Kirby, Jack 1917-1994
KIRBY, Jack 1917-1994
Born Jacob Kurtzberg, August 28, 1917, in New York, NY; died of heart failure, February 6, 1994, in Thousand Oaks, CA; son of Benjamin (a tailor) and Rosemary (a homemaker) Kurtzberg; married; wife's name, Rosalind; children: Susan, Barbara, Lisa, Neal.
Max Fleischer Studio, New York, NY, in-betweener illustrator for animated cartoons, including "Betty Boop" and "Popeye," 1935-36; Lincoln Newspaper Syndicate, New York, NY, creator of cartoons and comic strips, including "Black Buccaneer" and "Socko the Seadog," 1936-38; Eisner-Iger Studio, creator of cartoons and comic strips, 1939; formed partnership with Joe Simon, as illustrators for Fox Features Syndicate, creators of "Captain America" comics, creators of comics for Timely/Marvel Comics, National Comics, Harvey Comics, Hillman Comics, Crestwood/Prize Comics, and Headline Comics, 1939-54; founder, with Simon, of Mainline Comics, 1954-56; collaborated with Dick, Dave, and Wally Wood on "Skymasters" comic strip, 1957; created "Challengers of the Unknown" comic strip for National Comics, 1958; assisted former partner Simon in creating "The Fly" and other comics, 1958-59; penciler for "Sky Masters of the Space Force" comic strip, 1958-61; Marvel Comics, teamed with writer-editor Stan Lee to create "Fantastic Four," "Incredible Hulk," "X-Men," "Mighty Thor," "Iron Man," "Avengers," "Journey into Mystery," new "Captain America" comic-book series, and others, as part of the "Marvel Universe," 1959-69; DC Comics, creator of "Fourth World," "Forever People," "New Gods," and "Kamandi" comic books, 1970-74; Marvel Comics, 1975-78; animator and creator of character designs for television cartoon series, including Fantastic Four and Thundarr the Barbarian, 1978-87; Pacific Comics, creator of "Captain Victory" and "Silver Star" comic-book series, 1981; worked for various comic book companies, 1981-85; DC Comics, staff member, 1985-86; retired, 1986-92; Topps Comics, created "Captain Glory," "Night Glider," and "Satan's Six" comic-book series, 1992-94. Self-published "Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers" comic-book series, 1970s. Military service: U.S. Army, 1943-45, served in England and in France, served as infantry scout in Allied invasion of Normandy on D-Day; awarded Combat Infantry Badge, European/African/Middle Eastern Theater ribbon, Bronze Battle Star.
Academy of Comic Art awards, Hall of Fame awards, Shazam awards, many others.
(With Stan Lee) The Mighty Thor, Lancer Books (New York, NY), 1966.
(With Joe Simon) Boy Commandos, National Periodical (New York, NY), 1973.
The Silver Surfer (originally published in comic-book format), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1978.
The Hunger Dogs (originally published in comic-book format), DC Comics (New York, NY), 1985.
(With Stan Lee) Marvel Masterworks Presents The Fantastic Four (originally published in comic-book format), Marvel Comics (New York, NY), 1987–92.
(With Stan Lee) Marvel Masterworks Presents the X-Men (originally published in comic-book format), Marvel Comics (New York, NY), 1987–93.
(With Joe Simon) Marvel Presents Fighting American (originally published in comic-book format), arvel Entertainment Group (New York, NY), 1989.
(With Stan Lee) Marvel Masterworks Presents Thor (originally published in comic-book format), Marvel Comics (New York, NY), 1991.
(With Stan Lee and Joe Sinnott) The First Starting Saga of the Silver Surfer: The Coming of Galactus! (originally published in comic-book format in "Fantastic Four" series), Marvel Comics (New York, NY), 1992.
(With Stan Lee) The Uncanny X-Men Masterworks (originally published in comic-book format), Marvel Comics Groups (New York, NY) 1993—.
Jack Kirby's Fourth World Gallery, (originally published in comic-book format)DC Comics (New York, NY), 1996.
Jack Kirby's Mister Miracle (originally published in comic-book format), DC Comics (New York, NY), 1998.
Jack Kirby's New Gods (originally published in comic-book format), DC Comics (New York, NY), 1998.
