Key Late Career Moments

This timeline was first published in TwoMorrows Publishing’s Spring 2014 The Jack Kirby Collector 63. Many thanks to John Morrow for allowing us to publish it here. Suggestions or corrections are welcome, please use the comments section below. –  Rand

Continuing our look at key moments in Jack’s life and career from TJKC #60 (which covered Marvel in the 1960s) and #62 (which covered 1970-1975), we present this timeline of key moments that affected Kirby’s tenure after he left DC Comics in 1975. Of invaluable help were Richard Kolkman (who sent me an extensive list to begin work from), Eric Nolen-Weathington, Ray Wyman, Tom Kraft, Glen Gold, and Rand Hoppe, as well as Mark Evanier’s book KIRBY: King of Comics and Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story.

This isn’t a complete list of every important date in Kirby’s later career history, but should hit most of the main ones. Please send us additions and corrections. Next issue, I’ll work on pivotal moments in Jack’s 1940s-1950s career with Joe Simon.

My rule of thumb: Cover dates were generally two-three months later than the date the book appeared on the stands, and six months ahead of when Kirby was working on the stories, so I’ve assembled the timeline according to those adjusted dates—not the cover dates—to set it as close as possible to real-time.

Early 1970s

  • May 30, 1972: Kirby signs an agreement with Marvel, effectively relinquishing any claim he might have to the copyright on Captain America. This document is used against Joe Simon’s efforts to secure the copyright on Captain America Comics #1-10.
  • Late 1972: Rocket’s Blast Comic Collector #94 features an erroneous newsflash titled “Kirby Leaves DC,” which speculates what might happen if Kirby returned to Marvel. The article creates quite a stir in fandom.
  • Summer 1974: Neal Kirby asks Roy Thomas to meet the Kirbys for coffee at the San Diego Comic-Con, to determine Marvel’s possible interest in having Jack return. Roy tells Jack he and Stan would be glad to have him back.

1975

  • Early 1975: It is presumed that Kirby talks with Stan Lee regarding the possibility of Kirby returning to Marvel.
  • February 20: Longtime Marvel letterer Arthur “Artie” Simek dies.
  • March 18: Kirby visits the Marvel offices for the first time since his departure in 1970. The visit takes place on the Monday before the 1975 Mighty Marvel Con (March 22–24). Marie Severin spots Kirby going into Stan’s office, and yells down the Marvel halls, “Kirby’s back!”
  • March 24: Kirby signs a three-year contract with Marvel (valid through April 30, 1978), and appears at the Mighty Marvel Con held at the Hotel Commodore in New York City. Kirby stuns MMC attendees with the announcement of his return, and in regards to what he will be doing for Marvel, Kirby says, “It’ll electrocute you in the mind!”
  • May: Barry Alfonso’s fanzine Mysticogryfil #2 features an interview with Kirby.
  • May 25: Wings’ album Venus and Mars featuring the song “Magneto and Titanium Man,” is released (the cover of the 45 rpm single is shown above, which featured re-purposed non-Kirby art from Marvel).
  • June 2: Menomonee Falls Gazette V4, #181 features an interview with Kirby.
  • July: Mediascene #15 features a preview article entitled “The King Returns.”
  • August (October cover date): The Marvel Comics Bullpen page announces, “The King is Back! ’Nuff said!” and lists his future projects as 2001, Captain America, and a giant Silver Surfer book.
  • September (November cover date): New Kirby covers hit the stands: Fantastic Four #164, Invaders #3, Iron Man #80, Ka-Zar #12, Marvel Premiere #26 (featuring Hercules), Marvel Super-Heroes #54 (featuring Hulk), Marvel Two-in- One #12 (guest-starring Iron Man), and Thor #241.
  • September: Captain America #192 features a next issue promo with art by Kirby and Frank Giacoia (next page, top).
  • September: FOOM #11 features a preview of 2001: A Space Odyssey, cover art for Captain America #193 and #194, and “Kirby Speaks,” an interview with Kirby.
  • September: Kirby ignores editorial pleas to integrate the rest of the Marvel Universe into his Captain America series.
  • November (January 1976 cover date): Captain America #193 is published, beginning the “Madbomb” storyline, which is timed to end on America’s bicentennial.
  • November 15: Jack completes the first draft of his Silver Star screenplay.
  • December: FOOM #12 features preview art for an “Ikaris the Eternal” series, later to be renamed The Eternals.

