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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Super Powers Promo Poster - 1984


This was a promo poster DC put out along with the first Super Powers mini-series in 1984, both drawn by Jack "King" Kirby.

While I think its generally the convential wisdom that the Super Powers series was far from the King's best work, there's such sheer energy on display here that I really like the poster.

It must have been hard for Kirby--or would have been any artist--to compose an image featuring eight heroes and only four villains and make it look at all balanced. So to that end, you've got Flash running on...nothing, actually, Green Lantern not doing anything, and Aquaman going up for a jump shot.


Anonymous said...

When I was a kid, I HATED Kirby's work. I remember seeing this poster and wondering why did everyone look so weird! It took me a while to figure out that he was the guy who drew most of the Marvel comics that were "animated" on the 60s Marvel Super Heroes toon I'd seen in reruns. I then decided I didn't like his current work. He drew the covers and last issue of the first SP mini, and I just thought his stuff was too off-model and bizarre.

But over the years I overcame my ignorance and began to appreciate the King. SP wasn't his greatest work, but it has a dynamic that no other DC book at the time had, and it's really one of Kirby's last major projects. He drew the whole second mini-series. Plus he apparently got some of his first royalties from the use of his New Gods characters in the toyline and cartoon.


rob! said...

>>Plus he apparently got some of his first royalties from the use of his New Gods characters in the toyline and cartoon.<<

it was worth it just for that! how embarassing for Marvel that Kirby saw dough from Mantis, DeSaad, and Kalibak toys, but not from the FF, the Hulk, and the X-Men???

Anonymous said...

Wow! So awesome, Jack Kirby Aquaman, that's beyond cool. I really love this poster, the Super Powers line defined my childhood, and I had no idea Kirby was in any way involved in this. Kick awesome!

Anonymous said...

I'm with Chris, here.

Growing up with "Norman Rockwell-type" artists like Swan & Schaffenberger, Kirby seemed too goofy for me.

BOY, have I gotten over that!!!

I was only able to struggle through one ish of SP; the writing's just not there.

(For my money, Simon/Kirby together was better than either apart.)

But I think The King handles the DC stable just fine, art-wise!

-Craig W.

chunky B said...

Love this poster, I have never seen this before. As for Kirby's style I can say I've always dug how he does things I especially like all his atmospheric effects.

Anonymous said...

Not sure if I'm remembering the first or second Super Powers minseries (the third was drawn by Infantino iirc) but here goes ...

When I first picked up the Super Powers mini, I was really excited by the idea of the great Jack Kirby drawing so many cool DC characters including my favorite and yours, Aquaman. Then I read the darn thing and became indignant. It was, in my opinion, terribly insulting to our boy Artie. In one part of the story, Superman is being controlled or somesuch and he plows thru his JLA teammates, an evil grin on his face. Aquaman is the last character left standing, mainly because he did nothing during the battle, and Superman grabs him by the front of his costume. That was the cliff-hanger of that particular issue. The sheer terror that Kirby drew on Aquaman's face pissed me off no end. Can he win this battle? No, most likely he will fall like his Super Powers buddies. But he's a super-hero, dammit! He shouldn't look so terrified.

Still pisses me off. The one time the King draws my favorite hero and he's a complete wimp.

Grrrr ...

Anonymous said...

I think the incident you're remembering was in the first series...I doubt I would've done that to Arthur (unless there was an underlying plot point that would later explain it).

The SP series weren't Kirby's finest...BUT, they weren't QUITE as awful as the final product suggests. I wrote the second series by Jack (also the third, by Infantino) and did it full script, not knowing when I wrote it WHO would be drawing it. Of course I was THRILLED to learn Jack was doing it--dude, if the choice is working with bad Kirby or no Kirby, I'll take bad Kirby just to have my name sharing a credit box with
yknowhaI'msayin? Anyway, Jack followed the script EXACTLY--didn't add, delete or change a thing. This was a commercial job and he knew it (so did I...but I would've opened it up for bigger pictures and stayed away from characters I knew he didn't handle well, like Batman, etc., had I known who was penciling!), he was old, he was tired; it would be one of the last things he pencilled, I believe.

