Comic shops around the country have been abuzz celebrating Jack Kirby’s centennial this week. The undisputed King of Comics would have turned 100 this past Monday, August 28th. For a guy as influential as Walt Disney or George Lucas, it’s a shame how few people recognize his name or appreciate his contributions to comics, entertainment, and popular culture. Despite a #doodleforjack campaign, Google didn’t get it together in time to enlighten the masses with some Kirby crackle or dream machinery (we, did however, learn a little bit more about James Wong Howe on the 118th anniversary of the cinematographer’s birth).
But we know how important Kirby is, and each and every Idler, just like every one of you reading this blog, has his or her own favorite Kirby creation or a story about discovering his genius for the first time. And it’s up to us to spread the word. Take a friend to the comic shop this week, and act as a docent through the living museum of Kirby’s 2017 impact. Several one-shot specials are being released this month by DC and, this week from Mark Evanier and Scott Kolins, is the Darkseid Special. Be sure to point out the fact that the Justice League movie coming out in a few months looks to feature one of Jack’s most inventive concepts, as well as the Lord of Apokolips, one of the most insidious villains in comics. This oversized special also has a new OMAC story, and two classic Kirby reprints. And for more Fourth World fun, you could also pass along the new Black Racer and Shilo Norman special, by Reginald Hudlin and Ryan Benjamin, which also contains some great Kirby originals.
Evanier’s story is more about a trio of escapees who break out of Granny Goodness’s orphanage than it is about Darkseid himself, but readers still get a heavy dose of Parademonic combat, lurking machinations courtesy of DeSaad, and the kind of death-dealing despotism made famous by the titular tyrant. And Kolins’s art pays beautiful tribute to Kirby’s style, both in the explosive action sequences and the stark, intricate landscapes.
Speaking of Evanier, his biography on Jack, Kirby: King of Comics, got a special anniversary edition release earlier this month. It’s not just one of my favorite books on comics history, but one of my favorite books, period. It has gorgeous reproductions of Kirby art, including sketches and breakdowns that really get to the heart of what makes his iconic style so revolutionary. The biographical portion is just as enlightening, covering the full scope of Jack’s story, from romance and western comics, through the invention of the modern superhero.
The majority of Kirby’s significance, unarguably, comes from his work with Marvel. A survey of the company’s movies and television series over the last decade point right back to Jack. He gave us the X-Men and the Avengers. He co-created The Hulk, Iron Man, and Thor. The Inhumans, first breathed into life in the pages of his Fantastic Four, are coming to ABC this fall, kicking off with an IMAX premiere this weekend. And that barely scratches the surface. One of his finest characters, Black Panther, is set to star in an upcoming blockbuster and currently thrives in one of the best superhero books on the shelf. Black Panther #17, by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Chris Sprouse, is new on shelves today. And one of his more lesser-known characters, Devil Dinosaur, lives on in one of Marvel’s most underappreciated titles. Check out Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #22 by Brandon Montclare and Natacha Bustos, also out this week.
Perhaps Kirby’s most recognizable character, created with Joe Simon during the 40’s, is Captain America. The square-jawed bastion of justice started off as little more than WWII propaganda, but after being re-introduced to the Marvel universe in the 60’s, Cap helped inform and influence the modern superhero, awkwardly at first, trying to find his bearings in a Marvelous world of powerful humans with powerfully human flaws. It was a character Kirby himself returned to, in the 70’s, when Marvel gave him free rein on the title. Kirby in turn gave us some of the most wonderfully weird and imaginative comic book stories of his career. And this week, Captain America is the principal villain in the conclusion of Nick Spencer’s politically charged epic, Secret Empire #10. As expected, we see the return of the “true” Steve Rogers, but we also get nice insight into The Vanishing Point, featured in the Generations one-shots, setting the stage for this fall’s Legacy.
When you’re not reading Kirby-inspired comics, or watching movies or TV shows based on his creations, take a few minutes to enjoy listening to the impact he’s had on the industry’s professionals. Marvel’s weekly podcast, This Week in Marvel, has been running a series of specials this week under the umbrella “This Week in Kirby.” Ben Morse has collected some great interviews with people like Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada and comics historian Peter Sanderson. One of my favorite talks in the series is with executive editor Tom Brevoort, wherein the two run the gamut from Jack’s pre-superhero work through his brilliant work at DC, to his triumphant return to Marvel, which Ben dubs “Kirby’s Universe.”