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Jack Kirby at 100


I’m not sure when I first “discovered” Jack Kirby.

I know I was not consciously aware of him as an individual, nor of his significance, but my first “exposure” to him was probably the TMNT storybook The Magic Crystal (itself based directly on the Donatello 1-issue “Micro Series” from Mirage).

donatello_microseries_covers

In that issue, Donatello meets this artist who has a magic crystal, and whatever he draws comes to life, but then disappears. The two wind up in the crystal’s dimension with all the disappeared drawings, and have a bit of an adventure. The guy’s name is simply “Kirby,” here, and at the time I’d had no idea it was referencing any real-life guy named Jack Kirby.

freedom_force_gameWhen Kirby passed in 1994, one of the X-Men: the Animated Series episodes had a ‘dedication’ to him, that I do recall noticing, though I hadn’t really known who he was. Whether I looked into who he was then or not, I’m not sure…but I imagine there were articles and such about him, at least some sort of reference in Wizard Magazine, such that I got an idea of who he was and his early Marvel work and all that.

Skip on just past the ’90s, and there was a game–Freedom Force–that I’d gotten for the computer. It was a fun game at the time–especially once I discovered mods and such online–but the game itself was heavily Kirby-influenced…something I did notice at the time.

savage_dragon_0076More recently, I’d noticed or mentally connected Erik Larsen‘s Savage Dragon stuff to him, Larsen having a Kirby-esque style at points, and what seems to me a definite visual influence. Said influence was “confirmed” for me, reading Larsen‘s intro to the Savage Dragon: This Savage World collected edition.

And of course, I’ve noticed stuff over the years with art that’s recognizably Kirby, as well as Kirby-inspired. I may not be able to define it well to someone not familiar with the concept, but I “get” references such as “Kirby Krackle” and such.

I have no particular or huge, singular interest in his work…but his work is such that I definitely respect it, its place in comics history, and the impact that he had ON comics through his art (to say nothing of what I’ve heard about his speed!).

greatest_superman_stories_ever_toldThinking about it in all this typing, I’ve thought of a couple of other “early encounters” I had with Kirby stuff.  The first was a Forever People story reprinted in The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told. This was my first-ever collected edition (and I still have it to this day!). I recall really not caring for that story…but paging back through it, I see where its presence certainly means I was “exposed” to Kirby‘s art as early as December 1989, having received this book as a Christmas present that year.

At the time, I had zero other context for Jack Kirby being anyone special, or of the New Gods being a “thing,” barely would have known what a “Darkseid” was, etc. This story from Forever People #1 was my introduction to all that, it would seem, outside of whether or not I’d seen Superman #2 at that point or not until a bit later.

forever_people_from_greatest_superman_stories

That huge mane of red hair left an impression on me, though, making Big Bear probably the most recognizable of these characters to me for awhile.

at_earths_end

Then there was Kamandi: At Earth’s End, which caught my attention shortly after Superman’s return in 1993, due to the aged version of the character showing up in that series. I’m not sure to this day if I’ve actually read the whole of this Kamandi mini-series, but I’m pretty sure I did read the Superman: At Earth’s End one-shot sometime in the last 15 or so years. While neither of these was a Jack Kirby piece…they involved one of the characters he is strongly noted for on the DC end of things.

And of course, there’s the Newsboy Legion, the Guardian, and Cadmus–things that were pretty integral to early-’90s Superman comics, though they were more that I didn’t consciously know or associate with being “Kirby creations” and such.

While I’m no Kirby scholar, nor any particular fan (I don’t dislike his stuff, but I don’t singularly seek it out), I recognize (maybe even more having gathered some of my thoughts and such here!) that his work has been a huge influencer beyond anything I could simply try to note in a post here.

In both the Donatello issue and an issue I recently read of The Savage Dragon, I found pieces by Peter Laird and Erik Larsen about the man, that seem appropriate to share below. Laird‘s piece is from 1986 while he was still alive; Larsen‘s is from just after Kirby‘s passing. Both put things far better than I could, and show some of the influence he had just on these creators and their properties..!


kirby_tribute_peter_laird_donatello_0001

–(Donatello one-issue “Micro-Series” #1)


kirby_tribute_erik_larsen_savage_dragon_0008_large

(The Savage Dragon #8)


Several fellow bloggers’ posts on Jack Kirby today:

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One Response

  1. […] Reviews by Walt Jack Kirby at 100 Between the Pages The Top 10 Reasons Jack Kirby is the King of Comics Coffee and Comics Podcast […]

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