Three weeks from today, on the 28th of August, Jack Kirby would have been 100 years old.
I feel terribly presumptuous being so new here, but there does not as yet seem to be a thread acknowledging this rather momentous occasion. So...
Nearly 80 years ago...
...and our world was never again the same.
MY world was certainly a better place.
There's The King of Rock, The King of Pop, The King of this, that, and thyne other. But, for me, there's only one "The King"
Jack "King" Kirby rocked my world and gave it a dynamic that i didn't know was missing. There were a few artists whose work drove me to become an artist myself - Jack was the first and the last of them. Along the way artists like Kelly Freas, Will Eisner, Al Capp, and Frank Frazetta all inspired an inner flame that drove me down the path of artist. Later many others from around the globe added fuel to the fire that drove me, but it was Jack's comics that first woke that urge, and every step along the way he would reveal new secrets to me. Even now, no matter how well i might have thought i knew his work, he still constantly surprises me and surpasses my concept of what he was in my mind. This month in my celebration of the Kirby centennial, i've been digging and re-reading everything of his that i have or can get my hands on. (And i got my hands on a lot) I'm only a week in and have already lost count of new discoveries and new ways to be impressed.
I won't try to define or impart the impact of Kirby's works beyond their personal touch to me.
If you're here, you know how massive Jack Kirby's contributions and influences are. I can only say that he influenced my world view as much as any philosopher or writer whose work i studied. He helped shape the better parts of me. My world was very much a better place for his having been in it.
How about yours?
Let's use this thread to share thoughts, memories, tributes, art, etc.,. Anything about or by Jack that you feel like sharing to celebrate the Kirby Centennial.
To help kick it off:
(Original Kirby art from Blue Bolt #5, Strange Tales #184, Kirby Self Portrait in New Gods #5-y'know, if you was interested)
Over the past five or six years, I have really come to appreciate Kirby's art. He uses the z-axis in a way that I have not seen other artists ever use. His dynamism is incredible. The artists he has inspired are so numerous, and I love the way they all take something different away from his work.
He is truly still unequaled.
Kirby had a matchless imagination. Of all the comics creators whose work I've seen, the only one I would put in the same class as Kirby as far as depth and breadth of imagination are concerned would be Osamu Tezuka, Imagine what a collaboration between those two would have been like!
Probably the first time I experienced Jack Kirby's art was in 1958 (I was 10) when he was drawing Green Arrow in Adventure Comics. I especially liked his origin of GA in Adventure #256, marooned on the island, which has been the go-to origin ever since. Later I enjoyed his work in the pre-hero Atlas/Marvel "suspense" books, followed by Fantastic Four, etc. Your posting of the modified cover of Strange Tales #134 causes me to mention (again) that it contained my only printed letter of comment. In the 1990s, at the San Diego Con, I had the pleasure of shaking his hand.
BTW, DC has a Kirby centennial sale on Comixology this week: Mostly New Gods, Mister Miracle, and OMAC-- the original Kirbys, and then the follow-ups with his creations. There's some other stuff, too.
My first exposure to Kirby was when a kid in our neighborhood loaned me his copy of Fantastic Four #10 - a story that featured guest appearances by Stan and Jack. I had only been reading comics for a few months - primarily the Superman family of books - compared to Curt Swan and the other Super artists I found Kirby's art pretty awful. It was a couple of years later reading Thor that I began to appreciate Kirby and have admired him ever since. To this day his work on Thor remains my favorite.
"I feel terribly presumptuous being so new here..."
Oh, don't worry about that.
And if no one has said it yet, "Welcome! We're glad you're here!"
"He uses the z-axis in a way that I have not seen other artists ever use."
I talk circles all around that statement trying to explain Kirby to some. That sentence sums it up perfectly.
Definitely Osamu Tezuka is high among that reference to artists "from around the globe" who fueled the fire, especially having grown up in Asia. When folks call him the Jack Kirby Of Japan, i'm disinclined to argue.
Don't worry, i'm new. So you hadn't told me about the letter yet. Now i'll have to dig that issue back out and check the letters page. But, damnit - now i realize that i have no clue what issue the only LOC i wrote appeared in. (Just in The Flash, not as cool as a Kirby comic) I really should know those things.
I'm personally fully stocked, i believe. But good idea making folks aware - there's sure to be some good Kirby sales or events upcoming and pointing them out seems a good plan.
I just re-read that issue #10 of Fantastic Four yesterday. I had totally forgotten that first appearance of Stan & Jack, and how they were involved in the plot. Such a blast. Journey Into Mystery/Thor is the next stack after that first 100 issues of Fantastic Four. I can easily understand that period being a personal favorite - he got to play on a cosmic scale and i'm very much looking forward to rediscovering those tales. Especially as i realize how much i've forgotten from those early FF issues.
Thanks for the welcome. Hermits tend to be a bit skittish about initiating social interactions.
A fair amount of Kirby's pre-Silver work is in the public domain and can be found at Comic Book Plus or Digital Comic Museum.
