Monday, June 04, 2012

Kirby Creations

I don't like to argue with people about what Jack Kirby did or did not create when he was at Marvel Comics. So I lay it on the line:

Jack Kirby created the entire original cast and atmosphere of what we now call "the Marvel Universe" of the Silver Age of comics. He created Daredevil, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, the Avengers, Ant Man, the X-Men, and all of the associated characters that went along with those creations. He created Galactus, the Silver Surfer, Dr. Doom, Loki, the Watcher, the Yancey Street Gang, Wyatt Wingfoot, the Black Panther, the Juggernaut, etc. and etc. forever after.

The only things at Marvel that he did not create were Spider-Man and Dr. Strange and the various characters that Steve Ditko concocted to appear with those creations.

There was no "co-creator". Jack Kirby did his job, and Steve Ditko did his own. No one helped them, with the possible exception of the inkers who may have delineated their pencil work. And of course they had an editor. Their editor did not create the comics that Jack Kirby plotted, wrote, laid out, and penciled. Jack Kirby created the characters. An editor fiddled with the dialog. But that editor did not create the books. He was a good editor, but that's all he was.

Did Ernest Hemingway's editor "create" THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA? Hell, no. Did Jack Kerouac's editor create ON THE ROAD? Fuck, no. Did Edgar Rice Burroughs' editor create TARZAN? No, no, no, and no.

I am sick to freaking death of idiots defending a fifty-year-old lie.

 And so, since I haven't posted any bits of my comic collection in a while, I figured I'd show a couple of images. These are both from my pre-hero Marvel collection. This particular book is STRANGE TALES #69, which appeared in 1959, two years before Jack Kirby jump-started Marvel's sagging fortunes by creating the titles and characters I mentioned in the second paragraph of this brief essay. Both Kirby and Ditko would, from time to time, come up with physical archetypes that they would refer to in later works; they both would, in a way, mine those physical types for material. Everyone knows about the pre-hero Marvel comic wherein Ditko created precursors to Aunt May and Uncle Ben, the tragic foster parents of Peter (Spider-Man) Parker.

In this issue of Strange Tales, I was struck by the physical characteristics of the featured person who was so similar to someone Kirby later created for one of his best titles: THE X-MEN. And so, it could be said that Kirby first saw here, in this minor story, the face and figure that we would all one day know as Professor Charles Xavier, the leader of the X-Men.

Yep. Looks for all the world like the character we would later know as Prof. Xavier.


MarkGelbart said...

If you want to get technical, Kirby didn't create Thor. Some Nordic tall tale teller made up the legend at least 1500 years before Kirby was born.

Jack Binder created a different daredevil ~1942 for Lev Gleason productions. Although Kirby's daredevil was completely different, Kirby at the very least ripped off the name.

That is interesting to see the original appearance of Professor X before the X-men were conceived.

HemlockMan said...

I've had that argument too many times to list.

What Kirby did was take the basic myths and recreate and "Kirby-fied" them. We saw the gods and their milieu through Kirby's lens. There has never been an Asgard like Kirby's Asgard.

Thor as described in the classic myths was a monster--stupid, brutal, murderous, deceitful, gluttonous, completely without any redeeming quality outside his ability to commit murder. Kirby's Thor was noble and compassionate.

Before Neil Gaiman was tinkering around with classic myths (SANDMAN), Kirby was doing it with the Norse and Roman gods.

As for Daredevil, somehow Martin Goodman (the owner/publisher of Marvel Comics) ended up owning the Daredevil name. I will assume he picked it up at auction or just bought it outright from Lev Gleason publications--I've never heard exactly how he ended up with it. At any rate, with the superhero thing going so well early on at Marvel he instructed Stan Lee to see if Kirby could do something with it--that is, create a new character using the name so that they could capitalize on it. So Kirby went to his drawing table and came up with his version of Daredevil; made him blind, gave him hyper senses, radar, the collapsible billy club, etc. Marvel's DD was Kirby's baby, too.

Henry R. Kujawa said...

Character names cannot be copyrighted, only Trademarked. Trademarks, to be protected, have to remain IN USE. IN PRINT. When Lev Gleason went out of business, DAREDEVIL as a comic ceased being published. After a certain period, someone else (Goodman) could apply to register the name as a Trademark.

Goodman only ran into trouble when he published GHOST RIDER in 1967, because the design of the character was IDENTICAL to the Magazine Enterprises version-- and he even had the character's co-creator and original artist DICK AYERS drawing the new (but vastly-inferior) version!! Vin Sullivan threatened legal action, and the book was cancelled with the 7th issue-- isn't it funny how CAPTAIN MAR-VELL debuted the very next month?????

BILL EVERETT created Marvel's DAREDEVIL. I read not that long ago that his daughter was blind (I think). It was a tribute to her. Just as Sue Storm was a tribute to Jack's DAUGHTER Susan.

dave™© said...

Mr. Hemlock, you SO nailed it. It's like you were reading my mind!

HemlockMan said...

Glad you enjoyed it!