Whenever anyone compiles a list of the greatest comic books of all time, the Jack Kirby/Stan Lee run on Fantastic Four always occupies a prominent spot on any such ranking, and with good reason: The 102 issues that Marvel's dynamic duo worked on is all-caps EPIC.
The sheer genius of that run -- think of characters like Dr. Doom, the Skrulls, the Inhumans, Galactus, the Silver Surfer, the Silver Age rebirth of Namor, the Sub-Mariner and so much more -- is staggering. For many fans, the absurdly imaginative art by Jack Kirby is a huge part of what made Fantastic Four 'The World's Greatest Comic Magazine.'
With August marking the Kirby Centennial, there are many tribute projects in various stages of production. One of our favorites is IDW's latest installment in its award-winning Artist's Edition series, Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four, which debuts in July.
Calling this massive volume a coffee table book would do it a disservice.
Featuring 168 pages and measuring 15 x 22 inches, the same size as Kirby's "Twice Up" original art pages, it gives fans a chance to view the actual art pages as Kirby delivered them in its full Kirby Krackle glory. It features four complete "Twice Up" books from the pinnacle of Jack & Stan's time on Fantastic Four: issues #33, #45, #47 and #60. That last issue, BTW, is the classic "The Peril and the Power," in which Doom steals the Silver Surfer's board.
Fans have been clamoring for an oversized Kirby art book for years, and now that wait seems to have paid off.
The book also contains high-res scans of 22 Kirby Fantastic Four covers (which are among the most coveted pieces in original art collecting circles), as well as dozens of pin-ups, splashes and panel pages from Kirby's time on the book. Some of these pages have never been publicly seen before! There's no wonder this is the most anticipated Artist's Edition book to date.
Syfy Wire talked with Scott Dunbier, editor of the Artist's Edition series, about this titanic release. Read on to see how difficult it was to collect images of some of the artwork needed for the book, how rare some of these pages actually are and his personal recollection of meeting The King.
Oh, and we almost forgot: We have an EXCLUSIVE look at six of the glorious pages in this book. Click, enjoy and revel in the majesty of King Kirby's artistry. Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four Artist's Edition from IDW debuts in July.
How long did it take you to track down the original art pages featured in this new Kirby FF Artist's Edition?
Scott Dunbier: It took years. There are four complete stories in the book, and one was sold from one collector to another while trying to get scans, two were outside the United States, and the fourth was still with the inker, Joe Sinnott. There is a massive gallery section in the book as well, with 22 covers and lots of great panel pages. All of these had to be tracked down and scanned. Very time-consuming … and fun!
The community of original art collectors is relatively small and sometimes secretive. You're a collector yourself. Were any of the pages we see in this book a big surprise to locate?
Sure, the fact that I was able to find nine pages from Fantastic Four #3 is just amazing to me. All those covers, that was a big surprise.
As the editor, what do you hope people get out of seeing the art in its purest form?
The remarkable kinetic energy in Kirby’s art. He was an amazing storyteller, but also a powerful artist -- his imagery seems to explode off the page.
IDW has released an Artist’s Edition of Kirby's work on Thor and also some of his Fourth World books for DC, but among art collectors, his Fantastic Four pages -- especially 'Twice Up' art -- are in a class of their own. Why does his run on FF remain so treasured?
Yes, and the Mighty Thor AE book was also "Twice Up." To put it in perspective, most comics nowadays are drawn one and a half times up, or about 10 x 15 inches. The older art, predating 1968 or so, was done twice up, meaning twice printed size. Those pages are enormous, and the physical books are 15 x 22 inches — I like to call those Kirby-sized. As for why Kirby's Fantastic Four is so revered … better than me explaining it to you, go read them, experience some of the greatest comics ever done. It would be like trying to explain to someone why Citizen Kane is gold standard in cinema … Fantastic Four by Lee and Kirby are the gold standard in comics.
IDW could literally put out a different Kirby Artist's Edition every month -- that's how prolific he was. But the trick, of course, is finding the original art. What is your dream Kirby book, the Grail you hope to one day discover?
For me, personally, there are a number of them. Fantastic Four Annual #1, Fantastic Four #48-50, 57-60 (although we are lucky enough to have #60 in this book). I'd also love to do a Boys Ranch Artist's Edition. The stories may not be as compelling as Doctor Doom stealing the Surfer’s board, but, man, the art on those books were insanely good, truly beautiful. After that, some of the earlier things, the great Golden Age stuff like Captain America, Manhunter, Newsboy Legion, etc.
This is part of the celebration of what would have been Kirby's 100th birthday. To put you on the spot a bit, could you sum up what Jack Kirby means to comics?
Jack Kirby was everything to comics. As a creator, he created so many different genres that are basically taken for granted now. The number of characters that flowed out of his brain and into his finger tips is boggling. Extraordinary. As a person, he inspired fans throughout his career, including me.
When I was a kid I called Kirby up (he had a listed phone number) and he invited me to his house, told me to bring my comics for him to sign, and then did a sketch of Captain America waving saying "Hi Scott." I cannot tell you what that singular act of kindness has meant to me personally in my life. And what's evermore incredible? My story is by no means unique. So happy birthday to the King of Comics, the one and only Jack Kirby!