Jack Kirby, From The Radium Age To The Psychedelic Age

Jack Kirby helped to shape modern comic books as we know them. Want to understand how Kirby changed the face of comics with ideas from Radium Age scifi? Joshua Glenn explains it all to you.

After writing a series of amazing posts for io9 on "pre-golden age SF," Glenn dubbed this early-twentieth century work "Radium Age SF" and he's discovered that Kirby (like many of his generation) was heavily influenced by it. Glenn traces Kirby's early influences into the artist/writer's later creative output, describing how Kirby's golden age comics were influenced by golden age SF - and how the creator then went psychedelic.

Writes Glenn in a recent issue of HiLoBrow:

Having helped pioneer the comic-book version of Golden Age science fiction, in the mid-1960s Kirby helped pioneer the comic-book version of New Wave science fiction. New Wave SF is characterized by an ambitious, self-consciously artistic sensibility; in fiction, the movement took off in 1964, when Michael Moorcock took over the editorship of the British science fiction magazine New Worlds. New Wave science fiction was less interested in outer space than in the nature of perception, mass media, entropy, and politics. Precisely at this moment, Kirby's Marvel comics began to blow minds with their experimentations in form and content; and - once he moved back to DC - he explored perception, mass media, entropy, and politics in his writings.

Kirby's proto-psychedelic photomontages were first seen in '64, which helps demonstrate my theory that the Sixties began that year; and his proto-psychedelic energy fields, known to fans as the "Kirby Krackle," were first seen in '66. He also co-scripted and drew the Argonaut Folly superhero comic series The Inhumans (1965). If The Avengers (1963), and The X-Men are examples of work on the cusp between the comic-book science fiction's Golden Age and New Wave eras, The Inhumans is New Wave. Again, many themes from The Inhumans are anticipated by Stapledon's Odd John.

And Glenn tops of his periodization tour de force with visual evidence that Kirby's work was directly influenced by Radium Age SF. You'll just have to read the article to find out more!

Read it all via HiLoBrow