Friday, 18 December 2009

Jack Kirby

Jack Kirby (born Jacob Kurtzberg August 28, 1917) was one of the most influential and respected comic book artists, writers and creators to have worked in the medium.

Growing up poor in New York City, Kurtzberg entered the emerging comics industry in the 1930s. Although he enrolled at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, he only stayed a week and he was largely self-taught and cited as influences a number of illustrators, like Hal Foster, Alex Raymond and Milt Caniff.

Kurtzberg drew various comic strips under different pseudonyms, such as Jack Curtiss and Curt Davis, before settling on Jack Kirby. Through the late 1930s he worked on various newspaper strips before joining Fleischer animation where helped fill scenes between major action sequences in Popeye cartoons, but he didn’t like the factory mindset and left to work in the burgeoning comic books business for a number of companies, including Fox Features, where he met his future partner, Joe Simon, with whom he would create and develop Captain America for Timely Comics in 1941.

After serving in World War II, Kirby returned to comics and, initially reuniting with Simon, contributed to a number of publishers, including Archie Comics and DC Comics, working in a number of genres: crime, romance, science fiction, horror, monster, superhero and western, but perhaps his most acclaimed creation from the pre-Marvel period was the newspaper strip, Sky Masters of the Space Force, inked by Wally Wood.
Kirby wound up at Timely's 1950s version, Atlas Comics, while still working for DC on books like House of Mystery and House of Secrets. When he finally split with DC, he continued to work for Atlas, which later changed its name to Marvel, and, starting with The Fantastic Four in 1961, with writer Stan Lee, he created a number of superhero characters in the early 1960s that led a boom in the industry. Many of Marvel’s key characters were created by Lee and Kirby during the sixties - The Incredible Hulk, The Fantastic Four, The Black Panther, The Silver Surfer, The Mighty Thor, The X-Men, The Avengers, Doctor Doom, The Inhumans, Nick Fury, Galactus – and it remans a bone of contention just how much Kirby contributed to their creation and the plots that were initially credited to Lee.
Despite the high sales and critical acclaim of the Lee-Kirby titles, Kirby felt he was being treated unfairly, getting neither enough credit nor money and he left the company in 1970 for rival DC Comics, where he created his critically successful Fourth World saga spread over several titles. However, these and other titles proved commercially unsuccessful and were cancelled, although characters he created and the Fourth World mythos have continued as a significant part of the DC Comics universe.

Kirby’s drawing style, especially for his figures, had always been expressionistic to some extent, but through the late sixties and early seventies, his figure drawing and, occasionally, sense of perspective, became looser, which may have been partially due to eye problems and partially due to the fact that the board used for the original art was considerably reduced in size. Unfortunately, while this was happening, other artists were adopting a more realistic style and to some readers, Kirby’s work looked old fashioned and out of place.

Kirby returned to Marvel briefly in the mid- to late 1970s, creating new characters who still appear in the company’s comics and taking over his own flagship character, Captain America, but his run met with neither critical nor commercial success and he then ventured into television animation and independent comics.
In his later years, Kirby received considerable recognition for his career accomplishments, and is regarded by historians and fans as one of the major innovators and most influential creators in the comic-book medium.

Jack Kirby died in February 6, 1994 his Thousand Oaks, California.

In October 2006, The New York Times noted that Kirby had “created a new grammar of storytelling and a cinematic style of motion. Once-wooden characters cascaded from one frame to another — or even from page to page — threatening to fall right out of the book into the reader’s lap. The force of punches thrown was visibly and explosively evident. Even at rest, a Kirby character pulsed with tension and energy in a way that makes movie versions of the same characters seem static by comparison.”
In the 'Program Notes' for his novel, Carter Beats The Devil, author Glen David Gold says, 'Inspiration came from the unbeatable troika of storytellers: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko [artist and plotter for Spider-Man and Doctor Strange]'.
Michael Chabon, in his afterword to his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, noted, 'I want to acknowledge the deep debt I owe in this and everything else I've ever written to the work of the late Jack Kirby, the King of Comics.”

