Here’s a more detailed path of the hero from Campbell. Lucas probably learned this structure in film school, Kirby learned it after decades making comics.
Here’s the more complex 17-stage monomyth. A template that makes for great myths and great movies. Click on the image to zoom in. If you’re an aspiring writer and you have a story that is missing something, try inserting one of these phases into your narrative. Sure, it’s become a cliche in Hollywood now to use Campbell’s hero journey, but don’t knock it ’till you’ve tried it. It works.
secrethistoryofstarwars.com is a great website if you want to look at some actual research on the origin of Star Wars. I want to add that I think the Kirby/Lucas topic would make for a great book — you have two of the most successful creators of all time here — so hopefully instead of attacking George Lucas, in the future one of the Kirby purists or even one of the Kirby critics might do some actual research and find out if there really is a conspiracy afoot to marginalize Kirby’s influence on Star Wars. Maybe it’s true! Maybe Lucas stole Star Wars from Kirby. I’d just like to see some solid historical data. Until that information comes to light, I’m not buying the Kirby-Lucas-Campbell-Conspiracy.
If we sweep the Kirby-Lucas-Campbell-Conspiracy theory aside, I do think it’s plausible that George Lucas may have swiped several themes from Kirby’s 4W. It wouldn’t surprise me if someone pointed out the similarities between Star Wars and 4W in the late 1970s and Lucas realized he would probably be better off simply keeping his mouth shut about the topic. But that’s speculation on my part. For me, I think it’s better to credit Jack for the things he did create instead of crediting him for things he may simply have influenced. So calm down Kirby purists, if George Lucas announced tomorrow: “Kirby inspired Star Wars!” I’d be the first to stand up and applaud, all I can say is based on my reading on the subject, I really think Jack was 1 out of 10,000 influences on Lucas’ Star Wars, and that fact is really good enough for me. Honestly though, I bet “source” and “force,” and dark side and Darkseid are just coincidences. I would think Dr. Doom is certainly one of the influences for Darth Vader, but ironically according to Kirby, Jack saw the character as only having a small scar on his face — which means it might have been Stan Lee’s idea to have a character horribly disfigured beneath the iron mask.
At worst George Lucas may be guilty of some unconscious plagiarizing, or maybe his lawyers told him to simply not discuss the topic of 4W or Kirby simply to avoid any possibility of accusations of plagiarism. Who knows. it would be nice if Lucas would discuss Kirby in an interview, but I don’t know if anyone has ever even asked him about the topic of Kirby and 4W. I’d assume maybe Mark Evanier might have some research in his files that could shed some light on this, but I don’t expect to see his comprehensive Kirby biography any time soon, so until I see more information, in my opinion Kirby was simply one of the many influences on Star Wars, and that’s still pretty cool if you are a Kirby fan. Jack’s imagination has been a huge inspiration for a lot of people.