By all accounts, Kirby came  close to being killed in the Second World War.  If he had, I suppose he'd be remembered today as the co-creator of Captain America, and as a prolific artist who'd worked on a number of strips during his all-too-short career.  Maybe his peers would have said stuff like "Who knows what he might have done?, and so on.

I've seen him and Joe Simon credited with inventing romance comics in the 50's, I've no idea whether Simon would have done that on his own.

Of course, there's all those "monster" characters he created around the same time.

But his real impact came in the 60's and 70's.  When  you think of all the characters he created or co-created for Marvel and DC, and the artists who were inspired by him, and his larger cultural impact, I have to wonder what American comics,  and  pop culture in general, would have looked like without him.

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I have no idea. Jim Steranko speculated in his introduction to the Golden Age S&K collection that, without Kirby, there would be no comic books today. Mark Evanier once did an article on "What if Jow Maneely had lived?" (Maneely is probably best known today for his work on the Black Knight and Yellow Claw (before Kirby) in the '50s. He died in a car crash when he was in his mid-30s, I think. the article was very methodical, examining which artists would have been available to work on which series. As stan Lee's "go-to" artist, Maneely might well have been assigned Fantastic Four if he had lived.

Had Kirby died in WWII, I think there's a very real possibility that comic books would not exist today. If they did, they would obviously be very different, but it's impossible to speculate how.

Without Kirby it seems likely that Steve Ditko would have been Stans primary creative partner in the early Marvel years. Besides Spider Man and Dr Strange, Ditko may have been the co-plotter/artist on FF and Hulk. Don Heck would have handled Iron Man from the start without the assist from Kirby and he may have been given Ant Man and Thor as well. Another artistic candidate for some of these assignments would be Dick Ayers. None of these guys had the imagination or creative drive of Kirby.

It is hard to imagine Marvel taking off the way it did in the mid-Sixties without Kirby, Based on my scenario above, Marvel might have been even more Spidey-centric right from the beginning which may have carried them for awhile. With a less influential Marvel, DC would have continued on business as usual with comics appealing almost exclusively to younger boys. Once the newsstand sales dried up, the comic book business would have been finished.

I remember Stan speaking very highly of Joe Maneely.  I think comics would still exist, but they'd be nothing like they are now.

Of course comics would have still existed without Jack Kirby. There still would be all the other creative talents of the day, the other guys at Marvel, Charlton, EC, National, etc. 

That said, I think Stan Lee might not have gotten away with using the "Marvel method" to get the books out, because he might not have found another artist as prolific as Kirby who could essentially plot the stories and churn out lots of pages. So we might not have gotten The Fantastic Four and The Hulk and Thor and Ant-Man and the X-Men and the Avengers in those early days. 

Instead of Fantastic Four #1, we might have had All Winners Squad #1 where Stan would have mimicked the JLA with Cap, Namor, the original Torch plus the Whizzer and Miss America. Maybe he might have included his Destroyer.

No Thor but maybe a HerculesIron Man and X-Men. If this version of Marvel can't survive on Spider-Man's success and remember Hulk was cancelled after six issues, I could see DC buying out Marvel by 1968!

Philip Portelli said:

Instead of Fantastic Four #1, we might have had All Winners Squad #1 where Stan would have mimicked the JLA with Cap, Namor, the original Torch plus the Whizzer and Miss America. Maybe he might have included his Destroyer.

No Thor but maybe a HerculesIron Man and X-Men. If this version of Marvel can't survive on Spider-Man's success and remember Hulk was cancelled after six issues, I could see DC buying out Marvel by 1968!

If we don't get the Fantastic Four, we don't get the Black Panther. And we don't get "The Galactus Trilogy," so we don't get Galactus, the Silver Surfer or the Watcher. And we don't get Doctor Doom, Annihilus, the Negative Zone, the Frightful Four, the Inhumans, the Kree, the Skrulls, Warlock ... 

Some of those concepts might have been introduced in other titles, but possibly not. As pointed out above, The Hulk didn't last six issues in its initial run. Without a prolific Jack Kirby on Marvel's roster, maybe Stan Lee doesn't try to revive the title. So the Hulk is, at best, a guest star in other tiles, stays grey, and doesn't develop into the powerhouse we know. And we don't get She-Hulk.

