[Visions of Horror] Jack Kirby

THE DEMON no. 1 - COVER

Keeping true to our ardent vow of honouring classic horror artwork and artists that have significantly impacted the comics industry, Visions of Horror is back to feature a massively popular creative force whose award-winning work has impressively spanned the Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern ages of comic books. With a visually distinctive style, and a fiercely dynamic presence that still resonates within the comics community 20 years after his death, Jack Kirby’s legacy is very much the heart of the industry, and continues to grow with the increasing recognition of his extraordinary and influential career.

As one of the most innovative and prolific originators of his time, Kirby created, or had a hand in creating, some of the most iconic characters from some of the most popular titles to ever grace the comics world. And while his artistic vision paved way for such celebrated Marvel heroes and villains from the likes of the Avengers, X-Men, and Fantastic Four, it’s his lesser known, though still enduring, successes in the horror genre that naturally interests us here at Bloody-Disgusting.

In 1950, alongside notorious creative partner, and classic comics gem, Joe Simon — with whom he had co-created Captain America with 9 years prior — Kirby spearheaded an ambitiously risky, non-gore-infused, horror anthology called “Black Magic”. In fact, an anthologized story called “Beautiful Freak” from issue #29 (cover featured below), was used as a means to establish the Comics Code due to its supposedly controversial subject matter concerning human deformities and murder. The series lasted for an impressive 11-year-run before it was unfortunately canceled, but his unforgettable contributions to the book were reprinted as a nine-issue series published by DC Comics between 1973 and 1975. This, of course, occurred a few years after Kirby’s glaring disillusionment with Marvel regarding proper character credit, art ownership and payment issues, resulted in him abandoning ship and intensively negotiating a three-year contract with DC.

“Black Magic” #29 (Nov-Dec. 1953) / #17 (Oct. 1952) Original Art:

During this time, it was said that he was often forced to work on titles he held no real passion for. But even under these circumstances he managed to grace the horror genre with another significant character that has gone on to survive the competitive nature of the market, and remains a popular and reoccurring face in the DC Universe today. I’m referring to his contractually coerced creation of Etrigan the Demon, who was begrudgingly brought to life due to DC Comics’ demand for a brilliant new horror icon to set loose on the masses. For those unaware, though I imagine it is few, Etrigan is a demon from Hell, though usually prone to fight for the side of good thanks to being immortally bound to Jason Blood, a well-known ally of Batman and other DC Universe superheroes.

“The Demon” #1 (1972) – Cover Art:

“The Demon” #1 hit stands in August of 1972, and the response was so alarmingly positive that Kirby was ordered to focus all of his energy on the series, at the expense of his other unfinished titles. Since the character’s debut, Etrigan has gone on to fill many supporting roles in a number of DC Universe comic books, television programs, videos games, and movies. He made appearances in the Cartoon Network’s Justice League and Batman: The Brave and the Bold. He was even featured in widely popular award-winning titles like Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman”, Alan Moore’s “Swamp Thing”, and Garth Ennis’ “Hitman”. Most recently, Etrigan appeared as the main character in Paul Cornell’s New 52 series “Demon Knights”, which concluded last summer.

“The Demon” #1 – Splash Page:

The fact that Kirby became a historically significant trailblazer of horror comics is both amazing, and hilarious, considering his alleged disinterest for the genre. Yet he managed to set a standard of excellence and achievement in the comics world that essentially remains unrivaled to this day.

Single Panel from “The Demon” #10 (July 1973):

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If you want Bloody Disgusting to cover one of your favourite horror artists, or a fantastic piece of horror-related comic book art, head down to the comment section, or hit up Farah or Lonnie on Twitter.