Author Archives: Kirby Diarist

1967 March 3 – “Will Success Spoil Spider-man??”

Stan Lee & Jack Kirby interviewed by Mike Hodel on WBAI FM, NYC

The audio of this interview is courtesy of Stan Lee Papers, Box 70, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. Transcribed by the Kirby Museum.

Hodel: Who goes around saving maidens, preventing banks from being robbed and committing other deeds of that type under an alter ego for the name Peter Parker. How about Tony Stark? Would you believe Reed Richards? Stan Lee? Jack Kirby?

Well, except for the last two, they’re all superheroes and they belong in Marvel Comics and they are written and drawn by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. And Mr. Lee and Mr. Kirby are gonna be asked some questions about their superheroes. And I guess the first one would be addressed to Stan Lee and it’s the title of this program.

Stan, will success spoil Spider-man?

Lee: (laughs) Oh, I don’t think anything could spoil old Spidey, as we lovingly call him.

I just have to correct one thing you said though. You said that, um, except for Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the others are superheros. We like to think of (laughs) ourselves as superheros too. Might add also, there are other artists and other writers who do some of the other books too. Jack and I don’t do them all. Although, we- we do the Fantastic Four and Thor.

And, uh, Spider-man has been a success since he started and, uh, luckily I don’t think he’s been spoiled yet so we just have our fingers crossed.

Hodel: I ran across Marvel Comic Books about six or eight months ago and one of the things that drew me to Marvel Comic Books, and Spider-man in particular, is a panel which showed Spider-man swooping down on some bank robbers and they say, “Whoops. Here comes Spider-man.” And he replies, “Who were you expecting? Vice President Humphrey?” Now this is not a line you expect to find in a comic book and it sort of symbolizes your whole approach to the field, which is offbeat and interesting. Was it your idea, Stan, or, well, where did it come from?

Lee: Well, uh, I guess, in that sense it was my idea, since I write the dialogue.

Uh. In a nutshell, our theory is, although maybe I shouldn’t, uh, give the theory in a nutshell, ’cause then I don’t know what we’ll talk about for the rest of the half hour. At any rate, in a nutshell, our theory is that, um, there’s no reason why a comic magazine couldn’t be as realistic and as well written and drawn as any other type of, uh, literature.

We try to write these things so that characters speak the way a character would speak in a well-written movie, well-produced television show. And, um, I think that’s what makes our books seem unique to a person who first picks them up. Nobody expects, as you say, that sort of thing in a comic book, but that’s a shame because why shouldn’t someone expect reasonable and realistic dialogue in a comic book? Why do people feel that comic books have to be badly written, you see? And we’re trying to, um, engage in a one-company crusade to see to it that they’re not badly written.

Hodel: Jack, you drew and invented, if I’m not mistaken, Captain America, one of the earliest superheros, who’s now plying his trade in Marvel Comics. How did Captain America come to be and does he have any particular, oh, relationship to the, to your other superheros?

Kirby: Well, yes, Captain America, like all the characters come to be because it- because of the fact that there is a need for them. Somebody needed Captain America, just as the public needed Superman. When Superman came on the scene, the public was ready for him and they took him. And so, from Superman, uh, who didn’t exactly satiate the public’s need for the superhero, um, uh, soon spawned the rest of them. The rest of them all came from Superman and they all had various names and various backgrounds and, uh- uh, they embraced various creeds.

And Captain America came from the need for a patriotic character because the times at that time were in a patriotic stir. The war was coming on and, uh, to coin a cliché, the war clouds were gathering and the drums were beginning to beat and, uh, the American flag was beginning to show on the movie screens. And so Captain America had to come into existence and it was just my good fortune to, uh- uh, be there at the time when we were asked to create, uh, superheros for the magazines that were coming into creation then, for the new magazines.

Hodel: Well, Captain America fought valiantly against the Axis from 1940 until after the war, then what happened? When did he, uh, die off or go into hiding until he was revived by Marvel Comics?

Kirby: Well, I- I believe that Captain America went into hiding like all ex-soldiers. I know I went into hiding. I didn’t show my face for quite a few years. In fact, I went out to Long Island with my wife and I got happily lost there and never found my way back to Manhattan.

And so, uh, feeling that I- I, myself and Captain America because of the fact that his feelings are mine when the drawings- when- when the drawings are created and, uh, because his reactions are my reactions to this specific situations in the story, uh, well, I have no compunction to say that we both were hiding for all these years and, uh- uh, were quite happy about it.

Hodel: Well, now that Captain America is back in the fight, has there been any talk about sending him to Vietnam? They could certainly use him.

Kirby: Well, that’s Stan Lee’s department and, uh, he can answer that. The editor always has the last word on that.

