Comic book legend Jack Kirby would have been 98 on 28th August 2015. He passed away in 1994 at the age of 76 and at that time, his work was not recognised by the company that had benefited most from his creativity viz. Marvel Comics. It’s certainly fair to say that Jack Kirby (and not Stan Lee) is the father of the Marvel Universe. Even without getting into the arguments about who created what, there’s no denying that Kirby is the originator of the visuals that proved so popular initially with comic book fans, and ultimately moviegoers worldwide. So let’s take a look at what Kirby had done in the 60s/70s, that now form the foundation of the billion dollar Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise. Long live the King!
Let’s get real, shall we?
When it comes to stories presented in words and visuals, the visual aspect will always trump the word aspect. That is why movies like Transformers: Age of Extinction and Furious 7 are able to do well at the box office despite not having very good stories. This also applies in comic books, which is – like film – a graphic medium and very much dependent on the visual quality for its appeal and success.
Of course, I am not saying that the writing does not matter in comic books but even the best work of my favourite comic book writer Alan Moore, was enhanced by the sterling work of his collaborators viz. Steve Bissette (Swamp Thing), John Totleben (Swamp Thing, Miracleman), Dave Gibbons (Watchmen), Kevin O’Neill (League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) etc etc. Which made Moore’s Supreme much less than expectations due to the artwork of Rob Liefeld!
Which is why ultimately I believe that Jack Kirby deserves more credit for the success of the Marvel Universe than Stan Lee. Moreover, Kirby had significant input in many of the classic Marvel Universe issues as plotter! It’s impossible to imagine a single modern-day Marvel film without the contribution of Jack Kirby and yet, only with Avengers: Age of Ultron, was Kirby credited as a co-creator, alongside Stan Lee. This was, of course, due to a recent settlement between Marvel and Kirby’s estate.
However, to the layman movie goer and naive self-professed fan of the Marvel films, Stan Lee will always be thought of as the creator of the Marvel Universe, with each succeeding annoying cameo being shoved down everybody’s throat. But whilst Lee’s hokey self-aggrandisement continues to reveal the huckster that he has always been, the Kirby legacy can be seen by all – unwittingly – in every costume design and most importantly, every powerful fight scene!
Long live the King!
No words, a picture paints a thousand words…
JACK KIRBY (2001: A Space Odyssey)