His artistry was, and remains, so innovative and influential in the comic book zeitgeist that the industry named awards after him. Heck, they even named a visual image after him: the affectionately known, “Kirby Krackle.”
How pervasive is writer and artist Jack Kirby in pop culture?
You can scan the litany of comic book characters that the man created or co-created and you’d be certain to find dozens that are your favourites. From the globally renowned Captain America, Avengers, Fantastic Four and X-Men series of characters, to the populace’s burgeoning awareness of Darkseid and Black Panther, to the more niche creations of Kamandi, Etrigan the Demon and Destroyer Duck. With Kirby, the list of great characters goes on and on and on.
Without him, pop culture and comic books wouldn’t be at all what we know it to be today.
This August marks the 100th birthday of Jack Kirby and we here at Biff Bam Pop! mean to celebrate that auspicious centennial with a plethora of written accolades all summer long!
This is your cordial invitation to our #Kirby100 party!
Born in New York City in 1917 to poor, working class immigrant parents, Jack Kirby liked to draw from an early age. Self-taught, his art led him to the comic book industry in his late teens from which there was no turning back. Switching regularly from publisher to publisher in order to find better work and maximize pay, the companies that Kirby helped to immortalize through the 1940’s-1970’s included Fox Feature Syndicate, Timely Comics (later Marvel Comics), National Comics Publications (later DC Comics), Harvey Comics, Eclipse Comics, and a whole host of others. The artist/writer found himself working alongside two of the other greatest creators to ever be immortalized in comic book lore: Joe Simon and Stan Lee, and it was with them that Kirby created his most recognized works of comic book pop culture.
There’s a great documentary on Jack Kirby, via The Comic Book Realm, available online. You can watch the first of five parts directly embedded below.
I was first introduced to the work of Jack Kirby via the Super Powers toy line from Kenner and the corresponding Super Powers mini series from DC Comics in the mid 1980’s. Jack Kirby’s designs and drawings were placed front and center as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the rest of the Justice League heroes battled cosmic adversaries in Kirby’s Fourth World set of heroes and villains, led by the all-powerful Darkseid.
At first, I admittedly wasn’t enamored by Kirby’s drawings. His characters weren’t realistic at all! They were blocky and seemed a little child-like in appearance. But they were also unlike anything else I had ever seen on the printed page and they had a unquestionably captivating pull. As a reader, I was drawn into action-packed panel after action-packed panel. And, of course, there was the awe-inspiring, quintessential “Kirby Krackle.”
The “Kirby Krackle” was a stylistic visual design made up of black dots that Jack Kirby employed in his drawn and inked comic book panels and pages that exuded a sense of energy from the background spaces of his drawings. It brought a sci-fi dynamism to his work alongside his abstracted and hyper-realized movement of the superhuman body. The sense of monumentality in his drawings created a larger-than-life visual full of power and authority on the printed page.
I had to learn to appreciate Kirby’s art. There was no one like him. There still isn’t.
From Captain America to Captain Victory; from Young Romance to Black Magic; from Ego the Living Planet to the Fourth World; from Bullseye: Western Scout to Fantastic Four; from Police Trap to Spirit World; from X-Men to Boy Commandos; from Marvel Comics to DC Comics…and everything in-between, Jack Kirby was, at some point in time, at the heart of it all.
Jack Kirby did it all.
And for the decades that encompassed the Golden Age, the Silver Age, and the Bronze Age of comic book publishing, Jack Kirby, the King, was all. As an artist and writer, he instructed, he nurtured, and, most importantly, he entertained.
This coming August 28, Jack Kirby would be 100 years young. Between now and then, Biff Bam Pop! editorial staff and site contributors (and Kirby fans, one and all) will cover a multitude of the man’s character creations, books and publications, artistry and influence. Look for articles and perhaps a few surprises from:
Andy Burns – @BiffBamPop
JP Fallavollita – @JPFallavollita
Richard Kirwin – @richiswherenow
Jason Shayer – @jasonshayer
Luke Sneyd – @sneydman
Glenn Walker – @monsura
This is #Kirby100 – a Biff Bam Pop! celebration of the King’s genius. And it’s happening all summer long!