Today would have been the 96th birthday of Jack “King” Kirby. 26 years ago, on the occasion of Jack’s 70th birthday, I was in the basement of the Hotel San Diego with about 600 of my fellow professionals as we waited in a dark room for Jack to appear. (San Diego Comic-Con used to be held later in the year.) I’ll never forget the excitement and love in the room. I was standing near the late Carol Kalish and she could barely restrain her excitement. We all knew that Roz (who was in on all the planning along with Mark Evanier, and I believe Mike Thibodeaux. Greg Theakston, and a few others) was somehow luring Jack to the basement of the Hotel San Diego. To this day I’m not quite sure what story she used, but I do remember, as they came down the elevator, Roz saying in a stage whisper “Oh, why is it so dark!” as they entered the room, and then there was a big “Surprise!” followed by laughter and cheers. There was dancing and Jack and Roz did a slow dance (I’ve seen some photo of Jack and Roz dancing on the internet, I like to think they are from that party.)I wish you could have all been there because it was so magical. I was Team Comics 4 Life after that—not because of the shitty part of the industry that did Jack wrong and denied his singular, burning genius—from jealousy and greed, I guess. No, I was Team Comics because you could get everyone in one room to celebrate the man who had nearly invented everything, and there would be only love and cheering and dancing.
Anyway, today would have been Jack’s 96th and many are celebrating. A few days ago Drew Friedman mentioned that his next book will be 75 Portraits of Comic Book Legends, a book I cannot wait to purchase, and he posted the above portrait of Kirby with this annotation:
Never has there been an artist who was treated as cruelly and unfairly as Jack Kirby was by the powers that be at Marvel Comics, a company that owed everything to his talent.
In that spirit, I urge you to donate to the Hero Initiative, which this year has set up a special Kirby Heroes event.
Hero has recruited over 40 artists to get up on the morning of August 28, 2013 to simply “Wake Up and Draw.” This event is a way for artists to celebrate the day by sending a “birthday card to Jack.” All drawings will be featured in a special gallery at ComicArtFans.com, and fans can follow the action through the day on Twitter searching hashtag: #WakeUpAndDraw. All drawings will be auctioned to benefit Hero Initiative at a later date!
Jillian Kirby, Jack’s granddaughter, has spearheaded the “Kirby4Heroes” campaign. Jillian has recruited a number of comic stores throughout the country to donate a percentage of their sales to Hero on this special day. Many retailers have decided to “celebrate” with their own ideas, including hosting a “birthday party” for Jack, auctioning off original artwork, as well as other activities; all proceeds will go to the Hero Initiative in the name of the Kirby4Heroes campaign. Activities will grow yearly as we approach Jack’s upcoming 100th birthday in 2017.
There’s also a Kirby tribute book being organized by Jesse James with a cover by Ryan Quackenbush and interiors by
Derrick “Dadicus” West
The comic will be debut on August 31 as part of the weeklong celebration of Jack Kirby’s birthday. Copies of the comic can be obtained for a minimum donation of five dollars with proceeds being donated to the Hero Initiative as part of the Kirby4Heroes campaign. For information on the campaign, visit the Kirby4Heroes Facebook page For information on the Hero Initiative, visit the Hero Initiative webpage. For information on the Jack Kirby Birthday Tribute comic, visit the Jesse James Comics Facebook page.
And here are some videos associated with all the above.
Elsewhere, Robert Streibel continues his examination of the Kirby legacy with an examination of the story notes he wrote on his art, which Stan Lee would use as a scripting guide.
The reason I picked the over-used cliché “behind the lines” for this series is probably going to be pretty obvious. Each month I’m going to take a look at Jack Kirby original pencils and examples of Kirby original art — images that reveal information not in the final newsprint publications. I may also take a look at some scans of Jack’s pencils from the 70s and compare those to the printed books. Mainly I want to focus on Jack’s famous margin notes from his 1960s work so we can get a glimpse into the Jack Kirby/Stan Lee collaboration.
MTV Geek celebrates Kirby’s Top 10 characters.
The new Intrapanel tumblr has some up close Kirby photos.
And of course, Tom Spurgeon’s yearly Kirby tributes are something else.
In looking at Tom’s art roundup, I realized that Kirby is one of those artists who turned in his best work in maturity—certainly the work of his 50s and 60s was more profound, pure and visionary than what had come before. In so many ways, Kirby is an inspiration to us all, and always will be.
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.