THERE ARE many royal figures in the court of comics history, but there is only one Jack “King” Kirby. Today, on what would have been his 100th birthday, comic-book fans the globe over will celebrate memories of the man and the legacy of his regal gifts.
Because without Kirby, there would not be the comics industry as we know it.
“If there were a Mount Rushmore of American comic-book artists, Jack Kirby would sit front and center,” Axel Alonso, the editor in chief at Marvel, tells The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs.
Kirby and Joe Simon created Captain America in 1940 — sending Steve Rogers to fight Nazis even before the United States officially did — for Timely Comics, Marvel’s predecessor. When Kirby returned to Marvel two decades later, with Stan Lee as editor, he helped lead the greatest dynamite explosion of superhero characters we’ve ever seen — from the Fantastic Four to Thor, from Hulk to the Silver Surfer — before leaving to create such masterworks as the influential New Gods.
“I nicknamed Jack ‘King’ Kirby because to me he was, and always will be, the king of the comic-book artists,” Lee tells The Post.
Kirby was inducted into the Eisner Awards Hall of the Fame in 1987 as part of the inaugural class, an honor that recognized both his dynamic, profoundly pioneering images and his sublime gifts with narrative. Just this summer, the Eisners committee saluted Kirby with the Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing.
“He pioneered the American comic-book medium,” Alonso says, “forged the mold for the modern superhero and influenced several generations of artists across several continents.”
To mark Kirby’s centenary, Marvel is devoting much of its site Monday to the great man with “Jack Kirby: 100 Years,” which includes spotlights on his creations — from characters to 100 featured covers.
“Through pictures,” Alonso says, “he quietly led the revolution to make comic books as relevant to American culture as anything that can be found in music or literature, TV or the silver screen.”
Elsewhere, the Jack Kirby Museum and Research Center in New York is marking the centennial with a special event through Wednesday. “Jack Kirby — 100 Years” will include a talk Monday by museum trustee Rand Hoppe.
On the opposite coast, Cal State Northbridge is offering the exhibit “Jack Kirby @ 100.”
“We want to show how versatile and adaptable Kirby was — the fact that he was ready to take up any genre and give it his own distinctive twist,” says curator Charles Hatfield, the Eisner-winning Kirby scholar and CSUN professor.
“We’re showing the side of Kirby that fuels the comic book, film and media industries today,” Hatfield notes, “but we also want to give viewers a shot of mid-20th-century Americana.”
Here is how some other top industry figures are paying tribute to the King.
— Bill Sienkiewicz (@sinKEVitch) August 28, 2017
— FrancescoFrancavilla (@f_francavilla) August 28, 2017
It’s Jack Kirby’s birthday! Who’s gonna do fan art of his characters, & who’s gonna truly honor him by creating something new?
— Cameron Stewart (@cameronMstewart) August 28, 2017
— Jason Latour (@jasonlatour) August 28, 2017
When writing, I do have a "What Would Jack Kirby Do?" as one of my guiding principles. The answer always being "Make up something new."
— Kieron Gillen (@kierongillen) August 28, 2017
Happy birthday, Jack Kirby. ♥♥♥
Jack is one of the main reasons I chose comic books as a career, and one of my major influences. pic.twitter.com/D89mERXqmF
— Walter Simonson (@WalterSimonson) August 28, 2017