Notions like the Negative Zone and the Promethean Galaxy provided a visual playground and a challenge to Kirby, prompting him to try new ways of representing the sublime. His photo-collages, for example, strain against the limitations of the coarse, four-color comics printing of their day and seem designed to suggest, rather than draw in a literal sense, the otherworldly and ineffable (see Bryant, “Cut & Paste”). According to Kirby biographer Mark Evanier, the Negative Zone was created specifically to give license to Kirby’s collages and was meant originally to be rendered entirely in collage form (King, 171). In any case, Kirby’s use of photos to evoke something dreamlike is consistent with the Surrealist impuls to suggest dreamwork or the unconscious through détournement and collage.
Charles Hatfield, HAND OF FIRE: THE COMICS ART OF JACK KIRBY
Okay — okay. OKAY. Okay. So much in my head all at once here. Okay. So first off: the very first (I think?) implementation of collage in Kirby’s work. Don’t just mouse over that link and think about maybe reading it later, go right now and read it, it’s great.
Contextually, within the series itself, a trip to the moon — to the Blue Area of the Moon, even — is hardly new for the FF, let alone groundbreaking, but it says something about where the book has been, not even three years into its lifespan, that Kirby’s already looking for New Ways to show the incredible.
Collage, especially pre-digital, has a kind of crudity to it; adding in drawings and reproducing it all with four color plates on crap paper is something like the visual equivalent of using old mics placed in front of old speakers in a recording studio rather than strive for and obsess over pure digital antiseptic fidelity. There’s a noise at play here, a dub of a copy of a xerox that nicely downgrades the whole thing… anyway the result plays, somehow; whereas today’s digital toolbox opens up all kinds of aesthetic disconnect. Digital backgrounds, 3D modeling and 2D figure-work, photo-ref obliterating the boundary between reference and reproduction. One of the things I’m discovering, the deeper into this project we go, gang, is how much I love (and miss) the old way of printing. I’m turning into the comic book equivalent of a guy that eschews CDs because vinyl just sounds warmer.
Anyway, here we are, two and a half years in, and already the King is getting itchy, hunting down new ways to put the scale of imagery he’s seeing in his head on the page. And in THIS, which is, quite frankly, the most ridiculous issue in the universe (to date, ho ho).
Go read those links, buy those books. The Hatfield most especially; it is, pardon the pun, fantastic.
Fantastic Four #29 (1964)