Lee: Well, the Secretary of Defense and myself just haven’t yet made up our mind. (laughs). Um. I don’t know. I don’t think we’ll be sending him to Vietnam really because, um, it’s a funny thing. We treat these characters sort of tongue and cheek and we get a lot of laughs out of them. We have a lot of fun with them. I somehow don’t know if it’s in really in good taste to take something as serious as the situation in Vietnam and, uh, put a character like Captain America … We- we would have to start treating him differently and take the whole thing very seriously, which we’re not prepared to do.

The time that Jack talks about, when Captain America was first created, the books were written a little bit differently then. There was really, there wasn’t this type of subtle humor. The stories were very serious and at that time, I think it was okay to have Captain America fighting the Nazis and so forth, ’cause they were done very seriously. But right now, I- I don’t think I’d feel right, uh, writing the stories about Vietnam.

Hodel: All these superheroes are, not all of them, but many of them have, uh, hangups. You have one superhero who is blind, uh, named Daredevil, otherwise known as Matt Murdock. You have Spider-man, Peter Parker, who is perhaps the most guilt-ridden teenager I have ever run across. And there are, uh, many others. How did you decide that these were gonna be something more than superheros, that they were gonna have problems of their own?

Lee: Well, it was just the idea of trying to make them realistic, as we mentioned before, trying to write them a little bit better. It seems to me that the best type of story is the type of story a reader can relate to. The average superhero published by some of the other companies, you can’t really relate to them because they’re living in a vacuum. They just have a super power. They can fly through the air or whatever and that’s it, but other than that, they are two dimensional.

Now in order to make a person three dimensional, he has to have a family life, he has to have personal problems and so forth. The thing, I’ve said this so often that it’s almost becoming a cliché with me, but what we try to do is we know that these superhero stories are really fairy tales. They are fairy tales for older people. We think of them that way. We don’t really write them for young kids. And, uh, what we ask the reader to do, and hope he will do, is accept the basic premise, the basic fairy-tale quality, such as the fact that Spider-man does have the proportionate strength of a spider, if a spider were his size and that Spider-man does have the ability to cling to walls, which obviously nobody does.

However, once we accept that basic premise, that fairy-tale quality, we try to make everything else very realistic. The idea being, what would a real person do? How would he react? How would his life be if he had the strength, proportionate strength of a spider and could cling to walls? Wouldn’t he still have sinus trouble? Possibly trouble with girls? A- a- a sick relative that he was worried about? Have to worry about his school marks and so forth?

So once we get beyond the fairy-tale quality, we try to write realistic stories. We try to have the character speaking in a realistic way. To me, I- I feel that this gives it a great deal of interest. You have the combination of the fantasy, mixed with the most realistic story you can get and, uh … Well, we found sort of a winning combination.

Kirby: Well, a prize fighter can win the championship of the world and go home and be very inadequate at home, uh, inadequate enough and have a lot of family trouble.

Hodel: Which may be one reason for his fighting.

Lee: (laughs) Very good.

Hodel:  You’ve also created something unique in comic books that I know of. You’ve come up with an anti-hero. A physicist by the name of Bruce Banner, who periodically becomes the Hulk and, uh, oh, he destroys things a lot, as somebody said to me. Uh. What made you think that an anti-hero, who goes around tearing down bridges and buildings and things like that, uh, could sell comic books?

Lee: Gee I- I, actually, it … I think we knew when we started that he could sell comic books better than anybody. We’ve always found … I don’t think it’s that we’re this brilliant. Don’t be … We’ve had so much experience, that we’d have to be stupid not to have learned by all these years of experience and we get a lot of fan mail and you learn a lot by what the readers write. And we learned the villains are usually at least as popular as the heroes are. They have a great appeal.

Kirby: Well, what makes you think that a Boris Karloff can’t be a great star in movies? It’s the same analogy I imagine.

Lee: Right.

And what happens is, after a while, we have a lot of trouble by trying to humanize our heroes and giving them faults and failings, we do the same with our villains. We try to give them understandable qualities and reasons why they are the way they are. We’ve even had villains who reformed and became heroes. One standing joke among our readers and among the artists and writers who work for us, our so-called bullpen, is after a while, we don’t know who the heroes and who the villains are. There’s such a fine line, you see, dividing them.

Well, when we started with the Hulk, we just knew he had to be popular because he had everything in his favor. It had the Jekyll and Hyde format. It had the idea of a monster who was sympathetic, the way Frankenstein really had been in the first movie. He wasn’t bad, Frankenstein’s monster, that is, he wasn’t bad, he was misunderstood. All he wanted to do was be left alone.

I would have bet my bottom dollar the Hulk would have to be well received and he was and he still is one of our most popular characters, probably the most popular one with our college readers, college-age readers.

Hodel: That’s what I was gonna ask. You say your books are aimed not at children, but at, uh, young people and adults. Is there anyway that you can check for magazine sales and so forth as to, uh, what your readership is?

Lee: No. Our only check really is through the mail, which is a very good check because we get thousands of letters a week. I would guess we get almost as much mail as the Beatles and we don’t even sing.

