YMMV / Jack Kirby

  • Attention Deficit Creator Disorder: Just imagine Kirby at his height drawing and plotting out comics with his detailed panels and pushing them out weekly during the golden age of the Marvel comics. That's a rate of productivity and creativity that is still the stuff of legends. Remember that it takes far more time to draw and lay out comics than it is to write them and as per the Marvel Method, Kirby more or less came up with the plots, character designs and action entirely on his own. This goes back to his earlier career. When he was about to sign up for the US Army, Kirby drew up a year's worth of comics as a backlog for his publishers so that he could still pump up material while on tour of duty.
  • Memetic Badass: The man was an army veteran, learned to street fight as a child, and was one of the most prolific artists in all of the industry. It's not a stretch to believe the story of him rolling up his sleeves and going downstairs to deal with some American Nazis who were harassing him and Joe Simon. Nor is it a stretch to believe that he actively sought out people to fight as a kid to learn each neighborhood's fighting style.
  • My Real Daddy: A good number of comics fans, comics artists, and writers, and comics historians consider Kirby to be the real creator of the Marvel Universe:
    • For one thing, as per the Marvel Method, the artist, in this case Kirby, not only drew the panels but also came up with the scene breakdown, the actions, the costume designs, and in some cases the whole plots. Stan Lee himself noted that he often gave Kirby the bare outline and he would draw up the whole comic and then Lee would add the dialogue. As Mark Evanier pointed out this meant that Kirby was actually both writer and artist (in that he created the plot and situation, and action) and that it meant that Kirby was doing part of Lee's job but Lee was not doing part of Kirby's job (i.e. actually drawing the comic which takes far more time than to write it).
    • Not only did Kirby wrote and drew most of Marvel's early comics but the artists who followed him were directly apprenticed under him or told by the editors to copy his style. So Kirby created the house style in addition to his own work, with the main exception being Steve Ditko (who did Doctor Strange and Spider-Man mainly because he couldn't match Kirby's famously productive rate).
    • As per Lee himself, Kirby was more or less responsible for the Galactus trilogy, his main brief being asking him to come up with a God-like threat on which Kirby expanded and created the Silver Surfer, Galactus and the entire cosmic threat. Likewise, Ego the Living Planet was entirely Kirby as Lee admitted, noting only the latter could come up with a concept like the Genius Loci (which had precedence in science-fiction but not in superhero fiction).
  • Older Than They Think:
    • Stan Lee wasn't the one who originated the creator cameo appearances in live action Marvel adaptations. Kirby beat him to it. He appeared in a 1977 episode of The Incredible Hulk TV series. He was a police sketch artist drawing a witnesses description of the Hulk. Naturally, Kirby's drawing looked more like his version than Lou Ferrigno. Stan Lee didn't get his chance until 1989's Trial of the Incredible Hulk.
    • Everyone assumes that superhero Deconstruction and revival of forgotten characters began with Alan Moore but "King" Kirby did it first, as Moore keeps pointing out. It was Kirby who brought back forgotten Golden Age characters like the Sub-Mariner in the Marvel Age. In an early FF issue, Johnny Storm runs into an alcoholic hobo with a beard who, after a shave, turns out to be an amnesiac Namor who remembers his past and gets a Darker and Edgier upgrade (which is where Miracleman comes from). Likewise, Kirby was the one who decided to bring Captain America to the modern age in the famous Avengers issue where he was thawed out of ice and became a superhero out of time in a world vastly different from the Golden Age.
    • Mark Hamill himself acknowledged the Star Wars Space Opera was to a great deal foreshadowed by Kirby, and more than a few noted that Darth Vader-Luke Skywalker are quite similar to Darkseid-Orion and the concepts of the Force is similar to The Source while the quest to bring balance to the Force anticipates Darkseid's quest for the Anti-Life Equation. Vader's costume also looks a great deal like Doctor Doom with a darker palette. Kirby himself was flattered by the similarities and he merely lamented that the success of Star Wars vindicated his beliefs, over that of his editors, that his concepts and ideas were profitable and commercial.
    • In The New '10s many noted that O.M.A.C. is more or less the original Cyber Punk before there was any cyber to be punk about.
