Kirby Q&A: Mike Allred

The creator of ‘Madman’ talks about the ‘power’ of Jack Kirby’s work, the difference between Kirby’s Marvel and DC work, and his love for the Silver Surfer

All this week we’re celebrating the life and influence of comics legend Jack Kirby, who would have turned 100 on Aug. 28. Watch for more interviews and posts as the week continues.

Mike Allred is the perfect person to talk to about Jack Kirby for a number of reasons. Right now he’s drawing two books, the ongoing Silver Surfer series at Marvel and the miniseries Bug! The Adventures of Forager at DC. Both characters are Kirby creations, as was Allred’s previous project, Marvel’s FF. Allred remains perhaps best known for his own creations, though, which range from Madman to Red Rocket 7 to The Atomics to iZombie. More than simply being an immensely talented creator, Allred is one of those creators who has long acknowledged his debt to Kirby and his style, and he talked a little about what that has meant to him.

What was your first Kirby comic or exposure to Kirby?

It’s hard to know for sure, but there’s a good chance it was the Hanna-Barbera cartoon. That’s possibly where I was introduced to Silver Surfer and Galactus. But then my older brother, Lee, had an amazing collection that I dug through at any opportunity. Kirby comics fill up my earliest memories.

What is it about Kirby’s work that has really struck you and stayed with you?

It’s cliche to say at this point, but it’s the power. There’s an intangible energy that bursts off the page. His character design is unsurpassed, and it’s all brought together with incredible charm. It’s all so wonderfully charming!

Madman and the Atomics by Mike Allred

People have talked about the Kirby influence in your work and I wonder what that means for you? Is there something you can point or is it more about the way he approached comics and helped create this visual language?

I think it’s just deeply instinctual. His DNA runs through virtually very comic. The influence is a double edged sword. It’s very flattering and encouraging when the Kirby influence is recognized in my work, but I’ll often have to push hard to make it less obvious. No one should want their work to be derivative of another artist. Everyone should strive what what is most unique about their creativity. But with the FF, Silver Surfer and Bug series it feels perfectly justified and appropriate to let loose and let my Jack Kirby freak flag fly!

Now in recent years you’ve been drawing FF and Silver Surfer and Bug! and I’m curious what you’ve learned or how your thinking about the characters has changed from working on them?

That’s an interesting question. I don’t feel I’ve consciously learned anything beyond how rich and deep my affection for the work is. I love and appreciate the characters more than ever, feel a new level of kinship with them and abiding sense of gratitude.

Since you’re working on both, what do you think the big difference between Kirby’s DC work and his Marvel work is?

By far Kirby’s DC work is way way weirder and more liberated and ambitious in its attack plan.  The Marvel work is more polished, slicker, maybe even more appealing, generally speaking.

Do you have a favorite Kirby work or character?

I would be thrilled to work on any of the hundreds of Jack Kirby creations, but Silver Surfer has always been one of most lifelong favorite characters – period. I can’t over exaggerate how completely blissed out I’ve been working with Dan Slott and Tom Brevoort on our series.

Silver Surfer and Dawn Greenwood by Mike Allred

Are you doing anything special for the Kirby Centennial on the 28th? Or are you spending it like Kirby would have likely spent it – working?

I’m always embarrassed to call it “working,” but yes, I’ll be drawing and inking up a storm.

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