Jack Kirby vs Gene Colan … really?

Really … JACK KIRBY vs GENE COLAN in some kind of legendary “silver agey” comic book artist smackdown … really … well not really. But it is an interesting thought, you have to admit. If you want to get directly to the controversy (or non-controversy if you actually apply any critical thought to it), you’ll just have to scroll down a little bit.

But first, a tiny bit of unnecessary and probably unwanted non-comics stuff…


If you know me in any small way, you can probably guess where I come down politically. This is not a political blog. This is also not a personal blog, a music blog or a journalistic blog. That said, don’t be surprised if I talk briefly about my life, my daughter, Jim Croce, The Kentucky Headhunters, The Dan Band, or my degree in Mass Communications from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.billo

I don’t really see this as a left/right, blue/red issue, but an issue regarding journalistic integrity, but you be the judge.

That said, I thought that this was a piece of information worth passing along … doing my small piece of the effort. I don’t have any plans to bore you with this kind of polarizing material very often. So if you want to pitch in and help, click the picture at the right (it is a link) … and if you’ve come for a funny book fix instead … just scroll down and away you go.



We’ll start today’s post with a new quiz question that leads perfectly into the pressing issue of the day.

Red Raven Comics #1

Cover art by Jack Kirby


Cover art by Gene Colan

Edgar Allan Poe: Tell Tale Heart cover by Brooks Hagen

Cover art by Brooks Hagen

Above are three comic book covers from different eras, other than the fact that they are all first issues, what else do they have in common? Sounds easy enough, right?

Notice the cover to Red Raven Comics. All the reference says that this is artwork by Jack “The King” Kirby. It certainly isn’t the Kirby style that we’re all the most familiar with, now is it?


It seems that my dear friend Tom Heintjes has taken issue with my suggestion that someone smarter than me could make a case for Gene Colan being the greatest comic book artist. This is what Mr. Heintjes wrote:

Tom Heintjes

Tom Heintjes

Come on, DWO–you can’t POSSIBLY be saying that Colan surpasses Kirby for output/versatility of genres/influence/sales/what have you got?

Now this is where the trouble begins… I’m a competitive guy. I want nothing more than to pick a fight with the obviously misguided Mr. Heintjes. I want to prove him wrong beyond a shadow of a doubt. I want to embarrass him with a dazzling array of information, logic and emotional appeals that would cause a room of old women to erupt in thunderous applause.

People like a good fight. People line up and pay good money to see a fight. In my imagination, as I have Mr. Heintjes in an intellectual headlock, the readership/traffic/views/clicks for this modest, but fanatical little blog soar to the stratosphere as the virtual eyeballs buy all the popcorn and Goobers they can eat just to watch me punch Mr. Heintjes in his virtual nose.

Kirby's cover for FF#1. Perhaps the most "swiped" cover design EVER!

Kirby's cover for FF#1. Perhaps the most "swiped" cover design EVER!

What possible strategy could I employ to prove my point? In what obvious and easy-to-prove-to-the-world ways is Gene Colan’s comic book art clearly better or his career greater than Jack Kirby’s?

Well, I find Gene Colan’s artwork prettier to look at. Ok … that’s one thing, but not very convincing as it is simply a matter of personal preference. What about total output? That would take a lot of research. What about influence? Lots of guys went to great lengths to make their artwork have the dynamics and flair of Kirby. Pretty hard to find any popular artists that appeared to be trying to make their art look like Gene Colan’s. That hardly proves my point.

What about versatility? Or sales? Or output? Gosh darn it … all that stuff would take an enormous amount of research that I don’t have the time or energy for … and god forbid … I might not be able to find all the information I need on the Wikipedia … or the whole internet.

I know. If I want to prove that Gene Colan is somehow greater than Jack Kirby all I have to do is … wait … let me read back what I just typed. Never mind.

Gene Colan seldom-copied style

Gene Colan's seldom-copied style

The truth is this. Both Tom Heintjes and I have enormous amounts of respect and love for both Jack Kirby and Gene Colan and their enormous contributions to the comic industry we all love … in very fanatical ways. I guess I’ll just have to find another way to build readership and punch Mr. Heintjes in his virtual e-nose.



