Despite the fact that Jack Kirby was an incredibly prolific artist with a career that spanned some 50 years, it’s not every day that I see a picture of a page of Kirby artwork that I haven’t seen before. So I was pretty intrigued to find this rather gorgeous piece of Space Busters concept art in my inbox this week, which comes from the estate of inker Marvin Stein. Stein, a Simon & Kirby Studio artist and inker who worked on titles ranging from Black Magic to Young Romance, died last year at the age of 85. His estate is putting the piece up for sale in a ComicLink auction that begins November 4.
The creation of Kirby and writer Dave Wood, Space Busters was a newspaper strip concept developed during the science fiction boom in pulps, comics, books, and films of the mid-1950s. While they were unable to sell that strip to newspapers, public interest in space exploration surged in 1957 after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, and Kirby, Dave Wood and Dave’s brother Dick ultimately sold an astronaut adventure called Sky Masters of the Space Force to a newspaper syndicate in 1958 after a syndicate manager was shown this Space Busters concept art.
The deal for Sky Masters was brokered by longtime DC editor Jack Schiff, and although that was unrelated to DC Comics business, the situation is historically interesting because a legal conflict between Kirby and Schiff over Sky Masters ultimately led Kirby to leave DC for Marvel in 1959 — where he was subsequently instrumental in the creation of the Marvel Universe.
Beautiful work by Stein here as well, an underrated inker whose slick polish I’ve often admired on titles such as Headline Comics. Marvel artist and Kirby inker Dick Ayers once noted that Stein was a key assistant to Joe Shuster during the formative Superboy era, and the clean, smooth style evident in that work would definitely fit with Stein’s list of credits.
While there has always been a focus on Kirby’s 1960s Marvel work among original art collectors, I’ve long found his 1950s work fascinating, as you can see his style transforming from the lanky, energetic grace of his earliest work into the pure power and mass that fueled the engine that built Marvel.
The Estate of Marvin Stein today announced an online auction of “Space Busters” a one-of-kind, rare piece of Jack Kirby art to take place November 4th via ComicLink http://www.comiclink.com/.
“Space Busters” “(link to auction: http://tinyurl.com/3jgsdpj) is said to have been the prototype for Jack Kirby’s popular “Sky Masters” syndicated comic book series and represents a period in the middle 1950’s when this quality of Kirby art was rarely seen. The “Space Busters,” piece is a sizeable board standing 20 X 26.5 inches and combines the inking talents of Marvin Stein and the drawing of creative genius and world-renowned comic book artist, Jack Kirby.
“It’s always exciting when a beautiful piece of art of such caliber — combining the talents of Marvin Stein and Jack Kirby comes on to the market for the first time,” says Doug Gillock, consignment director, ComicLink. “We expect the response of this piece to be overwhelming.”
The Estate of Marvin Stein has worked with ComicLink over the last year, and has offered many pieces of original artwork inked by Marvin during the “Golden Age” of comics. The estate also owns the worldwide publishing rights of the 1960’s long running comic strip McGurk’s Mob. McGurk’s Mob is a family friendly and timeless series that will once again be made available to the general public. The original content will be made ready for mobile and internet distribution sometime early in 2012.
About Marvin Stein
Marvin Stein (Feb. 11, 1925 to Feb. 11, 2010) was an American comic book artist, who also worked in animation, advertising, illustration and television broadcast graphics. He was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, the son of a sign painter. Stein graduated from Pratt Institute, and went to work for the Chesler Studio, which supplied comic stories and art to the comic book industry. He worked on Captain Valiant for Croyden Publications between 1944 and 1946 and the Funnyman daily and Sunday syndicated strip, Superboy and Boy Commandos for National Comics/DC. Stein joined the Simon & Kirby Studio and worked on myriad titles, Black Magic, Headline, Justice Traps the Guilty, Young Love and Young Romance, while freelancing for several other publishers, Atlas, Feature, Prize, Ziff Davis. In 1958 he left comics to work in advertising and broadcast news graphics. From 1964 to 1969 he illustrated the syndicated McGurk’s Mob with Bernard Wexler for Newsday. Stein also worked illustrating children’s books. He resided most of his life in Massapequa Park, Long Island.
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