Happy 100th Birthday Jack Kirby! Here's Everything You Should Know
Credit: SF Gateway
It's truly amazing to have a hero that's widely heralded as the greatest ever in his field and yet is pretty unknown (or at least not as known as he should be) to the rest of the world. Of course I am talking about the great Jack Kirby. While there are definitely many factors at play for Jack's under-appreciation, many point at, the also great, Stan Lee. While Stan deserves some blame, this is not going to be a bashing of Stan Lee. He was not Bob Kane, meaning he did not steal all of the credit while he practically did nothing. Not at all.
However Stan Lee did over-credit himself. A lot, and the story gets more confusing after you have to start relying on testimony.
As a creator, he has been challenged innumerable times about his role in characters that he claimed to have co-created. His 1947 book "The Secrets Behind Comics" does voice some very concerning views about who's name should be on the cover. There are 364 comic characters credited to be created, or co-created by Lee (according to Wikipedia), so I am not going to go through all of them, but I will provide the amazing resource at the end of this article that I have used extensively here, that does get into that issue. Jack Kirby is a "co-creator" many times with Lee.
Stan was also not a writer in the traditional sense. Because Stan was so busy running most aspects of an entire company, he really didn't have time to write a traditional comic script for all of those stories every month. That's when the "Marvel Method" was created. Here's how it would go down:
Step 1. Stan Lee and the artist would discuss an idea for that month's story.
Step 2. Once the plot was agreed upon. The artist would draw and write the entire issue. The comic at this point had no words, just the pencil drawings.
Step 3. Stan Lee was given the book and then added all the dialogue and the annotations (which he became known for).
Step 4. Stan then handed over the book to be inked and colored before it was put out for printing.
Look, Stan was a legend. Period. Even though his status as a writer and creator are up in the air, his status as a businessman, an editor and a storyteller are not. Stan understood what people wanted and how they wanted to see it. He dumbed down his dialogue and made the stories painfully easy to follow because that's what was the most ideal for making mass-consumed products at the time.
Jack Kirby meanwhile, like many of history's artistic minds, was a lot like Leonardo DaVinci. A victim of the times. Jack Kirby's writing was prose. It was poetic and deep. Like Classical literature it was simply, not for everyone. Especially not at that time. Jack drew his heart out, and is near universally hailed as the G.O.A.T. as far as comic art goes, but many fans think that this is all he did, and those are the ones that even know who he is!
It seems though that finally, Kirby is getting a nice push into the memories of all those casual fans that have seen his work unknowingly hundreds of times over the years. When I learned of the Jack Kirby Museum I was ecstatic only to learn minutes later that it's not actually a museum yet. The people that run the "museum" have been scouting a location for years now, and until they find one, it's just a collection of Kirby's art that you or I cannot see in person.
Right now happens to be the perfect time to cultivate Jack the legacy that he deserves. He should be at least as known as Stan is, and anything short of that is just not acceptable. Now is the time because August 28th is Jack Kirby's centennial birthday. There is a campaign to get a Google Doodle based on him on the actual date, and many celebrations planned as the date approaches.
Here is that great source I mentioned earlier:
Long live the King.