The Kirby Influence


Thanks to Kenn Thomas for sending in some of these comments recently.

Kenn Thomas: Every television show based on DC comics these days includes Kirby characters. There’s a Darkseid arc going on in both Batman Brave and Bold and Smallville, and now there’s a new Teen Titans show called Young Justice that has Dubbilex, the Guardian and the DNA project (also with a Superman clone wearing a black t-shirt, supposedly symptomatic of S&S/Toberoff lawsuit, which gave them copyright control over Superman’s costume colors).

Kenn Thomas: I just finished reading the Newsboy Legion volume and it occurred to me that those characters suffered the same fate as Silver Surfer, with later versions being real lame distortions of what Kirby did, if not entirely different things altogether.

Kenn Thomas: The Jimmy Olsen adult versions of the Newsboys originally were the actual characters grown up but if you read Wikipedia somewhere along the line they become clones of the originals, just like the Guardian. (Recall, that in the 40s, the Guardian really was the legal guardian of Newsboys–which was a clever use of irony in the name; in Jimmy Olsen, the grown up Newsboys are guardians of the cloned Guardian, another little irony.) Then there’s another, “post-Crisis” Newsboy Legion that’s even more screwed up. I know that no one should expect much from derivatives of Kirby’s stuff, especially compared to the original, but it occurred to me that such derivatives are not only bad but some of the worst crap that ever gets produced in comics (Byrne’s Fantastic Four, for instance, or Starlin’s New Gods). If someone tried to cover a Kirby concept it’s almost a guarantee that it’ll be bereft of originality and an insult to the original.


Thanks a lot for the comments, Kenn. I don’t follow a lot of the new incarnations of Jack’s characters, so I really appreciate Kirby historians like you keeping us informed when Jack’s old characters are reinterpreted by new storytellers. It’s great to see how much Kirby’s dynamics have impacted popular culture and contemporary entertainment — I have a feeling Jack’s creations will continue to be an important part of our culture for many decades to come. Hopefully in the future more and more people will realize the Kirby influence is an important cornerstone many of their favorite TV shows, cartoons, movies and video games are built upon. Thanks for your support and all the great Kirby scholarship over the years Kenn, and happy holidays to you and your family.

Below a typical example of new artists interpreting Kirby characters. From 1976, I think this is Gil Kane pencils and Sinnott inks.

I just met Kurt Busiek in cyberspace over on the JackKirbyCreates Yahoo discussion forum. I’m looking forward to seeing what he and Alex Ross put together for the Kirby Genesis project. I’m happy Jack’s children are finally going to get some money for a property Jack created.

The JackKirbyCreates forum is pretty new, and like many online chat forums the Kirby dialogue has become fragmented and many people are heading over to sites like FaceSpace, TweetChirp, and MyBook, but if you enjoy discussing Kirby, you might want to join us over there. You have to sign-up to post, but it’s a public forum so you can still read the posts without being a member.

Like many people, I’m finding that I’m transitioning out of internet chat, but maybe if we create some interesting threads over there as he works on Kirby Genesis, that might help Kurt to imbue the characters in his new project with many of the Kirby-esque themes and qualities Jack explored throughout his career. Here’s Kurt’s website if you want to learn more about his work:

Here’s some promotional art by Alex Ross for the project.