Lot 493 of 500:
JACK KIRBY Original Art * JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #106 * Odin Berates Balder  

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Lot closed - unsold
$10,000 - $12,000

Original Jack Kirby Art, JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #106, Page 27

[Original Comic Art] Kirby, Jack





Graphite and ink with white paint corrections on bristol board. Measures 13½x21". Jack Kirby pencils, Vince Colletta inks, Artie Simek lettering. Generally excellent condition, bottom left corner a bit bumped, small coffee (?) drip to upper left margin.

The second page of Kirby's Journey into Mystery #106 "Tales of Asgard" back-up feature, entitled "Balder the Brave," offers much of interest to analytically-minded Kirby connoisseurs. On the surface, the conflict derives from Odin's displeasure with Balder for abandoning his battle post to save a baby bird that had fallen from its nest. All-powerful Odin, monarch of the Asgardian pantheon, will brook no dereliction of duty — his word is inviolate, his commands must be obeyed without question.

Concealed beneath the surface drama, however, a more subtle conflict also rages on this page: the conflict between creator credits. Who did what, exactly, and how is credit to be apportioned between participants? In the early 1980s, a disgruntled Jack Kirby — fed up with Stan Lee's showboating — claimed to have written all of his Silver Age Marvel stories entirely on his own: "I wrote them all. I never wrote the credits, let's put it that way, all right? ...I would never say the books were written by Lee."

Kirby's claim of sole authorship hinges upon a specific interpretation of what constitutes the "script" of a comic book—a concept complicated by the "Marvel Method," in which the plot is derived from a story conference between the scripter and the artist. The artist then draws the story, often writing marginal notes explaining the action, and the scripter adds dialogue to the drawn pages. As John Morrow writes in Kirby and Lee: Stuf' Said!: "From his perspective, Kirby is 'writing' the story when he takes a basic plot (either his, Lee's, or a combination of both) and breaks it down into a multi-page story.... He also considers his margin notes on the side of the pages to be the 'script' for his 'dialogue'... adequate for someone to expand upon, to make more polished verbiage in the balloons. Lee usually does more than just reword Kirby's margin notes, sometimes changing Kirby's meaning to make the story more in keeping with his own tastes. He views that dialogue creation as 'writing' the story."

On this page, we see Kirby's marginal story notes: "After Asgard boys defeated giants in battle, Baldur dropped out of pursuit / Saw bird fall out of nest, put it back / Stupid! You deserted! Must face test of mortal death / No! Don't kill beautiful Baldur / If it must be, okay." Stan Lee has developed Kirby's basics to fleshed-out fruition, giving each character a distinct voice and manner, from Balder's humility to the imperiousness of Odin: "Silence! Odin has spoken! My law may not be defied -- by godling, or mortal!"

The question of whether authorship lies in the bare bones of the story (Kirby's marginal notes) or the fleshed-out version (Lee's dialogue) is further complicated by the matter of pencils vs. inks. Close scrutiny of the page reveals that inker Vince Colletta has departed from Kirby's pencils in a number of places—in the 2nd panel, for instance, there are subtle pencil lines of delineation on Balder's face (in particular, around his eyes, cheekbones and lower lip) that Colletta has chosen to ignore. In the last panel, the mountain in the background and the road leading to Asgard have contours that vary from Kirby's pencils by as much as several milimeters. So the question arises: if Kirby's words are subsumed by Lee's text, and Kirby's pencils are subsumed by Colletta's inks, where exactly is Kirby?

Of the four contributors to this page (Lee, Kirby, Colletta and Simek), Kirby's contributions are at once the most essential and the most intangible. Kirby's words and drawings are buried beneath the efforts of other men, so that what we perceive as "Kirby" is in truth an approximation, an interpretation of Kirby. Yet somehow, by the strange and ineffable alchemy of comics, the spirit of Kirby brings the collaboration together, gives it form, strength and beauty. In a page loaded with gods in conflict, Kirby's work is the divine spark that brings the enterprise to life. 

A limited edition of 100 softcover and 15 hardcover catalogues are available. Over 200 pages, fully illustrated. Fun reference, great keepsake. Softcovers $40, dust-jacketed hardcover with limitation plate $200. To order, contact [email protected] or visit: https://www.pbagalleries.com/content/comics/.

R. Crumb says, "I found [PBA's catalogue] so interesting that I am saving it for the texts that accompany the comics which were put up for auction. This is some of the best commentary I’ve yet seen on the quality of the content of comic books. I especially enjoyed the reviews of the post-war horror comics. Great. Priceless."

Consignments welcome for PBA's Spring 2021 Comic Book sale. Pre-Code Horror, Golden Age and Silver Age comics, original art and ephemera sought. Send inquiries to [email protected].

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