If you call yourself a comic book fan and don’t know Jack Kirby, than we got a problem.
Kirby is the most important comic creator in Western comics. Jack Kirby, alongside his co-creators, created the Romance comics, Horror comics, and Kid Gang comics. His earliest collaborator was Joe Simon-the two did those and more. Including creating the the original DC comics Manhunter. Him and Simon scored a huge hit with Captain American at Atlas Comics (precursor to Marvel). Thats right folks, Stan did not create Steve Rogers but he did get his start on the character.
Kirby jumped around books in the 50s including co-creating Challengers of the Unknown and drawing Green Arrow, including art duties on a revision of GA’s origin which now had him stranded on an island and fighting smugglers. Kirby landed at Atlas again despite his issues with Stan Lee. In 1961 him and Stan Lee created the Fantastic 4 kicking off the Marvel age of comics. The pair went on to create Hulk, the original X-Men, Thor, Iron Man, Black Panther, Avengers and more. Since Lee was stretched between writing, editing, and running Marvel they did their comics in the Marvel Method. This meant a simple plot was written out (or not, sometimes just passed on verbally) with dialogue added later. This meant the artist had creative control of the storytelling. In some cases the artist would create characters without the writers knowledge. For example Silver Surfer was created this way.
Kirby left in the 70s due to disputes over royalties and contract. He landed at DC where he created a host of new characters including the popular antagonist Darkseid along with Mister Miracle and Big Barda, the Demon, Klarion the Witch Boy and more. He returned to Marvel in ’76, took on his creations Capt. America and Black Panther as well creating smaller known properties. Kirby went on to work on animation and creator owned comics. He did the artwork used during operation Argus which inspire a movie where Michael Parks played him.
Kirby never got the recognition he deserved, or the paychecks he should have. However no one can deny his importance to the medium or the fact no one in American comics created nearly as many characters or ideas as Kirby.
Now, you should know, despite the fact I don’t actually read a lot of his work, is my favorite artist. Most of the books I read don’t appeal to me but his artwork is dynamic-true pop art. So don’t expect me to be as in depth here since I prefer his art to his writing (though I preferred his writing to Stans. Didn’t read much of his stuff with Simon).
#3. Our Fighting Forces featuring the Losers #152-162
By Jack Kirby
What It Is: Our Fighting Forces was a War anthology and the Losers, who appeared in issue #123 were created by Robert Kanigher. The Losers would show up in the award winning DC: The New Frontier and inspired the Vertigo series of the same name. Kirby, during his 70s stint at DC, got the Losers as an assignment.
What It Is To Me: The Loser is a very straight forward comic book about a bunch of military men handling missions and all the stories are sort of a downer. No one wins in war I believe is the point. The Losers keep going and see all the destruction, the enemies suffer in the end. The story I most remember is Ivan. A Nazi hides Jews only to blackmail them for their valuables before selling them out. The Losers, in disguise get a drop on Ivan and some Nazis, clearing everyone but Ivan. They frame him for the murder of his fellow officers leaving him to die the way they had planned the Jews. I also enjoyed the artwork Kirby did for WWII vehicles and insignia. Kirby was a veteran himself so he knew what was up. Te run is collected in trade and features a nice introduction by Neil Gaiman. Its a little pricey but its a unique book, and Kirby’s art is the most masculine of anything I’ve seen from him. Its loud and action packed. Losers however is more grounded than his superhero work yet the action feels more raw.
#2. OMAC: One Man Army Corps
By Jack Kirby
What It Is: Set in the future, corporate wage slave Buddy Blank is turned into OMAC, agent of the Global Peace Agency who police the world using superhuman agents. The series ran only 8 issues and ends abruptly.
What It Is To Me: OMAC is insanity. My first glimpse was a homage/remake by Paul Pope in his issue of Solo. That was one of the reasons I wanted to pick it up, the other was the fact DC was putting out these nice Kirby collections. The first issue is bursting with just weirdness and craziness. There’s these build-a-friend robot things, there are these specialty rooms to help workers deal. Rooms like Silent Room, Crying Room, Destruct Room. OMAC is another book that shows off Kirby’s penchant for big dynamic sights. Its strangeness can pull you out but I found it enticing.
#1. Mister Miracle
By Jack Kirby
What It Is: Scott Free has escaped Apokolips and has settled on Earth, where he takes on the mantle of an escape artist who he meets in his travels. Now Scott Free with Oberon and his girlfriend Big Barda of the Furies.
What It Is To Me: Part of Kirby’s ambitious New Gods saga which I enjoyed for its grand design and craziness. Mr. Miracle may have been a bit more down to Earth even with the crazy plots and death traps. You have a lot of the denzins of Apokolips show up and force Free into these bizarre traps and he escapes and foils them. Its a strange book but I have always liked Miracle and Barda, I like them here and I like the just bizarreness of it. While the New Gods book had probably the best written of Kirby’s saga on a whole Mr. Miracle was the most entertaining front to back. I love Scott and Barda, partly due to the 80s Justice League but this series is why I looked up the New Gods.
Yeah, the write ups were smaller because while I love Kirby’s art, not the biggest fan of his writing but I actually prefer it to Stan Lee. His characterizations and dialogue on the books I’ve read by him and Kirby did not do much for me. It actually spoiled Fantastic 4 which was visually amazing. I do like Lee on Spider-Man with Steve Ditko though. I have only read a smattering of Kirby with Joe Simon.