I'm inclined to think the romance comic would've happened anyway. After the war publishers shifted to publishing genre-focused comics, and the romance genre already existed outside of comics. But the commercial success of S&K's Young Romance helped make the romance comic happen.

Possibly Simon would not have returned to comics, or not run a studio. Alternatively, he might have found someone else to partner with. He did most of his 1970s DC projects with Jerry Grandenetti, but I don't know how close their working relationship was.

I don't know to what extent Kirby's presence at Marvel in the late 50s/early 60s boosted the company's sales. Perhaps if sales had been lower Martin Goodman would've given up on comics.

Some of the monster comics started as CC horror titles. Marvel might've tried monster comics anyway, due to the popularity of monster movies. Charlton also did them, but used series characters drawn from movies, such as Konga. (By CC horror I mean the Comics Code-compliant Twilight-Zone-ish type of horror. Several companies published titles with this kind of content. I just coined the term.)

Fantastic Four was reportedly created on Goodman's instruction after he heard how Justice League of America was doing. Lee's plot for the first, origin part of #1 survives. He apparently devised the characters apart from Kirby. But Kirby evidently had a hand in the subsequent development of the series. I don't know if the skyscraper headquarters, the team costumes, or the fantasticar were Lee's or Kirby's idea.

I think it was Kirby who made Marvel action exciting, and the fantastic content in Marvel's comics awesome. The latter area was where he outdid everyone else, except for Ditko on "Dr Strange".

I doubt "Thor" would've lasted without Kirby as it was dull before its Journey into Mystery #197-rejig and the start of "Tales of Asgard". But Ditko perhaps Ditko could've drawn the series with panache.

"Hulk" might've happened anyway, as the Hulk is a combination of the Frankenstein monster and the Wolf Man, but I don't know the character would've morphed into the super-bruiser we take for granted today.

By all accounts, Kirby came close to being killed in the Second World War. If he had, I suppose he'd be remembered today as the co-creator of Captain America, and as a prolific artist who'd worked on a number of strips during his all-too-short career

Who would remember his work if no one today cared about the long-dead comics industry? For that matter, we will never know what great (or terrible) things the men, women and children who died in any war would have done.

As stan Lee's "go-to" artist, Maneely might well have been assigned Fantastic Four if he had lived./Without Kirby it seems likely that Steve Ditko would have been Stans primary creative partner in the early Marvel years.

How prolific were Maneely and Ditko? How long would Ditko have stuck it out?

I think Stan Lee might not have gotten away with using the "Marvel method" to get the books out, because he might not have found another artist as prolific as Kirby who could essentially plot the stories and churn out lots of pages.

I believe that Stan tried the Marvel Method with other well-known artists. They were used to working full-script and (IIRC) very few could make the adjustment. Some of the younger guys who came along later apparently could do it; however, they were building on the earlier Marvel Method success, which likely wouldn’t have happened. Would they have worked for DC? Would they have worked in comics at all?

Had Kirby died in WWII, I think there's a very real possibility that comic books would not exist today.

The main thing crippling comics was the artificially low prices, which eventually caused the loss of the newsstand/drug store market and the impulse buyers. In the 40s through the 70s, many genres were being published in comics. Comic covers and the various genres were very important as they attracted the impulse buyer. Comics with realistically (slow-)rising prices could have held onto the newsstand/drug store market and the valuable impulse buyers at least as long as other magazines by justifying their shelf space. The direct market comic book stores saved the industry but their problem is that there are few new customers. If a buyer never sees a comic book why would the buyer seek a comic book store?

Richard Willis said:

How prolific were Maneely and Ditko? How long would Ditko have stuck it out?

Reportedly, Maneely was a fast artist. But I haven't heard if he had Kirby's creative drive. I think Lee was responsible for a lot of what was fresh about Marvel's Silver Age comics, but Kirby contributed a lot too. If Lee hadn't had such a creative partner, there would've been less in those comics that was new and exciting.

Ditko worked for Charlton while he was working for Marvel, and after, so I think he would've stuck it out.

The superhero revival would likely have happened anyway, as it started at DC. But without Kirby's imagination and exciting action the superhero takeover of US comics might not have been permanent. DC moved away from superheroes during the Carmine Infantino era as it was.

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