    • On a more contentious and bitter note, Kirby himself pointed out that many of the concepts in the Marvel years were based on the work he did earlier for DC. The Mighty Thor, as per Kirby began in a small DC story he did before. The look of Thor in the DC version is more mythologically accurate (in that he has red hair instead of blonde) but the costume look and pattern is quite similar to the Marvel appearance. Likewise, Challengers of the Unknown which has a quartet of adventurers wearing identical jumpsuits duke out a series of bizarre threats is often seen as a dry-run for Fantastic Four although the differences outweigh the similarities in the latter case (the Challengers had no powers unlike the Fantastics, it was a team of four dudes rather than three guys and a girlnote ). This lends credence to the consensus (at least among comics scholars) that Kirby did the lion's share of development in the Marvel years. The Marvel Method of course meant in any case, that he had to have done the most work.
  • Only the Creator Does It Right: Not a much as others since there are good Fantastic Four comics after he left, and Walt Simonson's The Mighty Thor is considered the definitive run. But in terms of certain characters, everyone agrees that Galactus is never quite the same creation in the hands of other writers than Kirby, and Kirby insisted that he saw Galactus as a character with limited story potential. Likewise, the New Gods in general, and Mister Miracle in particular are rarely as great in other writers hands (though Tom King hopes to correct that).
  • Signature Scene: He designed some of the most iconic covers and panels in the medium, and as per the Marvel Method, he was both author and draughtsman of those scenes:
    • The original cover of Fantastic Four #1 with the four battling the monster from the earth with each of them showing their unique powers and designs, the cover of Avengers #4 (the one where Captain America returns to the modern age), the cover of Amazing Fantasy #15 (Kirby had little to no say in Spider-Man's development but he did pencil and design that iconic composition).note 
    • The panels in Fantastic Four #4 where the hobo Johnny Storm runs into gets a shave and turns out to be Namor (more or less ground zero for the Marvel Shared Universe), Mr. Fantastic in the Negative Zone, the full-page reveal of Ego the Living Planet and the opening pages of New Gods #1 showing the origin of Apokolips and New Genesis.
  • Too Good to Last: Most of his DC work. It was one of the main reasons he left the company, as his promising books kept getting cancelled while comparatively mediocre ones survived. Much as he would have grumbled, he really needed someone like Stan Lee to pitch and more or less invent a demographic for his highly original work which is more or less what happened with the Marvel Universe, which in its early years didn't have the big audience that people now assume it did, but survived because Lee managed to create a fan community and Vocal Minority base among the teen and college demographic. Had someone like Lee worked at DC and had Kirby's back, perhaps his work there would have lasted longer. Original work in DC in the eighties, under Karen Berger's Vertigo worked and achieved success on the same principle.
  • Values Dissonance: Well not as much as others but if we consider Kirby the real creator of the Marvel Universe, then he should take the blame for the fair bit of sexism in the early adventures of Fantastic Four where Susan Storm, the Invisible Girl was more or less either a prize for alpha male types (Reed, Ben, Namor), a Wet Blanket Wife for Reed, or a Team Mom. The fact that this lasted for more than a hundred issues meant that the famous group dynamic of the Four had too much baggage for Sue to really break away from her original character. Some scholars argue that Big Barda, certainly Kirby's most beloved female character, was an attempt by him to make up for the sexism from his Marvel years, while others point out that Kirby did work in romance comics and could write for a female audience.
  • Vindicated by History: The man had been a Butt-Monkey of the industry thanks to Stan Lee getting the majority of the praise for their collaborations. It's only as time went on that true appreciation for his artwork and high influence on the medium began to grow. It helped that he was pretty ahead of his time, as noted in Older Than They Think. Hell, this very YMMV page had only one example until his centennial rapidly started approaching, at which point it blew up with Wiki Magic.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Kirby started designing the New Gods in the late '60s at Marvel, where they would have been a post-Ragnarok continuation of Thor. What's less well-known is that OMAC started life as a Captain-America-in-the-future pitch.
    • During The '70s, 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". He even gets a split-second cameo in the film! (The art actually seen in the film, however, isn't his, or even much like it.)
    • Kirby produced the first 17 pages of an adaptation of one of his favourite series, Patrick McGoohan's The Prisoner. Unfortunately, the series never materialised, but some art can be found online.
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