In 1969, Sheldon Feldner contacted Marvel Comics, asking if one of Marvel’s artists would be interested in designing costumes for a production of William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar by the University Theatre Company at Santa Cruz at the newly-built Cowell College of the University of California at Santa Cruz. As luck would have it, the Kirby family had recently moved to California, and Stan Lee recommended that Feldner contact Jack Kirby. Kirby designed the costumes and provided a drawing that was used on posters, handbills and programs at no cost to the students.
The poster drawing was rendered onto large two-color posters by Robert Page of the UCSC Art Department. Page also adapted Kirby’s color costume designs into black-and-white. Not only were color photographs taken of cast members in their costumes, but black and white photos were taken during the costume production.
An article about Kirby providing the costume designs was published in the 3 May 1969 issue of “Peninsula Living,” a Santa Cruz-area Sunday newspaper magazine supplement. The article was illustrated with some of Page’s adaptions of Kirby’s designs, as well as two Thor panels from “Lest Mankind Endure!” published in May 1969’s The Mighty Thor 164.
A spread of photos of the play was featured in Cowell College’s yearbook, “Markings.”
In his Alter Ego Volume 1 Number 10 from 1969, Editor Roy Thomas published the poster drawing on the inside back cover with the copy, “”Et tu, Galactus?” Julius Caesar – – – In The Classic Kirby Manner!”
In his October 1996 The Jack Kirby Collector 13, Museum Trustee John Morrow published the poster drawing along with notes from Roy Thomas regarding its publication in 1969’s Alter Ego 10. Thomas reports having met one of the students in New York City and was shown some of Kirby’s color art and photographs of the realized costumes. The student also gave Thomas a photocopy of the poster drawing, which he then published in Alter Ego.
Morrow also wrote an article about the play in The Jack Kirby Collector 19, April 1998, featuring information from the “Peninsula Living” article forwarded by Jim Vadeboncoeur. The Kirby Collector article was also illustrated with some of Page’s adaptations of Kirby’s designs.
The poster image, Roman Garrison Soldier, Roman Field Soldier, Citizenry images were included in Morrow’s 2008 “Kirby Five-Oh!”
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Special Thanks to to Stephen Drewes for providing so much of the material from UCSC, including the photo of himself as the Sophist. Thanks to Steve Robertson, Lisa Kirby, and Mike Thibodeaux, for their help capturing the artwork for presentation. TwoMorrow’s John Morrow and UCSC’s Luisa Orlando also helped with this piece.
– Rand Hoppe