And, uh, by reading all this mail, a monumental task in itself, we’ve learned a lot about who our readers are and what they like and dislike. And, uh, almost half of our mail is from college students and college-aged people.

Hodel: What do they like and what do they not like?

Lee: Just what you’d think they’d like. They like whatever we do that seems to be original, unexpected. They like the, uh, degree of satire we put into the books. They are mad for the quality of artwork, which I think is far superior than has ever been presented in any other comics over the years. They like the, uh, realism, which, uh, it’s always a difficult thing to say because somebody who isn’t familiar with the books would think this guy must be, must have flipped. He’s talking about comic books and he’s talking about realism, but the readers know what we mean. And, um, they like whatever quality they find: good writing, good drawing, good editing, and sincerity. I think they- they can detect a note of sincerity, even though the stories have some humor, quite a bit of humor to them, there is an underlying sincerity. We take them seriously and I think the readers are aware of this.

Hodel: Did you also innovate the letters page, which, uh, it- it- it adds to your stories and frequently I sometimes find in the blurbs you run, that, uh, you advance the stories by means of these letter pages?

Lee: The letters pages are our most successful, one of our most successful devices. It also establishes a rapport, uh, between ourselves and the readers and, uh, I’m happy to say most of our readers feel that we’re all friends. When they write a letter, they don’t say dear editor, they say dear Stan and Jack. Dear so and so. They call us by name and we give ourselves nicknames. We started this as a gag and they’ve caught on. Uh. The fellow here at my right isn’t just Jack Kirby, he’s “Jolly Jack” or-

Kirby: And I’ll get you for it.

Lee: (laughs) … or Jack “King” Kirby.

Kirby: (laughs)

Lee: And I’m “Smiling Stan.” And, uh, this is kinda cute too because, as- as I mentioned to you earlier, I think before we were on the air, we sort of think of the whole thing as one big advertising campaign with slogans and mottos and catch phrases and things that the reader can identify with. And besides just presenting stories, we try to make the reader think he’s part of an in group. A fact that we’ve discussed before, we’re always a little worried about being too successful, where, uh, the readers will feel oh gosh, now everybody’s got on to it. We have to find something new.

Hodel: Is there a real Irving Forbush?

Lee: Oh, I don’t think that it would be right for me to answer that.

Hodel: (laughs)

Lee: When we’re off the air, I might hint at it. He’s real in our imagination, I’ll put it that way. (laughs).

Hodel: Well, I think you’ve also pioneered the use of mythological superheroes. I’m talking about Thor, which you two-

Lee: Oh.

Hodel: … come up with every month.

Lee: Well, you’ve got the right guy here ’cause I would say that Jack is the greatest mythological creator in the world. Well, we- we kicked Thor around and we came out with him. And I thought he would just be another book. And I think that Jack has turned him into one of the greatest, uh, fictional characters there are.

In fact, I should let Jack say this, but just on the chance that he won’t. He was … Somebody was asking him how he gets his authenticity in the costumes and everything. And I think a priceless answer Jack said was, “They’re not authentic. If they were authentic, they wouldn’t be authentic enough.” But he draws them the way they should be, not the way they were.

Hodel: Did you do a lot of homework on that, a lot of, uh, Norse myths and so forth?

Kirby: Well, uh- uh, not homework in the sense that I- I went home one night and I really concentrated on it. All through the years, certainly I’ve had uh- uh, a kind of affection for any mythological type of character and, uh, my conception of what they should look like and, uh, here Stan gave me the opportunity to draw one and I wasn’t gonna draw back from really letting myself go, so I did. And, uh, like, uh- uh, the world became a stage for me there and, uh, I had a costume department that really went to work. And, uh, I gave the Norse, uh, characters twists that they never had in anybody’s imagination.

Lee: (laughs)

Kirby: And, uh, somehow it- it turned out to be a lot of fun and I- I really enjoyed doing it.

Hodel: Isn’t it rather tough to come up with villains that, uh, are a suitable match for a Norse god?

Kirby: Well, not if they’re Norse gods.

Lee: (laughs).

Hodel: Well, you’ve also dragged in some Greeks. I remember one epic battle with Hercules.

Kirby: Well, Hercules had, uh, Olympian powers, which certainly are, uh, considered, uh, on an equal basis with old powers of the Norse gods and, uh, therefore we, uh, we felt that, uh, they were an equal match for each other, and by rights, they should contend with each other.

Lee: These college kids, who are so hooked on these stories, and they like Thor also, and not long ago I was speaking at Princeton, and one of the questions that I was asked was, “How do we reconcile the idea of Norse gods and Greek gods in the same story?” Now, obviously, Zeus and Odin are really the same god, but, uh, in different mythologies. And it occurred to us, what we do is we create our own mythology and we create our own universes and in our minds, there is an Olympus and there is an Asgard and Odin is the boss of his little god- god-dom and Olympus is the chief of his and we may someday bring in the Roman gods or whoever else.