1976

  • January (March coer date): The Bullpen Bulletins page features the blurb, “Who Is He?” with an image of Ikaris.
  • February (April cover date): Kamandi #40, featuring the last of Kirby’s 1970s art for DC, is published.
  • February: The Comic Reader #127 announces a new Marvel series Return of the Gods (ie. The Eternals) along with Kirby’s cover art for the first issue.
  • May (July cover date): Bullpen Bulletins page announces The Prisoner. According to Mediascene (Nov.–Dec. 1977), Marvel’s Prisoner series began as a proposal by editor Marv Wolfman, followed by a Steve Englehart and Gil Kane effort which Stan Lee rejected. Lee then gave the series to Kirby to write and pencil. Kirby penciled one 17-page issue, which was partially inked by Mike Royer, before Lee cancelled the project altogether.
  • May (July cover date): Eternals #1 published.
  • June (August cover date): Captain America #200 is published.
  • June 8: The treasury sized Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles is published.
  • June 22: Kirby and his family meet Paul and Linda McCartney backstage at a Wings concert at the L.A. Forum via Gary Sherman. Kirby gives McCartney a drawing of Magneto (referencing McCartney’s song) to commemorate the occasion.
  • July (September cover date): Bullpen Bulletin page announces that Roy Thomas is to join “Marvel West” along with Kirby and Mike Royer.
  • July: The Marvel Treasury Special 2001: A Space Odyssey movie adaptation is released.
  • August (October cover date): Hulk Annual #5 is published. The story features a bevy of Jack’s Atlas-era monsters, such as Groot, Titan, and Goom, with a new cover by Kirby.
  • September (November cover date): Fantastic Four #176 is published featuring a Kirby/Joe Sinnott cover with Impossible Man. Kirby, along with the Marvel Bullpen, appears as a character in the George Pérez-drawn story inside.
  • October (December cover date): 2001: A Space Odyssey #1 (a new ongoing series) is published.
  • Late October-Early November: Kirby visits Lucca, Italy as Guest of Honor at the Lucca Comic Art Festival, his first international comics convention appearance.
  • November (January 1977 cover date): Black Panther #1 is published. As with his Captain America stories, Kirby isolates the title from the rest of the Marvel Universe.
  • December: FOOM #16 features a preview of the Marvel 1977 Calendar, featuring artwork by Kirby.

1977

  • January: “Stan’s Soapbox” announces the Silver Surfer graphic novel is to be written by Lee and drawn by Kirby.
  • February 1: Kirby submits his art for The Prisoner.
  • March (May cover date): Marvel Two-in-One #27 is released, featuring a Kirby/Sinnott cover with Deathlok.
  • March 14: Kirby hands in concept art and plot concept for the Silver Surfer graphic novel to “Stanley” Lee, and Lee begins scripting.
  • May (July cover date): 2001 #8 is published, introducing Mister Machine. Ideal Toys, having rights to the name, convinces Marvel to rename the character, 75 and Kirby re-dubs him “Machine Man” in the first issue of his solo series.
  • May (July cover date): “Bullpen Bulletins” announces an adaptation of the forthcoming Star Wars movie, which would open to general audiences on May 17. Though not known at the time, Star Wars would feature themes and characters remarkably similar to Kirby’s Fourth World series.
  • May 12: The Star Wars movie premieres.
  • May 20: Kirby works on concept art for Devil Dinosaur under the working title Devil Dinosaur of the Phantom Planet. An earlier working title was Reptar, King of the Dinosaurs.
  • June (August cover date): Eternals #14 is published, featuring a cosmic-powered Hulk, in a feeble nod to tying the series to the Marvel Universe.
  • July (September cover date): 2001 #10 is published, announcing Machine Man will receive his own title.
  • August (October cover date): Captain America #214 is published, marking the final issue of Kirby’s run.
  • October: Pizzazz #1 features a page of Kirby artwork for “2001 Compute-a-Code”. It is the only published artwork Larry Lieber would ink over Kirby pencils.
  • November (January 1978 cover date): Eternals #19, the final issue of the series, is published.
  • November 19: Longtime Marvel production staffer and occasional Kirby inker “Jumbo” John Verpoorten dies at age 37.

