Saturday, March 16, 2013

Kirby Takes On The Comics: 1982

                  Comics Scene by Howard Zimmerman

I spoke with Jack Kirby at his mountainside home in Thousand Oaks, California, where the Kirbys have lived for over a decade. Even be‑fore introductions were finished, Mrs. Kirby was directing us to the table for lunch. While we ate, Kirby told stories about growing up in Brooklyn during the Depression era. They were hard times, but Kirby has some fond memories—especially of the hundreds of gangster, adventure and romance films that he devoured, when he was not busy reading the Flash Gordon, Dick Tracy or Terry and the Pirates newspaper strips.
            I was there to do The Kirby Story: how he got started in the business, where he got all those wonderful ideas for Captain America, Fantastic Four and New Gods, some anecdotes about the comics industry and the people with whom he had worked, his personal philosophy and vision. We covered all of this territory, but another theme kept recurring. It is that which concerns many and frustrated him throughout his legendary career: the inequities built into the structure of the overground comic industry and the in-fighting that results from of it.
            Kirby has been outspoken in his support of the movement to have the rights of the creative artists recognized by the comic publishers. And he has good reason. As the most successful and prolific creator in the history of comics, Kirby has suffered the most from the system which he considers grossly unfair and harmful to the very industry that it is designed to help.
            Though his creations have brought him much glory, the profits have always gone to his employers.
            Kirby is now voluntarily drawing a book for free. It is Eclipse Enterprises’ Destroyer Duck. In fact, all of the people helping on this book are working for free. Duck is a fund-raising enterprise to help writer Steve Gerber with his lawsuit against Marvel Comics. Gerber is suing Marvel for owner‑ship of them: Howard the Duck.
            Kirby is contributing his efforts for a variety of reasons. “I don’t know how it’s going to affect me,” he says. “I’ll certainly gain Steve’s friendship, I hope. Steve is a very original kind of guy. A man who can make something out of a duck like he did can come up with something important. I think Steve is a fine writer.
            “And even if it wasn’t Steve Gerber,” Kirby explains, “I would still do the same thing. Because I feel that change has to be made. The comics may not be important to me, right now, but they are important. It’s important that all the media stay alive, so that the ordinary guy can get his chance, without having to pay some ugly price for what he wants to do. The industry could fight tooth and nail on that and it could continue; but the chance that it could change is the important thing in pursuing Gerber’s case.”
            Another, more practical reason why Kirby is willing to contribute his time and artistic energy to the Duck book is that he retains the rights to his work for the title and all of the original art will be returned. This is a rare thing in the over-ground comic industry, which Kirby feels will self-destruct unless the rules are changed.


