Welcome to Comics College, a semi-monthly feature where we provide an introductory guide to some of the comics medium’s most important auteurs and offer our best educated suggestions on how to become familiar with their body of work.
Today we’re looking at one of the most influential and prolific and cartoonists in the world, a man who’s body of work reportedly encompassed more then 150,000 drawn pages in just about every genre known to man. And that doesn’t even begin to mention his pioneering work in animation. I’m speaking, of course, about Osamu Tezuka.
Welcome to Comics College, a (sort of) monthly feature here at Robot 6 where we provide an introductory guide to some of the most significant artists, writers and creators in comics and offer our best educated suggestions on how to become familiar with their body of work.
Little did I know when I chose Jack Kirby as my second entry more than a month ago that his name would be splayed across the headlines of comics blogs and message boards as his family announced their intention to attempt to win back the copyrights to various Marvel characters. Despite the questionable rancor from some parties, the news provides a perfect opportunity to revisit Kirby’s work, as he remains one of the great colossi of American Comics, perhaps its most significant creator, depending upon who you talk to. He’s certainly one of the most prolific.
But Kirby can be tough for some folks. Modern readers used to the Image school of exaggeration or a more photorealistic (or PhotoShopped at any rate) style of superhero comics tend to balk at Kirby’s blocky, dynamic style, especially in his later period when it verged on outright expressionism. What’s more, he was always a better artist and idea man than a writer, and his dialogue when working solo can come off as turgid and forced, especially when he’s trying to sound “hip” and “with it.” I know as a teenager and young adult I found Kirby’s work initially too odd and different from what I was used to as a comic reader to enjoy. It wasn’t until I forced myself to sit down and immerse myself into his world that I learned to appreciate his oeuvre and became a devotee.
Keep in mind: Kirby’s output was so vast that to try to encapsulate it here in a simple blog post is a mug’s game. In other words, there are going to be omissions — volumes left out and series ignored, either due to the fact that I simply haven’t read them yet or because I just didn’t have the time and space to include them here. I feel confident enough in my recommendations, but feel free to pick on my negligence in the comments section.
Welcome to a new feature we’re starting here at Robot 6 titled “Comics College.” Once a month (or more if time permits) we’ll be examining the body of work of a particular cartoonist or cartoonists of note in the hopes of giving newcomers and the generally uninitiated an entry point. Because let’s face it, there are a number of notable creators who have had lengthy careers in comics and figuring out where to start when reading their ouevre can be tricky, especially if not all of their material is easily available in print.
“Comics College” was inspired largely by the AV Club’s Gateway to Geekery and Primer features. More specifically, it was inspired by their attempt to provide a overview of Gilbert (“Beto”), Jaime and Mario Hernandez’s Love and Rockets series. I found I disagreed with a number of the suggestions and points they made, enough so that I decided I needed to do my own version.
Which is why we’re beginning our debut post with a look at the Hernandez brothers. A lot of readers out there are wary about trying to dip their toe in the Love and Rockets waters and it’s not surprising. The series has been going on for decades now in a variety of series and formats. Their reputation for telling long involved stories, can seem overwhelming and scary for those unsure where to begin.
So, come, take my hand and let me be your guide …