And we figure that we don’t have, as Jack said, we don’t have to be that accurate because we think we can do better. After all, mythology is mythology and who’s to say we can’t make up our own myths, which is what we’re doing, just basing them on other past ones and having a heck of a good time doing it.

Hodel: Well, you have to draw your villains to scale. You can’t give Spider-man and, uh, Thor the same villain to fight. You, there has to sort of a class A, B, and C for villains. And, uh, so it must be a bid of a hard- hardship to come up with a villain who can be, uh, satisfactorily, uh, well give satisfactory battles-

Lee: Yeah.

Hodel: … to Thor.

Kirby: Yes. Well, I found out that villains seem to have their limits to because I came up with a few on a- on a galactic scale and-

Lee: (laughs)

Kirby: … and soon reversed my direction. (laughs)

Lee: The trouble with Jack is he’s too darned imaginative and he- he gets himself absolutely trapped. The last thing he did and finally we both said we have to stop and retrench a little, is he had Thor fighting a whole planet. Jack came up with an idea, a fella named Ego, who’s a living planet in … What was he, a bio, instead of a universe?

Kirby: Yes. He lived in a- a bio-verse. And, uh-

Lee: Which I’m sure we’re all very familiar with.

Kirby: Yes, and- and-(laughs)

Hodel: Just the other side of the, uh, negative universe, right?

Kirby: Yes. And- and- and just not presenting the reader with a- with a living planet. We- we- we had, it had to be cause and effect, so we made him into a multiple virus, which we felt (laughs) could be accepted and that maybe not on a friendly basis-

Hodel: (laughs)

Lee: (laughs)

Kirby: … but certainly on a realistic basis and that was our jumping off point. And, uh, we went on from there and he was acceptable to the reader, uh, due to the fact that he could contend with Thor on Thor’s level.

Lee: He was acceptable due to the fact that Jack drew him so well, but the problem was where do we go from there. After you fought a living planet, you can’t fight a litter bug. So, uh, we- we do have problems in that respect.

Now we have to, we’re trying to humanize these characters again a little bit, because they’ve been too far out, you know, there. We had him fight the whole troll empire in Asgard. And he fought … Well, we, in the Fantastic Four, for example, we had a fella name Galactus, who’s practically god. I mean, he could do anything and he, uh … We- we realized after Galactus, that we better take it a little bit easy with these villains too.

In fact, a lot of readers would write in and they say, “Well, where do you go from here? Well, who’s he gonna fight next after that?”

Kirby: Not only that, we felt it was disrespectful to Galactus to even destroy him in any manner, so we had to just respectfully find a way for him to leave and then go on to another adventure, because we couldn’t even touch him, I believe. And, uh, there- there might have been an outcry if we had.

Lee: (laughs) One other thing I think that we’ve innovated that has been pretty successful, is overlapping characters and books. For example, this Galactus, he first appeared in the Fantastic Four. Now this is interesting to me, the Fantastic Four books that he appeared in were three in number, three consecutive issues. We have continued stories. In fact, they are, all our books are one big continued story. And in the mail we received from so many college kids, they now refer to those books, they’ll say, “By the way, regarding your Gallacks- your Galactus trilogy” … and the darned thing, you know, they’re referring to this as though it’s the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, which I love. This is wonderful. It means we’re- we’re really reaching them.

At any rate, he appeared in the Fantastic Four and then he went off to another universe and that was the end of Galactus, but we didn’t leave him there. In Thor, which is another publication of ours and has no relationship to the Fantastic Four except that we publish them both, what we did was, when Thor was finishing of this living planet that he had battled, on his way back to Earth, he passed Galactus, who was wandering around in the sky up there, and Galactus was on his way to meet the fellow, Ego, who was the living planet and so forth, and we just kind of left it there. And someday when we run out of plots, we’ll have the fight between Galactus and Ego. But we very often do that ’cause we feel it gives a feeling of realism also.

If we have a villain who fought the Fantastic Four or Spider-man or Daredevil or the X-Men or Captain America or whomever, why shouldn’t he eventually meet another one of our heroes? Or why shouldn’t our heroes meet as they often do and guest star in each other’s book? Because according to the gospel as preached by Marvel, they all live in the same world, you see?

Kirby: I would advise any astronomer listening to what we have to say here to take another good hard look at the Quasars-

Lee: (laughs)

Kirby: … because we think that one of them is Galactus.

Lee: (laughs)

Hodel: (laughs)

Lee: And we dare them to disprove it.

Hodel: If anyone wants to disprove it, please call WBAI and we’ll set up a program.

I wanted to talk about your guest-starring villains and superheroes in, uh, in each other’s books. Do you find that this, well, besides giving continuity and realism, do you think that, uh, to save you the trouble of creating more villains?

