10 Amazing Facts About Jack Kirby!
"You've heard of the Marvel Universe right? Well, I invented it!" (Not sure if that's an actual quote from the King, but many of us believe it to be true.
Artist, Writer, influencer and most importantly, King!
Jack Kirby's contributions to both Marvel and DC has been the foundation of not only comics as we all know, but Pop Culture in general! Here are the Ten things you may not know about Jack "King" Kirby!
He created the Black Panther
It was Jack's idea to create the first black Superhero as he recanted in a rare interview, where he questioned why Black people weren’t being represented? Although Marvel and Stan Lee gave the go ahead for creating what would be the first black Superhero of comicdom, his original character sketch who would be dubbed "Coal Tiger" was a both naive if not condescending. It was perhaps, Lee's input that further implemented upon Kirby's "prototype " sketch and name, ergo, Black Panther and the rest is literally "History"!
Galactus and Silver Surfer too!
When working alongside Lee during their epic Fantastic Four stint, Kirby and Lee came up with the idea of a new villain from beyond, Galactus.
Kirby suggested that this Godlike entity should have a herald, and thus enter the Silver Surfer.
"Lords of Light"
Back during the mid-seventies, CIA Operative Tony Mendez devised a rescue plan by smuggling the U.S. diplomats out of Tehran, pretending that they are Canadian filmmakers working on a new science-fiction film, “Argo.” Hence the Movie's title starring Ben Affleck.
"If you're a fan of the legendary comic-book artist Jack Kirby, who co-created the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and the Hulk with Stan Lee, then you are used to the artist not getting as much credit as he deserves. Ben Affleck's Argo is just another example of that"
Ben Affleck's Argo was loosely based on a covert mission crafted by the CIA, with help from the Canadian government, that rescued six U.S. diplomats from Iran. C.I.A operative Tony Mendez (played by Affleck) smuggles the U.S. diplomats out of Tehran, via an ingenious ruse that they are Canadian filmmakers working on a new science-fiction film, “Argo.”
In the film, Affleck's character, Mendez is shown hiring an artist (Played by Michael Parks) to create concept art and storyboards for his fictional movie. Later the art is used in a pivotal scene, as it plays a major part in the diplomats convincing the Iranians that their cover is legit.
No artist was commissioned by Mendez as he already had production drawings Jack Kirby had created for "Lord of Light," which is the actual title of the script the CIA used for "Argo." The film unfortunately, failed to acknowledge Kirby's artwork, or his original drawings. Inadvertently in ABC's Thundarr the Barbarian series, the titular character's signature one liner was "Lords of Light", a quick reference to the series' co-creator, Jack Kirby.
The Original Kirbyverse
After Kirby left Marvel due to his dissatisfaction with the company's lack of acknowledgement for his contributions, at DC Marvel's main competitor, Kirby had established his own self-contained characters and concepts such as Kamandi, Omac and most importantly, the Fourth World series. When rejoining Marvel, Jack went on to create more concepts restricted within the confines of his comics like The Eternals, Machine Man and "Devil Dinosaur"?? Sometime afterwards, his characters crossed over to the mainstream Marvel and DC continuity. Of course, Kirby was not well compensated due to shady Work-for-Hire business practices.
Kirby's goes to Hollywood!
Marvel's Co-creator and spokesman Stan Lee may have appeared in various Marvel projects especially the Marvel Cinematic Universe via Hitchcock cameos, but long ago, in a tinsel town, far, far away Kirby made a brief appearance as a sketch artist in CBS's The Incredible Hulk episode titled "No Escape" and went on to handling televised animated programs like the Fantastic Four, Thundarr the Barbarian and "Mr. T"?? The latter two were under the Ruby Spears Animation Studio, who also owned the rights to underdeveloped projects from Kirby: Roxie's Raiders, Golden Shield and The Gargoids, plan to market the properties for movies, television, comics, and videogames.
Of course, this is the no brainer here. While 1977's Star Wars was the breakout sensation of the Seventies and beyond, did you know that many of Kirby's concepts were imported to George Lucas' Space Fantasy Magnum Opus?
When Kirby left Marvel to work for DC Comics in 1971, his Fourth World related New Gods is rife with exciting mythology, a race of benevolent beings from a planet called New Genesis while a nightmarish world, Apokolypse is ruled by the tyrannical Darksied. A classic good vs evil story however, at a dinner in 1972 a director by the name of George Lucas told Marvel's then Editor in Chief Roy Thomas, that he was working on a film called "Star Wars" and after he described the movie's premise, Thomas told him it sounds a lot like Kirby's New Gods as the similarities are obvious. "Darkseid's planet bears a resemblance to the Death Star, Highfather is this great sage as in Obi Wan Kenobi while Darkseid and Dr. Doom was the precursor to Darth Vader, before the was the Force, New Gods had "The Source ". Coincidence? Nah..! Sadly, this illustrated Star Wars poster was rumored to be Kirby’s last completed artwork before he passed away in 1994.