Greg Theakston inked the series, but Greg inked the series ENTIRELY ON OVERLAY, so Jack's original pencil art still exists...an issue of which is owned by a friend of mine. The pencils are really a LOT better than the inked result--Theakston fixed all the costumes and things like that, but he really didn't have the chops to service Jack's art at that stage in the King's life. It's still far from prime Kirby, but once again...JACK KIRBY DREW MY SCRIPTS!!!!!!!!

Yes, those REALLY were the days!


Anonymous said...

I always thought Theakston tried too hard to "Kirbyize" Kirby, if that makes sense. Kind of like an Elvis impersonator saying "Thank you very much" way too often. He made EVERYTHING bombastic and over the top, which Kirby didn't do. He inked the majority of Kirby's Who's Who entries as well. The few he didn't ink looked better to me.

I really dug the second mini Paul. I remember really liking how each team went to the different locales. The Easter Island segment was a lot of fun. I think it was Dr. Fate, GL and WW, right? What an odd, great team!


Anonymous said...

Yeah, like he understood the CONCEPT of Kirby but not the actual mechanics. Theakston's a talented guy, I just think that at that stage, Kirby needed an inker a little less reverential and a little more corrective. Of course, I reiterate, this was a commercial job, relegated to Special Projects, the mentally challenged younger brother kept locked in the basement who produced comic book in-packs for underwear packaging (as did I! a Superman/Batman flipbook that I wrote/edited and Joe Staton drew for Underoos!!!). Nobody was concerned with art. I never asked at the time to rewrite the script to take advantage of Jack's strengths--there wasn't time. This was a monthly that was contractually obligated to be on the stands on a certain date.

In retrospect, given the chance, I would be HAPPY to have done overnight rewrites to have made the book something worthy. Fanboy thinking, but there you go.

Still, it seems to have stuck with some of you guys (thanks, Chris! I LOVE location stuff: just did a THE AVENGER short story set in 1940 Coney Island and a horror story set in Grafton, West Virginia, a town I lived in when I was 5). Guess it didn't entirely suck.


rob! said...

not to get too "modern comics suck" pissypants about it, i'd take the Super Powers series--any of 'em--for pure adventure superhero fun over any issue of JLA in the past few years.

Anonymous said...

Amen Rob.

And you can read it in front of your kids! Another bonus!

Oh another thing Paul, you and J'onn J'onnz introduced my young 10 year old mind to the concept of the sonic boom in the first issue. See, it stuck! :-)


Plaidstallions said...

Hey I'm currently reading series 2 of this to my son.

I remember when I first saw this ad it excited me, the first artist I was exposed to was Kirby in those FF treasuries. I still think of his style when I think the word "comic book"

I always found the book kind of strange when it first was around, it never dawned on me that certain characters didn't suit his style or that he was getting older.

Anonymous said...

You've made an old man happy, young'uns. But, yeah, modern comics don't do it for me anymore. Gimme an ARCHIVE or SHOWCASE any old day, dagnabbit...just wrote the foreword for the 4th DOOM PATROL ARCHIVE and reread the stories. Man, now THERE was great storytelling and characters (the era's inherent goofiness aside--besides, as I point out in the intro, it may read corny now but back then it was state-of-the-art comics! As was Stan & Jack & Steve & Don et al's Marvel.

This stuff today is mostly attitude and posing. Characters speak in cliches through gritted teeth, legs akimbo, the creators aping the style of the last derivative movie or cable-TV show they happened to watch. What passes for brilliant and groundbreaking is baffling to me--not that I don't understand it. I just don't understand why I should bother and I read fewer and fewer titles every month. Thank goodness for reprints...

Yeah, Jack had problems with a lot of DC's less bombastic characters, like Batman and Flash. They were too grounded in reality for his style; you can't make Flash running "big" or Batman detecting explosive...and he just did NOT understand those masks, man! Most of his characters at Marvel didn't wear masks, come to think of it.... But hey, he wasn't alone in having a weakness: you didn't want to ask Curt Swan--one of the GREATEST artists ever; when you say "Superman" to me, I flash on a shot by Curt or OF George Reeves--but you did NOT want to ask the brother for a "scary" alien or creature. He just couldn't do it; they all looked so 1950s cheesy horror movie silly (didn't help that they usually wound up colored some combo of green, purple, and yellow). Everything else he did was perfect in its Weisngery-Schwartzy-way, just no scary.


Anonymous said...

Looks like Wonder Woman's head was redrawn or pasted on.