Lee: Oh, it certainly is helpful because once, it’s like a- a repertory theater, where you got your actors, and you know what they can do, and you can use them as- as needed.

Once we have our cast of characters, whether heroes or villains or both, it makes it easier for us to base stories. If we’re sitting around dreaming up a plot, Jack might say to me, gee, you know, we haven’t used the Silver Surfer for awhile. How would it be if he was doing this, that,  or the other. Or I might remember, gee, what about Galactus or- or whoever, so it does make it easier.

But that isn’t the reason we do it, we do it because again, it seems to me that you enjoy things that you’re familiar with and the readers eventually get to know these characters and they’re interested in these characters and why just get rid of them. It’s very, it takes months to build up that interest in a new character.

So what we do is, while we’re developing a new character, we’ll still have old ones reappearing to give a- a- a thread of continuity here and there. In fact, in the Fantastic Four, we have absolutely gotten ourselves into such a hole, that I don’t know if we’re ever gonna get … We have so many continuing characters that Peyton Place seems simple next to our situation.

Hodel: I walked into the Fantastic Four line about three or four months ago and every couple of pages you drop one of the Fantastic Four, The Human Torch, Johnny Storm, uh, he will appear for a moment and then he will go off someplace, looking for the Inhumans, for a- for a girl. And, uh, I’m very curious to know where the Inhumans first popped up? It looks as if you, uh, had an idea for a hero there in Black Bolt, who’s the leader of the Inhumans, I found out in I think one of the Avenger books, of all places.

Lee: (laughs)

Hodel: And, uh, they sort of weave in and out over a period of, well, must be at least a year now. And, uh, that must-

Lee: These things aren’t always planned. They grow.

Now what happened was, I think Jack, the first Inhuman that we brought in was Gorgon, wasn’t it? Didn’t we have a story, the gentleman’s name was Gorgon?

Kirby: Yes.

Lee: And he was a fella who (laughs) he looked a little like a centaur or something. He could kick his foot very hard and he had great power. He could shatter a mountain by kicking his foot. He started out as a villain. We liked him so much, I should say Jack liked him so much, that he kept using him. We figured he has to come from somewhere. We decided, let him come from some strange land over in Europe, where there are a whole group of people like him. And well, what else could you call them except the Inhumans. Then Jack had to create a whole bunch of Inhumans and I think he did a great job. All these characters are really very imaginative.

When it came to doing the leader, we decided, well, there was no need for them all to be villainous. And you’re right, I think we did have in mind that Black Bolt would eventually be a heroic type.

And again, we always try to give a character a hangup so his hangup is he doesn’t speak. Now, I’m quite sure he’s the first non-speaking superhero or supervillain, we don’t know quite yet in history.

But anyway, they evolved. I mean, we didn’t sit down one day and say let’s do a group of Inhumans and these are their names and we’ll present them in this fashion, as with everything we do. We just sort of stumble into them as we go along.

I might add something that you may not be aware of, we don’t do the stories the way most other outfits do. We kick around a plot very, very loosely and generally for a story, just discuss it for a few minutes. Uh. We might say- say Jack, and I’d say Jack, in the next Thor, how about bringing back Galactus fighting the planet Ego or something. And Jack will say great. And off he goes. I don’t know where he goes, but off he goes. I don’t see him for a week. He comes back a week later and the whole strip is drawn. And nobody knows what I’m gonna see on those pages. He may have come up with a dozen new ideas, you see. It’ll have something to do with Galactus and Ego. And I take it and I write it on the basis of what Jack has drawn. He’s broken it down to continuity for me. He’s drawn the whole thing actually. I put in the dialogue and the captions. So he doesn’t know exactly what I’m gonna write, what words I’m gonna put in their mouths. I don’t know what he’s gonna draw. The whole thing is, uh, virtual chaos. But somehow, when it gets together, it- it seems to hold together pretty well. We- we kind of like working this way.

Hodel: Well, my own favorite book is the Avengers. Uh. I guess, I have a hangup over a group of superheros, rather than individuals. And each one of the Avengers, which have, which number six, and I believe the, uh, official count is eight, although I gather they’re changing. You’re-

Lee: Always.

Hodel: … bringing some new ones in.

I remember in one book that you toyed with the idea of making Spider-man an Avenger and then decided no. We better not. He works best alone.

When you start out with, uh, well, with the Avengers, sometimes do they get ahead of you?

Lee: Oh, I’d say all the characters get ahead of us. I sometimes think they write their own stories.

Lee: Uh. The Avengers, we have almost the same problem as Jack has with the Fantastic Four. There are so many of them and they all have so many of their own problems. And we have another fellow writing that now, Roy Thomas, who’s just been added to our writing staff recently. And, uh, (laughs) I don’t know how the poor guy is doing it. I- I got out of the Avengers when it began to get complicated and Roy inherited them. There are now a million more characters there than there ever were when I wrote the book. In fact, I can’t even keep track. If you say there are eight, I’ll take your word for that. I thought they were at (laughs) 35 by now.

