Sad news made the rounds Monday: veteran animation artist, writer and director Boyd Kirkland passed away at the age of 60 while awaiting a lung transplant. I never had the pleasure of meeting the man, but I certainly know his work, as do most of you reading this, though you probably don't even realize it. Let’s take a look at just a few highlights of Mr.Kirkland’s amazing filmography.
Kirkland began his career as a layout artist in the 1980s for Hanna-Barbera, on THUNDARR THE BARBARIAN:
Kirkland followed that up with layout work for DePatie-Freleng on a trio of Marvel series, SPIDER-MAN, THE INCREDIBLE HULK, and the much-beloved SPIDER-MAN AND HIS AMAZING FRIENDS:
This Spider-Man series was little-seen due to its going straight to syndication. It’s considerably more serious than AMAZING FRIENDS, especially for its time.
Following up on the success of AMAZING FRIENDS was THE INCREDIBLE HULK, which was a difficult series to achieve due to the network standards about violence at the time.
Love it or hate it, everyone remembers SPIDER-MAN AND HIS AMAZING FRIENDS...
Kirkland was all over the classic cartoons of the 1980s, whether it was GI JOE, where he served as storyboard director...
...or JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS, believe it or not:
The turning point for Kirkland, and where I really began to notice his work (when his name appeared as director of many of my favorite episodes), was on the legendary BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES. In fact, Kirkland directed the episode that first made me realize that this show would be something special: "Joker’s Favor," which aired at the end of the series' first week on the air, and illustrates why you never, never want to cut the Joker off in traffic:
Kirkland also directed another favorite, "Beware the Gray Ghost," in which Batman teamed up with his childhood TV hero, played by the great Adam West:
And of course, Kirkland was the director behind "Harley and Ivy," the genesis of the long-running Harley-Quinn/Poison Ivy team-up that's been crazy popular in comics and at conventions ever since. This moment where the lovelorn Harley sees the Joker’s face in her salad still cracks me up:
Kirkland got to put everything he learned on BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES to use in a big way when he wrote and directed SUB-ZERO, arguably the best of the BTAS films:
Kirkland followed up his work on BATMAN with a very successful stint as producer and writer on the popular yet somewhat underappreciated X-MEN: EVOLUTION, and in recent years had written both of Marvel's direct-to-DVD films of ULTIMATE AVENGERS and several episodes of WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN. If you’d like to hear about his career from the man himself, head over to Spider-friends.com and check out this interview, from June 2004.
Me, I think I’ll spend tonight watching a few episodes of BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES.
Scott Tipton sends his deepest condolences to Mr Kirkland's family and friends. If you have questions about comics, send 'em here.