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Saturday, March 12, 2005

Jack Kirby, American Genius

Born in New York City in 1917, cartoon artist Jack Kirby could more properly be called world genius. Except that he and his work represented everything that was best about the USA - its originality and creative dynamism, its openness - its verve, in a word. The work of even the greatest cartoon artists - Hal Foster and Will Eisner come to mind - was dwarfed by the caliber of Kirby's output.

Although he is celebrated among comics fans and fellow cartoonists around the world, it's fair to say that, in general, this is still very much outsider art in the art world. Which is sad, because this work is as central to the plastic arts as, say, John Ashbery is to literature. Or John Coltrane to music. And in fact the work of all three has a great deal in common - namely orginality, audacity, wit, and high lyricism.

The greatest and most ambitious of his work was the Fourth World series - a tetrology of titles that Kirby conceived, drew, and wrote for DC comics in the mid 1970s. If you're not familiar with the work of Jack Kirby and want to see what raw, high, creative inspiration looks like, I recommend you check it out.

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