Lee: Every character we have, when we don’t know what to do with them, we throw them into the Avengers.

Kirby: Not only that, we have to make sure, I’m sorry, we have to make sure that they’re not involved in situations which won’t conflict with the one we want to create at that moment.

Hodel: You took care of one of those very nicely in the newest Avengers strip. I don’t recall the number, but, uh, the subplot concerns getting, I think it’s the Red Witch in..

Lee: Scarlet Witch.

Hodel: The Scarlet Witch-

Lee: The Scarlet Witch. Of course.

Hodel: … into the Avengers and this causes its own hang ups because, uh, unlike most of comic-dom, there are people who don’t like her, don’t think she should be a member of the group.

And, uh, meanwhile, in another book, you have sent Captain America off looking for somebody else. And you tied up one of the loose ends by, uh, in the Avengers. This is getting complicated. (laughs)

Lee: (laughs)

Hodel: By, uh, saying that he was off. It was very nicely done. I was curious when- when he left his post in his own book, which is Strange Tales or Tales of Suspense. I can’t-

Lee: Captain America is in Strange … No. I’m sorry. He’s in Tales of Suspense. Free plug. (laughs)

Kirby: (laugh) This all sounds very familiar.

Lee: (laughs) Strange Tales, since you asked, features Dr. Strange and Nick Fury, Agent of Shield, who also stars in his own book, Sgt. Fury, uh, and His Howling Commandos, which is probably the nuttiest title every conceived of.

Hodel: I wanted to ask you about, uh, Mr. Fury, Sergeant, Colonel-

Lee: Well, he’s in- in Strange Tales, he’s Colonel Nick Fury. Um. I think I can anticipate your question, the fact that he’s in two books, uh, concurrently. What happened was, we put out this war book sort of as a gag a long time ago. When our superheros were doing so well, I mentioned to our publisher, Martin Goodman, that, um, it seems to me we seem to have a formula for these books now and it doesn’t much matter what the subject matter is, as long as they are written and drawn in the style that I think the readers would like them, this, uh, sort of realistic style. I said, to prove it, I bet if we put out a war magazine, which were no great shakes at that time, we could sell just as well and we could make the public like it as well. And, uh, just sort of on a gamble, we did it and we came up with the most unlikely name, Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos. I think I was always captivated by the names Screaming Eagles from World War II. This was the closest I could get.

Um. At any rate, we gave them a lot of personality. They weren’t just a bunch of soldiers who fought heroically and that was it. They quarreled among themselves and they had their own … They were a squad. Everything was wrong too. For example, Americans weren’t Commandos during the war, they were Rangers. The English were Commandos. We made them American and we still called them Commandos and they were based in England. And in our usual bumbling way, all the facts were pretty inaccurate, but the characterization was there and they were led by tough, rough and tough sergeant, and nobody can draw rough and tough sergeants better than Jack, who did the first few books, Sgt. Fury, Nick Fury. And there are a lot of other interesting characters with him.

Well, at any rate, uh, the stories took place during World War II. The readers loved them so much that they said, why don’t you have stories of … What’s Sgt. Fury … They- they began to think he was a real person. What is Sgt. Fury doing today? That was 25 years ago. Is he alive today? What’s he doing? Why don’t you have a book of Sgt. Fury in the vet-, in the Vietnamese war today and so forth?

I didn’t want to put him in the Vietnamese war, but at that time the James Bond things were popular and we figured it might be very logical for Fury to be a, um, in intelligence or a counter spy or something of the sort. Not that logical ’cause he’s a very, um, rough and tough, hard-bitten guy without nearly the polish of your average secret operative, which also is typical of the way we do things. He’d be the last guy you would expect to be a debonair head of a secret organization, so we made him Colonel Fury, the Head of S.H.I.E.L.D, which is like any of these others, like U.N.C.L.E. or anything else.

So we now have stories of Sgt. Fury in World War II and the same fellow today as Colonel Fury, the Head of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Hodel: Do you ever get an overwhelming impulse to kill off the Sergeant and let them wonder how the Colonel got there?

Lee: You know, I never thought of that, but (laughs) that’s a very, very good point. That would drive everybody crazy. (laughs).

Kirby: It’s like having your own grandmother. Killing your own grandmother. I’m sorry.

Hodel: Do, uh, do your books run in trends or are there plots that run in trends that you have to anticipate or- or try to keep up with?

Lee: This was the case for 25 years, uh, for 20 years before we started with the so-called Marvel Age with comics. In the past, if the war books were selling, we would put out war books and we’d sell our share. If the, uh, crime stories, cops and robbers type of thing, if they were selling, we’d put those out and we’d sell our share and so forth.

