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.