1978

  • February (April cover date): Machine Man #1 and Devil Dinosaur #1 are
    published.
  • Early 1978: DePatie-Freleng begins development of a Fantastic Four half-hour cartoon to air in 1979, with Kirby drawing storyboards.
  • Spring: FOOM #21 introduces H.E.R.B.I.E. (earlier named Charlie and Z-Z-1-2-3), a robot member of the Fantastic Four team designed by Kirby for the DePatie-Freling FF cartoon. The rights to Human Torch were tied up with another production company, so DePatie-Freleng used H.E.R.B.I.E. as a stand-in.
  • March: Ballantine Books publishes Sorcerers: A Collection of Fantasy Art, featuring an essay by Kirby, showcasing several unpublished pieces of his personal art.
  • April: The Comics Journal #39 features an article titled, “From Dinosaurs to Rockets: Kirby Strikes Out Again.” The article—along with letters printed in the Marvel letters’ pages and petty cruelty from members of the Marvel Bullpen staff—adds to Kirby’s growing discontent.
  • April 30: Kirby’s contract with Marvel expires and he decides not to renew it, and instead focuses on his animation career.
  • Late Spring: Kirby begins development on Captain Victory and His Galactic Rangers, including concept art and co-writing a screenplay with Steve Sherman.
  • July: Kirby begins working on concept art for The Lord of Light movie and theme park (based on Roger Zelazny’s novel of the same name). This artwork would later be used as part of a real-life CIA operation to rescue kidnapped diplomats, as depicted in the 2012 film Argo.
  • August (October cover date): What If? #11 is published. Written and penciled by Kirby, the story, titled “What if the Fantastic Four Were the Original Marvel Bullpen?” features Kirby, Stan Lee, Sol Brodsky, and Flo Steinberg as the FF.
  • August: The Comics Journal #41 features an article titled, “Kirby Quits Comics.”
  • September (November cover date): Fantastic Four #200 is published, the cover of which being Kirby’s final work on the FF in comics.
  • October (December cover date): Machine Man #9 and Devil Dinosaur #9 are published—Kirby’s last ongoing series work for Marvel.
  • Fall: The Silver Surfer graphic novel is published by Simon & Schuster. Kirby and Lee share the copyright.
  • Late 1978: Development begins on the unrealized “Jack Kirby Comics” line of titles: Bruce Lee; Captain Victory and His Galactic Rangers; Reptar, King of the Dinosaurs; Satan’s Six; Silver Star (based on the existing screenplay co-written with Steve Sherman); and Thunder Foot.

1979

  • Kirby produces an unfinished 224-page version of his novel The Horde, which is edited by Janet Berliner.
  • The Jack Kirby Masterworks portfolio is published by Privateer Press.
  • January: The Marvel 1979 Calendar features a Kirby Hulk drawing inked by Joe Sinnott. It is Kirby’s final published artwork for Marvel.
  • Early 1979: Stan Lee options the Silver Surfer graphic novel movie rights to producer Lee Kramer. The film is set to have a $25 million budget, with Olivia Newton-John attached to play the role of Ardina (as related in Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, pg. 215).
  • Kirby appears in a cameo role on the Incredible Hulk TV series as a police sketch artist.
  • June (August cover date): Fantastic Four #209 is published, introducing the Kirby-designed H.E.R.B.I.E. to comics.
  • September 2 (through January 13, 1980): Kirby’s adaptation of Walt Disney’s film The Black Hole appears in Sunday newspapers across America, and is later translated for foreign publications as well.

1980

  • Kirby continues working as a storyboard and concept artist in the animation industry, particularly for Ruby-Spears Productions on Thundarr The Barbarian (example shown below). Kirby receives some of the best pay of his career, and for the first time, health insurance benefits.
  • October 11: The first episode of Thundarr The Barbarian airs, starting a highly successful syndication run for the series.

1981

  • September (November cover date): Captain Victory and His Galactic Rangers #1 is published through Pacific Comics.
  • September (November cover date): Fantastic Four #236—the 20th anniversary issue—is published. Kirby demands the removal of his name from the cover, citing unauthorized use of his Fantastic Four storyboards inside for nefarious “celebratory purposes.”
  • Kirby works with Steve Gerber on the unused Roxie’s Raiders newspaper strip, comic book, and animated series for Ruby-Spears.

1982

  • Battle For A 3-D World is published, with Kirby pencils, Mike Thibodeaux inks, and 3-D conversion by Ray Zone. The 3-D glasses that come with the comic state “Kirby: King of the Comics,” which is later misconstrued by Johnny Carson when he uses a pair as a prop on The Tonight Show, and inadvertently insults Jack on the air. He publicly apologizes to Jack on-air two weeks later.
  • January (March cover date): Destroyer Duck #1, featuring Kirby pencils, is published in an effort to raise money for Steve Gerber’s lawsuit against Marvel for the rights to Howard the Duck. Kirby also donates the cover art for the F.O.O.G. (Friends of Old Gerber) benefit portfolio.
  • January (March cover date): Kirby’s unpublished 1975 story for DC’s Sandman #7 is finally published in Best of DC Digest #22. It had previously only appeared, for copyright purposes, in DC’s Summer 1978 in-house ashcan inventory book Cancelled Comics Cavalcade, of which only 35 copies were produced by photocopying.
  • October 28: Kirby is interviewed on the TV show Entertainment Tonight by Catherine Mann.
  • December (February 1983 cover date): Silver Star #1 is published by Pacific Comics, based on Jack’s 1975 concept.