Now, fortunately, we seem to feel that we’re creating the trends. Most, I think if we put out a book of romance stories or aviation stories or what have you, we would create a trend in so doing, because we have a loyal following among fandom and as long as we can write them well and draw them well, I don’t think it much matters what the subject matter is, it … And I know there are a lot of people who’ll disagree with me, but I feel the important thing is how well you do it. So we think of ourselves as being the top of the trends right now, instead of just following them.

Hodel: Well, if you’re making the trends, what do you think is gonna be next? Where do you go from here?

Lee: You know, I’m- I’m afraid, I- I could answer it and I daren’t ’cause we are working on a new magazine and if you invite me back here about a month or two from now, I’ll tell you then. But I know, if I mention it and any of the competition hears it, they might just beat us to it. But we do have a new type of magazine that we are working on right now. It should be on sale in about four months.

Hodel: I wanted to ask you, what is the, uh, the time element involved in from, uh, from your and Jack’s idea to the time it hits the stands?

Lee: Well, I’d say from the time Jack and I do a strip, uh, to the time it hits that stand, must be about three and half to four months.

Hodel: What, uh, causes that great a lag, just the mechanics?

Lee: Yeah. The strip comes into the house and it sits around for a while, while it’s proofread and edited. Then it goes out and the photostats are made and the stats are colored for the engraver. Then it’s sent to the comic’s magazine association, where they check it over and make sure that there’s nothing objectionable according to the code of ethics that we have in the industry. Then it goes to the engraver then the mat maker, as far as I know. I don’t know too much about this. I think Jack knows more than I do. Printer and so forth, the distributor and it’s shipped around the country. It’s just a complicated thing. It takes a long time.

Hodel: Does it cost a lot of money? How much per book would you say?

Lee: You know, I’m embarrassed. I have been in the business so long and not to know. But I-

Kirby: I-

Lee: Jack would know. Wait a minute.

Kirby: Higher than it used to be. I- I can’t give you an exact amount, but certainly everything costs more. Uh. A magazine that you put out in 1940 might cost you twice as much to put out today. Cost of paper. Cost of printing and engraving.

But, uh, magazines- magazines are- are doing fairly well in the economy and certainly holding up and, uh- uh, the price of production certainly is, uh- uh, on a level which benefits, uh, from the sales we’re, you know, the magazines are getting so there’s no complaints on that score, not from Marvel, as far as I know.

Hodel: (laughs) Well, and you can sell enough books at 12 cents or 25 cents a piece to, uh, do reasonably well.

Lee: Well, we have to sell a lot of them because I think that the profit, you know, on a 12 cent book is just, uh … Again, I don’t know. It may be a penny or two pennies, but it’s something in that area. Most of it goes to the- the printer, the wholesaler, the distributor, the store keeper and so forth, and just a little bit of it trickles back to the publisher. Fortunately, we sell hundreds of thousands of them so, I don’t think there’s too big a problem as far as making a dollar here and there.

Hodel: Before we went on the air, uh, you and Jack were involved in a slight argument over whether Marvel should, uh, remain number two in superheros or you should, uh, take advantage of the fact that you are selling more books than, what shall I say, the other leading publisher.

Lee: Well, I don’t know that we’re selling more. I think they’re printing more cont-, they- they have more books, consequently they more in total volume. I think our percentage of sales is higher. For the books we print, I think we sell more copies of them.

Yes, we- we are having and ar- … The argument in a nutshell, then I’ll let Jack speak his piece, is I feel that I don’t want to lose our image of being the underdogs, which we’ve had for years. The little outfit that came along and we’re, um, challenging the big fellas. The American public being the way it is, once we’re known to be the leaders, they’re liable to sympathize with another outfit. So I’d like us to kind of, uh, have the, it’s not that I don’t want us to be top, but I’d like with the public, I’d like them to think of us as the little, homey, uh, fun outfit that, you know, we’re not quite that and successful. We’re not that fat cat-ish yet.

Lee: Jack feels differently though I think.

Kirby: Well, I feel that we, well certainly, we may be number one but still retain the type of character that we’ve always had. Certainly if people like you at first, there- there’s no reason why they shouldn’t continue to like- like you unless there’s some sort of a radical change in your makeup. If you’re a good magazine, I imagine that they will keep reading it and your readers will be faithful to you.

Certainly, uh, they don’t expect you to, uh, get the arrogance that you might expect with, uh, a champion of any kind. Uh. There, uh, there have been champions that have been humble and that have had fine characters and have been likable. Uh. Certainly, uh, people who’ve had the admiration of the public for years. And there have been champions who have had color and arrogance and have been disliked and, uh, yet have, uh, retained, uh, the quality that have made them champions.

So it doesn’t matter what kind of character the magazines have, the … My- my contention is that it must have the content that the readers like. Uh. Although, the magazine certainly has- has, uh, an individual personality, which Stan has instilled, uh, through his cultivation of the readers. Uh. We still have the content that is superior to any of the magazines on the market and I as a reader would like to read Marvel. And when I do a strip on Marvel, I feel that I’m a reader. I’m certainly never bored with the stuff I read in Marvel. And, uh, I may get to dislike Stan or dislike anybody else in the organization, but that won’t deter me from buying the magazine.

