New Works By Jack Kirby, Will Eisner, and John Berkey! Almost.

Sorry for the headline. In this article you’ll see some new pieces that look (to me at least) like they came from the hands of three masters of their craft. They’ve all passed away, and that is a true poverty. Each of them were geniuses in their areas and made a mark like most of us could only dream of.

I get that AI art generators bring up all sorts of heavy topics like intellectual property questions and threats of eliminating artist and graphic design jobs. I definitely don’t want to talk about any of that right now. This rapidly emerging technology isn’t going away, and is getting crisper and more impressive with each passing week. It isn’t a bus, it’s a loaded freight train with jetpacks mounted on it.

So let’s talk instead about the fact that we live in a time when you can instantaneously view an infinite number of new works of art that can mimic the style of existing masters like the three we’ll highlight here though the men themselves are long since passed away. And though I see how some might perceive this sort of thing differently, to me this is honoring them. We’re not going to package these up and sell them, or try to market these in any way.

We’re going to tour a gallery and appreciate how awesome these three folks were.

Who was John Berkey?

John Berkey (August 13, 1932 – April 29, 2008) was an American artist known for his space and science fiction themed works. Some of Berkey’s best-known work includes much of the original poster art for the Star Wars trilogy, the poster for the 1976 remake of King Kong and also the “Old Elvis Stamp”. Berkey produced a large body of space fantasy artwork, producing utopian scenes of bubble-shaped, yacht-like spaceships. His distinctive painterly style has been evaluated as “at once realistic, yet impressionistic and abstract”. He has been described as “one of the giants in the history of science fiction art”. (Wikipedia)

The following images were generated using Codeway’s Wonder AI app, with various prompts relating to “space ships”, selecting an “oil painting” style:

Who was Will Eisner?

William Erwin Eisner (March 6, 1917 – January 3, 2005) was an American cartoonist, writer, and entrepreneur. He was one of the earliest cartoonists to work in the American comic book industry, and his series The Spirit (1940–1952) was noted for its experiments in content and form. In 1978, he popularized the term “graphic novel” with the publication of his book A Contract with God. He was an early contributor to formal comics studies with his book Comics and Sequential Art (1985). The Eisner Award was named in his honor and is given to recognize achievements each year in the comics medium. (Wikipedia)

The following images were generated using Codeway’s Wonder AI app, with various prompts relating to “ugly man telling stories” or “man in street”, selecting a “pen & ink” style:

Who was Jack Kirby?

Jack Kirby (August 28, 1917 – February 6, 1994) was an American comic book artist, writer and editor, widely regarded as one of the medium’s major innovators and one of its most prolific and influential creators. In 1940, he and writer-editor Joe Simon created the highly successful superhero character Captain America for Timely Comics, predecessor of Marvel Comics. During the 1940s, Kirby regularly teamed with Simon, creating numerous characters for that company and for National Comics, later to become DC Comics. The Jack Kirby Awards and Jack Kirby Hall of Fame were named in his honor, and he is known as “The King” among comics fans for his many influential contributions to the medium. (Wikipedia)

The following images were generated using Codeway’s Wonder AI app, with various prompts relating to “giant machine”, selecting a “pen & ink” style:

Other AI art generators you might consider playing with:

Artbreeder is a web-based generator, which in my opinion specializes in landscapes and faces.

Stable diffusion hosted here is also excellent, though it seems to produce much better results if you specify a particular artist or multiple artists for it to mimic the styles. You don’t have to, but it helps.

Craiyon is another web-based generator, and is a stripped-down version of Dall-e, which hit the headlines recently and made quite a splash. This is a free version, and resolutions are low. Still, it’s great for writing prompts.

There are many others, but I wanted to bring you these three gentlemen today, and some suggestions for your own experimentation. If you don’t know much about any of these guys, please take a few minutes and enrich your life a bit. They were amazing, talented people who brought us many gifts.

And I’m thrilled to have technology that can bring us closer to them like this.

Enjoy.

Jack Kirby’s Genius Of Composition & What We Can Learn From Him

captain-america

So it’s a bit of a thing to people who particularly dig the history of comic books to credit either Jack Kirby or Stan Lee for some of the huge, transformative things that happened to Marvel in the sixties after the first Fantastic Four issue came out…but not both. A silly debate, because it was both of them with incredible chemistry and the beautiful, messy mix of amazing timing and talent that only happens a precious few times in any art form.

But I was watching this documentary about Jack Kirby that got me thinking about him in a different way than I ever had. If you don’t know who the guy is, you should google that right now or go to a place like here to see his style – you’ve seen it, maybe you just don’t know it. The guy’s American history and has influenced a majority of the guys illustrating comics today – it’s worth your time to know more about him.

The documentary I’m talking about is here:Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

What got me thinking was this: several of the artists they spoke to about Kirby said something I’d thought a lot when I was a kid – why does this Kirby guy keep getting work when he doesn’t know how to draw? Yet they kept going back to him because there was something there they found magnetic. The anatomy is wrong. The rules of perspective are twisted. Things don’t contort that way. It’s just all wrong. Yet the more they went back to him, the more influential he got to them. It soaked into their heads, like it did mine, because it was so different, because it broke the rules so irreverently, because it laid a new vocabulary of action and power and movement for an art form that was still trying to figure itself out. People needed to know how to say things graphically; and they needed to break out of some of the tried and tested methods because they were boring and tedious and based on a weird and forced application of old school comic strip doodling methods to prose stories. Instead, Jack Kirby was blasting fists out of the page and drawing gargantuan freaking alien ships or drawing guys who were just supposed to be sitting, but looked like they were about to rip the paper they were printed on apart. He put energy on the page and ignored what was going on everywhere else.

He worked from noon till early morning mostly, in a cramped basement with little space and crappy air conditioning, surrounded by science fiction pulps. When he was helping shatter and shape an entire industry for decades, that’s the kind of place where he was doing it. He’d reach behind him and grab a pulp, steal an idea and rejigger it till it was his, then charge it like a spring and draw it. Guys that watched him draw said he’d start at one corner and incredibly just make his way across to make it all work somehow, like it was all in his head to begin with.

  1. Kirby’s work ethic was inspiring. If I get bad news of some kind or if it’s a sunny day, or if I’m still stressed from work, I let a novel go for days without touching it. Like a little baby, whining. This guy jetted for half a day or more, never once missing a deadline, no matter how ridiculous it was.
  2. He paid attention to what other people were doing, sure, but set fire to it and crafted his own way of doing things that was entirely original, instantly recognizable as his and his alone, and didn’t let the things he knew technically get in the way of that. This advice is screaming at me.
  3. Just as an add-on, I always love to hear stories of guys who made the big time and weren’t too in love with themselves to bring folks into their world. Kirby and his wife, Roz made lunch for fans who made the trek to their little house – he’d show them around and even give them artwork. Actors now get a lot of credit for this kind of thing, when publicists really set them up.

Go look up some Kirby and remember what he managed to accomplish. If you think it’s wrong at first, pay closer attention and see if your opinion changes. He gets in your head, man. He gets in your head.