With Christmas shopping in full swing, and inspired by a discussion with Jon K over at Jon’s Random Acts of Geekery, here are some pictures from the Big Jim’s P.A.C.K. line of toys featuring box art by none other than Jack Kirby!
And another shot showing the fourth figure in the series visible inside the box:
Ah yes, those were the days...back when Mattel made high-quality merchandise and didn’t expose children to high quantities of lead from Chinese factories. Or if they did, we were none the worse for it. I played with Mattel toys like Big Jim all through my childhood and it did me no harm whatsoever, other than an uncontrollable urge to eat paint chips.
Obviously these boxes have no art credits, and other artists did the packaging for later additions to the line, so precise attribution is a matter of opinion. However, looking at these I feel pretty confident in asserting these four boxes are the ones Kirby drew. Compare them to his published comics work of the same period (say, his last few issues of Kamandi) and you’ll see the same techniques and even the same drawing errors!
Kirby did a few other art jobs for Mattel prior to this, and about a decade later produced some designs for the Kenner Super Powers toy line. In all likelihood Kirby could have made better money doing this kind of work full-time than he did in comics, but Kirby saw himself as a storyteller -- essentially, a writer who just happened to draw the stories he wrote -- rather than a commercial artist.
Looking at comics from 1975 or 1976 you may come across this ad for the toy line, sometimes mistakenly attributed to Kirby but actually the work of illustrator William Stout, who rendered it in a Kirby-derived style after asking the King’s permission.
Images found at http://www.big-jim.eu.