1983

  • Kirby is commissioned by Richard Kyle to draw the autobiographical story “Street Code”.
  • February: Will Eisner’s “Shop Talk” interview with Kirby is published in Spirit magazine #39, featuring controversial comments by Kirby.
  • October (December cover date): Destroyer Duck #5 (Kirby’s final issue) is published. Pacific Comics would publish one additional issue, without Kirby art.
  • November (January 1984  cover date): Captain Victory #13 and Silver Star #6 (the final issues) are published.

1984

  • April (June cover date): New Gods reprint #1 is published, beginning a full reprinting of the 11 original New Gods issues.
  • May (July cover date): Super Powers #1 (first series) is published by DC Comics, featuring a Kirby cover, and Jack’s plotting (Kirby plots and draws only covers for #1-4). Jack agrees to tackle this series, in appreciation for DC retroactively making him eligible for royalties on the creation of the New Gods characters that appear in the Super Powers toy line.
  • August: Kirby receives a 4-page legal document from Marvel Comics, drafted especially for him, that contains numerous excessive stipulations around the possible return of his 1960s artwork—including denying him the ability to sell the artwork, and with no guarantee of how many pages he would receive if he did sign the document. Kirby refuses to sign, and attempts to negotiate behind-the-scenes with Marvel, with no success.
  • September (November cover date): New Gods reprint #6 is published, containing the new story “Even Gods Must Die” which attempts to bridge the narrative between the original New Gods #11, and Jack’s upcoming Hunger Dogs graphic novel.
  • September (November cover date): Super Powers #5 is published, the final issue of the first series, featuring Kirby plot, cover, and full pencils.

1985

  • The Hunger Dogs graphic novel is published, giving Kirby a chance to put a pseudo-ending to his New Gods saga.
  • February (April cover date): Who’s Who #2 is published by DC Comics—the first of numerous issues to feature single-page illustrations by Kirby, of his DC characters.
  • March 6: A Cannon Films ad in Variety magazine erroneously credits Stan Lee as the creator of Captain America. The Kirbys’ attorney contacts Marvel Comics about the error.
  • June (August cover date): DC Comics Presents #84 is published, featuringa Kirby-drawn story teaming Superman and the Challengers of the Unknown.
  • July (September cover date): Super Powers (series two) #1 is published, with pencils only by Kirby.
  • July: The Kirbys’ legal dispute with Marvel over the ownership of original artwork plays out publicly, in the first of several issues of The Comics Journal to bring public awareness to the issue. Issue #105 (February 1986) is pivotal in its coverage of the situation.
  • August 2: Kirby appears on a panel at the San Diego Comic-Con with Jim Starlin, Greg Theakston, and Gary Groth, to discuss the situation of Marvel Comics not returning his original artwork.
  • December (February 1986 cover date): Super Powers (series two) #6 is published, featuring Kirby’s final penciled story in comics.

1986

  • New World Entertainment acquires Marvel Comics.
  • Heroes Against Hunger is published by DC Comics to benefit famine relief, featuring a 2-page sequence donated by Jack.
  • August: The Comics Journal #110 includes a petition signed by numerous industry professionals, appealing to Marvel Comics to give Kirby back his original art.
  • August 3: Kirby appears on a panel at the San Diego Comic-Con with Frank Miller, Alan Moore, Marv Wolfman, and Gary Groth, to discuss the situation with Marvel Comics and the return of his original artwork. Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter was in the audience, and spoke briefly from the floor to clarify Marvel’s position.
  • September: Marvel Age Annual #2 is published, reprinting a ½-page text piece by Kirby titled, “Jack Kirby by Jack Kirby,” reprinted from the Merry Marvel Messenger newsletter of 1966.

1987

  • Kirby appears on Ken Viola’s Masters of Comic Book Art documentary, offering many fans their first chance to actually hear and see Kirby speak about comics.
  • January (March cover date): Last of the Viking Heroes #1 is published by Genesis West, featuring a Kirby cover.
  • Pure Imagination publishes Jack Kirby’s Heroes & Villains, reprinting the Valentine’s Day pencil sketchbook Jack drew for his wife Roz in the late 1970s.
  • Summer: Kirby is inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame.
  • Summer: Under pressure from comics creators and the fan community, Marvel Comics sends Kirby the standard form other artists signed, and upon Jack signing it, finally returns approximately 2,100 of the estimated 13,000 pages Kirby drew for the company.
  • August (October cover date): Kirby’s half of a “jam” cover with Murphy Anderson for DC’s Secret Origins #19 sees print.
  • November: Marvel begins their hardcover Marvel Masterworks collection of early Lee/Kirby stories.

