The notorious 1990 Comics Journal interview with Jack Kirby is now online in its entirety, and you can see what made it notorious. The 71-year-old Kirby was not shy about asserting his place in the creation of comics’ best known characters and at the expense of his collaborators.
KIRBY: Yeah, sometimes he did. Stan was a very rigid type. At least, he is to me. That’s how I sized him up. He’s a very rigid type, and he gets what he wants when the advantage is his. He’s the kind of a guy who will play the advantages. When the advantage isn’t his at all, he’ll lose. He’ll lose with any creative guy. And I could never see Stan Lee as being creative. The only thing he ever knew was he’d say this word “Excelsior!”
While this might seem a bit heavy, you have to remember where Kirby was coming from: For nearly 50 years, he’d been a never ending fountain of concepts and characters that power the comics industry to this day, but he never got the remuneration or credit that he saw other people getting, and his original art had been stolen — to be sold on the open market. It would have angered anyone.
As I look around at the way that comics are part of pop culture now, and comics creators are regularly seen on cable TV and at movie premieres, I invariably think, “I wish Jack had made it this far.” Kirby died in 1994, long before comics were anything more than a renegade medium, still treated with suspicion. Kirby would not have been the least bit surprised at the respect now afforded his chosen medium — he believed in it already and would have basked in the spotlight of adoration that — one likes to think — would have inevitably been cast on him.
Think of what he’d have to say about the THOR movie, for instance. Here’s Kirby’s comments in the 1990 interview:
GROTH: Some of the Asgardian landscapes, it seems like you must have taken great joy in…
KIRBY: I did. I took a great joy with inventing new kinds of mechanisms. I invented new kinds of machines. I’ve been a student of science fiction for a long, long time, and I can tell you that I’m very well-versed in science fact and science fiction. I’m 71 years old, and so I’ve seen all this new conception. I used to read the first science fiction books, and I began to learn about the universe myself and take it seriously. I know the names of the stars. I know how near or far the heavenly bodies are from our own planet. I know our own place in the universe. I can feel the vastness of it inside myself. I began to realize with each passing fact what a wonderful and awesome place the universe is, and that helped me in comics because I was looking for the awesome. I found it in Thor. I found it in Galactus.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.