Considering the impact he had on the course of American superhero comics, it’s no surprise that Jack “King” Kirby has been the subject of numerous biographies and examinations over the years. Now the story of Kirby’s contributions to comics history – and his fight for recognition after-the-fact – will be recounted as an audio drama in King Kirby, a new podcast created by Fred Van Lente and Crystal Skillman and produced in association with the Broadway Podcast Network.
The podcast, which premieres today, is adapted from Van Lente and Skillman’s 2016 play of the same name, and stars Steven Rattazzi, who, among other roles, played Dr. Orpheus on The Venture Bros, as Kirby. Actors Amy Lee Pearsall, Joseph Mathers, Timothy McCown Reynolds, and Nat Cassidy also star as, respectively, Roz Kirby, Joe Simon, Martin Goodman, and Stan Lee. Composer Bobby Cronin provides the original music for the drama.
Here’s how the podcast announcement describes King Kirby:
Heroes aren’t born, they’re made. Born in the Lower East Side slums, a veteran of the battlefields of France, Jack Kirby co-created CAPTAIN AMERICA, THE AVENGERS, THE X-MEN, IRON MAN, THOR, and many other legendary characters. But Kirby had his biggest fight after his comic books became an international sensation: He had to fight for his name, and the recognition he was denied.
From the Jewish ghetto of New York’s Lower East Side to the battlefields of France to the Senate hearings of the 1950s, King Kirby is the heartbreaking yet inspirational story about a man who pours his quintessentially Twentieth Century life into his comics, only to make the fateful mistake that sends him into obscurity while his creations become known to every person on Earth.
Van Lente is best known in comic book circles as the writer of such comics as The Incredible Hercules (with co-writer Greg Pak), Action Philosophers, and The Comic Book History of Comics, among many others. Skillman is a playwright whose work includes the book for a stage adaptation of the animated film Mary and Max (which also featured music by Bobby Cronin), as well as original plays including Open, Cut, Rain and Zoe Save the World, and more. The husband-and-wife duo have also previously collaborated on a Webtoons series, Eat Fighter, illustrated by Fernando Pinto.
Kirby’s story is certainly a fascinating one, and even with movies and TV shows based on Kirby co-creations, he’s still a creator who hasn’t received the level of recognition outside of the comics community that others have. Hopefully this podcast will bring his story to a wider audience and help to rectify that situation. The four-part King Kirby podcast premieres today on all major podcasting platforms.
Header art by Ryan Dunlavey, from the cover to the King Kirby play.