Monthly Archives: August 2010

Jack Kirby Interview – Part III

Part III of the Hour 25 Jack Kirby Interview.

Jack discusses:

  • Hilarious anecdote where Jack tells you why he thinks calling him the ”King of the Comics” is wrong
  • The first comic books and what they meant to Jack
  • Jack’s first jobs telling complete comics stories
  • Meeting Joe Simon and getting the office at Tudor City, NY
  • The Goodman Brothers
  • Throwing scripts out the window (and his violin when he was a kid)
  • Creative freedom, Jack’s love for people, attitude towards villains, and truth in comics
  • Captain America and patriotism in the early 1940s
  • “The times were screaming war”
  • Nazi’s want to beat the “daylights” out of Jack for criticizing Hitler
  • Leon Klinghoffer (who was murdered by Palestinian terrorists when they hijacked the Achille Lauro cruise ship in 1985) and the gut reaction to fight
  • “Captain America would never do anything wrong”
  • Jack’s inspiration for the Hulk: a woman lifting her car to save her child
  • The death of Bucky: Jack says it wasn’t his idea: “I never kill off anybody”

I think this is one of the strongest clips in the series – Jack covers a lot of ground. Listening to this interview gives you a great example of how Jack’s mind worked: the interviewers would try and steer Jack in the direction of discussing Captain America for example, but Jack would go other places and he’d drift into other topics. I think this is because that’s how Jack’s mind worked — he tended to go where his imagination took him — and Jack simply wasn’t a skilled public speaker, so he didn’t have lot of practice at structuring the answer to a question where you hit a few bullet points then clearly wrap your response up (for example, President Obama is brilliant at this). Kirby tries to answer the questions as honestly as possible while also spicing the stories up a little to make them interesting. For example, Jack’s quick comment about “bending steel” was very intriguing when you consider the trauma he must have experienced on the European battlefields.

On the other hand, I’ve read some criticism written about Kirby based on a few of Jack’s comments in this excerpt. For example, I’ve seen a few comics experts point out that Joe Simon was involved in writing some of the 40s/50s stories, but I think Jack doesn’t specifically mention that here because he probably remembers working on the bulk of the writing himself, especially during the illustration phase where Jack was responsible for pacing and character design. Also, Jack’s quote that he would “throw scripts out the window” has been pointed to by some of his critics as Jack lying and denying credit to the authors of many of the Simon/Kirby scripts. Again, I think this is just Jack remembering that he did a tremendous amount of writing on many of the stories he worked on during the Simon/Kirby period, and he’s simply reflecting on how he liked to have creative freedom on his stories and he liked to make changes and add a lot of himself to the scrips he worked on. I also think he’s using an analogy here, I suspect he didn’t literally throw too many scrips out of the window onto the streets of NYC.

The most controversial quote probably has to be Jack’s comment where he talks about reading an article about a woman lifting a car to save her child and this became the inspiration for the Hulk. It may have been Mark Evanier who pointed this out or some other comics expert, but I think this is an example of Jack’s memory playing a trick on him: I suspect Jack probably saw that famous sequence at the beginning of the 1970s Hulk TV show where the character lifts up a car and that may have reminded him of an article he read.

Or, of course, the anecdote may be true. This is just an example of how the authorship debate (who created characters like the Hulk – Lee, Kirby , or both men) becomes muddied based on how the passage of time has affected the memories of both men. I do think Jack was heavily involved in the creation of the Hulk character, and I’ve seen Lee admit in interviews that at the very least Jack was responsible for the distinctive shredded pants aspect of the character design. I also believe Jack was in charge of the pacing of the story; he may have contributed characters like Rick Jones, Betty Ross, and Thunderbolt Ross; and in addition to elements of the origin itself, Jack certainly came up with all of the memorable visuals such as the reaction of Bruce Banner to the atomic explosion, and the dynamics of the first transformation sequence. Below see pages 1, 4, and 5 from The Incredible Hulk# 1, (May 1962), art by Jack Kirby and Paul Reinman.


Jack Kirby Interview – Part II

Here’s part II. I’m hoping to track down some more Kirby audio interviews; I think a lot gets lost in translation when interviews are transcribed into text — you get a much better feel for Jack’s quintessential NY personality and irreverent sense of humor when you listen to him talk instead of looking at cold text on a page.

I forget if it’s on this clip, but I loved the stories Jack told about walking around NYC, trying to figure out a way to get out of the ghetto, searching for an escape. Ironic how important walking and exploring his surroundings on foot was to Jack as a kid when you consider he almost lost his legs during WW II and he would go on to spend most of his life sitting at a drawing board.

I suspect that intense period from 1917 – 1945 where Jack was streetfighting as a youngster and interacting with people from all over America on the European battlefields served as the foundation for his storytelling approach, and from there he probably got most of his supplemental material from the media, newspapers, and magazines — putting it all together to come up with his own unique artistic worldview.

I get the impression that once Kirby found a place where he was comfortable living and he had a job he enjoyed, instead of continuing to wander the streets of New York City, Jack dug in at home and used the comics medium as his main method to explore the world through the eyes of his characters.