The Comics Journal Library Volume I: Jack Kirby, edited by Milo George (Fantagraphics Books; Seattle, 2002)
The Jack Kirby Treasury Volume II, text by Greg Theakston (Eclipse Books; Forestville, California, n.d.)
Kirby: King of Comics, by Mark Evanier (Abrams; New York, 2008)
The Art of Jack Kirby, by Ray Wyman, jr (The Blue Rose Press; Orange, California, 1992)
The Collected Jack Kirby Collector Volumes I-VII, edited by John Morrow (Two Morrows Publishing; Raleigh, North Carolina, 1997-2009)
Origins of Marvel Comics, by Stan Lee (Simon and Schuster; New York, 1974)
Son of Origins of Marvel Comics, by Stan Lee (Simon and Schuster; New York, 1975)
Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book, by Gerard Jones (Heinemann, 2005)

Irving Penn

Fashion, celebrity photographer Irving Penn dies
By VERENA DOBNIK, Associated Press Writer
Wed Oct 7, 7:01 pm ET

NEW YORK – Irving Penn, whose photographs revealed a taste for stark simplicity whether he was shooting celebrity portraits, fashion, still life or remote places of the world, died Wednesday Oct 7 at his Manhattan home. He was 92.

The death was announced by his photo assistant, Roger Krueger.

"He never stopped working," said Peter MacGill, a longtime friend whose Pace-MacGill Galleries in Manhattan represented Penn's work. "He would go back to similar subjects and never see them the same way twice."

Penn, who constantly explored the photographic medium and its boundaries, typically preferred to isolate his subjects — from fashion models to Aborigine tribesmen — from their natural settings to photograph them in a studio against a stark background. He believed the studio could most closely capture their true natures.

Between 1964 and 1971, he completed seven such projects, his subjects ranging from New Guinea mud men to San Francisco hippies.

Penn also had a fascination with still life and produced a dramatic range of images that challenged the traditional idea of beauty, giving dignity to such subjects as cigarette butts, decaying fruit and discarded clothing. A 1977 show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art presented prints of trash rescued from Manhattan streets and photographed, lovingly, against plain backgrounds.

"Photographing a cake can be art," he said at the 1953 opening of his studio, where he continued to produce commercial and gallery work into the 21st century.

Penn's most recent work was a series of still-life photos made of ceramics that he and his wife had collected in Europe. "They were as dynamic and as powerful as anything he had done in his 70-year career," MacGill said.

Thirteen of Penn's photographs are being auctioned Thursday at Christie's, including "Guedras in the Wind," a 1971 image of two Moroccan women, with an estimated pre-sale price of $40,000 to $60,000. A Penn photo, "Cuzco Children," sold for $529,000 last year, including an auction house premium of 20 percent.

Penn's career began in the 1940s as a fashion photographer for Vogue, and he continued to contribute to the magazine for decades thereafter.

He stumbled into the job almost by accident, when he abandoned his early ambition to become a painter and took a position as a designer in the magazine's art department in 1943. Staff photographers balked at his unorthodox layout ideas, and a supervisor asked him to photograph a cover design.

The resulting image, on the Oct. 1, 1943, cover of Vogue, was a striking still-life showing a brown leather bag, a beige scarf, gloves, oranges and lemons arranged in the shape of a pyramid.

In subsequent photographs for the magazine, Penn further developed his austere style that placed models and fashion accessories against clean backdrops. It was a radical departure at a time when most fashion photographers posed their subjects with props and in busy settings that tended to draw attention from the clothes themselves.

The approach made him a star at the magazine, where his work eventually appeared on as many as 300 pages annually. Penn believed his success depended on keeping the reader — rather than the model — in mind.

"Many photographers feel their client is the subject," he explained in a 1991 interview in The New York Times. "My client is a woman in Kansas who reads Vogue. I'm trying to intrigue, stimulate, feed her. ... The severe portrait that is not the greatest joy in the world to the subject may be enormously interesting to the reader."

He left the magazine in 1944 to join the military — serving with the American Field Service in Italy and then as a photographer in India — but returned to Vogue in 1946, taking travel assignments in addition to his fashion work.

Penn relished the chance to work in foreign locales, recalling in his 1974 book, "Worlds in a Small Room," that he had often daydreamed "of being mysteriously deposited (with my ideal north-light studio) among the Aborigines in remote parts of the earth."

In the 1950s, Penn moved into portraiture. He photographed not only the famous — actors, musicians and politicians — but also ordinary people. He published a series of pictures in 1950-1951 featuring plumbers, salesmen and cleaning women in New York City, Paris and London. The Getty Center in Los Angeles currently is exhibiting some of the photos.