Some of Kirby's characters were based on real people including himself.
While Jack (Kirby) based Ben Grimm, Dan Turpin on himself, there were other characters from his Fourth World series, that were centered around other real-life people: Funky Flashman was a blatant parody of Stan Lee who would assume credit for everything while then Editor in Chief at Marvel Roy Thomas was lampooned as his lacky “Houseroy”. Kirby’s wife Roz, was the inspiration behind Big Barda but on the opposite of the fence, Kirby a Liberal Democrat of Jewish heritage threw shade at Reverend Billy Graham via a satirical theologian villain called “Glorious Godfrey” for harboring anti-Semitic feelings toward Jews and guess who Kirby based Darksied on? Here’s a hint: “I am not a crook!”
Jack Kirby's unpublished Soul Love was created, conceptualized, written, and penciled by Jack Kirby, for DC Comics during the early 1970s and Soul Love's conceptual roots came from another Kirby unpublished story titled “The Model".
The stories from the anthology-based Soul Love were:
Fears of a Go-Go Girl” “The Teacher “Dedicated Nurse” “Diary of the Disappointed Doll" and "Old Fires"
Although they were your archetypal romance stories, it has his share of outdated stereotypes due to adopting the then popular Blaxploitation vibe. While unpublished, Soul Love was another significant chapter from the talents of Jack Kirby, who unlike many artists during that era, could illustrate beautiful black women.
While some may have found his portrayal of Black Americans, condescending, it was more of Kirby being naïve than insensitive especially when factoring his generation. In the New Gods books, there is a powerful entity called the Black Racer (I guess its Dc’s answer to the Silver Surfer?) whose alter ego “Willie Walker” runs afoul with an Intergang boss called “Sugar-Man”?? Ok, it’s a bit much but in some ways, again I believe that Jack may have snuck into a few Grindhouse theaters that showcased Blaxploitation films. I mean, was it another bizarre coincidence that during the beginning of the 1973 Pam Grier film, Coffy , that her first victim was a Pimp called Sugar Man? Say what you will, but it was Kirby who championed Black people’s representation within a media that at the time, was mostly homogeneous with white male protagonists.
OMAC (Foreshadowing the future!)
Although Kirby often referred to his OMAC issues as, “In the world that’s coming”, he predicted a few things that have and are happening today! From drone strikes, virtual reality, artificial humans, the super wealthy buying cities, destruct rooms as a means of therapy and even oceans drying up, this sci fi Superhero comic from DC was a gamechanger more ways than one! Once again, proving how Kirby was way ahead of his time!
Before Cobra, there was Kobra? How Kirby became an influence on G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero!
During the early Eighties, Hasbro rebooted their iconic G.I. Joe brand but this time, it wasn't about thrill seeking adventures capturing wild animals or going on explorations, instead it’s a Special Missions Force created to fight terrorism.
What many are aware of, is that before the G.I. Joe, Writer and artist Larry Hama came up with this idea for a comic called "Fury Force" a spinoff of Nick Fury agent of SHIELD. During the late Sixties, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby wanted to capitalize off the 007 films and made WW2 veteran Nicholas Fury the leader of an espionage outfit to battle its dangerous nemesis, Hydra. (The organization also bears reptilian motifs.)
Now fast forward 20 years later with "Fury Force" being nixed in favor of a Joe Comicbook as part of Hasbro marketing the toyline. Hama and Marvel regurgitated most of the concepts from SHIELD for the G.I. Joe comics which codified intrigue, a paramilitary aspect, and elements of Science Fiction. But wait, it gets even better! When Kirby worked for DC, he came up with another high conceptual comic titled "King Kobra” which was left on the backburner until Kirby left DC in 1976.
Know you know and knowing is half the battle!
Kirby, Paul, Magento and Titanium Man!
Who knew that legendary songwriter and cofounder of the Beatles and Wings, Paul McCartney was a fan of Jack Kirby, let alone a Comicbook reader? Well, its true and what’s even more interesting, was that Paul came up with a song based on two of Jack’s creations..I meant “Co-creations”!
During a World Tour with his signature band, post Beatles, Paul dedicated one of his tracks from the "Venus and Mars” album, "Magneto vs. Titanium-Man," to Kirby, who along with his family, was a special guest at the packed concert. "In the audience tonight, we have the creator of Magneto and lots of other comic characters, and I'd like to dedicate this song to Jack Kirby." You can read the full story here!
Happy 104th, Jack!
Special thanks to Kirbymuseum.org If you’re a fan of the King’s contribution, please donate to this Museum and continue to keep Kirby’s legacy alive!