By Gabriel Neeb
Over the past few years, IDW has earned praise for its “Artist’s Editions” line of comic art that collects reprints of full size art pages of classic comic book art. Artists whose work has been collected on these editions include Wally Wood, Gene Colan, Walt Simonson, and Jack Kirby.
As it is famed creator Jack Kirby’s 100th Birthday, IDW held a panel to celebrate the life and work of a man who helped create many of the most famous comic characters in history.
To emphasis the importance of Kirby throughout the panel, IDW played a slides how of images of original black and white Kirby art, much of which comprises the Artists Editions from IDW. Story pages from Fantastic Four, The New Gods, the Forever People, Kamandi, and so many others underscored the stories the panelists would tell about Jack Kirby.
IDW president and panel moderator, Greg Goldstein has estimated the it would cost $24,180,050.77 to buy every featured page, IF the owners were willing to sell.
The panel consisted of Greg Goldstein, Kevin Eastman (co-creator of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), Scott Dunbier (IDW special projects editor) and Eisner Hall of Fame inductee, Walt Simonson (Thor artist).
Kevin Eastman began the panel by talking about his copy of Kamandi #1. Eastman discovered Kamandi when he was very young and was blown away by how it took the ideas of PLANET OF THE APES, and went crazy with them. It inspired him to start drawing, even though he admits his early stuff was mostly tracing Kirby works. Inevitably, he told his parents he wanted to be Jack Kirby when he grew up, and succeeded in mortifying them with the prospect that their son would never leave their basement.
Eastman was proud to state that he still had that copy if Kamandi and that it’s in terrible shape. He even has it framed in his studio.
Goldstein then asked if there were any fan with copies of “well loved” comics. More than a few hands went up [mine is SGT ROCK Special #21, it has a great Sam Glanzman USS Steven story in it].
Scott Dunbier then told one of his favorite Jack Kirby stories. When Dunbier was 15, he moved from New York to Woodland Hills, California. Not having many friends, he threw himself into comics and was aided by the local comic store, Fantasy Castle. As he was buying a stack of Kirby comics, the clerk told him that Kirby lived in the area (Thousand Oaks) and had a publicly listed telephone number.
Dunbier found the number and called. Jack Kirby answered and they had a 20 minute conversation which ended with Kirby inviting young Scott to lunch at his house. Dunbier convinced his mother to drive him to Thousand Oaks and Kirby received him, and his large sacks of comics, all of which got signed. After a lunch of tuna fish sandwiches, Scott’s life had changed.
Kirby then gave Scott a portfolio of New Gods art and a sketch of Captain America.
But this was not the extraordinary thing. That was Scott’s later realization that this was not a unique story. As he got visibly choked up, Scott said that he’s heard many such stories about Jack Kirby from other comics professionals.
At this point, Walt Simonson arrived at the panel and was asked by Goldstein about how he discovered Kirby’s art. Simonson had two answers, the first was at an Iowa drugstore he was in to escape the heat where he discovered an old Marvel monster story and the second was when he was in college, where he really got into the art of Thor in Journey into Mystery, specifically #113. He then found #120 and #121. He liked them and tried to find the next issue, but resorted to writing Marvel direct.
Marvel responded with a hand written note and the issue. Simonson was a Marvel maniac from then on.
Kevin Eastman had to leave in the middle of the panel, but first he told how he met Kirby professionally at the 1985 San Diego Comic Con… and then the 1986 convention where he and Peter Laird were invited to Kirby’s home, which they didn’t really believe until 1986, where they finally took the tour and got to see The Desk Kirby was famed for drawing at.
Eastman stated, “Peter and I stood on the shoulders of a giant,” before he left the panel.
Scott then told a story about how a couple of young college guys met Kirby at the San Diego Comic Con when it was still at the Civic Center.
They met Kirby in a hall and started talking to him when, Bob Kane (creator of Batman) walked by and seemed to push they two men aside to talk to Kirby, who then sidestepped and said to Kane, “Bob, I want you to meet my new friends…” before promising to meet up with Kane later.
Goldstein finished up the panel by discussing how Kirby has influenced the Marvel moview franchise. Walt Simonson, who spent a few days on the set of the first Thor movie, was impress by a number of things: how Tom Hiddleston (Loki) had studied the fighting style of LokI for a few seconds of screen time, the general good nature of the set established by director Kenneth Branaugh, and the very comic influenced relationship Chris Hemsworth (Thor) had with Hiddleston in their parts.
Simonson continued by focusing on Thor villain the Destroyer, and how although Kirby often revised a character’s design panel to panel and issue to issue, the character was always recognizeable. Kirby, “reinvented stuff in every panel”
Happy Birthday, Jack.