I’ll be rolling out the nominees in ROUND FOUR one by one. And this new round of nominees is going to be all-female. And in honor of today’s theme, I’m proud to present a character created by Jack Kirby.

Big Barda hangin' with BIRDS OF PREY

Big Barda hangin' with BIRDS OF PREY

Big Barda (DC Hero)

Big Barda was a BBW (big, beautiful woman) before the term was popularized in magazines and television. Her first appearance was in Mister Miracle #4 and was part of the NEW GODS mythology that Jack Kirby created at DC Comics. Big Barda was created as a female companion to Scott Free alias Mr. Miracle. According to Mark Evanier, who worked as Kirby’s assistant for a time, the interplay between the two characters was patterned in part on Jack and Roz Kirby’s relationship. Born on Apokolips and raised by Granny Goodness, Barda was supposed to be one of the bad guys. Since falling in love with Mr. Miracle and becoming a hero, Barda has had a long association with the Justice League and a more recent one with Oracle and The Birds of Prey. Plus, how can you resist a girl who has this description from Wikipedia, “She wields a high tech weapon called a Mega-rod, which produces extremely powerful concussive bursts.” ’nuff said.


Enjoy the dynamic bravery of the composition of this CAPTAIN AMERICA cover by Gene Colan. Most artists wouldn’t even try to make a cover like this work … and most of those that may try … would fail.cap116That’s my version of the story.

          — Dave Olbrich (DWO) Wed. April 1, 2009



Filed under 2nd String Characters, Gene Colan project, Point-of-view, Quiz Questions

10 responses to “Jack Kirby vs Gene Colan … really?

  1. I certainly preferred Colan over Kirby (and after about 1968 it isn’t even close), but you’ve gotta look at more than the drawing. Kirby’s storytelling technique through the art is the greatest, bar none. The man was a master at leading the reader from panel to panel, page to page. I have commented in the past that one of the reasons there was so much banter in the Lee/Kirby comics was because when Kirby handed Lee the art there wasn’t much else Stan needed to provide.

    And what about creations? Kirby’s characters are among the most famous of all time. Yes, some of the credit for the Marvel 1960s undoubtedly goes to Stan, and some of the credit for the 1940s goes to Simon. What classic characters did Colan create? Kirby even created a whole genre of comics (Romance).

    Kirby undoubtedly tarnished his reputation after the 1960s, while Colan continued to turn out terrific material. But before that there’s just no comparison.

    On your trivia question I’m going to guess that each comic only had one issue, or one issue under the title shown (Red Raven became the Human Torch with issue #2).

  2. Pingback: Topics about Comics » Archive » Jack Kirby vs Gene Colan … really?

  3. My guess for the trivia is “Wings!!”

  4. Hmmm? Well Gene Colan definitely has my vote. I mean, Kirby is great and all. But a bit over the top for me.

  5. Gene Colan has my vote! He’s an amazing artist, and from what I’ve learned from many of my friends who are professional illustrators, and artists’ artist.

    Please support Gene Colan by purchasing a ticket to his fundraiser in New York City on February 24, 2010. For more information please visit http://www.marvelouscolor.com/events.html


  6. Ooo! Well, Kirby has some enduring character designs…maybe Kirby is a bit over the top, sure…Colan is so fluid…and what he’s done with lighting is unforgettable. It’s hard to compare the fundamental architect of modern comics storytelling with anyone. But Colan’s work, judging from what I’ve seen, is just SUCH good all-around illustrating. Sometimes his panel-to-panel transistions weren’t as smooth, but his page layouts? Magical.

  7. Allen Bruce

    I love the fluid beauty of Gene Colan’s comic artwork; however, the powerful mind – bending dynamic comic artwork produced by Jack Kirby makes him the all-time number one greatest, man!

  8. Kirby’s Maverick imagination is out of this world, brilliantly conceived stupendous stuff. However if your talking art, then Colan has the edge his aesthetically natural compositions are excellent .
    Al, an admirer and illustrator from over the pond.

  9. Both Kirby and Colan have had a huge influence on me. Check out the

  10. Sorry that’s thesecretoftheaesir.com

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