Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Kirby connection THeORy!!! or how to insult your favorite artist!!!!

As great an actual impact as Kirby had on comic books there are those that would exaggerate it. I am not one of those people. I only tell you this so you will know that I did not mean to slight Marko Djurdjevic's considerable compositional talent when I came up with a theory about the 70th Anniversary Thor cover that he painted.

It first appeared in THE MARVEL ART OF MARKO DJURDJEVIC which shipped on July 8 of 2009. Marko was commissioned by Chris Allo, who he describes as his closest friend at Marvel, to do 12 paintings which would cover one comic a month.  "-all he wanted was just a simple version of each of the Marvel characters on a white background with a little touch of Marko in it."

In the introduction to the chapter devoted to these covers Marko further shares:
"He gave me a list of the twelve characters and away I went; it's actually the fastest gig I've ever done. I painted all twelve covers in just ten days, so it's been a fantastic cover gig for me to do. I sat down and did all the sketches in one day while I was still in my first inspiration for the job, and then I just painted them one by one."

 The first Djurjevic Thor cover was on X-MEN FIRST CLASS #5. Unlike the Anniversary cover Thor does not appear to be descending but merely standing with his arms outstretched. It is impossible to tell if Thor is wearing his cape. I always suspected that Kirby's original Thor design included a cape to subtly symbolize that Thor was Marvel's answer to Superman.

I've long considered JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #104 to have one of Kirby's best THOR covers. It came out in early 1964. That is before even I was reading THOR. The colorist amplifies the strong composition by wisely keeping the background white. If I've learned only one thing about comic art from Marko it is that white is both the most important and most under-used color in comics.
By 1967 when Marvel released their first set of cards and stickers, like my comic reading school-mates, I had been recently bitten by the Marvel bug. That was when I first saw the iconic Christlike pose. Except for the drooping cape the reuse of the Thor image from the JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY cover is even more similar to Marko's Thor variant. Even though I knew that Marko's exposure to comics was limited to a few years in the mid 1990s and then not again until he was hired by Marvel five years ago it occurred to me that he might have seen the Kirby image.

It is easy to say this now that I know the truth but if I had to make a best-faith assumption it would have been that Marko was not influenced by the Silver Age Kirby cover. Hagen, Marko's assistant, posed my theory to Marko and he supplied the rarest thing in comics history - a definitive answer.

Hopefully Hagen won't mind me using his response here:

I've asked Marko about the Kirby parallels, and he said that it is not the case. He says he's too young to be grown up with Kirby's work. Later he didn't get a connection to him, as he was confronted with other artists that inspired him more (like Enki Bilal, Tim Bradstreet, Phil Hale and Joshua Gabriel Timbrook, an almost unknown illustrator).

It didn't occur to me until after I got the reply that I might have offended Marko with my theory. Given how much time, effort, heart and soul that he has put into his craft it certainly would not be an illogical reaction. Hopefully my trying to make sure that others do not make the same incorrect assumption balances the scales.

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