1988

  • December (February 1989 cover date): Action Comics Weekly #638 is published, featuring a Kirby Demon cover—his last new work for DC.

1989

  • Monster Masterworks Vol. 1 is published, featuring “Monsters of the Shifty Fifties,” a text piece written by Kirby.
  • Marvel publishes a collection of Simon & Kirby’s Fighting American, including a two-page introduction by Kirby.
  • Glen Kolleda releases a pewter sculpture based on Kirby’s “Jacob And The Angel” drawing. It comes with a print of Jack’s illustration; a second sculpture and print (Beast Rider) was planned, but never produced.

1990

  • February: The Comics Journal #134 (left) is published, featuring a controversial interview with Kirby, including derogatory comments about Stan Lee, and Jack’s own involvement in the creation of Spider-Man.
  • May: Robin Snyder’s fanzine The Comics Vol. 1, #5 prints a 4-page essay/rebuttal by Steve Ditko entitled “Jack Kirby’s Spider-Man,” giving Ditko’s recollection of what Kirby’s involvement on Spider-Man was prior to Ditko taking over. It includes a Ditko sketch of what Kirby’s version looked like.
  • November: Kirby’s 1983 “Street Code” story finally sees print in Richard Kyle’s Argosy magazine, Vol. 3, #2.
  • December: Marvel Age #95 is published, featuring “Birth of a Legend,” an interview with Kirby (as well as a separate interview with Joe Simon) to commemorate Captain America’s 50th anniversary.

1992

  • January: Marvel publishes a collection of Simon & Kirby’s Boys’ Ranch, including a two-page introduction by Kirby.
  • The Art of Jack Kirby is published. Jack and author Ray Wyman conduct a book tour from November 7-December 12, at five stores in California and Tucson, Arizona.

1993

  • January 22: Kirby appears in a cameo as himself, on the shortlived Bob Newhart sitcom Bob (below).
  • February (April cover date): Topps Comics begins publishing their “Kirbyverse” titles—Bombast, Captain Glory, Night Glider, and Jack Kirby’s Secret City Saga—based on unused Kirby concepts from the 1970s. They also publish Satan’s Six #1, which includes a previously unpublished 8-page Kirby sequence from the ’70s.
  • March 14: Jack and Ray Wyman appear at Comics & Comix in Palo Alto, California to promote The Art of Jack Kirby. A lengthy fan video of Jack’s appearance exists.
  • September (December cover date): Phantom Force #1 is published by Image Comics. The Image founders form a sort of solidarity around Kirby.
  • October (January cover date): Monster Menace #2 is published, featuring a ½-page text piece by Kirby titled “Jack Kirby, Atlas Comics and Monsters”—Kirby’s final work of any kind for Marvel.

1994

  • January (April cover date): Phantom Force #2 is published—Kirby’s final comic book work published during his lifetime.
  • February 6: Kirby dies at his home in Thousand Oaks, California at age 77.
  • March 4: Comics Buyer’s Guide #1059 begins coverage of Kirby’s passing, including the first part of a revealing personal recollection by Mark Evanier.
  • Dr. Mark Miller starts an industry petition to persuade Marvel Comics to credit Kirby on his creations. His behind-the-scenes discussions with Marvel’s Terry Stewart would play a role in Marvel granting a pension to Jack’s wife Roz in September 1995, which lasted until her death on December 22, 1997.
  • June 18: Sotheby’s Auction House auctions Kirby cover recreations produced prior to his death.
  • July: A 9-page excerpt from Kirby’s unfinished novel The Horde is published in Galaxy Magazine #4. To date, two others excerpts have been published: in David Copperfield’s anthology Tales of the Impossible (1995), and the anthology book Front Lines (2008)
  • Summer: Chrissie Harper publishes Jack Kirby Quarterly #1 in the United Kingdom.
  • September: John Morrow publishes The Jack Kirby Collector #1.

1 thought on “Key Late Career Moments

  1. patrick ford

    John lists on the timeline:

    “February (1990): The Comics Journal #134 (left) is published, featuring a controversial interview with Kirby, including derogatory comments about Stan Lee, and Jack’s own involvement in the creation of Spider-Man.”

    However he didn’t list: December (1981) Will Eisner’s Spirit Magazine is published, featuring an interview with Kirby, including derogatory comments about Stan Lee, and Jack’s own involvement in the creation of Spider-Man.

    Reply

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