On August 28th, 1917, Jacob Kurtzberg was born in Manhattan. He was born to a pair of Austrian Jewish immigrants. He took to drawing quickly, starting in comic strips in 1936, and, in 1940, he teamed up with Joe Simon to create Captain America and Bucky Barnes.
It’s weird to think that a man born a 100 years ago in Manhattan could have such an effect on my life. He actually died a year before I was born. In a way, the man actually shaped my life as well as the lives of innumerable others. He designed imaginative and unique characters that most people couldn’t have even fathomed had he not helped create them.
The Fantastic Four, the X-Men, the Avengers, the Incredible Hulk, Black Panther, the Silver Surfer, Doctor Doom, the Red Skull, the New Gods, the Challengers of the Unknown, Etrigan the Demon, OMAC, Kamandi, and so many more were in-part crafted by Jack Kirby’s hands.
Hell, he even created Power Man and Fixer, two villains who would adopt the names Atlas and Techno and found the Thunderbolts under Baron Zemo.
So, what does this man mean to me? In a way, he means everything. He created worlds where people could take up a shield to become a sentinel of liberty, scientist explorers could go to space and come back with fantastic abilities, men could find walking sticks that give them mighty powers, and a single person could become a one-man-army-corps. He created a style and blazed a trail that men and women would follow for decades after, He left footprints that I myself hope to follow someday.
Jack Kirby means hope and compassion. He told stories of great heroism and danger. People fight for others, even if they don’t know them. They take up a colorful persona and stand for things beyond themselves.
He himself came out of poverty before creating these things. Even when he went on to work on Captain America, he and Joe Simon received death threats from Nazi-sympathizers in the U.S. This did not deter them, and Captain America enjoyed a decently long series that solidified him forever in the American conscience, allowing for him to later be revived by Marvel Comics.
The king’s and its legacies have become the focal point of my life. I spend my time and make money off of writing about comics, many of which star characters he created. I critique the work and determine if it lives up to his legacy. And, as I said, I hope to one day write comics of my own, and, if those comics were about characters he created like Captain America, Bucky Barnes, the Fantastic Four, Black Panther, or the Demon, it would be a dream come true for me.
I would never be able to pay back the man or his family for what he has done for me and so many others just by telling the stories he wanted to tell. He helped shape the world as I see it, and there’s nothing else I can say for it other than:
Happy 100th Birthday Jack Kirby.
If there is an afterlife, I hope you are spending it sailing among the stars and living in the worlds you imagined.