Jack Kirby, the once and future King

Posted: August 28th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: | 3 Comments »

From "Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen" #147

When I first came across the work of Jack Kirby, I didn’t get it.

At the time, the man who was already called King was beyond me. I thought the art was ugly. I thought the writing was overwrought and overlong. The stories themselves seemed needlessly complicated.

I was, of course, wrong.

The art was groundbreaking, both in terms of layout and design, and the sheer energy arced off the page (there’s a reason it’s called “Kirby crackle” now). The writing was epic (in the classic sense of the word), and the King was shooting for creating nothing less than a modern mythology through sheer force of will. Amazingly, he succeeded, even if most people don’t realize it yet. Gods and heroes are larger than life, and so are their feelings and dramas, their victories and failures. Kirby’s writing and dialogue brought this to full realization.

I could gush about Jack Kirby all day long, telling you how he reinvented comics and blazed a trail still being followed today. I could post picture after picture of art work, displaying his monstrous talent at depicting everything from a New York City romance to cosmic battles of Good and Evil. I could tell you how his death in 1994 was a true loss, and how today’s comic book industry would do well to learn from the legacy he left behind. And it still wouldn’t be enough.

So instead, I’ll just say — happy 95th birthday, Jack. Thanks for everything.


Jack Kirby at work in "The Dungeon" — his basement studio — in 1949.

The Kirby family is commemorating Jack Kirby’s birthday by working with The Hero Initiative, an organization well worth your attention. The group helps veteran comic book creators who find themselves in tough financial situations, a problem that is unfortunately all too common. If you can, check it out and and honor Kirby’s memory by pitching in, in whatever way you can.

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3 Comments on “Jack Kirby, the once and future King”

  1. 1 Scott S. said at 3:44 pm on August 28th, 2012:

    I always had that same opinion of Kirby when I was a kid. I just couldn’t get over his faces or the way he drew shadows. I don’t know why I didn’t understand back then how good it was, ’cause it seems so obvious now.

  2. 2 Maxo Romero said at 3:56 pm on August 28th, 2012:

    And the more you read his stuff, the more obvious it becomes. I wish I had a time machine so I could go back and smack younger-me in the head for dismissing it then.

  3. 3 rob! said at 11:07 am on August 29th, 2012:

    I had the same reaction–at the time, I appreciated how huge Kirby was to comics, but I just didn’t like the work too much (tho I was catching him near the end of his life, years away from his glory days). It took years for me to catch up and see it for what it is–unfettered pop genius.

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