April 22, 2020

SATURDAY MORNING MASTERS: JACK KIRBY

JACK KIRBY
(August 28, 1917-Feburary 6, 1994)

Notable Roles: Comic book artist, comic book writer, comic book publisher, storyboard artist, character designer

Born Jacob Kurtzberg, Kirby was a comic book artist, writer and editor regarded as one of the medium’s major innovators, the most prolific, and the most influential; which is why he was affectionately dubbed “The King”. He began in the 1930s, drawing under various pen names before settling on Kirby. He frequently partnered with writer-editor Joe Simon, which led to the creation of Captain America for Timely Comics (later Marvel) in 1941. After serving in WWII, Kirby worked for National Comics (later DC), Harvey Comics, Hillman Periodicals, Crestwood Publications (where he and Simon created the first romance comic, Young Romance) and started his own short-lived publishing company, Mainline Publications, with Simon. He returned to Timely, now known as Atlas Comics, and in the 1960s, with writer-editor Stan Lee, created the bulk of the company’s major characters: the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, the Avengers and more. As Marvel began licensing out their characters for adaptation, Kirby provided storyboards for the first Fantastic Four cartoon by Hanna-Barbera. In the 1970s, Kirby felt he wasn’t being treated fairly by Marvel; he felt publisher Martin Goodman made him numerous unfulfilled promises, had a lack of creative control, received no recognition for his story or character contributions, and was resentful over Lee’s prominence in the media. After getting an unfavorable contract, he left the company to return to DC where he created his Fourth World saga, OMAC, Kamandi, Etrigan and Kobra. Because DC kept putting him on books he didn’t want to work on, he returned to Marvel where he created The Eternals, Machine Man and Devil Dinosaur. Once again dissatisfied with his working conditions, Kirby left Marvel to work for Hanna-Barbera; designing characters for Turbo Teen, The New Shmoo, Thundarr and others. He also worked on the second Fantastic Four cartoon for DePatie-Freleng Enterprises. Kirby also branched out to storyboarding and designing for films; part of which led to his drawings being utilized in the CIA’s “Canadian Caper.” Kirby spent the 80s and 90s working for a variety of smaller publishers like Pacific Comics, Eclipse Comics and Topps Comics, doing a lot of creator-owned work. DC executives Jenette Kahn and Paul Levitz had him re-design the Fourth World characters for the Super Powers toyline in order to get him some royalties for his creations, and he helped create The Centurions for Ruby-Spears Productions. Kirby also spent a great deal of time in a legal battle with Marvel over the return of his tens of thousands of original pages, which resulted in his only getting a fraction of his total output for the company back (many of them had been lost, stolen, or given away as gifts). The last comic Kirby worked on was Phantom Force for Image Comics before he died in 1994 from heart failure. An episode of Superman: The Animated Series, which made extensive use of his Fourth World and modeled the character of Dan Turpin after him, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003), which adapted an original Mirage Studios story inspired by Kirby, were dedicated to his memory.

Saturday Credits:
Fantastic Four (1967)
The New Shmoo
The World’s Greatest Superfriends
The New Fantastic Four
Thundarr the Barbarian
Space Stars
Goldie Gold and Action Jack
Superfriends: The Legendary Super Powers Show
Turbo Teen
Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (characters)
The Incredible Hulk (1982, characters)
Mister T
Lazer Tag Academy
Pryde of the X-Men (characters)
X-Men: The Animated Series (characters)
Superman: The Animated Series (characters)
Silver Surfer (characters)
Avengers: United They Stand (characters)
X-Men: Evolution (characters)
Wolverine and the X-Men (characters)
Young Justice (characters)
Justice League Action (characters)

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