Friday, January 25, 2013

Kirby's Amazing Ability

During a brief stretch from issue #44 through #53 of FANTASTIC FOUR, Jack Kirby created, wrote, and illustrated a series of stories that introduced the readers to an amazing array of new characters. And--despite the lies from the shill and his corporate masters--it was done completely by Jack Kirby with no "co-creator".

When I was a kid reading those comics, I was introduced to the following characters who are now solidly entrenched as major parts of the so-called "Marvel Universe", but which should, in fact, be termed the Kirby-Ditko Universe. Those characters are, in order of appearance:

The Inhumans, a new super-powered team featuring Black Bolt, Medusa, Karnak, Crystal, Gorgon, Triton, Lockjaw.


The Silver Surfer.

T'Challa, the Black Panther.

The Black Panther was the first major black character to come out of mainstream comic books. This was a particularly brilliant and effective creation by Jack Kirby. This man was no sidekick. He was a born leader, and a brilliant scientist. He helped to sponge away the awfulness of such racist archetypes as Will Eisner's Ebony White.

I wonder what Jack Kirby was thinking each day as he went to work creating and writing and illustrating all of the books he was producing for Marvel Comics. To me, it's obvious that he was thinking first and foremost of his legions of fans--the kids who every month rushed to the local newsstand or drugstore to pick up their copies of Fantastic Four or Thor or X-Men or The Avengers or any of the host of titles he had created and over which he was laboring.

Over this ten-month, ten-issue period, the explosion of themes and ideas was staggering. This was a tremendous outpouring of creativity from Jack Kirby, and has proven to have been a truly stellar boon of marketing and merchandising for Marvel Comics. Lee and Goodman must have drooled every time they set eyes upon the pages of original Kirby artwork arriving in Marvel's offices each month. What new treasures were being delivered for a pittance? What size the golden eggs laid by Marvel's resident goose?

How much money has the corporate power we know as Marvel Comics made from just this brief flurry of activity from the mind of Jack Kirby? Can anyone calculate it?

My copy of FANTASTIC FOUR #53.


Kirk G said...

How strange that I should find exactly these issues in a run of comics that I scored at a school yard sale that spring? I didn't have FF #51-52 for some reason, and I spotted #54 at the hospital gift shop but failed to buy it. Then I saw #55 at the corner drug store and bummed 12 cents to buy it and I was hooked. #53 must have been in that lot, cause I had the second concluding half of the tale and realized I had missed the start somehow. Strangly enough, #56 seemed to be the third act in this story, separated by two single shot issues. So, I jumped on the bandwagon just after this run of ten amazing issues finished appearing.
How lucky I was...

James Robert Smith said...

The explosion of creativity from Kirby over those issues is unprecedented. I doubt it's been matched by anyone since. It's not only that he created many characters--it goes beyond that. Each of the characters that came out of his mind during that run are still in use today, still popular with comic book fans. And to think that Kirby and his heirs are robbed of the rewards of his work.