Sneak Preview: Jack Kirby and Wally Wood’s Sky Masters – Sunday strip collection coming from Amigo Comics

Sky Masters of the Space Force: The Complete Sunday Scripts in Colour: 1959-1960 - Cover

US publisher Amigo Comics are to publish an  English language collection of Sky Masters of the Space Force: The Complete Sunday Scripts in Colour: 1959-1960, edited by Ferran Delgado in January 2018, featuring self-contained stories from an amazing newspaper strip drawn by two of the greats of American comics – Jack Kirby and Wally Wood.

Kirby, one of the greatest comic artists, was born 100 years ago this year. A relentless entrepreneur with an indefatigable work ethic, Kirby was always trying new things. As you’d expect, he tried the newspaper comic route too.

One of the Sky Masters Sunday strips published in 1959. The two panels at the bottom of this image were used in the strip's horizontal format
One of the Sky Masters Sunday strips published in 1959. The two panels at the bottom of this image were used in the strip’s horizontal format
The last two panels on this Sky Masters have never been reissued internationally - until now
The last two panels on this Sky Masters have never been reissued internationally – until now

Kirby’s Sky Masters of the Space Force was his own foray into the world of newspaper strips and it became a gorgeous-looking strip – with a crazy backstory. Add another legendary artist, Wallace “Wally” Wood, to the tale and you can see why it’s one of those comic gems well deserving a new step into the limelight.

The background of the strip is as fascinating as the strip itself, because the consequences of what happened around it blacklisted Kirby, and pushed him over to Marvel.

Sky Masters debuted in 1958, created at the beginning of the space race by artist Jack Kirby and writer Dave Wood ― when who would get into space and to the moon first ―was a national obsession. Initially called Space Busters, designed to be sold to a newspaper syndicate, it became Sky Masters after Harry Elmlark, an agent from the George Matthew Adams Service, asked DC Comics editor Jack Schiff for a science-fiction comic to be adapted into strip form, to capitalise on American interest in the Space Race in the wake of the previous year’s launch of Sputnik.

Schiff rejected Space Busters and then either collaborated in the creation of a new strip, or, according to the book Tales to Astonish: Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and the American Comic Book Revolution, simply encouraged Kirby and Wood to produce “a strip that dealt with rocket launchings, moon shots, and general story lines just a little ahead of current developments in the news.”

Another example of Sky Masters in vertical formant
Another example of Sky Masters in vertical format
Jack Kirby's guide for a horizontal presentation of a Sunday Sky Masters strip
Jack Kirby’s guide for a horizontal presentation of a Sunday Sky Masters strip
Much admired, the original of this Sunday Sky Masters strip is owned by artist John Byrne
Much admired, the original of this Sunday Sky Masters strip is owned by artist John Byrne
A black and white Sky Masters original, via the Jack Kirby Museum
A black and white Sky Masters original, via the Jack Kirby Museum

The strip takes place in the not to distant future where the United States sends men into space but hasn’t ventured much further yet. The series in clearly anchored in the late 1950s/early1960s so it serves as a highly stylised period piece that still holds up very nicely. The material used in this archival edition ranges from original art, to press proofs, to tear sheets, and boasts the best reproduction of the strip ever.

While a limited collection of Sky Masters was published back in 1980 by Quality Comic Art Productions, a complete collection didn’t appear until 2000 in The Complete Sky Masters of the Space Force from Pure Imagination – but the Sundays were only published in black and white.

Eight were reprinted in colour in an earlier Sky Masters book from Pure Imagination and the remaining Sundays were reprinted in colour by Comics Revue magazine – but this newAmigo Comics collection has much more to offer.

Working with the Kirby Museum, it’s an oversized deluxe book compiling a complete set of all 54 Sunday strips, which have a plot line independent of the daily strips, presented in meticulously remastered colour. The book also features dozens of never-before-reprinted scrapbook panels.

This single Sky Masters panel shows the amount of work Ferran has put into restoring the strip
This single Sky Masters panel shows the amount of work Ferran has put into restoring the strip
Sky Masters of the Space Force Volume 1 1958 - 1959 (Spanish Edition)
Sky Masters of the Space Force Volume 1 1958 – 1959 (Spanish Edition) – available from amazon.co.uk. Ferran adapted art for the covers of these editions – coloured by Javier Rodriguez

It also contains plenty of extras including, 15 full-page originals also feature, and a section with 20 colour guides painted by Kirby himself, plus articles by renowned national and international experts, and some 80 cartoons never re-edited internationally, etc.

This new collection is edited by lettering artist and comic expert Ferran Delgado, who also edited two Spanish language collections of the strip, published by Glenat that have, for many, been the only way you could even see the strip for many years.

Ferran, who has also painstakingly recreated Marvel title pages of yore for the Spanish editions of Marvel Comics in the past, says the Sky Masters strip is very special to him, and it’s clear this new collection is a labour of love just like the previous Spanish editions. He spent lots of time and effort on those to pay tribute to one of the best strips ever made – although, unfortunately, one of the less known.

“I’d like to think that I helped to widespread awareness, at least in Spain,” says Ferra.

“It was the best work that both Kirby and Wood could do at their age, as they were at their peak, totally motivated to succeed in newspapers strips,” Ferran enthuses. “They felt like it was a dream come true, and it was an opportunity that maybe would never show again, so they threw themselves on the project.

“Furthermore, the final art was more than the sum of the individuals, it’s something absolutely special and unrepeatable.”

Intrigued? Well, there’s just a week left to pre-order this stunning-looking collection from your local comic shop via Diamond PREVIEWS… what are you waiting for?

Sky Masters of the Space Force: The Complete Sunday Scripts in Colour: 1959-1960
Writer/Art: Jack Kirby, Wallace Wood, Various
Cover: Wallace WoodISBN Code: 978-84-16486-79-3
NOV171207 – STL069209
HC, 128 pages FC

Pre-order Sky Masters of the Space Force: The Complete Sunday Scripts in Colour: 1959-1960 by Jack Kirby and Wallace Wood from Forbidden Planet (using this link helps support downthetubes)

Web Links

• Amigo Books: www.amigocomics.com and facebook.com/AmigoComics

 • Ferran Delgado on DeviantArt | Blog

Ferran is publishing his own Spanish language edition of the Sundays collection, details here

Here’s a gallery of some of Ferran’s work on the Spanish language daily strips published by Glenat

The Jack Kirby Museum

Ferran Delgado interviews Comicraft’s Richard Starkings (includes examples of Ferran’s lettering work)

Sky Masters on Wikipedia (details the behind the scenes legal battles over the strip)

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a “freelance comics operative”, currently working as a freelance editor for TITAN COMICS, as Creative Consultant on the new DAN DARE audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the LAKES INTERNATIONAL COMIC ART FESTIVAL and LANCASTER COMICS DAY.

John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years, starting out at Marvel UK, where he edited a number of the Genesis 1992 books with Paul Neary. His numerous credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines, where he was Managing Editor.

He also edited STRIP Magazine and worked as an editor on several audio comics for ROK Comics, including TEAM M.O.B.I.L.E. and THE BEATLES STORY.

Most recently he is writing CRUCIBLE as a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and DEATH DUTY and SKOW DOGS with Dave Hailwood for the digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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