Books, Films

Jack Kirby: The Undisputed King of Comic Books

Image: Susan Skaar, Kirby Museum website

Jack Kirby was born Jacob Kurtzberg back in August 28, 1917. He died in 1994 and during these seven decades he revolutionized the world of comic books and made sure they made it to the mainstream. In fact, the current Marvel Universe very existence owes a lot to this man’s boundless enthusiasm and imagination.

As a matter of fact, many bibliophiles believe that Jack was to comic books what JRR Tolkien was to the fantasy genre. Not only was he a comic book artist who created some of the most endearing comic book super hero characters we know today, but he was also a writer and editor as well. This is why he is widely regarded by comic book aficionados to be one of the medium’s major innovators as well as being one of its most influential and prolific creators.

Jack grew up in New York City and was a self-taught individual who had learned to draw cartoon figures by the relatively simple expedient of tracing such characters from various comic strips, as well as editorial cartoons.

It was during the height of the great depression that he entered the (then) nascent comic book industry as Americans looked for easy and colorful escapist literature to take their attention away from their economic plight.

He was instrumental in the creation of one of Marvel’s single most popular characters ever, “Captain America” just as the US was being drawn into the Second World War and Americans were looking for an individual who would be able to help them rediscover their patriotism during the war years.

Image: Marvel comics

Unlike the war itself, Captain America endured and as of today he is one of Marvel’s most well-known figures. However, Jack Kirby did not only work with Marvel, but also National Comics publications that went on to become DC comics. In this way, he was able to bridge the gap between both of these iconic universes. In fact, it would not be wrong to state that he laid the foundations of both of these globe straddling monoliths.

He was also instrumental in the development of even more iconic characters such as ‘The Incredible Hulk’, ‘The Mighty Thor’ and even the ‘Fantastic Four’. Had it not been for him, Marvel would have gone bankrupt instead of becoming the media powerhouse it is today. Kirby has had an extremely prolific career and has managed to produce well over 20,000 comic book pages not to mention about 1,400 cover illustrations.

Jack had been inducted into the “Eisner Awards Hall of Fame” in its inaugural year, 1987. “The King” of Comics as he was appropriately nicknamed, continued his prodigious output and created stories that continued to enthrall and entertain his legions of fans, until his sad demise in 1994.

To this day, his stellar work has been a source of near endless inspiration for an entire generation of professional artists who have continued his good work.

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