Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Happy Birthday, Jack Kirby!

In honor of what would have been Jack Kirby's 100th birthday, I recommend reading Jeet Heer's 8-28-17 New  Republic article entitled "Jack Kirby, the Unknown King" (the initial paragraphs follow):

"In 1982, the late-night talk show host Johnny Carson insulted Jack Kirby in one of the worst possible ways, out of sheer ignorance. As a favor for a small publisher, Kirby had created a comic book called 'Battle for a Three Dimensional World.' The artist’s dynamic, eye-popping style was perfect for the format of the book, which came with 3-D glasses reading 'Jack Kirby, King of the Comics.' Someone had given Carson the glasses for a comedy routine, sending Carson into an angry riff on national television. Who was this Jack Kirby character, Carson wanted to know, who claimed to be the 'king of the comics'? Carson knew every comedian around, and he’d never heard of this Kirby joker. 'He’s king of the con men, as far as I’m concerned!' Carson exclaimed.

"Jack Kirby, according to his biographer and onetime assistant Mark Evanier, was 'deeply, deeply hurt' by Carson’s insults. Evanier wrote to Carson to explain that Kirby was no boastful third-rate stand-up comedian but a legendary comic-book artist, the creator or co-creator of a pantheon of superheroes that included Captain America, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, the Hulk, the X-Men, the Avengers, Nick Fury, Ant Man, Thor, Black Panther, and scores of others. The moniker Jack 'King' Kirby was bestowed on him by Kirby’s collaborator (and sometime foe) Stan Lee. Chastened by the letter, Carson offered a gracious on-air apology.

"This case of mistaken identity, one of the many large and small humiliations that bedeviled Kirby’s life, is emblematic of the cartoonist’s curious status as an artist who changed the world while living in obscurity. Born 100 years ago today, Kirby was one of the most influential creators of the twentieth century. He’s as central to the genre of the superhero as Walt Disney is to animated cartoons, Agatha Christie is to detective fiction, Alfred Hitchcock is to film thrillers, or H.G. Wells is to science fiction."

To read Heer's entire article, click HERE.

I also recommend checking out Mark Evanier's 8-29-17 blog post entitled "Kirby at 100" (the first two paragraphs follow):

"If he were still with us, Jack Kirby would have been one hundred years old today…but of course, an awful lot of Jack is still with us.  Hundreds of characters he created or co-created are still appearing, many of them in hit movies that have made them more famous than ever.  Back in the sixties, Jack predicted that there would someday be highly-successful, big budget motion pictures of Thor, Captain America, et al. He told me that when I first met him in 1969.
"One of the reasons he never got his financial due out of Marvel was that the folks who ran Marvel back then never believed that. They had a limited idea of how much anything in Marvel Comics could ever be worth and didn't want to share those meager amounts with anyone. It was pretty simple math: The less they paid Jack and all the other folks who created their comics, the more they got to keep for themselves. When he told them what he saw as the potential value of the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and the rest, they nodded politely, refused him five-dollar raises and joked behind his back that he was out of his friggin' mind. And later, they sold the company for beads 'n' trinkets because they lacked the one thing Jack had by the tonweight: Imagination."
To read the entirety of Evanier's excellent piece, click HERE.

Among several other worthwhile Kirby-related articles that popped up today is Chris Sims' Polygon piece entitled "Jack Kirby's Appeal in One Panel--Why the King of Comics Deserves His Throne."  What follow are the first three paragraphs:

"There’s a page in Jack Kirby’s Mister Miracle #7 that might just be my single favorite moment in comic book history. Scott Free and Big Barda, two refugees from Apokolips who fell in love on that hellish world of evil gods, are preparing to return to the planet that they both spent their lives attempting to escape. They’ve been lured back by their former torturer, Granny Goodness, with the promise of finally achieving the freedom they were denied for so long, assuming they can survive whatever trap she’s cooked up for them. There’s a moment where Scott tells Barda that she doesn’t have to come with him. He’s the one that Granny actually wants, and there’s no reason for her to risk her life for his.
"'No deal, Mister Miracle,' she replies. 'We’ll go down that old shark’s mouth together — then I’ll beat her to death from the inside!'
"Of all the moments Kirby created, in a career that spanned six decades of defining the superhero genre and the medium of comic books, that’s the one that resonates with me the most. And it’s a perfect example of why his work has resonated so widely and for so long."
To read Sims' entire piece, click HERE.

I've written several articles about the work of Jack Kirby over the years for a variety of publications including The New York Review of Science Fiction, The Jack Kirby Collector, and Fortean Times, and it wouldn't surprise me if I wrote many more in the future.  For now, here are all the essays I've published about Kirby over the past nine years:

"Little Human and Giant Gods:  The Extraterrestrial Tiki Art of Jack Kirby."  The Jack Kirby Collector #70 (Winter 2017).

"Captain America Meets Big Brother."  The Jack Kirby Collector #62 (Winter 2013).  (A reprint of "Jack Kirby's OMAC:  Captain America Loves Big Brother.")

“We All Live in Happyland:  Jack Kirby and the JFK Assassination” reprinted in The Jack Kirby Collector #57 (Summer 2011).

“The Morning of the Mutants:  Jack Kirby and the Real Origin of The X-Men.”  Fortean Times #277 (July 2011).

“We All Live in Happyland:  Jack Kirby and the JFK Assassination.”  The New York Review of Science Fiction #270 (February 2011).

“Jack Kirby’s OMAC:  Captain America Loves Big Brother.”  The New York Review of Science Fiction #245 (January 2009).
As an extra-special bonus, here's one of the first Kirby images I ever saw, which I discovered in a cardboard box filled with my father's coverless comic books that was tucked away in the back of a cluttered closet (what follows is the first page of Jimmy Olsen #137, one of the quartet of comic books that comprised Kirby's magnum opus, the Fourth World series, which included The Forever People, Mister Miracle, and The New Gods):

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