Jack Kirby Interview – Part I

Episode One of the Hour 25 interview with Jack Kirby. It looks like there will be 7 total episodes in all — the whole interview is a little over an hour. I’m not sure what the date is for this piece. The interview appears to have taken place in the late 80s after Jack got his art back from Marvel, but I don’t see this listed in the Jack Kirby Checklist.

Happy Birthday Jack

Happy Birthday to the King.

In honor of Jack’s birthday, starting tomorrow I’m going to post some YouTube audio clips from a great Jack Kirby interview that originally aired on a radio show called Hour 25, so don’t miss it. Each segment is about 15 minutes, and there are about 7 of them (I still need to edit the last 2).

Thanks to Kenn Thomas for sending in a CD of the Hour 25 tapes. To our fellow Kirby fans in the UK, Kenn will be at the American Dream Comics Shop at 72 Walcott Street in Bath, England for Kirby’s birthday reading in public whatever Kirby work he can find there to celebrate “Read Comics In Public Day.” Please say ”cheers” to Kenn if you see him, and visit us here tomorrow for Episode # 1 of the Kirby Hour 25 audio interviews.

In the meantime, here is a YouTube clip for a project called Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics (DVD Trailer), billed as “an expansive documentary exploring the 75 years of DC Comics, the memorable characters of its universe and the talented artists and writers who brought them to life.”

Although Kirby did relatively few stories and artwork for DC Comics, I hope this video presentation at least mentions Jack’s innovative Fourth World series as an example of an artist producing an influential and revolutionary series for that company in the 1970s. Maybe at some point Marvel Comics (now owned by Disney) will put together a similar film project on the genesis of their now-legendary pantheon of characters, most of which were created, co-created, and designed by Jack Kirby in the 1960s, but I’ve always been concerned Marvel may sugarcoat the reality — presenting us with a promotional piece that is very light on actual history and strong on propaganda — if they even make a proper film on Jack’s life and work.

My real hope is that at some point a legitimate documentary filmmaker will put together a movie about Jack’s life and tell us his side of the story, but I suspect such a project would be fairly expensive to make, unfortunately there is virtually no HQ video interview footage of Jack, and there would always be the threat that Marvel would file a lawsuit to prevent the fair use of Jack’s stories and artwork if such a documentary film was critical of the way Marvel treated Jack.

I’m convinced a film about Jack’s life would be the perfect vehicle to show the evolution of the comics industry through the eyes of one man. Jack’s birth in 1917 as the medium was in it’s infancy; growing up reading the work of Alex Raymond in the local NY papers; surviving the Great Depression by breaking into animation and comics; serving his country with distinction during the Second World War; and going on to have a remarkable career that resulted in the creation of arguably the most successful intellectual properties of all time, would make for a great film in my opinion.

One day I’m sure we will see such a project and I know it will be a visual spectacle that will be entertaining and inspiring. In the meantime, here is another funny clip making the rounds on YouTube.

A few examples of Jack’s artwork from the first issue of The Avengers (Sept 1963).



Bigger, Stronger, Faster

Bigger, Stronger, Faster is a 2008 documentary film directed by Christopher Bell about the use of anabolic steroids as performance-enhancing drugs in the United States, and how this practice relates to the American Dream. Here is a clip from the film featuring Jack Kirby artwork originally used in The Marvel Super Heroes cartoons — a Canadian-made animated television series starring comic-book superheroes from Marvel Comics in 1966.
The series had extremely limited animation, produced by xerography: photocopied images were taken directly from the comics and manipulated to minimize the need for animation. The cartoons were presented as a series of static comic-strip images where the only movement usually involved the mouth or the occasional arm and leg. Here are comparisons of the original Kirby/Giacoia artwork next to screen captures of the cartoon images. The Kirby art is from Tales of Suspense # 63 (Mar 1965).




Great example of how Jack’s straightforward cinematic style translated well to the big screen. Although the production values are pretty low on these cartoons, it is great to see Jack’s pure style appearing in a cartoon as opposed to a watered-down version. As far as I know, there is no official version of these Marvel Superhero Cartoons for sale, but most of them are featured on YouTube. In the past, I’ve seen some comic book fans blame Jack Kirby for the ultra-muscular superheores in modern comics, but I’ve always said that’s like blaming Robert Johnson for rage rock. Kirby didn’t invent gigantic men in tights colliding, he just came up with a more dynamic way to illustrate modern superheroes, and while Kirby’s work was in influence on many popular comics artists, it’s not Jack’s fault these types of stories resonate with many young readers.

The Face of Doom

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Fascinating image of Dr. Doom. Greg Theakson actually has video footage of Jack penciling this image that I hope he releases at some point. Jack didn’t see Dr. Doom as horribly disfigured, instead Jack’s vision for the character only had a small scar on his face, but his vanity forced him to wear the mask in order to hide the fairly insignificant imperfection. This looks like a recreation where Mike Royer took the pencils, enlarged them using a light box, and added inks.