That’s Marvel BadAss! ~ Week 14 … KIRBY VISION!


Scroll down and you’ll see that I have a deep and abiding love for all things Kirby … but, I’m a neophyte compared to Jason Garrattley, the editor of the KirbyVision fan art blog … a site often tinged with brilliance … over at the Kirby Museum site. I reached out across the Atlantic this week to the land of the Union Jack to catch up with Jason and find out why he, too, is addicted to Kirby Krackle!  (And, don’t miss Jason’s other blog … Between Clark and Hilldale … a great blog for retro designers.)

Marvel SmartAss: Where did your love of King Kirby start?

Jason Garrattley: It was the early eighties through Marvel UK’s black and white reprints. I think it was the Black Panther story “Kings Solomon’s Frog” where I began to notice Jack’s work. It was full of all these bizarre characters and the art was so energetic and fluid. I was also rather fond of Devil Dinosaur, which is a fantastic story for a ten-year old, full of fighting dinosaurs and volcano’s erupting in the background. Marvel UK also produced a series of A5 sized pocket books and I collected the Fantastic Four and Captain America titles. The reproduction was sometimes so awful that you could barely read some of the panels, but Jack’s art was so bold it transcended the shoddy format. 

Marvel SmartAss: What do you enjoy most about Kirby’s art and his creations? Why do they endure?

Jason Garrattley: Well, he had such a great sense of design and he rarely drew a dull panel. I’ve recently been looking at his romance comics, which are basically just people standing around talking, but they are so beautifully rendered. The drapery is masterful. Like most fans I love all that weird technology of the super-hero books and the action is so full of movement. His art is really rewarding to look at and it’s fascinating to see how his style changed throughout his career.

As for his creations, they’ve endured because they are archetypes. Everyone recognizes who the good and the bad guys are, they lack any real sophistication but are the purest way of communicating with the reader. I’m sure Jack knew this because he wasn’t averse to recycling his own ideas.

Marvel SmartAss: What led you to create Kirby Vision? Were you affiliated with the Kirby Museum from the start? If not, how did you strike up the partnership?

Jason Garrattley: I think the catalyst was a desire to submit something to Robert Goodin’s Covered blog. I worked up a rendition of Challengers of the Unknown #4 in Photoshop. It was essentially a loose trace and I decided not to submit it but I had enjoyed submersing myself in Jack’s art while I’d created it. I realised that numerous artists had felt this sense of enjoyment as it’s quite common to find artwork that emulates Jack’s style. It’s almost a secret language that has crept into popular culture, the zenith being the Ben 10 cartoon series which is full of Kirby design references. I was surprised to find that there wasn’t a website or blog that collected all these tribute pieces so I decided to create my own. I have to give credit to Brendan Tobin and Pedro Delgado’s March MODOK Madness and Michael Cho’s Tony Stark: Your Go To Guy which were direct models of what became known as The Kirby Project. To get a flavour of the type of work I wanted to feature I began by posting my own Photoshop collages. I then contacted artists that I had found through Flickr and DeviantArt and requested permission to post their Kirby related artwork. I did my best to promote the blog wherever I could and after a while I began to receive submissions. The Kirby Project ran for four months before Rand Hoppe invited me to curate the blog from the umbrella of the Kirby Museum website. Of course I was honoured to do so and after a quick name change to Kirby-Vision the blog continued and is rapidly approaching it’s first Birthday.

Marvel Smartass: How can people get involved with your site?

Jason Garrattley: You can contact me via the email link in the Contribute section in the side bar. There aren’t any vigorous submission guidelines. If Jack’s work has inspired you to put pen to paper or to make a collage or to recreate one of your favorite covers through the medium of mime then that’s all you need to get involved. A short bio and any information regarding the submission that would be a great help too.

Marvel SmartAss: Which do you prefer … Jack’s first tenure at Marvel? His Second? His time at DC? His independent creations?

Jason Garrattley: It has to be Marvel in the 60’s. Even though Jack and Stan Lee belonged to the previous generation their energy and drive made Marvel synonymous with all that was hip and happening in the music, art and film industries. We all know that the legacy of those years brought a lot of pain to Jack and he was never truly rewarded for his ingenuity but that period cemented his reputation as one of comics greatest innovators and in my opinion one of the 20th century’s most important artists.

Marvel SmartAss: What comics are you reading now?

Jason Garrattley: I’m enamored by the work of Osamu Tezuka, particularly Buddha, MW and Ode to Kirihito. When you read Tezuka you realize that western comics have only begun to discover the possibilities of the medium. The Walking Dead is the scariest comic book EVER. The sense of dread and hopelessness is so tangible that every turn of the page forces you to confront your own worst fears. Criminal by Brubaker and Phillips is streets ahead of the game when it comes to crime comics. David Lapham’s Young Liars was visceral and daring, one of my favorite titles of the last couple of years. I love the Modesty Blaise newspaper strips from the Evening Standard. I grew up reading 2000AD and I’m enjoying the phonebook sized reprint volumes of Judge Dread, Nemesis, Ro-Busters and Strontium Dog. Just lately, I’ve been re-reading Gilbert Hernandez’s Palomar and Luba collections. I love his characterization, even the most minor players seem fully formed on the page. I must also recommend Men of Tomorrow by Gerard Jones and Tales to Astonish by Ronin Ro, two fantastic accounts of the rise, fall and rise again of the comics industry and Jack’s ever-changing roles within it.

Marvel Smartass: Final Question — In a tag team cage match pitting O.M.A.C. and Etrigan vs. Devil Dinosaur and Machine Man … who would win? Why?

Jason Garrattley: That’s a tough one to call but it may look something like this…

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