JACK KIRBY’s massive footprint on the visual art of comics seems to get hailed daily, to the point that his other influential gifts can be overshadowed. So it makes a worthy statement now — as San Diego’s Comic-Con International prepares to celebrate the centennial of his birth — that the awards presented during the convention are honoring “King” Kirby specifically for his comics prose.
Kirby and veteran cartoonist Bill Messner-Loebs have been announced as the recipients of the 2017 Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing.
“The premise of this award is to recognize writers for a body of work that has not received its rightful reward and/or recognition,” Mark Evanier (“Kirby: King of Comics”), chair of the Finger Award selection committee, said in a statement. “Even though the late Bill Finger now finally receives credit for his role in the creation of Batman, he’s still the industry poster boy for writers not receiving proper reward or recognition.”
Kirby’s staggering cultural treasure trove of iconic characters and works include Captain America, the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, Iron Man and the X-Men, the Black Panther and the Silver Surfer, New Gods and Boy Commandos, Sgt. Fury and Kamandi.
Kirby died in 1994, well before many of his creations would launch and fuel the multibillion-dollar Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Messner-Loebs, who entered the industry in the ’70s, has written for most of the top publishers as well as the State Department (for a comic about land mines). Besides putting words in the mouths of the most well-known DC superheroes, as well as Marvel’s Spider-Man and Thor, he co-created the Maxx and Epicurus the Sage.
Also on the selection committee were artist and historian Jim Amash; writer Kurt Busiek; Abrams editor Charles Kochman; cartoonist Scott Shaw; and writer and editor Marv Wolfman.
Comic-Con also announced its 2017 nominees for the Russ Manning Award, which salutes “promising newcomers.” They are: artist Rafael de Latorre (Animosity and Super Zero); artist Riana Dorsey (Cloud Riders); artist Mindy Lee (Bounty); artist Leila Leiz (Alters); and writer-artist Anne Szabla (Bird-Boy).
Manning was well-known for his “Star Wars” and “Tarzan” comic strips. Prior recipients of the award include Dave Stevens, Scott McCloud, Jeff Smith, Eleanor Davis, Art Adams and Steve Rude.
The Bill Finger and Russ Manning honors will be presented July 21 during the Eisner Awards ceremony at Comic-Con.
The voting deadline for the Eisner Awards is Friday.
This post has been updated.