Jack Kirby's The Forever People (originally published in comic-book format), DC Comics (New York, NY), 1999.
(With Dave Wood and others) Challengers of the Unknown Archive, Volume 1 (originally published in comic-book format), DC Comics (New York, NY), 2003.
Numerous comic book characters created or co-created by Kirby have been adapted for television and film, including The Incredible Hulk (television series, 1966, 1977, 1978, 1982, 1996; film, 2003), Captain America (television series, 1966, 1979; film, 1944, 1991), The Silver Surfer (television series, 1998), Avengers (television series, 1999), X-Men (television series, 1992, 2000; film, 2000, 2003), Fantastic Four (television series, 1994; film, 2004), and Iron Man (film, in production, c. 2005). Kirby's comic-book characters have been featured in works by others, including Captain America, the Movie!: The Living Legend of World War II Faces His Greatest Foe … the Red Skull, adapted by Stan Lee et al., Marvel Comics (New York, NY), 1992; Batman & Captain America, by John Byrne and Patricia Mulvihill, DC Comics (New York, NY), 1996.
American comic-book artist and writer Jack Kirby is widely known as creator or co-creator of such characters as the Incredible Hulk, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, and Captain America, many of which are household names. Considered the king of American comics, Kirby's work has inspired countless comic-book artists who have followed him. Kirby died of heart failure in 1994, but his work lives on in films and television series and also in collectors' editions.
Kirby, born Jacob Kurtzberg, was the son of Austrian-Jewish parents who immigrated to New York City in the early 1900s. He grew up poor in the city's Lower East Side, where street fights among the large immigrant population were common. These early brawls and tough characters inspired some of Kirby's later comics characters, drawn with square jaws and big fists. Young Kirby began working early in life to help support the family, delivering newspapers and running errands for reporters. He found refuge in the Boys' Brotherhood Republic, drawing cartoons for the club's newspaper. Kirby had hopes of developing his talent at the Pratt Institute, but the Great Depression and his father's job loss forced him to go to work instead.
In 1935 he began working as an in-betweener, animating "Popeye" and "Betty Boop" cartoons at the Max Fleischer Studio. Kirby's desire to create his own cartoons was strong, however, and after two years he found work at the Lincoln News Syndicate, where he began drawing several original features. After trying out a few pen names, he decided to sign his work "Jack Kirby," based on the comic-strip character Rip Kirby.
As World War II loomed, Kirby teamed with freelance writer and artist Joe Simon to create the "Captain America Adventures" comic-book series among others. The hero of "Captain America" was the young Steve Rogers, who, rejected by the U.S. Army, volunteers for a secret government experiment, in which a serum turns him into the superhero Captain America, enemy of the Nazi German leader Adolf Hitler and of all evil. "Captain America" competed with DC Comics' "Superman," also a runaway best-seller of the era. Kirby and Simon also collaborated on comic-book series for younger readers, such as "Boy Commandos," "Newsboy Legion," and "Sandman."
Kirby developed a new way of leading the reader's eye into and through the story, using the layout of panels, background, and perspective changes to indicate which panel to read next. This eliminated the old style of drawing arrows from frame to frame to keep readers on track. He also introduced the full-page and double-page comic spread. His panels burst with visual action; popping fists; and fluid, muscle-bound superheroes. Kirby attributed his narrative skill to the stories told by his parents and other European immigrants and to his love of the movies as a boy. He also said he got many of his ideas for characters from childhood friends and from current events and figures. He is known for the touch of humanity he added to his characters, both good and evil.
After the United States entered the war, Kirby was drafted in 1943 and sent to England. He was later assigned as a scout in the infantry because he could speak fluent German and sketch rapidly. He took part in the D-Day invasion of Normandy and was awarded a Bronze Battle Star and a Combat Infantry Badge. His wartime experiences influenced his concept of heroism and found their way into his future creations, including "Foxhole" and "Sergeant Fury." Kirby and Simon resumed their collaboration after the war, striking a deal with Crestwood/Prize Comics for a fifty percent share in a line of romance comics they created. The two soon employed a studio of artists to create series ranging from romance to mystery, from "Young Love" to "Black Magic." After a brief period of running their own publishing company, Mainline Comics, in the mid-1950s, Kirby and Simon ended their partnership, and Kirby again worked for other publishers.