            “I feel the independent publishers are going to grow,” Kirby says. “Only a fool can function under the old comics structure. Why should a man draw a good picture if they are going to give it to three other guys? Why should a man write a good story if the company keeps it? Why should a man even ink, when he’s not sure whether  the company will take care of him or not?”
            Kirby views the overgrounds as “ads for toys. They don’t get sales, but they make awfully good looking ads for toys. They aren’t comics—they’re just an approach to a toy franchise.
        “We need a lot more innovation,” he says. “Under new structures, guys will get the incentive to do new things.”
            Kirby is currently doing Captain Victory for Pacific Comics, an up-and-coming independent publishing house. “I’ve been working with a young inker, Mike Thibodeaux, on Captain Victory. He’s young, he’s good and he wants to do comics,” Kirby says. “People are giving me breaks, I give other people breaks. I feel that Mike should have his. I’ve never turned anyone down in my life. I feel that if people cooperated with people instead of hindering them in some way, I think they would get the chance to develop into whatever they want to be, and there would never be any conflict. My religion is cooperation, not power. That’s why I’m so adamantly against the rigid structure of comics.
            “I cooperate with Pacific Comics and Pacific cooperates with me. It’s a good relationship, without conflict. It’s living proof that if you give the next guy a fair break, or cooperate with him, he’s going to help you. And it’s certainly not going to hurt the world.”
            Cooperation is something that Kirby feels he did not get during his last tenure at Marvel (1976-1979). When he is asked what changes he would institute were he in control of a comic company today, he speaks with the voice of experience. “I would institute the use of discipline and standards,” he says. But then he adds, “I would take the guys who I know are plotting and scheming to orchestrate the death of a book and fire him. I couldn’t blame them for impatience with another man, to get their shot at what he’s doing. I’m not against competition, but I’m against unfair competition.
            “The health of a comic book can be manipulated by the staff alone. You fill up a book with knock letters [negative criticisms in the letters pages]. The reader who picks up the book and reads all those knock letters knows that the book he’s reading ... well, it’s not so hot. And if you do it consistently, it becomes ‘a bad book.’ I haven’t seen anything like a bad book anywhere. I’ve seen a lot of guys trying. I’ve seen a lot of guys who’ll never get the chance to develop. And you can’t develop with two or three issues. You’ve got to give a man a chance to stay in there—either take his beating or succeed. And comics have not done that today.
            “A guy will create a book, another will fill his book up with knock letters—he’s off in five months, or three months, and the other guy’s got his shot.” Until now Kirby has spoken in even tones. His voice quiet, firm. Now emotion breaks through. There is an anguished look in his eyes and a touch of bitterness in his voice as he says, “I see it as a serpent’s nest. And in a serpent’s nest, nothing can survive. Eventually all the snakes kill each other. Eventually they’ll also kill whatever generated them.
            “When I said that Marvel or DC were really ads for toys, I meant it. They’ll give the staff the chance to develop, but not the men who create, who participate, who are in the arena. It’s the guy who is in the arena who counts. He’s selling your book. And not only that: he’s creating a silent movie. I mean, it’s a visual art.
                        “So you need standards,” Kirby continues, his voice calm once again. “You need certain standards and discipline and professionalism. Any sort of pettiness or vindictiveness, any sort of toughness, is harmful to a good enterprise. A good enterprise needs all the cooperation it can get. I’m sure that, today, they’ll have a conference at any one of the publishers and they’ll sit down and say, ‘Come up with ideas.’ And there are men who will come up with ideas, but they’ll all be second-rate. They are all capable of first-rate ideas, every one of them, but not _within that structure.”
                        All of the work done today for the regular overground comics is contracted for on the basis of “work-for hire,” a sore point with many of the creative people who feel that they should own what they create. (After all, there is nothing harder to come up with than a good idea, and there is nothing harder to protect.) Kirby’s definition of work-for-hire is simple and direct: “It means that everything that comes out of you, they own.”

