April 1, 2011

The Celestials

Somewhere on a hidden plateau, high in the Andes Mountains, stands mighty Arishem, leader of the fourth Celestial host. 2000 feet tall and clad in strange extra-terrestrial armor, he looms as silent and immovable as the mountains around him. Yet he is aware of all that occurs in the realm of insignificant humans below him. After 50 years he will render his judgement. And on that day Earth will live...or die!

At least that's the way artist/writer Jack Kirby envisioned it back in 1976 when he hitched a ride on that ol' cosmic gravy train Chariots of the Gods? and produced The Eternals for Marvel comics. Originally supposed to take place outside Marvel continuity (but shoehorned in by writer Roy Thomas in later Thor books), the story was a bit uneven and slow but let's face it, you don't go to a Sinatra concert for the witty banter. And in this book, the King of comics did not disappoint. Every issue had at least two splash pages of  Kirby's dynamic art. And the Celestials themselves are some of my all time favorite creations of his. Each one distinct and enigmatic, and pulled out of Kirby's cosmic well of imagination that never seemed to dry up.

Below is a page from issue #12 that I used as a starting point for my design (click on images to view full size.)

And here's the result of my labours. As a backdrop, I pulled a two page spread out of issue #2 depicting the landing of the Celestials ship. It's got a nice dose of  "Kirby-Crackle" (those distinctive dots he used to depict huge amounts of energy being unleashed) and some really quality inks by John Verpoorten. I also grabbed an ancient temple out of the Google warehouse just to show the scale of these titanic beings.

Up close on his helmet, and you can see the array of weird cylindrical lights and the side antenna thing. The fact that there's barely anything that even hints at a face was what grabbed me as a kid. Kind of like Gort in The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Here's a dramatic low angle shot to show the chest emblem (or whatever.) I tried to keep all this close to Kirby's style and embellish it as little as possible. The only place I veered off was the neck because -well- the comic never showed that this guy even had one.

Down at the waist is his inter-galactic belt buckle. The cosmic significance of the symbol is too far beyond the understanding of our feeble human minds to even risk contemplating.

And finally the hands. Believe it or not, these gave me the most headaches. To try and emulate those distinctive, square Kirby chiclet fingers was more of a pain than I ever thought possible. But now that I've made 'em (and posable as well), I can use them over again in other designs. Which is good because I'm dying to try another Celestial or different comic book character down the road.

If this has even come close to making you interested in the amazing visual style of Jack Kirby, Marvel put out The Eternals Omnibus collecting issues 1-19 back in 2006. And don't forget Neil Gaimen and John Romita Jr's revisit Eternals. See ya soon, true believer!   

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SketchUp/Screw-up by Timothy P. Butler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.