This week would have marked the 100th birthday of comic book icon Jack Kirby. For those not as familiar with the history of comics, Kirby was not only an artist, writer and editor, but he created some of the most well-known characters and styles that are still seen in comics today. His first, and biggest, character creation (working with artist Joe Simon) was in 1940: Captain America. Over his career he wrote, drew and/or created dozens of heroes and worked for Marvel and DC, as well as doing freelance work. He was a large part of what Stan Lee dubbed “the Marvel method” of creating comics in a particular style.
Kirby was a major force in the Silver Age of comics (approximately the 1960s). Writing everything from romance comics to Westerns to crime comics, his biggest influence was felt in supernatural/fantasy comics like Amazing Adventures, Strange Tales and Tales to Astonish. In those books and more, he wrote stories about Groot and Fin Fang Foom, among others. Working for Marvel in the 60s, he collaborated with Stan Lee to create iconic characters like The Fantastic Four, Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, the original X-Men, Doctor Doom, Magneto, the Inhumans and Black Panther. It’s obvious that the comic book world (and the Marvel cinematic universe) would not be what it is today without Jack Kirby.
In the 1970s, Kirby bounced from Marvel to DC (where he produce New Gods, Mister Miracle, The Forever People and, working with Simon one last time, a new version of the Sandman), then back to Marvel and over to Hanna-Barbera. He provided designs for Thundarr the Barbarian and other animated shows, and worked on The New Fantastic Four animated series. In the 80s, he moved to independent publishers and freelancing, allowing him to retain rights to his creations and work.
Though Kirby died in 1994, his legacy lives on. He has inspired countless artists and writers, even those not in the comics industry. Movies based on characters he helped create have earned more than $3 billion. Awards voted on by comic book professionals were established in his name, as was a comics hall of fame. There’s so much more that could be said about him, but if you want to read up (outside of exploring his comics), Kirby: King of Comics has just been re-released to celebrate his 100th.