the Avengers
Back in November 1940 Jack Kirby and Joe Simon created a character called The Vision in Marvel Mystery Comics #13. There are only a few pages here, but you can see how the Avengers Vision was inspired by this character, right down to the costume. In this version, also known as Aarkus, the character is an alien law enforcement officer from a dimension called Smokeworld. It’s also worth noting Kirby was playing around with layout ideas in this story as you can see arrows are used to guide the reader across the page.
3) Celestials have the power to disassemble a person into atoms only to be reassembled later
Eternals is very much Jack Kirby’s baby and a major contribution by him in the Marvel universe. Collected here is Eternals #7, which is set in the City of the Gods in the Andes Mountains. One of the Celestials offers Ajak (who will be played by Salma Hayek in the upcoming movie) a capsule. Inside the capsule are the disassembled atoms of the three S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. Ajak uses the technology found within the temple to re-assemble the men’s atoms. First of all, Celestials apparently collect humans and all forms of life. Second, you can bring them back with the right technology. Could one presume this process might occur in the upcoming film to bring back dead heroes?
Is it good?
This is a fun collection. though it suffers from not telling any one story in full. That said, it’s fascinating to see how Kirby’s style changed and eventually solidified into the iconic look we all know and love. Pick this up to get a nice wide-ranging taste of one of the greatest artists who ever lived.