                        WORKING FOR MARVEL

                        Kirby’s contributions to Marvel Comics are legendary. When asked what he received in return, he says, “A lot of ingratitude. It hasn’t left me bitter, it’s just that it shouldn’t work out that way. If there’s anybody who knows Stan Lee, I’m the guy who knows him. Stan Lee as a person is no better or worse than anybody else. 1 wasn’t competing with Stan. I got along very well with Stan. We were very good friends. And, my God, I came up with an army of characters!” Yet, when Kirby returned to Marvel in the mid-seventies, things seemed to have changed. “I felt that his Lee’  plans, somehow, didn’t mesh with mine. Stan was already a publisher at that time and could call the shots. If you can call the shots on somebody ... you win.”
                        Kirby first worked for Marvel (then known as Timely Comics) in the early 40s at which time he co-created Captain America with Joe Simon. Kirby rejoined Marvel in 1959 after he and Simon had tried publishing on their own for a while. Their company, Mainline, was formed in 1954 and was dissolved two years later during the comic slump of 1956. A return to Marvel became a logical choice.
                        “My business with Joe was gone. I did a few things for Classics Illustrated which drove me crazy. I wanted a little stability, and I needed the work. Marvel seemed to be the place, and comics seemed to be the only thing I was really good at. And I already had responsibilities; I was a father, I owned property. I had to work.
                        “Marvel was going to close,” Kirby recalls. “When I broke up with Joe, comics everywhere were taking a beating. The ones with capital hung on. Martin Goodman publisher of Marvel had slick paper magazines, like Swank and the rest. It was just as easy for Martin to say, ‘Oh, what the hell. Why do comics at all?’ And he was about to—Stan Lee told me so. In fact, it looked like they were going to close the afternoon that I came up. But Goodman gave Marvel another chance.”
                        At that time, Marvel had Western, romance and monster titles. Kirby worked on all of them. Then, in 1961, Kirby and Stan Lee created the Fantastic Four. In his Bring on the Bad Guys, Origins of Marvel Comics Villains, Stan Lee explains the genesis of the group: “Much as I hate to admit it, I didn’t produce our little Marvel Masterpieces all by myself. No, mine was the task of originating the basic concept, and then writing the script....
                        However, I’ve long been privileged to collaborate with some of the most talented artists of all, artists who would take my rough-hewn plots and refine them into the illustrated stories.... Heading the list of such artists ... is Jolly Jack Kirby.”
                        Kirby remembers it somewhat differently. “I wrote them all,” he states flatly. But what about all those “Smilin’ Stan” and “Jolly Jack” credit boxes? Kirby responds diplomatically. “Well, I never wrote the credits. Let’s put it that way, all right? I would never call myself ‘Jolly Jack.’ I would never say the books were written by Lee.
                        “I did a mess of things. The only book I didn’t work on was Spider-Man, which Steve Ditko did. But Spider-Man was my creation. The Hulk was my creation. It was simply Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I was borrowing from the classics. They are the most powerful literature there is.
                        “I was beginning to find myself as a thinking human being. I began to think about things that were real. I didn’t want to tell fairy tales. I wanted to tell things as they are. But I wanted to tell them in an entertaining way. And I told it in the Fantastic Four and I told it in Sgt. Fury... If I wanted to tell the entire truth about the world, I could do it with Robinson Crusoe, and do Robinson Crusoe for the rest of my life.
                        “My mother was a great storyteller,” Kirby reveals. “She came from somewhere near Transylvania and she told me stories that would stand your hair on end. I loved my mother and I loved those stories. The art of storytelling, certainly, is in all of us. But to tell it dramatically, to tell it right, you have to be influenced, I think, in a certain manner. Somewhere along the line, whoever is good has been raised by people who are good in the same manner. It happened to me in comics. The men who originated comics were looking for guidelines. They were older men than I was. They knew what they were doing, and whatever they did I took a step further and tried to galvanize it. I like to galvanize whatever I’m doing, but I’ve got to find the right way to do it. And I do. I’m an experimenter at heart,” Kirby says. “I’ve never done anything that’s already been done.”
                        Why, then, has Kirby chosen to do Captain Victory for Pacific, where he was free to do any kind of book that he wanted? Hasn’t he told essentially the same story several times, in Fantastic Four, New Gods, The Eternals?
                        Kirby says that he chose to do Captain Victory as a kind of warning. .”I think there’s a complacency now among the young. Sometimes we go overboard on trust.” As an example, Kirby cites Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. “I thought his Raiders of the Lost Ark was terrific, but I felt that he was too much of an idealist in Close Encounters.” Kirby feels that Spielberg’s vision of the benevolent aliens was as far off base as the peaceful greeting they received from the American military and governmental advisors.
                        “One guy published a theory that we are descended from killer baboons. I believe that,” Kirby says. “Forty years ago we just got through shoving people into ovens—on a very, very flimsy reason. We did that. Nobody else did.  Man has a drive for domination.” Therefore, so do Kirby’s aliens, whom he sees as a reflection of, or another side of, humanity.
                        “We have a fetish for putting up walls,” Kirby observes. “We like to live in houses. We like limited space. Not only that, we don’t want to go out of our house, so we decorate them, make them livable. We like all the space that we can accumulate and fence up—that’s the kind of animal we are. We’ll do that with the planets, when we go out. Getting out into space for us may be the worst thing that’s ever happened to the other creatures in the universe.
                        “The solar system to me is a mass of sheltering debris that circles around us, protecting us.” Kirby believes that when space-faring aliens do arrive they will be “people just like us. They may have weaponry that’s more sophisticated than ours; they may be a few thousand years ahead. They may have the heads of eagles or lions, or whatever creature developed on their planet into intelligent human beings. I believe that they are human. I believe that anything that can think or act as we do is human—I don’t care what it developed from.
                        ‘The dinosaur was on Earth for 750 million years,” Kirby says. “Do you mean to tell me that it didn’t have the intelligence of ... a dog? When I did Devil Dinosaur, I did a thinking dinosaur. My belief is that the dinosaurs were intelligent. I mean, if we acquired the intelligence we have, say in a short period of about four million years, what might the dinosaur have accomplished in 750 million years7 I’m not saying that it built cities, or that it built anything. It might have lived in a perfect environment that it didn’t want to change.”

