Jack Kirby: ‘It’s not in the draftsmanship, it’s in the man’
“If you’re an aggressive individual and you want to make this your field — and there is no school. You make your own school. You make your school. I say that you borrow arms and legs and heads and necks and posteriors from anybody you can. In comics, which is a peculiar field, every man — every artist — is the other artist’s teacher. There’s absolutely no school for it. People can teach you the mechanics of it, which is good. I can see a good reason for that. But drawing a good figure does not make you a good artist. I can name you 10 men, right off the bat, who draw better than I do. But I don’t think their work gets as much response as mine. I can’t think of a better man to draw Dick Tracy than Chester Gould, who certainly is no match for Leonardo Da Vinci. But Chester Gould told the story of Dick Tracy. He told the story of Dick Tracy the way it should have been told. No other guy could have done it. It’s not in the draftsmanship, it’s in the man.
Like I say, a tool is dead. A brush is a dead object. It’s in the man. If you want to do, you do it. If you think a man draws the type of hands that you want to draw, steal ‘em. Take those hands.
The only thing I can say is: Caniff was my teacher, Alex Raymond was my teacher, even the guy who drew Toonerville Trolley was my teacher. Whatever he had stimulated me in some way. And I think that’s all you need. You need that stimulation. Stimulation to make you an individual. And the draftsmanship? Hang it! If you can decently, learn to control what you can, learn to control what you have, learn to refine what you have. Damn perfection! You don’t have to be perfect. You are never going to do a Sistine Chapel, unless somebody ties you to a ceiling. So damn perfection!
All a man has in this field is pressure, and I think the pressure supplies a stimulation. You have your own stresses; that will supply your own stimulation. If you want to do it, you’ll do it. And you’ll do it anyway you can.”
— Jack Kirby, offering advice to aspiring artists during a 1970 panel with Shel Dorf at the first San Diego Golden State Comic-Con (which would later become Comic-Con International). The entire conversation can be found in The Jack Kirby Collector #57.