Very early on he worked for Eisner and Iger. They packed a British comic called Wags, and Kirby drew instalments of several of the features. Some of the Wags material appeared in America in the early issues of Jumbo Comics, including at least some of Kirby's work. The GCD credits him with instalments of "The Count of Monte Cristo", "The Diary of Dr. Hayward", "Wilton of the West", and possibly "Inspector Dayton".
He briefly drew a syndicated strip called Lightning' and the Lone Rider. Frank Robbins succeeded him on it. Instalments were reprinted in Famous Funnies, and some new pages by Kirby appeared later. The villain of the new pages was an immortal man with mental powers called Dr Chuda.
Kirby also did stories for Fox and Temerson, and teamed up with Joe Simon after meeting him at Fox. Their first regular feature together was "Blue Bolt", from Novelty's title of the same name. Simon did the first instalment solo, but Kirby did alternating pages for the second and then took over the pencils completely, and they worked on it up to Blue Bolt v1 #10.
While they were doing it they started working for Marvel, where Kirby drew "The Vision", "Captain America", and instalments of a few other things. During this period he also did stories for Prize, including the superhero feature "The Black Owl", and Fawcett, namely the first Mr Scarlet story and the stories in Captain Marvel Adventures #1.
Then he and Simon went to DC, where they did "The Sandman", "Manhunter", "The Newsboy Legion" and "Boy Commandos". A point to note is the Sandman's makeover preceded their run by a few issues, although before S&K he and Sandy wore capes.
Captain America had made Simon and Kirby star creators, so a lot of artists imitated Kirby's style. My impression is this was a policy at MLJ.
Kirby was drafted in 1943. After the war he returned to "Boy Commandos" and "Newsboy Legion". But he didn't go back to working exclusively for DC, and was soon only doing "Boy Commandos". During this period his work also appeared in comics from Harvey, Hillman and Prize. (The GCD also lists one story for Archie, "Pipsy" from Laugh Comics #24.)
At some point Simon and Kirby established a studio, so they also oversaw work by others. They packaged many issues for Prize, including a series called Black Magic, and did a ton of romance comics and crime comics. When Kirby did Spirit World, In the Days of the Mob and the unpublished True Divorce Cases and Soul Love at DC he was returning to genres he'd worked in in this period.
They also briefly became publishers themselves. Their company was called Mainline. Work by Kirby also appeared in some comics from Charlton, including some Mainline inventory after the company folded.
After his partnership with Simon ended he resumed working for Marvel and DC, ghosted Johnny Reb and Billy Yank for Frank Giacoia, and also worked for Gilberton. His newspaper strip Sky Masters of the Space Force commenced in 1958. He also drew stories for the opening issues of The Fly and The Double Life of Private Strong, which Simon packed for Archie.
Wikipedia says Challengers of the Unknown was a Simon and Kirby creation that Kirby took to DC. His editor at DC was Jack Schiff. He had a financial interest in Sky Masters, and they fell out over it. And that's why Marvel became his main employer, he became its lead artist.
One shouldn't assume Kirby wrote stories because he drew them, or that all Simon and Kirby stories were written by Simon. The "Mercury in the 20th Century" story in Red Raven Comics #1 was bylined "Martin A. Bursten", so it was likely written by Martin A. Burstein. Manly Wade Wellman put his name into a script he wrote for Captain Marvel Adventures #1. In an interview Kirby said Ed Herron was the father of the Red Skull. (Ed Herron=France Herron.)
I assume Simon and Kirby often rewrote scripts they were given in the Golden Age. Kirby's scripting style is sometimes apparent in some of the co-productions, such as "Find the King of the Crime Syndicate" from Fighting American #2. I think it also turns up in stories from their studio he didn't draw. I thought I recognised it in "The Tapping Doom", but I don't know for a fact this was produced by their studio. The scripting in Sky Masters sometimes reads like his too, although it was written (and co-signed) by Dave Wood, reportedly with some assistance from his brother Dick.
The GCD attributes the scripts of most of the stories Kirby did for Schiff to Kirby, Herron, or Dave Wood. (It currently attributes one story to Robert Bernstein, and one to Bill Finger.) Kirby may have taken part in the plotting conferences for stories scripted by Herron or Wood and he may have rewritten scripts he was given.
Much information about Kirby's early career and partnership with Simon can be found at the Simon and Kirby Blog.
Luke's mention of Jack working for Gilberton caused me to research which Classics Illustrated he did. It was the redrawn 1961 version of The Last Days of Pompeii. I've now ordered the reprinted version of this plus the P. Craig Russell/Jill Thompson version of The Scarlet Letter.
I still mean to read The Last Days of Pompeii some day. Maybe I'll read it next just so I do, but whenever I say I'll do that, I don't.
My first exposure to Jack Kirby (outside of Fantastic Four reprints in Marvel's Greatest Comics) was in Kamandi the Last Boy on Earth. Jack took the premise seriously and naturally created an entire world for he and others to explore. He gave Kamandi an unique set of friends and foes and the concept was strong enough to continue after Jack left.
They really need to reprint the rest of the series!