                        THE “FOURTH WORLD”

                        Themes similar to those found in Captain Victory were explored in the “Fourth World” books Kirby did for DC (Mister Miracle, New Gods and Forever People). How he got to do those books is an interesting story all by itself.
                        DC approached Kirby in 1970 to speak to him about their cornerstone character. “I was living here in California, in Irvine. I get a message that Carmine Infantino is out in California and wants me to come up to his hotel. To make it short, they wanted me to save Superman. I said, well, I wasn’t too happy with what was happening at Marvel. I thought, maybe this is the time to change. But, I said, I don’t want to take work away from guys who have been doing it for years. I said, I’ll take that book, Jimmy Olsen. I’ll take the one that has no sales . . . and I’ll do my own books, titles of my own.
                        “He said yes, because he felt that I could do it. He had every confidence in me. I had confidence in nobody but myself. That’s the type of guy I am,” Kirby says. “If I’m going to do a job, any job—and believe me I’ve done quite a variety of jobs—I will think it out, I will find its key, and I will make it sell. So, I turned Jimmy Olsen into something different,” he says with a flair for understatement.
                        “I took a risk. I changed Superman into a human being. Because Superman is a human being, except that he has these exceptional qualities.” Kirby feels that the character has never been treated as a real, vulnerable person.
                        “Superman, in reality, would live a very short life among us. If he lived next door to me I would feel very uncomfortable. I wouldn’t care if he were for truth, justice or anybody. If I ever got into a fight with him, I wouldn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell. And I depicted that in the book. I had the heavyweight champ go up to Superman and he says, ‘I don’t feel like a champ next to you.’ He didn’t like Superman because there was no way he could beat him. Human beings do not like superior people.
                        “In fact, human beings love villains. It was the gangster movies that made the most money during the Depression years. Innately, we feel that we are not perfect—that you and I are going to make mistakes, and some of those mistakes are going to cost us. And we’re going to have to take them in stride.
                        “My villains are people who are either taking the easy way out, or who have psychological flaws.
                        “People like villains because they know that inside us the villain lives. The villain is as valid as the hero. The villain is simply the other side of Superman. Superman can lapse into weakness. He can be betrayed, as Samson was. Samson was Superman and he was betrayed by a girl, because he liked women. There’s no saying that Superman couldn’t be betrayed by Lois Lane, or Jimmy Olsen, or anybody else he trusts. ‘
                        “Jimmy Olsen was the only way that I-could prove that I could make money for DC,” Kirby explains. “On the New Gods [Fourth World] books, I was allowed to do what I wanted to do. I can’t fault Carmine for that because that can be risky. If he had any trepidations at all, he didn’t show them—but he had a right to have them.”
                        Kirby feels that those books he did for DC were inspired; some of the best work that he’s ever done. “I felt there was a time that a man had to tell a story in which he felt—not anybody else—in which he felt there was no bullshit. There was absolute truth.
                        “There was a scene in the New Gods
                        . they pull the sea god out of the river, and he’s dead I issue #41. He’s been killed by one of the evil gods. And Orion gives him a big funeral. He sets fire to the entire pier—he gives him a Viking’s funeral. And, of course, Darkseid is around the corner and he watches it. But he knows the truth. He says: ‘How heroes love to flaunt their nobility in the face of death. Yet they know better than most that war is but the cold game of the butcher.’ And he’s right. In a war there is no glamour.
                        “Darkseid never told a lie; he never deserted his son. When he meets this old man with his little grandson in Happyland, he says, when you’re asleep and you have a nightmare, I’m the guy you’re seeing—the other side of yourself. Because the other side of yourself is insecure. It’s villainous, it’s treacherous. And don’t tell me that there may not come a time when, in considering your life against someone else’s, you would betray him.”
                        As significant as Kirby’s Fourth World books might have been, they were short-lived. Mister Miracle ran for 18 issues, the New Gods 11 issues, Forever People 11 issues. But it was not because sales had fallen off. “They were in [DC’s] top 10, I can assure you,” Kirby says. As each title was killed, Kirby introduced new ones for the duration of his contract. These included Kamandi, OMAC and The Demon. “Carmine made no move to stop me from what I was doing, but when it came time to renew the contract, differences arose that couldn’t be resolved.

