The comic book community and fans and pros everywhere are celebrating the life, creations, and memory of one of its most important creators today. Jack Kirby, born on August 28th, 1917, would have been 100 years old on this day. Kirby died in 1992, but to say that his memory lives on might be the understatement of the century. Beyond the countless regular comic book series on release every week, characters and concepts that Kirby created or co-created are also enjoyed by millions of fans around the world as part of both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Expanded Universe.
Kirby’s combination of explosive creativity and high productivity over the course of many decades is a rare thing. He produced an almost unbelievable number of characters, concepts, and comic book stories from the 1940s through the 1980s. So many, in fact, that although you might be familiar with much of his work from the Marvel Silver Age (the era which brought us the Avengers, Fantastic Four, Incredible Hulk, Thor, and on and on) and his 1970s DC work (Darkseid and more), you might not be quite so familiar with his work from the Golden Age of comics.
The cover of Captain America Comics #1 is everywhere these days, the prototypical example of comic book nazi-punching, but there is much more to explore from Kirby’s 1940s output. There are westerns, horror, romance, and of course lots of superheroes. Many of the covers below were done in collaboration with Kirby’s longtime partner Joe Simon, a few are Kirby on his own or with various other inkers — and one of my favorites is not a drawing at all.
As I was selecting these covers, I spotted Kieron Gillen on Twitter noting, “When writing, I do have a ‘What Would Jack Kirby Do?’ as one of my guiding principles. The answer always being ‘Make up something new.'”, and I have to agree that the What Would Kirby Do principle is something that often crosses my mind as well.
Most images courtesy of the rather amazing Heritage Auctions archive.