Thursday, June 12, 2014

Why Kirby Is King

[This post was originally published on my now-defunct Kracalataka! blog back on 7 July 2010. I'm going to be slowly moving the more interesting posts from that blog here to Vargold over the next few weeks.]

I've been reading the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby run on The Mighty Thor, and I came across these pages from Thor 137 ("The Thunder God and the Troll") that demonstrate Kirby's command of page layout.  Here's page 2, my first example:

Here Kirby depicts a competition between Thor and the goddess Sif, his new love interest.  (I get the sense that, by issue 137, even Lee was getting tired of mortal love interest Jane Foster.)  What I love about the layout on this page is the interaction of the six panels.  The first panel (Sif launching a javelin toward the reader's right) is mirrored by the sixth and last panel (Thor throwing Mjolnir toward the reader's left).  The second panel (Sif's javelin lodging in the pole) is mirrored by the fifth and penultimate panel (where the force of Mjolnir's impact on the ground causes the spears to burst out of the pole).  The overall effect is that of an "X" pattern: panels 1 and 6 form the first line of the X while panels 2 and 5 form the second line.  The coloring ties the layout together even more.  (There's no colorist credited for the issue, so I'm not sure who to praise here.)  Panels 2 and 6 match up due to their yellow backgrounds—but they're also linked diagonally to panel 3 by virtue of the rather large swatch of yellow represented by Thor's golden locks.  Blue dominates the reverse pattern of panels 1, 4, and 5.

My second example is page 5:

Yellow backdrops and action lines tie together panels 1 and 4.  So does content: in both panels, Thor is smashing an enemy's weapon.  The result is a diagonal pairing that continues the force of Thor's panel 1 blow down into panel 4: in both cases, Mjolnir moves down and to the reader's right.  Panels 2 and 3 are tied together by the diagonal line linking the troll missile before and after it is launched at Thor.  In panel 2, the missile points down and left to the center of the layout; in panel 3, it zooms up and right.  The layout is once again an "X" shape.  At the same time, though, Kirby ties together panels 3 and 4 in a lovely action sequence: in panel 3, Thor prepares to strike by moving Mjolnir down and to his left.  Then, in panel 4, Thor ends the page with a "Thbooom!" by swinging his hammer across his body to his right.  The layout result is a beautiful arc of motion across the gutter between the panels.

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