                        MARVEL REVISITED & ON TO THE FUTURE

                        But there was a parting of the ways and Kirby was back at Marvel, this time with a little leverage—he was given creative control over Captain America. “Yes,” he affirms, “in fact, I got my originals back ... until the inkers became adamant about it. They said, well, why should I get my originals back and the others don’t. Having my own standards, I felt that I was right—I should get my originals back. If the other guys wouldn’t fight for theirs.... I fought for mine; I cajoled for mine. I did anything to get them back. They had no right to them. All they had are the first publication rights; but the drawings remain your own—nobody can take them away from you. And today they have all the drawings I did in the sixties. But I’d have to sue them for it.” There is no bitterness in his voice, and yet it is obvious that it hurts. That same emotion comes through when he talks about his second tenure at Marvel, during the seventies.
                        “I didn’t really get a shot,” he says. “In fact, it was developing rather well.” Kirby was doing Captain America, the Black Panther, 2001, the Eternals, Machine Man and Devil Dinosaur during that period. “At the beginning, I think I probably had the best circulation in the line. I enjoyed every one of them. And they were all heading toward things that would astound you. I was giving Marvel all I had; that’s part of being professional.” But he feels that certain Marvel employees actively worked to undermine him and his books, and that they were successful. “I know who’s part of it,” he says, “but naming names won’t help the situation any. It was a vicious competition,” Kirby states, putting a fitting epitaph on that ultimately frustrating part of his career.
                        During the course of his career, many of Kirby’s creations have achieved the status of international stardom. When asked if he has a favorite creation, Kirby says, after a moment’s hesitation, “I love the New Gods. I love them all. Of course I’m associated with Captain America, and I probably always will be. But that’s like a symbol.... We exist on images. If someone were going to conjure up Kirby, they would probably conjure up Captain America at the same time. But as for the other characters, they were all human to me,” Kirby says with obvious affection.
                        As for the future, Kirby has plans to make live-action films. Not specifically science fiction or fantasy; he feels that he has many stories left to tell. One of them is particularly intriguing. “I’d like to make a movie about what the comic book industry was really like,” he says, referring to the early years.
                        Though his Sky Masters comic strip in the 50s was a satisfying experience,
                        Kirby has no intention of doing another syndicated ‘strip. “I wouldn’t want to work on strips any more. The fact is, they’re being squeezed out by advertisers; being made smaller and smaller and you can’t read them. When I worked on strips they were large and the color was beautiful. The men who did them were great guys and it was a time to really feel great. I think that’s what drew me to comics—that the people who worked in them were just great guys. I didn’t go overboard as a fan, but I wanted to do the same kind of thing that they were doing.”
                        Finally, Kirby says that he might still be willing to change hats and try his hand at publishing once more as he had done with Joe Simon in 1954. “I would publish again. And it would be something to be proud of,” he says. “Each guy working for the corporation would really be proud. He’d be his own man. I’ve always done what I’ve always wanted to do, and I have no regrets. I’ve done the best I can. But I’ve written my own script. I had my chance to be a villain and I took my shot at being a hero—just to see what it was like. Not that I wanted to be a hero, but merely as a professional.”
                        Indeed, Kirby steadfastly refuses to identify himself as a hero, although to several generations of comic book fans he is a superhero. “I’m no hero,” he says with a shake of his head. “I’m a survivor.” Kirby reflects on this self-description for a second and then amends it: “I’m a master survivor.” And his goal continues to be the same as it’s always been: “I’m out to be a genuinely, competently, fulfilled human being.”

