Jack Kirby Collector Edited by John Morrow Jack Kirby Collector celebrates the life and career of the "King" of comics through interviews with Kirby and his contemporaries, feature articles, and rare & unseen Kirby artwork. Now in tabloid format, the magazine showcases Kirby's art at even larger size.

Excerpts From The 1995 Kirby Tribute Panel

Featuring Joe Sinnott, Mike Royer, Mark Evanier, Tony Isabella, and John Morrow

Held 28 July 1995 at the San Diego ComicCon. Transcribed by John Morrow

(This is just a partial transcript of the panel. For the full transcription, see issue #8 of The Jack Kirby Collector!)

From Jack Kirby Collector #8

Shown here at the 1995 San Diego ComicCon are Roz Kirby (seated) and (l to r) Joe Sinnott, Mark Evanier, and Mike Royer.

EVANIER: Joe, tell us about the first time anybody ever sent you a Jack Kirby page and said, "Here, ink this."

SINNOTT: Well actually, it was a western, Mark. Stan for some reason called me up and said, "Joe, I've got a western here. Jack doesn't have time to ink it, and I can't find anybody to do it." I had never inked anybody's work at that time except my own. This was twelve years after I'd started at Marvel. So I said, "Sure, send it up. I'll do it." It was one of Jack's average westerns, and he did a beautiful job on it, naturally. And I inked it, no big deal, and I mailed it back to Marvel. It was a five- or six-page story, and then about a week later, Stan called me up again, and he said, "I've got another Kirby here, it's a monster story. I'd like you to ink it, Jack doesn't want to ink it." I always felt, and I think Jack may have told me once, that he really didn't like inking his own stuff, because it was like doing it twice, he had to go over it again.

So, the monster book came in, and I was overwhelmed by it. Jack did great monster stuff, but this was called "Pildorr." I think he was a space pirate or something, and when I looked at it, I was amazed by the characters. To this day, I still think that Pildorr was the prototype for the Thing. Maybe Jack wasn't conscious of it at the time. But if you ever find that story and look at it, he looked like the original Thing, the lumpy Thing. He was a pirate, he had a patch over one eye, and these great cohorts of his were these monster-looking guys with teeth sticking out all over the place. It was just a great story. Down through the years, when Jack and I started getting some artwork back, I made a swap with Jack. I sent him some stuff that he wanted, and I got the rest of the Pildorr story that I wanted. I have the complete story now, and it's something that I really would hate to part with. Y'know, you have favorites, and this is certainly one of my favorites. It's one of the first things I did with Jack, and I think it was one of the greatest things he ever did, even though it was one of the monster things that predated the superheroes.

EVANIER: You inked so many people over the years. Talk about what was different about inking Jack. Was there anything really different?

SINNOTT: First of all, when you got Jack's work, you got it all at once, you didn't have to wait for it in dribbles and drabs, which you did with a lot of artists. There were many reasons for it. Certainly Jack was a prodigious worker, and he was a fast worker. So when I got the stories, they always came all at once. I'd get 22 pages or whatever. Not only that, but there wasn't a single line drawn that wasn't there. You didn't have to correct anything. Everything was there, and you had no problems with anything. Everything was shaded in, he never left anything for the inker to think "What should I do here? It's very vague." Which has happened with a lot of pencilers, but certainly not with Jack. Everything was complete and every time I got a story, he was the one artist I looked forward to getting his work, because you were always overwhelmed by what he had done. You can't say enough about him.

ROYER: I want to say something about Joe. Joe had the same kind of passion for comic art that I think Jack had, and I like to think I have that passion. And I think that you were an influence on Jack, because he saw the beautiful job you were doing. When I started inking Jack, I would look at how you inked it, and I realized looking at this evolutionary period of your early inks and later inks, that he started penciling certain things the way that you inked them; things such as outer space, which is basically a configuration of black circles that come together in large masses and feather out. He started penciling that the way you inked it. I think it's interesting, this cross-influence.

SINNOTT: Something like that was bound to happen, even though it was unconscious on Jack's part.

EVANIER: Joe, wasn't there a period when you, either because Stan said something or you looked at the books, and said, "I think I better submerge a little less of Jack's stuff, and let a little more of his style through."

