Ogden Whitney Goes Kirby!


Saturday, March 5, 2011

A very Whitney top panel - but look at the figure on the right at he top. That's a total Kirby pose.

Two-Gun Kid #117 reprints an Ogden Whitney story from the same series years before. “Three Rode Together” (originally appeared in Two-Gun Kid #89) is a very Jack Kirby looking Ogden Whitney effort. There’s no listing for an inker on the indicia – so I’m left to assume Whitney inked himself on this one. It’s really heavy-handed Marvel style inking compared to Whitney’s ACG work. You can imagine editor Stan Lee telling Whitney to make this western look like the other issues of Two-Gun Kid – meaning make it look like Kirby.

It was fun for me to discover this comic in the quarter bin. I’d never seen it. Dan was like, “Oh, yeah, I have some of those. I think that’s some of Whitney’s last professional work.” I was startled at how “3-D” looking the pages are in comparison to Whitney’s “flat” space in most of his ACG work. Whitney is famous for his flat, stage-like compositions in Herbie and in his romance comics work. So, it’s really odd and somehow thrilling to see Whitney’s compositions go “in” to the panel. He seems to be imitating Kirby’s layered approach. Y’know what I mean – when Kirby has a strong foreground, middle ground and background all in one panel. Kirby most famously does this of course in his double-page splash pages but I think you can see this compositional strategy in every one of his pages. Look at the panel below in the gallery with the big laughing heads at the top of the page. That was the panel that really struck me. That panel is so unusual looking for Ogden Whitney. So, then I started looking at the rest of the book more clearly. There are some choice “Whitney moments” (check the guys using a log for a battering ram – that’s ALL Whitney except for the figure on the right of the panel) but it’s mostly a Kirby riff. Check out the hand of our hero when he falls off his horse. That’s a Kirby hand. And more than that, it’s coming towards the reader like most Kirby. But Whitney was so “flat” – for lack of a better term – that it’s weird to see him composing panels that come at, come towards the reader. Whitney, of course, does have depth-of-field type panels in his other work but it’s generally simple and rather elegant. He plays with color and depth like an animated cartoon. Usually his “space” is very clean. Here in this western it’s all layered and messy. I like it. Add the layered compositions to the bulkiness of the figures AND the inking style and it all sort of works. I gotta say – it boggles the mind of a Whitney fan like me.

Anyways, just something to chew on. Just riffing. Please enjoy.

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7 Responses to “Ogden Whitney Goes Kirby!”
  1. Briany Najar says:

    Flat space. Well maybe so, but don’t forget “True-vision!”
    That mind-boggling no-glasses 3D technique ACG deployed (for purely artistic reasons) in the mid 1950s.
    It was like actually being dragged right into the panel, eerie almost.
    A nice Whitney example starts this issue of Adventures Into the Unknown.
    And check out the first panel on this page here. It’s got a dude flying towards the viewer and, even though his nearest hand isn’t totally huge, the “True-vision” technology throws him right out of the page!
    But yeah, if anything, that effect only over-emphasises the cell-animation 2-layer approach to depth, even when the drawing itself does have perspective and multiple layers.

    The line on this late western stuff is back to being more versatile / less subtle.
    I do think the stiffer, more puppet-like style he had in the late 50s to mid 60s ACG stories just dovetails with Richard Hughes’ creaking, genteel scripts so sympathetically, the result is more than the sum of its parts, yadda blah.
    I should probably get a copy of that Out of Time book really, it’s got a bunch of my favourites in there and I could find out what’s already been said about em, in fine style.
    Nice post!

  2. Lou Copeland says:

    Check out Whitney’s Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. story in Strange Tales 149. Ogden Whitney draws Jasper Sitwell. Does it get any better than this?

  3. Lou Copeland says:

    Shoulda mentioned that it Whitney actually working over Kirby’s layouts in that Strange Tales story.

  4. patrick ford says:

    Very possible Kirby did penciled corrections, and or layouts for the story.
    The so called “Marvel Method” where in Stan Lee required the artists to plot the stories for him (while he was paid the full writers page rate) resulted in many instances where Lee ordered corrections after the fully penciled story was turned in.
    In a recent deposition for the Disney vs Kirby Estate trial Evanier described Kirby telling him he often had to draw the equivalent of 26 pages for a 20 page story due to all the changes Lee mandated.
    Joe Orlando and Wally Wood quit Marvel after a very short time for the same reason.

  5. See, this is why I love the Internet some days. Glad there are other Whitney / Kirby experts out there. I agree that Whitney is very adept at all kinds of styles and that “flat space” is a narrow definition – I was really just saying “look how Kirby this Whitney comic looks!” – so thanks for all the comments so far. Keep ’em comin’ !

  6. Bartley Munn says:

    I’m bettin’ that this Two Gun Kid story might’ve been assisted in some part by Dick Ayers (the long time artist on the strip). That might explain the atypical Whitney art (and the vague Kirby flavour, as well). Just a guess.

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