            Kirby—An Historical Perspective

                        Jack Kirby was born Jack Kurtzberg on August 28, 1917, in New York City’s
                        Lower Eastside. He started working professionally at the age of 17, as an inbetweener on Betty Boop and Popeye cartoons at the Max Fleischer studios. When the Fleischer studio moved to Florida, Kirby got a job with the Lincoln Newspaper Syndicate as a political, gag and strip cartoonist.
                        There Kirby produced a wide variety of strips under a host of pseudonyms, doing all the artwork and most of the scripting. He experimented with different styles; he used a woodcut technique for The Black Buccaneer, an early pirate strip, while Abdul Jones was more in keeping with the look of humorous strips of the time. His most popular strip of this period was Socko the Seadog, an obvious Popeye imitation (which Kirby did not create). Two early science fiction strips also came out of this period: the Solar Legion, in 1938, and Cyclone Burke a year or two earlier.
                        Kirby’s first comic book work was in 1938 with Will Eisner and Jerry lger on Jumbo, an oversized comic. In it he did an SF serial and an adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo.
                        Kirby then joined the Fox syndicate and took over the art chores on a strip featuring one of the earliest costumed superheroes, the Blue Beetle. At Fox, which also published comics, Kirby met another young staffer by the name of Joe Simon. Together they produced Blue Bolt for Fox and the first full issue of Captain Marvel adventures for Fawcett (1941).
                        They ran into each other a third time at Timely Comics. The Timely line was headed by two superstars: the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner. To fill out the line Kirby created Tuk the Cave Boy, Hurricane, Mercury, The Vision, Red Raven, and Comet Pierce (1941). He teamed up with Joe Simon to produce Marvel Boy, The Fiery Mask and Captain Daring in Daring Mystery comics.
                        (The following quotations are excerpted from The Steranko History of the Comics, Vol. 1)
                        Kirby: The production pressure was overwhelming. I had to draw faster and faster and the figures began to show it. Arms got longer, legs bent to the action, torsos twisted with exaggerated speed. My pace created distortions. I discovered the figures had to be extreme to have impact, the kind of impact I saw in my head.
                        Steranko: He developed a kind of impressionistic shorthand. He made the difficult look easy, the impossible an everyday occurrence.
                        Kirby: Long underwear heroes were a dime a dozen. Everybody was creating one, and publishers couldn’t get them out fast enough. Superman set the style; we had to keep the pace and come up with a winner. Steranko: Then, in early 1941, his talents coalesced into an achievement. Of necessity, Captain America was born. “The time demanded it. I was seeing mankind in its noblest terms, human beings not as they were but as they might be. The country was almost at war; we needed a super-patriot,” Kirby recalls.”
                        Kirby’s mastery was implicit in every line and gesture and punch. Cap leaped from the tops of panels. Muscles rippled. Limbs stretched. Backs arched. Movements were magnified, action aggrandized. Body English was more extreme than reality allowed. Jack reinvented the human figure. Embodiments of exaggeration, they soared out of panels.
                        Muscles medical students never even heard of were exerted in symphonies of strength. Cap and Bucky moved with jolting, violent speed. Mass battle scenes were expertly choreographed. Stories became pure orchestration of motion....