His celebrity portraits included closely cropped images of Miles Davis, Spencer Tracy, Georgia O'Keeffe and Pablo Picasso, the last peering apprehensively from beneath a wide-brimmed hat. He once said that his formula for capturing meaningful portraits was to photograph his subjects relentlessly, often over a period of several hours, until they were forced to let down their guard.

A 2000 exhibit organized by the Art Institute of Chicago on his portraiture work said, "Penn's manipulation of formal design elements such as light and shadow, and his ability to capture a significant gesture, expression, or mood, ultimately reveal something intriguing about his subjects."

An exhibit of 14 large prints of cigarette and cigar butts at the Museum of Modern Art in 1975 was more controversial. It was lauded by some critics as a powerful elevation of the banal to the monumental, but criticized by others as self-indulgent.

"A beautiful print is a thing in itself, not just a halfway house on the way to the page," he once said.

Accordingly, he spent countless hours in his studio creating prints with costly platinum salts — a process that had been mostly abandoned at the turn of the 20th century, but favored by Penn because of its glowing results. (Most photographic prints use a solution of silver on the paper rather than platinum.) He would paint the platinum solution on the paper himself to create the effects he sought.

"Over the years I must have spent thousands of hours silently brushing on the liquid coatings, preparing each sheet in anticipation of reaching the perfect print," Penn wrote in his 1991 book "Passage: A Work Record."

Penn donated photographs to the National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of American Art in Washington, and his archives are at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Born in Plainfield, N.J., in 1917, Penn studied at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art from 1934 to 1938, and worked as an assistant at Harper's Bazaar in 1939.

Penn married fashion model Lisa Fonssagrives in 1950, and for decades afterward she remained one of his favorite subjects. She died in 1992. One of his 1950 photos of her sold at auction in 2004 for more than $57,000.

Penn was the older brother of filmmaker Arthur Penn, who directed "The Miracle Worker," "Bonnie and Clyde" and "Night Moves."

He had a son, Tom, with Fonssagrives. His wife also had a daughter, Mia, from a previous marriage.

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Saturday, 12 December 2009

Sci-Fi/Monster Movie Posters III

A giant bird, "as big as a battleship", attacks the earth. Allegedly, star Jeff Morrow saw the film in a cinema in his hometown and left quickly after the audience laughed when the monster appeared on the screen.

A striking poster for a Roger Corman movie about an alien scouring earth for human blood.

Cheapo sci-fi horror in which radiation animates a tree trunk that holds the heart of a wrongly executed South Seas Island prince. The tree trunk runs amok and only two American scientists can save the day. Naturally.

A George Pal production that aimed to tell the realistic story of a manned flight to Mars - as people thought it would be in 1955.

Also known as Invasion of the Flying Saucers. World capitals are destroyed after aliens react angrily to being fired on by humans. Watch out for the Ray Harryhausen-animated flying saucers.

A seemingly cute underwater monster - created by that genre staple, the mad scientist - attacks a cute girl in a bikini in the poster for this low-budget sci-fi shocker.

An author and schoolteacher work hard to convince sceptical townspeople that the meteor they saw was an alien spaceship, but in the end, the aliens are just visiting and leave things as they found them... The movie has its origins in a Ray Bradbury story and was initially shown in 3D.

Giant insects and the odd dinosaur are discovered when humans try to colonise another planet.

Note the woman's swimsuit strap falling over her shoulder as she flees from the flying saucers - in a film that relies more on the threat of terror than actual special effects.

Low budget poster for a low budget Roger Corman movie about a mutant monster trying to destroy the remains of human civilisation after the earth has been devastated by nuclear war. The woman will never get far dressed in those slippers.

Badly-drawn robots from Venus invade Chicago. This time, the pouting prone girl is carried by the hero as the robots advance.

An early sci-fi disaster movie: gas planet Bellus is on collision course for earth and humans must leave for planet Zyra if they're to survive. For the sci-fi buffs out there: yes, you did see two cargo containers with the labels "Bellus" and "Zyra" in the Genesis cave in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Cameron Mitchell flies to Mars and discovers a dying civilisation of intelligent beings that look just like us. Many interior shots of the spaceship and some of the sound effects from Rocketship X-M are reused, though the movies were made by different studios.

Not one, but two sexy blondes in flesh-revealing red outfits scream at radiation-mutated rampaging giant... grasshoppers? Yes. Grasshoppers. Brother of the Thing and future Mission Impossible star Peter Graves featutes in this low budget film notable for its lousy special effects, including close-ups of grasshoppers crawling over photographs of buildings in Chicago!