Friday, September 12, 2014

I Reads You Review: DKW: Ditko Kirby Wood

DKW: Ditko Kirby Wood
FANTAGRAPHICS BOOKS – @fantagraphics

CARTOONIST: Sergio Ponchione
TRANSLATION: Diego Ceresa with Sergio Ponchione, Eric Reynolds, and Kristy Valenti
EDITOR: Eric Reynolds
32pp, 2-Color, $4.99 U.S. (July 2014)

Originally published in Italy, DKW: Ditko Kirby Wood is a one-shot comic book from cartoonist and comic book creator, Sergio Ponchione.  DKW is a tribute to three of the most acclaimed comic book artists of all time:  Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby and Wallace (Wally) Wood.  Fantagraphics Books recently published an English-language edition of DKW as as single-issue comic book.

Ponchione presents these three artists as a “holy trinity,” showcasing each the artist in a story that pays homage to his work, philosophy (especially in the case of Ditko), style, and creations.  One could certainly argue that Kirby and Ditko created the visual and graphical language of modern comic books, and I consider Wally Wood to be the greatest comic book artist of all time.

Ponchione dedicates one chapter to each of the three artists, with a framing sequence before and between each chapter to explain what is coming.  First, “The Mysterious Steve” (inspired by Reed Tucker's 2012 New York Post article) attempts to explain Steve Ditko's insistence that his work speaks for him and his resistance to giving interviews about himself and his work.

Next, “Planet Kirby” presents Jack Kirby and his workspace as a space ship from which he produces a never-ending stream of fantastic creations.  Finally, “Wood & Me” (based on information based on Steve Starger and J. David Spurlock's Wally's World) is an illustrated essay about Wally Wood, whose creativity, imagination, and output burned so brightly that they eventually consumed him.

I agree with what fantastic comics biographer Blake Bell says in his introduction to DKW.  Ponchione's imbues his work:  layouts, compositions, and graphic design with inspiration.  His book respects Ditko, Kirby, and Wood without imitating or, even worse, stealing their work.  Thor knows that five decades of Marvel Comics writers, artists, and editors  have remade, reinvented, re-imagined Ditko and Kirby's work to death (to say nothing of those making movies based on Marvel's comic books).

Sergio Ponchione honors Ditko, Kirby, and Wood by capturing the ideological, spiritual, philosophical, and intellectual aspects of their work.  He does not have to copy or steal.  Read this comic book, and you will realize that Ponchione understands this “Holy Trinity” beyond a superficial notion of “styles” and past what is seen on the surface, at first glance and without examination.  That shows in how his graphical storytelling captures the essence of these three masters.

Best of all, DKW: Ditko Kirby Wood is just a fun comic book to read.  Once upon a time, Ditko, Kirby, and Wood produced that kind of comic book.  I remember the first time I read Mr. A and Doctor Strange.  Wow!  I remember the first time I followed the X-Men to the Savage Land (X-Men #10 – cover dated: March 1965), and watches as Kirby's pencil pitted the Angel against a pterodactyl in an awesome aerial duel.  When I discover Wally Wood comics that I have not seen before, my respect and love for him grows.

It's early, but I think DKW: Ditko Kirby Wood should get an Eisner nod in the category of “Best U.S. Edition of International Material” next year.  It is one of the best comic books of the year, and it makes me want to seek out more comics from Sergio Ponchione.  He is clearly quite good at this comic book thing.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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