Reviewed – Jack Kirby Pencils and Inks Artisan Edition

A peek behind the process of the king of comics

jack kirby pencil and inks book review

There are few people who have made a bigger impact in the comic book industry than Jack Kirby. If you’ve enjoyed a Marvel blockbuster recently you’ve doubtlessly encountered some of the characters Kirby helped to bring to life.

From the 1940s through the 1980s, Kirby birthed hundreds of classic comic characters into the world along with co-creators like Stan Lee and Joe Simon. Pillars of the Marvel Universe like the Fantastic Four, X-Men, Iron-Man, Thor and countless others all started life under Kirby’s pencil.

With Jack Kirby Pencils and Inks Artisan Edition the reader gets a rare chance to see behind not just the artist’s process, but comic book making in general.

The book sources its contents from the Jack Kirby Museum and Research Center’s digital archive. Since 2006 the archive has been digitally preserving thousands of pieces of Kirby’s original art and production materials.

The art is presented to the reader with minimal preamble and covers three complete comic book issues written and drawn by Kirby for DC. Each page shows the original pencil art on the left with the final art on the right inked and lettered by Mike Royer.

jack kirby pencil art

Comic art in its rawest form

What makes the book stand out is that it’s anything but a simple reprint of comics from the past. Instead we’re treated to raw, untouched art just as it would have looked at the drawing board.

The smudges, white-out and corrective tape are wonderfully visible, along with the occasional editing note in the margins. There are signs of old fashioned cut-and-pastes as panels were carefully reworked by hand before being sent to print.

It’s a refreshingly honest look at traditional comic book making free of the digital tools so commonplace today. The “artisan edition” subtitle really does feel accurate.

Compare sketches and ink side by side

The stories included in the book are the first issues of The Demon, Kamandi and Omac. While perhaps not as famous as some of Kirby’s other characters, his iconic art style remains consistent across every page.

The expressions, poses and space-age energy effects are all classic Jack Kirby.

jack kirby pencil mike royer ink

It’s fascinating to see the pencils and inks side by side – particularly how faithfully Mike Royer inked each sketch. The book begins with Royer’s introduction and makes it clear how important trust was between the two artists.

Jack had chosen me personally and recognized I had an empathy for his work, and that I was only concerned with “finishing” it. “Embellishment” was not in my vocabulary. “Finish Jack’s statement and don’t screw it up!” was my working mantra.

from Mike Royer’s introduction

While not billed as a “how-to” book, Jack Kirby Pencils and Inks Artisan Edition offers valuable examples of real world comic composition, paneling and inking among other foundations.

Artists interested in weaving their own tales someday can find much to learn from here.

jack kirby pencil and inks book review
Jack Kirby Pencils and Inks Artisan Edition
A comic artist essential
Learn from the comic book icon with this sizeable art collection from the archive.
Read it
Get it here
© Efrain Malo

Fuel your creativity!

Tips, resources and inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.