SINNOTT: When I first started getting Jack's work, as great as Jack was, nobody is perfect, right? So I used to look at Jack's work and say, "Jack doesn't draw his ears the way Alex Raymond draws an ear. So I'm going to make Alex Raymond ears on Jack." That's how I made my ears, I patterned my ears after Alex Raymond. So I used to make Reed's ears like Alex Raymond's a little bit. And we all know Jack had the tendency of not putting his eyes on the same plane, which was very unique with Jack, he was probably the only artist who ever did it. But it made his work so unique. And I used to change that a little bit, I fixed the eyes. And I used to slim his girl's hips down. I always felt like Jack had the girls a little too "hippy." Then it got to the point where, a year or two later, I said, "Gee, I shouldn't do this, it's not Jack Kirby." So I started doing it just the way Jack had it down there, at least I tried to. And I think it certainly worked out much better that way. But I think that happens with anybody who worked with Jack. They may have said, "This'll look better if I do it this way, maybe Jack will like it this way." If you just inked every line that Jack had down, the way he had it, you couldn't have done any better. That was the bottom line. That was the way it should've been, just the way Jack put it down.

ROYER: The second book that I inked was a Mister Miracle, what was it, #5? And because at that time I was heavily influenced by Leonard Starr, I just had this bug that I was going to try to make Big Barda prettier. Of course, in doing so, it wasn't Jack's Barda anymore. And it's the only time that I remember Jack ever saying anything critical. He said, "Don't EVER change the faces!" So I never did after that. (laughter) And he was right! Because what I did wasn't Jack anymore.

I wanted to talk about one way that Jack influenced my life. When I first started inking, the books would come in the mail if I didn't pick them up in person. And I'd open the package, and I was just overwhelmed by this incredible aroma of Roy-Tan Cigars. (laughter) Of course, this was in a simpler, more innocent time when we smoked and didn't realize what we were doing to ourselves. And this was in a period when I was smoking cigarettes, which I gave up thirteen years ago. At this time, those pages just... it was intoxicating. So I ran out and bought a package of Roy-Tan Cigars. (laughter) Of course, having been a cigarette smoker, I didn't know how to smoke a cigar. So I'm going through five of these suckers a day because I'm inhaling them! (laughter) And about a week later, my wife comes out to the studio, and I'm laying on the floor going, (in a wheezy voice) "I don't know what's wrong with me!" And she says, "Maybe you should stop smoking those Roy-Tan Cigars!" (laughter) I don't know if that has anything to do with comics' history.

EVANIER: Tony, what was the first thing of Jack's that got you hooked?

ISABELLA: I didn't realize it was Jack at the time, because I was much younger. It was probably Challengers Of The Unknown, with these four guys palling around and having a great time. But the thing that changed my entire life was the first Fantastic Four Annual, which to this day I'll tell you is the greatest comic book ever made. It was just 72 pages of all this stuff. The lead story was the longest comic book story I'd ever read, and after you get through 37 pages of New York being invaded by the Sub-Mariner, and all these plot twists and everything and all these great characters, there's like another 30 more pages of other stuff. It was probably like an overdose of imagination, but from that moment on I couldn't think of anything else I wanted to do in the world other than do comic books.

That is still my favorite comic book, but there's a story that, probably a week doesn't go by in which I don't think about it. And every now and then I think, if I ever write a story half as good as this story, I'll have done something. It's a story called "This Man, This Monster" from Fantastic Four #51. (applause) Just one of the best explorations of what it is to be a hero, because the star of the story is not a hero at the beginning of the story, and makes that leap, makes that period of growth, becomes a hero by the end of the story, and it's still one of the most moving stories I've ever read.

AUDIENCE: When Jack went to DC in 1970, Al Plastino said he did the faces for Jack on Superman. How long did that last, and who did it after that?

