Jack "The King" Kirby
is one of the most important and influential artists and writers in American comics, and the man who created or co-created dozens of classic characters for DC
. Kirby Dots
are named after the artist's distinctive rendering of Battle Auras
, also nicknamed, "the Kirby Krackle".
His incredibly unique art style and bombastic storytelling made him one of the most imitated creators in western comics history. He died of heart failure in 1994 at the age of 76, or at least that's what Galactus wants
us to believe. Due to his speed in creating well-received comics, there exists something called the "Kirby Barrier"; breaking the barrier means that you've created a quality comic in under a week, a surprisingly difficult feat.
In the Marvel Universe
looks like Jack Kirby. Or, he did in one story
. It should be noted that both Kirby and his comic book partner Stan Lee
also exist there as normal people who write comics based on the 'actual' adventures of the superheroes
.) Before working with Lee, he had a ridiculously creative partnership with Joe Simon. Among other things, the two co-created Captain America
and the entire genre of romance comics.
After Kirby left Marvel, he went to DC Comics
and created "The Fourth World" series, New Gods
, The Forever People
and Mister Miracle
as well as insisting on taking over Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen
which didn't have an assigned art team so he wouldn't cause anyone to lose their job. In those titles, Kirby created a grand cosmic mythos he planned to have reprinted into bound volumes for resale. Unfortunately, this idea was around 15 years ahead of its time and DC's publisher, Carmine Infantino, pulled the plug before Kirby could see the project through.
Kirby remained with DC writing individual titles like The Demon
, Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth
and even returned to Marvel for a time to single-handedly write and draw Captain America
, Black Panther
and new titles like The Eternals
and Devil Dinosaur
, before largely retiring from comics.
Ironically, his most satisfying work at this point was in animation and toys with designs for Thundarr the Barbarian
and creating the designs for Kenner
's famous Super Powers
toy series where he finally
got direct compensation working on the classic DC Comics
Unfortunately, Kirby was also a poster boy for how artists were treated by the companies who became multibillion dollar industries because of them. The dubious "work for hire" contract policies in those days meant that artists were paid for no more than the "page rate" for the comics that they drew. Consequently, despite their characters becoming iconic, Kirby and the other artists of his generation made absolutely no royalties of any kind and were denied any chance to share in the successes of their creations. Also, he was the center of the art controversy during the mid 1980s when Marvel's image was tarnished by their shameful claim that he and the other artists had no rights to their own original artwork. Public pressure eventually forced Marvel into coughing up a pension for his widow, and the Kirby estate is currently trying to regain Kirby's share of the copyright on his Marvel Comics characters, but whether or not their efforts would bear fruit remains to be seen.
No relation to a certain pink, walking marshmallow
Partial list of his creations/co-creations:
- For Marvel Comics:
- With Joe Simon:
- With Stan Lee:
- By himself:
- For DC Comics:
- Challengers of the Unknown
- New Gods (Including Darkseid)
- Etrigan the Demon
- Kamandi, The Last Boy On Earth
- OMAC, The One Man Army Corps
- The Sandman (Garrett Sanford)
- Young Romance (Both the influential comic series, and arguably - definitively, according to The Other Wiki - the entire genre of romance comics)
- Captain Victory and Silver Star, which might not have been successes for Pacific Comics, but helped create precedent for the creator-owned comic (see Kirby's travails with Marvel and DC, above)
- More Aliens and Monsters than you can shake a xenomorph at
- Pretty much created the Monster Modesty trope
- Army Scout: He pulled this duty when he was a private in World War II when an officer learned he was an artist. It was only time he regretted his calling while trying to survive that dangerous posting.
- Author Avatar:
- Kirby included Stan Lee and himself as guests of the marriage of Reed Richards and Sue Storm. Nick Fury did not allow them to pass.
- The One-Above-All, the omnipotent but mostly unseen creator God of the entire Marvel Omniverse, is widely believed to be an avatar of Kirby.
- Badass: There's a story that before the US entered WWII, some American Nazis called to the offices offering to fight Kirby and Joe Simon, creators of Captain America. Jack supposedly rolled up his sleeves and immediately headed downstairs, but when he got down they were gone... Will Eisner also regularly told a story about a young Kirby physically intimidating a gangster who came to the Eisner studio demanding protection money into giving up and leaving.
- Bold Inflation: One of the trademarks of his lettering.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: During his first Marvel period, one of the things that really rankled him is how he was treated like mere hired help when Stan Lee got all the plaudits for the Marvel Universe to the point where some reporters thought he drew the stories Kirby did. And unfortunately, this is still the case, since Jack didn't live to experience the profile boost given to Stan Lee by the modern movie adaptations of their work.
- Executive Meddling: When he created the Mighty Thor, he planned to have the hero's story eventually end with Ragnarok, like in the original myths. When the Powers that Be vetoed this final end, he went on to create the New Gods, whose story he intended to end with final battle between Orion and his father, Darkseid. When the Powers that Be vetoes this final end, he went on to create the Eternals, which he intended to end with the ultimate confrontation with the Celestials. When the Powers that Be... and so on.
- Happily Married: To Roz Kirby.
- He Also Did: Kirby became an animator for Fleischer Studios in the late 1930's, but felt it was like working in a factory, so his tenure there was brief.
- Kirby Dots: Trope namer and originator for his way of showing energy radiating.
- Self-Imposed Challenge: When he joined DC, he voluntarily took over Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olson, their worst performing title which was on the verge of being cancelled. He turned it into one of their best-sellers.
- Shout-Out: In the movie Crimson Tide, Submarine Executive Officer Hunter points out to a crew member on the boat that "anyone who reads comic books knows that the Kirby Silver Surfer is the only true Silver Surfer."
- Minoriteam would always have an end credit giving special thanks to "King" Kirby.
- What Could Have Been: During The Seventies, Jack Kirby was the conceptual art designer for an aborted attempt to produce a film based on Roger Zelazny's 1967 novel Lord of Light. His art was later re-used for the CIA's fake movie ''Argo''.