Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Atomic Roundtable: Kirby, King Of The Splash

This week, for the occasion of what would have been Jack Kirby’s 100th birthday, tributes are appearing all over the comics blogosphere. We love Kirby and his work as much as anyone but there’s no way any of us can write anything as affecting as, say, Mark Evanier.

But we wanted to do SOMETHING. Trumbull hit on the idea of posting a favorite splash page from Kirby, and we thought that was a fine idea. So here they all are. Since it was Trumbull’s notion, we’ll let him go first. Here’s John:


John: In honor of Jack “King” Kirby’s 100th birthday, here it is: The greatest splash page in comics history. Go ahead, tell me that you don’t want to know what happens next.


This was more or less a joke when I posted it on Facebook, but I think it points to Kirby’s mastery of storytelling and an arresting image. This image immediately makes you go, “Wha–?” and want to know what the deal is. Kirby knew that you had to grab your readers up front and never let them go.

Greg H: This is a lot harder than it seems on first glance because Kirby was a genius with splash pages. He did a lot of them that should have been just dumb, like the Newsboy Legion’s faces all gaping at something, or Dr. Doom’s face in profile scolding some cowering lackey — you know, head shots, no action, not something you’d normally burn down a whole page’s worth of real estate rendering. But Kirby made it work. And he’d put in three to five of these full-page splashes in every story.

So it’s tough. I have a soft spot for the photocollage ones from Fantastic Four and Jimmy Olsen, and the mega-machinery shots from things like The Eternals or New Gods… but for my money, the best pure, unfiltered, anything-goes Kirby was Kamandi. Everything about that strip was gloriously batshit insane, and from the moment you opened the comic the mission statement was in your face: LET’S GO! FLOOR IT!

Even at that it’s hard to pick just one from Kamandi, but here’s mine:

What’s it all about? In a post apocalyptic future (“A.D. — After Disaster!!”) Kamandi’s about to come out shooting against a giant intelligent gorilla. There’s just no part of that premise that’s not awesome. Why is it happening? Who cares? It’s ON, motherfucker.


Mik: There’s a reason it’s a classic.


John: And if I can post some more serious entries (and since I started this to begin with, why not?) I have a few more: The great shot of the Thing standing in the rain from Fantastic Four #51:

I love the characterization at play here. The Thing has a monstrous form, but you immediately hook into his emotion. You can just feel Ben Grimm’s depression and despair.

Another contender: The amazing double-page spread from the opening of Kamandi #1. It perfectly sets up his world, and has a nice Planet of the Apes homage, to boot. I love the scale on this one:

And the shot of the Promethean Giant from the opening of New Gods #5:

It’s a 3D widescreen summer blockbuster right on the page. Again, the scale is spectacular. I love that huge arm going off to the right. This double page spread establishes that the New Gods inhabit a world with a scope far beyond ours.


Travis: Yeah, without really thinking about it too hard (I really SHOULD know more Kirby splashes!), I think I’ll put my vote in for FF 51, which was the first thing to come to mind.  Although I was thinking more of the photocollage stuff from later in the issue.  The way it juxtaposes with a “normal” comics page really shows the weirdness of the Negative Zone, and gives it a prog-rock album cover feel.


Greg B: This is a very hard choice, because I tend to agree with John that the very first page of OMAC is not only one of the greatest splash pages in comics, but it’s one of the most disturbing images ever published in mainstream superhero comics. And yes, Kirby’s splashes were frequent and awesome. I love the insanity of his 1970s Captain America run, which had many crazy splashes, and even his late 1930s/early 1940s work had some impressive splash pages. But I can’t get over the sheer amazing work on the double-page splash from “Street Code” in Argosy #2:

Kirby gets the crowded streets of New York in the 1920s/1930s as well as any filmmaker ever did, and there’s so much going on it’s hard to look away because you’re always seeing something new. The cop yelling at the person dumping their trash on the street while ignoring the brawlers right in front of him (who are, however, about to get said trash dumped on them); the drunk looking at his bottle quizzically; the kids throwing stuff at each other – the scene is full of kinetic energy, and like the best art, we can hear and smell everything as well as see it. I like a lot of Kirby’s splash pages, but this one is so different because it’s not a fantasy scene. This was one of the few (the only?) personal things Kirby ever did (unless we interpret his entire bibliography as personal in some way, which we probably can), and this page blows me away whenever I see it.


Those are our picks. How about yours? Sound off in the comments!


  1. M-Wolverine

    I’m glad I was out of town this weekend. After the first one, it’s basically end thread/post. That wins vs. all. Amazing in so many ways.

    But the one I probably would have picked, due to my bias, is this one.


    Though this might have won, but I wasn’t 100% sure it was a splash page, only like 99% sure.


    Best one I found looking for the other ones and didn’t remember-


    And then there’s this, which I had no idea existed, never knew the characters crossed over, but I can’t stop thinking how perfect it is.


    Brilliant in so many ways. The faces, the design, the use of the rings. The fact that it could never be made into a movie today. 😉 (And HT to whoever came up with the story title “With these Rings, I thee Kill!”

  2. frasersherman

    I’m glad someone mentioned the Kamandi splash of sunken New York. It’s not only good, it’s the kind of epic vision a movie in those days would have to spend a fortune to put on screen.

  3. Edo Bosnar

    Yep, I’ve come across that b&w street scene that Greg B. posted quite a few times when idly surfing online. That’s really a great image.
    I really can’t think of an absolute favorite, but when I think of great Kirby splash pages I always remember that there were some awesome ones in Captain Victory – the rather underrated series he did for Pacific right at the beginning of the 1980s. (Personally, I think that series, or rather the first half of it, was better than any of the stuff he did during his second tenure at Marvel in the mid to late ’70s.)
    Anyway, here’s a few really good ones:
    First, some aliens attacking
    Then some aliens enjoying a little leisure time
    And, of course, some great Kirby tech

    By the way, if you want to see more, many more, splash pages from Captain Victory, visit this page.

  4. Jeff Nettleton

    This one, from Forever People #7 us a favorite, as not only is it filled with Kirby detail, the King gets the historical elements right.


    Then there is just this amazing illustration of the King’s imagination, with the Mountain of Judgement, in Jimmy Olsen:


    1. Le Messor

      “the King gets the historical elements right”

      When I read that in my email notification, the only picture showing was the one from Jimmy Olsen, so I was trying to figure out which historical elements he got right in a picture of the Fantasticar chased by a sci-fi train chased by Superman.

      1. Jeff Nettleton

        It was the Whiz Wagon and he got the chrome and stabilizer perfectly!

        I seriously want that car to be built and to drive it, preferably while destroying SUVs.

  5. I won’t claim it’s the greatest page ever, but it’s one of my favorite Kirby pages:


    Here’s the story:

    In 1971, a bunch of the guys who founded the San Diego Comic-Con made their way to Los Angeles to visit Jack Kirby at his home studio. At some point during the afternoon, Kirby remarked that he could make a character out of just about anything. Probably not a wise thing to say at that point, because immediately, they all responded “what about us? Could you make us into characters?”

    Jack obliged, and so it was that the San Diego Five-String Mob appeared in ‘Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen’ #144, featuring Bill Lund, Scott Shaw!, Roger Freedman, John Pound, and Mike Towry. A sixth member, “Barri-Boy” Barry Alfonso appears on other pages. (Alfonso was also the inspiration for Klarion the Witch Boy.)

    I just like the sheer lunacy of Jack Kirby randomly inserting a bunch of fans into a comic for the hell of it.

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