At the same time, however, Kirby formed a new partnership with writer-editor Stan Lee at Marvel Comics, and the two created the successful "Fantastic Four" comic-book series in the early 1960s. The story follows four people who develop superpowers after being exposed to radiation on a trip to the moon. The reluctant heroes quickly became popular with teens of the 1960s counterculture. More comic-book heroes were to follow in this extremely productive period of Kirby's career. He and Lee collaborated on such creations as the Incredible Hulk, the X-Men, Thor, Iron Man, and a prototype for Spider Man. Kirby did both the penciling of illustrations and a portion of the writing. However, Kirby soon began to resent what he felt was an inadequate share of credit and profits from his work, so he accepted an offer from DC Comics and split from his partnership with Lee.
Kirby created the "Fourth World" saga at DC Comics in the early 1970s. It encompassed the "New Gods," "Mister Miracle," and "Forever People" series. "New Gods" includes a pantheon of characters inhabiting two strange worlds, New Genesis and Apokolips, a kind of heaven and hell. "Mister Miracle" is about an upbeat escape artist. The saga was cancelled at the halfway point and remains uncompleted. Kirby also created "The Silver Surfer" using one of his "Fantastic Four" characters, in 1978.
During the 1980s, Kirby worked in television, creating characters for animated cartoons. He briefly went back to comic books before his death, continuing to illustrate until the last weeks of his life. During his more-than-fifty-year career, Kirby worked on every type of comic book and was responsible for some of the most successful characters ever created. His figures were blocky but powerful, and his use of motion-picture techniques such as still-frame storytelling in the creation of his style has influenced countless other illustrators in the comics industry. Kirby was a prolific and fast illustrator, often completing three or more pages a day. He drew some 20,000 pages of published comic-book and cartoon art over the span of his career, along with 1,385 comic book covers, 2,600 stories, and 600 characters.
In an obituary for Kirby for the Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, Leonard Pitts, Jr., quoted comic-book artist Frank Miller as saying, "You mark a great in any field by the fact that everything before them seems outdated when they show up and everything after them reflects their influence. Kirby was one of a kind, because he had this effect on the field decade after decade for 50 years."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Volume 49, Gale Group (Detroit, MI), 2003.
Clute, John, and Peter Nicholls, editors, Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1993.
George, Milo, editor, Jack Kirby, Fantagraphics Books (Seattle, WA), 2002.
Kraft, David Anthony, Captain America: The Secret Story of Marvel's Star-spangled Super Hero, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1981.
Kraft, David Anthony, The Fantastic Four: The Secret Story of Marvel's Cosmic Quartet, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1981.
Kraft, David Anthony, The Incredible Hulk: The Secret Story of Marvel's Gamma-Powered Goliath, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1981.
St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, five volumes, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2000.
Theakston, Greg, The Complete Jack Kirby, Pure Imagination Publishing (New York, NY), 1997.
World Encyclopedia of Comics, 1976.
Wyman, Ray, Jr. The Art of Jack Kirby, Blue Rose Press, 1994.
Denver Business Journal, August 14, 1998, Paula Aven, "Keeping a Legend Alive: Comic Artist's Nephew Protects Kirby Estate," p. A1.
Entertainment Weekly, March 4, 1994, Steve Daly, review of The Art of Jack Kirby, p. 60.
Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, January 12, 1994, Valerie Takahama, "Work of Comic-Book Pioneer Jack Kirby Has Colored Genre like No Other."
People, January 26, 1981, "Jack Kirby," p. 35.
Amused in Review Web site,http://www.webamused.com/ (October 21, 1998), review of Mister Miracle.
Lambiek.net,http://www.lambiek.net/ (August 4, 2003), "Jack Kirby."
POV.com,http://povonline.com/ (August 12, 2003), Mark Evanier, "Jack Kirby," "The Jack FAQ," "Jack Kirby's Fourth World."
Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, February 15, 1994.
Los Angeles Times, February 8, 1994, p. A3.
Time, February 21, 1994, p. 23.
Times, March 18, 1994, p. 21.*