Jack Kirby was born 95 years ago today in the Lower East Side. He was a visionary storyteller who revolutionized superhero, adventure, science fiction and romance comics. In his first act, he co-created Captain America and a number of other Golden Age superheroes. In his second, he worked with Joe Simon to create romance comics. In his third, he co-created almost all of the characters in the early Marvel Universe. In his fourth act, he created the Fourth World, which for my money is still the most intriguing ‘universe’ in Marvel or DC.
My father was a huge Kirby fan, and introduced me to his work at a very young age. I was particularly moved by his more contemporary (for the ‘80’s) and somewhat less celebrated work, like Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers and his adaptation of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I loved to imagine possible meanings for Kirby’s abstract images and indescribably complex devices. Kirby created worlds in which the reader could imagine that anything was possible. I was lucky enough to meet the man once at a New York comic convention in the late 1980’s. For a man who had accomplished so much, he was remarkably kind and humble.
Long live the king.
Jack’s granddaughter has started a Kirby4Heroes campaign supporting the Hero’s Initiative’s efforts to create a basic safety net for retired comic creators. Some comic shops in California and Midtown Comics in New York have signed up to donate a portion of sales today to the Initiative. This is a really nice gesture, but if you want to support more directly (I don’t know how large that portion is), donate to the Heroes Initiative w/ a Kirby4Heroes tag. via Kirby Museum.
Tom Spurgeon collected some great links for today, including a great piece from Steven Brower about Kirby and collages, a Comics Journal interview from 1990 (conducted by Gary Groth), and an ‘oral history’ of the creation of Marvel’s superhero line from the 20th Century Danny Boy blog.
The image above is from the fourth issue of 2001: A Space Odyssey (pg. 26) with inks by Mike Royer, via What If Kirby.