In 2015, I wrote a post about how I had acquired some IDW Artist Editions. At the time, I mentioned how I was never a fan of Will Eisner’s The Spirit until I saw scans of the original art in both of the IDW Artist Editions.
In like manner, I was never a big fan of Jack Kirby’s figure drawing. Frankly, I never got all the hoopla over him or why he was crowned the “King of comics.” And then I had the same experience with Kirby as I had with Eisner. I saw the IDW Fantastic Four artist editions of Kirby’s original work and it blew me away. I suddenly “got it” and understood why Kirby was king. Every page of his work seems to be filled with action and dynamism. His compositions and story-telling are powerful and they never bore you. It’s something that really manifested by seeing scans of the original inked pages without the distraction of color or poor reproduction.
This really hit home for me when I was taking a stroll with my daughter and came across a comic shop, which we entered. I picked up an issue of The Shadow and the entire comic was essentially dialogue and boring panels of people just talking (or so it seemed from the flip-through of the pages). In fact, I think I only spotted one or two panels containing The Shadow in the entire comic. And this is something that I seem to see more and more. It’s as if no one is capable of telescoping a story into essential elements so that it gets to the point in a single issue or maybe three-issue-at-the-most story arc. Or perhaps comic-buyers today just enjoy slow, drawn out soap-operas. Who knows. Frankly, I’ve gone back to reading the stuff printed on newsprint that I read as a kid. No, it’s not fancy stuff and the stories may be campy, but they’re more entertaining than almost anything I see today (of course there are exceptions and some stuff today is great, but my comment is addressing what seems to me to be the general trend).
Anyway, from now on, count me in as a fan of Kirby.
I’m too lazy to do a flip-through video of the book, but I’d like to link to this YouTube video of a gentleman reviewing the first IDW artist edition of Kirby’s Fantastic Four (the book above is the second volume of Kirby’s FF work, both books being released in 2017 by IDW to commemorate Kirby’s 100th birthday). The reviewer does a fine job commenting on the artwork. If you’re a fan of Kirby and still haven’t seen either artist edition, watch this video and you’ll want to run out and get them.
I was never a big Will Eisner fan, but he garnered so much industry respect that I thought I must be missing something. I really wanted to go back and study his work on The Spirit, but any trade reprints just didn’t seem to be of great quality. Let’s face it, the production quality of comics has come a long way from the off-register-colored stuff printed on newsprint which made up the comics of my childhood. Frankly, I preferred the DC series which were done by Darwyn Cooke several years ago. So I never purchased any of the series by Eisner. And then came the IDW Artist Editions. I watched a YouTube video of someone flipping through one of The Spirit editions, and it just didn’t impress me. And then I saw one in person and flipped through it – Wow! Seeing the work up close made all of the difference in the world. Naturally I bought both volumes. The first thing I have to say is that I now understand why everyone has such great respect for Eisner. His work on these Spirit comics is amazing. And seeing the original-quality inking without the distraction of coloring really highlights what’s best about this work. Eisner wasn’t just a great sequential story-teller (which is what I thought was his claim to fame). He was really a great artist as well. I would recommend any fan of good, traditionally inked work to run out and get themselves a copy of these editions. An artist can learn a lot from studying these. The IDW Artist Edition on EC comics is my least favorite of the ones I’ve reviewed, though, that Frazetta cover is an amazing work of art which one could study endlessly (it’s easily one of my favorite Frazetta pieces). I was really hoping this edition contained mostly collaborative work by The Fleagles, but that wasn’t the case. It’s still a top-notch volume where quality is concerned, but if you’re looking for lots of Williamson, Frazetta, and Krenkel, don’t look here. I think there was only one such collaborative story, but that isn’t really much in a volume this large. Wally Wood also isn’t represented here because his work was saved for another Artist Edition devoted entirely to him. Still, as I said, it’s a well-produced book. Regarding future IDW Artist Editions, what I’d really like to see is some work from Marvel’s Savage Sword of Conan magazine (from the 70’s) reproduced in this format. I really want to see Big John’s penciling with Alfredo Alcala’s beautiful pen and ink work. Can you imagine seeing the following pages reproduced at their original size in all of their splendor? Perhaps someone at IDW is already on to these and has plans for reproducing them in a future Artist Edition. One can only hope.