Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Jack Kirby - The King Of Comics

Over the years I've had the great privilege to meet some of my comic book icons, folks like Stan Lee, Gil Kane, Russ Heath and others, but one of my fondest memories was attending a surprise birthday party for Jack Kirby at a long-ago San Diego ComicCon (the year escapes me, but it must have been the late 80's) and getting the chance to tell this incredible artist just how much his work has meant to me over the years.

So here I am, up to my eyeballs with various projects, working late to keep up, only to come home to one of those familiar Amazon boxes and Mark Evanier's long awaited big book o' Jack Kirby. Of course I had to jump in with both feet...

Well, the book is great. Lavishly illustrated with exceptionally well-reproduced samples of Kirby's original art and the printed comic book pages, this is a loving biography of the man who pretty much set the tone for modern comics. Styles have changed over the years, but the energy and passion that Kirby put on the page continues to inspire and delight. His 102 (!) issue run on the Fantastic Four remains a high watermark for the superhero genre, but as time goes on I have to admit I'm developing as much or more affection for his earlier, grittier romance and crime work.

Evanier says this is just the tip of the iceberg, he's writing the definitive Kirby biography that goes into much greater detail about the great man's life, but evidently that is still years away. In the meantime, this book will give readers the basic lowdown while dazzling with Kirby's remarkable art.

Incidentally, long time readers of FMVOF know I'm a fan of the forties comics artist Fletcher Hanks, and one of the Kirby strips reprinted here (1939's The Lone Rider) features a bad guy named Hank Fletcher. Coincidence, or did Jack actually know the redoubtable Mr. Hanks? Maybe Evanier's next opus will tell the tale...