Sunday, August 28, 2011

Jack Kirby would have been 94 today

If there ever is a comics Mount Rushmore, Jack Kirby would certainly would be on it. "The King" was either creator or co-creator of so many indelible characters, including Captain America, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Iron Man, Darkseid, the New Gods, the Demon, Kamandi, the Manhunter, the Boy Commandos, the Challengers of the Unknown, the Silver Surfer, and the original X-Men. He invented the genre of romance comics. And his bombastic, energetic style has influenced countless creators. A gallery of his fantastic images posted by Tom Spurgeon can be seen here.

In addition to his landmark stylistic and creative contributions, Kirby is a central figure in terms of creators' rights and copyright issues in comics. In this long, detailed interview with The Comic Journal's Gary Groth, Kirby talks about his life and career, and he claims to have created many Marvel characters, including Spider-Man, by himself. A copyright battle over the Marvel characters has been ongoing and is still a matter of contention today with Kirby's heirs. Looking to fund his legal activities, Kirby provided a spark to the early days of the comic book direct market with his creator-owned book Captain Victory that was published by Pacific Comics.

Kirby also spent years trying to reclaim his original art from Marvel, and the matter is still complicated and contentious. Jim Shooter, who was editor-in-chief at Marvel for much of the dispute, provides his take on the issues here. Gary Groth offers a pointed rebuttal here.

Later in his life, after some disillusionment with his treatment in the world of comic books, Kirby went on to work doing design work on cartoons like Thundarr the Barbarian. Assistant Mark Evanier provides information about Kirby's life here.

A titan of comic book and graphic novel history, Jack Kirby touched the lives of many people through his work and creations. His works are seen as the precursors, if not the direct inspiration, for movies such as Star Wars, Terminator, and Alien. There is a magazine, The Kirby Collector, dedicated to chronicling his career and many contributions to comics. In 1987 he was in the inaugural class inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame.

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