EVANIER: Jack penciled, and Vince Colletta inked, the first two Jimmy Olsens and the first Forever People. At that time DC decided they didn't like the way Jack drew Superman. At that point, they had Al Plastino repaste the first three issues. Jack was not pleased by this. I think he was less bothered by the fact that they were retouching his work than by the fact that he was kind of put on notice that DC required him to do DC comics. He thought he was hired to NOT do DC comics. Thereafter, Jack drew the issues, even though he knew Superman would be retouched, he did not shortcut them, he drew them fully. Some of you have seen Jack's Superman Xerox pencils. I thought they were fine, but they were also doing this to some other artists. They did this on a Mike Sekowsky Supergirl, even though he'd been drawing Superman for ten years in Justice League. Then, after the page went to Vince Colletta, he inked everything but Superman and Jimmy Olsen. Murphy Anderson, who was on staff in the DC offices, inked the Supermans and Jimmy Olsens, with the exception of the two issues of Jimmy Olsen that Mike inked.

There's another person who very much wanted the inking assignment at DC named Wally Wood, who they turned down. (groan from audience) I think it would've looked pretty good if he'd done it.

ROYER: They sent me Al Plastino model sheets, so I fine-tuned them just enough that I knew it would please them, but it wouldn't look like somebody had pasted somebody else's head on them. So at least it was all inked from the same hand, and fine-tuned a little bit.

EVANIER: Jack had told me a story once, and I asked Joe if it was true. They were doing Young Romance, and there was a strip that appeared in it called "Nancy Hale." It was an advice strip, and Mort Meskin used to write it and draw it. They had the first issue ready to be sent to the Comics Code, and Jack was closing the book up, looking through the pages. He came to the Nancy Hale story Meskin had just turned in, and he flips through and goes, "Ah, there's nothing wrong with Meskin's work, just put it in." And he suddenly went, "Wait a minute, did I see something?" And he went back, and the whole strip was Nancy Hale, who's this Dear Abby-type advisor, and a guy comes in who has a problem with his wife. And Nancy Hale rips her clothes off, and they start having sex on the desk. (laughter)

They called Meskin, who was in the outer office, and said, "What'd you do here?" He said, "Send it over to the Comics Code. I want to see what they say." (laughter) And Jack said, "You know what they're gonna say!" And Mort said, "I just want to see the memo on that one, with the list of things that are wrong!" (laughter)

I asked Jack once about one of my favorite strips, which was Bullseye, and he said to me, "Y'know what one of the hardest parts about Bullseye was? Every time I drew Bullseye firing the arrow, Joe Simon would say, "You're drawing the bow wrong. He's holding the bow wrong."" (laughter) So when I met with Simon, I had a sketchbook where Jack had drawn Bullseye for me years and years ago. And I showed Joe the drawing, and he said, "The bow's wrong." (laughter)

ISABELLA: I had dinner with Mark last night, and we were talking about some of the real buttheads in the comic book industry. And I said one of the few wise things I'm likely to say this weekend, which was: If anybody in the history of comics had a right to be arrogant, it was Jack Kirby. And he was always the friendliest, most generous, most real human being you could ever want to meet. He was the first professional I met. Mark was working as his assistant. He drove me to the Kirby house. Roz fed us. From the moment he met me, Jack Kirby treated me like I was just as good as anybody else. Every time I ever saw him talking to anyone, he treated them that way. He was just the best class act in the comics industry, and he should basically be the model that all of us base ourselves on. If we ever get half that classy, we'll be better human beings for it. (applause)

ROYER: I think that Jack is a guy who, when you first met him, is extremely disarming, because he was not what you expected. The first words I ever heard from him were (in a Kirby accent), "Mike Royer? Alex Toth says you're a pretty good inker." The next day I was at his house, and he said, "I'd like to have you ink this bio page for MarvelMania." I said, "Okay, when do you want me to bring it back?" and he said, "Oh, you can sit here at the board and do it." And I'm going, "My God...! (laughter) I've wanted to put a brush on his pencils for years and he's saying sit down at my board, and you can do it now?" And Roz says, "And we'll have lunch later." (laughter) And I met the family, and it's like... (laughter) Talk about intimidation! I was scared to death, but at the same time, it's like... I don't know how to describe it. I guess that's class.

Click to join!
Sign up here
to receive periodic updates about what's going on in the world of TwoMorrows Publishing.
New Fall/Winter catalog cover

Click here to download our new Fall-Winter catalog (2mb PDF file)

Search Search the web
All characters are trademarks of their respective companies. All artwork © Jack Kirby unless otherwise noted. All editorial matter is © the respective authors.
Jack Kirby Collector ©1994-2003 TwoMorrows. Website © 1995-2003 TwoMorrows Publishing.