Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Once and For All

Who created the Fantastic Four? The Incredible Hulk? Iron Man? Capt. America? The Avengers? Ant Man? Giant Man? The X-Men? The Mighty Thor (Don Blake)? Sgt. Fury? The Inhumans? The Silver Surfer? Galactus? Doctor Doom? Magneto? Loki (as super-villain)? The Skrulls?

You may give a different name to the creator of these comic book characters. You may claim that two people created them all.

In fact, the bulk of all of the characters who (super)peopled the pages of almost the entire run of the early days of Marvel Comics were the brainchildren of one Jack Kirby, born Jacob Kurtzberg. He was quite arguably one of the greatest comic book artists ever to work in that field. There was nothing he couldn’t draw and there was no genre he could not master. But for whatever reason, he was best employed as the creator of super heroes, known in the early days as “costumed” heroes.

He wasn’t the first to try his hand at delineating such, but he was quite probably the best. All one has to do is look at the amazing output of his long career to understand that he needed no one to “co-create” anything with him. He did it all himself. He brainstormed the plots. He laid out the pages. He illustrated every story and largely scripted them all, with the small caveat that sometimes he was forced to allow said dialogue to be edited, and have that editor’s name placed on his work as “co-creator” or “writer”. Alas.

To understand the sheer power of Jacob Kurtzberg’s talent and imagination, one only has to look at the vast range of books on which he labored. He created and illustrated western comics, crime comics, romance comics, war comics, science-fiction comics, monster comics, educational comics, superhero comics…I doubt there was a subject he didn’t touch on in his life as a comics artist. I’ve heard it said that in 1962 alone he produced almost 1200 pages of comic book art. That total is astounding, and is indicative of why he never needed any kind of “co-creator”.

I’m waiting for someone to write a truly courageous and definitive biography of not just Jack Kirby, but also of Steve Ditko, Don Heck, and the editors and publishers who worked at Atlas/Marvel in the early days leading up to the creation of the series that led to Marvel becoming the premiere publisher of comic books in the USA. I want someone who is possessed of brass balls to wade into the scene and do some true investigating and interview the people left who know what was going on. I know that Steve Ditko created The Amazing Spider-Man. I know that Steve Ditko created Dr. Strange. I know that Jack Kirby created the Fantastic Four. I know that Jack Kirby created the Incredible Hulk. What I want to see stated, once and for all, is whether or not any of these books and their amazing baggage of co-stars and endless platoons of villains were needful of having a co-creator tag his name thereon.

From what evidence I can gather, only Jack Kirby created the books on which he worked. Only Steve Ditko created the books on which he lavished so much labor and intensity.

Let's have the truth, once and for all.

Steve Ditko, speaking through Spider-Man, tells us all we need to know?

Mark Evanier's new bio of Kirby

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