                        From the heights of action and ideals to the depths of hatred and horror, the Kirby pencil drew only extremes, all of them extremely effective. Panel sizes ran grandly off the deep end. Issue four featured the first full-page panel in comics, pencilled and inked by Kirby himself. With issue six the tradition of Kirby double-page spreads began. The medium was utilized with staggering impact. Kirby was the first comic book artist to steadily employ visual dynamics. As he says, “I became a camera and evolved a storytelling style that came closest to motion pictures.”
                        The Kirby formula: a maximum of excitement in a minimum of time and space.
                       The summer of that same year, 1941, Simon and Kirby created the “kid gang” genre with The Young Allies and the Tough Kid’s Squad. Moving over to DC, the team created The Newsboy Legion and The Boy
                        Commandos, in 1942. Then, they were drafted and left the comic books to fight the war in person.
                        After returning from the Army, Kirby and Simon again teamed up, this time for Harvey. There they did Boy’s Ranch, Boy Explorers and Stuntman. Then, in 1947, Kirby and Simon went to McFadden Publications, where they created the first romance comic, My Date. Two years later they began a line of books for Crestwood, including Young Romance, Young Love, Black Magic and Fighting American.
                        In 1954 Simon and Kirby started their own publishing house, Mainline, putting out Foxhole, In Love, Police Trap, Bullseye and Win-A-Prize. In 1956, suffering with the rest of the field, they sold their line to Charlton Comics and the team split up. Kirby went back to the syndicated comic strip field.
                        Kirby’s most prestigious and popular strip of this period was Sky Masters, a visionary look at the coming age of space exploration. Inked by Wally Wood, the strip lasted from 1957-59. At the same time, Kirby had returned to do some work for DC, including creating, writing and drawing Challengers of the Unknown.
                        Finally, in 1959, Kirby went to work full-time for Marvel, formerly Atlas-Timely.
                        In 1961, he created Fantastic Four with Stan Lee. Dozens of superheroes and super-villains followed, including the Hulk, Thor, Ant-Man, the revived Captain America, Dr. Doom, the Watcher, the Silver Surfer, the Black Panther, Galactus and the Inhumans. Kirby also designed and drew the first issues of The X-Men and The Avengers. Kirby didn’t draw Iron Man, but he designed the character and plotted the origin story. Spider-Man, which was drawn by Steve Ditko, was suggested by Kirby. The character was one that he had developed for his own company, Mainline, but never got a chance to do.
                        In 1970 Kirby left Marvel for DC. He took over the failing Jimmy Olsen, and created a whole new world of his own, the “Fourth World,” including New Gods, Mr. Miracle and Forever People. He also created Kamandi, The Demon and OMAC.
                        In 1975 Kirby returned to Marvel. He once again picked up the reins of Captain America and took over a revived Black Panther. During his last stint at Marvel Kirby also produced 2001: A Space Odyssey, its spin-off Machine Man, The Eternals and Devil Dinosaur.
                        Most recently, Kirby has been part of the Ruby-Spears team that has created the Saturday morning animated sword-and sorcery hit, Thundarr. In 1981 he teamed up with independent publisher Pacific Comics for Captain Victory, and Eclipse Enterprises for Destroyer Duck.
                        Material for this historical perspective was gathered from The Steranko History of the Comics, Vol. 1, by Jim Steranko, published in 1970 by Supergraphics, and Kirby, by Neal Kirby and David Folkman, published in 1975 by the Museum of Cartoon Art.


  1. Very informative. And stuff I missed the first time around. Thanks for this post.

    1. Barry,

      No disrespect to Kirby, of course. We all know of his unequaled contributions to the comics field. I know this is published as is, with factual inaccuracies uncorrected, but could you comment on some of the more egregious ones?