Quest-for-the-Sacred-Water-Skin Black Panther #5

Spotting detail is an important skill for artists. The basic idea is that you can't draw everything - are you going to render ever hair on a human head, every blade of grass on a hillside, every bump on every log? Of course not. Don't be silly. (Though if you are George Perez or Geoff Darrow you are certainly welcome to try.) So you just render the important details, the ones that are important for defining a figure, setting the scene, or communicating relevant information. Essentially, you are stripping a drawing down to the bare essentials necessarity to particularize it.

Jack Kirby, of course, is a master at this.

You mean he isn't one of us?Black Panther #5 (September 1977), page 15 detail
Art by Jack Kirby and Mike Royer.

Look at the above panel. There are few wasted details here.

  • There's just a slight irregularity to the horizon line and a few conservative ink blobs to suggest rolling waves. More than that, and they would start to overwhelm what's really important here, the figures.
  • Like many of Kirby's faces, T'Challa's is simplified and stripped down. There's just enough detail to particularize his features; to suggest both the strain of immense physical effort and his disdain for Mr. Little; with a few black blobs of shadow to add additional dimensionality to the drawing and lead the eye around the page. Kirby doesn't even bother to show much of T'Challa's body at all. Just the top of his head and his arm are enough to establish the basic action.
  • Mr. Little's tunic is stripped down to bare essentials as well. The dark brushstrokes suggest his tunic is waterlogged and ill-fitting. Even the inclusion of his hand -is not an extraneous detail, as it's important body language that suggests he's not doing anything to help T'Challa resolve their current predicament.

Equally important is not what's in this scene - anything that doesn't directly impact the scene itself. You don't see the Collectors' plane crashed on the horizon or any sign of who attacked it or even the surrounding terrain. Kirby does not need to show that information. The plane has already exploded and is definitely not coming back, which is clear from the sequence leading up to this. Their environment and situation will be explored later, and trying to shoehorn them into this panel would diminish its impact. This is a rest panel, a simple character beat to de-escalate the tension of an intense action sequence, and that information is not important right now.

About the only truly extraneous details on this page? The lines on T'Challa's gloves, which are are part of his character design and something you have to live with, and the shading on Mr. Little's hand, which is basically just a way to cope with the color separation techniques available at the time.

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