"Long Live the King!"

"And I was thinkin'
How the world should have cried
On the day Jack Kirby died"

-Lyrics from the song, "Melt" courtesy of Monster Magnet

I can recall that day early February, 30 years ago when a friend I grew up with, told me that Jack "King" Kirby the architect of the Marvel Universe, had made the transition at the age of 76 and it’s kinda ironic how his age during the time of death matched the later year of the bicentennial (1776) where his greatest co creation Captain America was often affiliated with America's celebratory event.

Jack was one of the most, if not the most visionary comic artists, who would conjure up these bizarre yet ultra-modern concepts that complemented his amazing pencil work. There was hardly a dull uninspired panel when gazing up his exposition of storytelling while most would say how his aesthetics would leap from the pages, it's the ingenious methods and innovative worldbuilding that made me a fan of Kirby even since I was a kid.

So, one can imagine the shock I felt when hearing the news back then. A few days later my friends and I attended the NYC Comic Con which was my very first experience regarding the geek mecca. There I had brief conversations with Walt Simonson, and Jonathan Demme, who the latter was such an approachable celebrity and was very reciprocal when I gave him props for Silence of the Lambs.

Then there was this tiny booth, with an easel and in its place, was a canvas with the caricature of Jack Kirby with roses placed underneath. Not gonna lie, I practically choked because one of my "heroes" is gone. Kirby had done so much within his career yet never got enough accolades or compensation for his brilliant creations from the Fantastic Four to even Adam Warlock. Those for the most part, were his ideas and not necessarily Stan Lee who would often gloat while taking (sole) credit at times.  Lee even claimed that it was he who created The Black Panther when in fact it was Kirby. 

What’s so great about the Black Panther was that the character did not adhere to silly stereotypes, he was richer than Bruce Wayne, had the fighting prowess of Batman and Captain America, but is a scientific rival to the likes of Reed Richards. To think how Black Panther was released during the turbulent 60’s demonstrated how progressive both Kirby and Lee were who defined themselves as, "liberal Jews."

Yet, there’s that constant upbringing of how most artists and writers within the comic book industry, were not compensated for their contributions especially regarding movie, television and merchandising profits. Some are just given a $5000 check with a “Thank You” note for the use of their characters and concepts that made billions of dollars at the box office.
And once again, this does not include the merchandising! The work for hire “ethic” where artists agree to receive compensation for drawing and storyboarding comic panels and waiving their rights regarding monetary residuals from media projects that also include videogames is not only a shady business practice but very exploitative! I would compare it to “White Collar Sweatshops” where exploited talent had occurred long before Jack Kirby’s falling out with Marvel.

Look at what happened to both Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who signed away their rights to royalties for $65 in 1938. “Sixty-Five fucking dollars”! Superman alone is worth over 65 billion when you take in all the films, comics, videogames, television series, action figures and clothing! And don't get me started on that scumbag Bob Kane and what he had done to Bill Finger. Jack in my opinion, deserved a huge cut of royalties regardless of contractual obligations which are now archaic in modern times. While Stan Lee is often lionized as the founder of Marvel, he is still vilified for being complicit.

But rant aside, Kirby was an unstoppable force, no matter how many of his books were canceled after a limited run, he never wavered yet kept on pushing new ideas, those brilliant splash pages, characters and concepts even the obscure ones, that are now mainstays in popular culture. 

Marvel at the time, only gave lip service when looking back at Jack's legacy, but thanks to efforts like Rob Liefeld and the artists of Image comics along with his family, and most dedicated fans, Kirby has received 10 times the acknowledgement and long overdue. I'm gonna keep it a buck here, without Jack Kirby, Marvel as we know it, would not exist!

(Says "Captain Obvious")

Long live the King!


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