So I feel we are number one. We should be number one, and we say we’re number one and, uh, have no regrets about it. If we’re not number one, we’d like to, I- I feel that we should take, uh, the criticism and, uh, use it for its value. Take whatever value the criticism has and use it for our improvement. It’s as simple as that.

Lee: Well, I think Jack is a real pussy cat to say that and I know what he means and I certainly want us to be number one too and I agree with everything he says. I think the quality should be as good as we can make it and I think the readers will always read our material, if it, uh, what they want to read.

My only feeling is, as I mention, I like to think of this whole thing as an advertising campaign and I just know that the public generally likes an underdog. And while I’m not sure we’ll lose anybody if they think we’ve grown terribly complacent and successful, I think it’s more fun for the reader to think he’s latched on to something that is sort of his little discovery and, um, it’s a little bit far out and the general public hasn’t quite discovered it yet and he can tell his friends about it. But the minute the reader feels everybody knows about Marvel and everybody likes Marvel, then I’m just afraid, while they’ll still read us, but as far as their sympathies are concerned, they may try to find something else that nobody has discovered yet-

Kirby: Well, I-

Lee: … to lavish their affection on.

Kirby: I think what the reader does not like is false humility. The reader by this time knows that Marvel is number one. He knows that Marvel is superior. He knows that Marvel has quite a number of readers.

Lee: (laughs)

Kirby: And if we were to tell them, that we are humble and, uh, that we’re not quite number one, he won’t believe it.

Lee: No. I don’t mean-

Kirby: He will not believe it.

Lee: I don’t mean tell him. I think the one thing we have never been accused of is humility, whether false or otherwise, because our readers figure we’re the most conceited group in the world and they get a kick out of it because we’re always bragging.

Kirby: That’s too true.

Lee: We call ourselves Marvel, the House of Ideas.

Kirby: (laughs)

Lee: We have phrases like “Who says this isn’t the Marvel Age of comics?” and they’re always writing letters to us, “You guys may be the most swell-headed guys in the world, but you gotta right to be and we still love you.” I don’t-

Kirby: And there you are. (laughs)

Lee: I’m not talking about humility, I’m talking about the fact that I think it would be better for us if the reader does not think of us as being on top of the heap, as far as being a rich, successful outfit. And I might be dead wrong, but then I don’t know that that’s the image I think I’d like the public to have of us.

Hodel: You’ve been listening to two of the most humble-

Lee: (laughs)Hodel: … and feared underdogs in the number one spot in the comic business, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee of Marvel Comics and, uh, this is Mike Hodel for WBAI.

Discovery at Snake River – again?

Tom Morehouse is one of Jack Kirby’s biggest fans and scholars. He built a significant collection, a.k.a. his Kirby Krypt, which contained every one of Kirby’s U.S. published works (note the past tense, he sold it years ago), and continues to study Kirby’s work.

Tom recently reached out and asked “What was the name of the Australian ‘Snake River’ comic, again? Because I think I found it.” I reminded him it was “Showdown at Snake River“, and we talked more. Turns out he’d asked an auction seller about a Black Rider story that was listed in a comic they were selling. They replied it was titled “Guns Roar at Snake River!’ and sent along a low quality snapshot.

Low res, indeed!

And there it was. A Kirby splash for a previously unknown Black Rider story! The circular lower left panel was a big clue.

Cover to Black Rider #21, dated March 1954. Art by Syd Shores with Carl Burgos and color by Stan Goldberg

Some background: the first Black Rider comic book series published by Timely/Atlas/Marvel publisher Martin Goodman started with #8 dated March 1950. Publication took a hiatus between issues #18, January 1952, and #19, November 1953. Then, its name was changed to Western Tales of Black Rider with issue #28, dated May 1955, and ran until #31, dated November 1955. Jack Kirby was not involved in any of these comics. (Thanks GCD!)

Cover to Black Rider vol 2 #1, dated September 1957.
Art by John Severin and color by Stan Goldberg.

However, two years later Goodman started a new quarterly Black Rider series, dated September 1957. With a beautiful cover by John Severin, the issue contained three Black Rider stories across nineteen pages by Jack Kirby, the seven page “The Legend of the Black Rider!”, the six page “Duel at Dawn”, the six page “Treachery at Hangman’s Bridge!”, a four page story by Bob Powell, and a text story with illustrations by Gene Colan.

Title splash pages for the three Black Rider stories in vol 2 #1, dated September 1957.

The second issue… well, there was no second issue, but it appears one was planned because Goodman published three more Jack Kirby Black Rider stories totaling fourteen pages. The four page “Trouble in Leadville!” appeared in Gunsmoke Western #47, dated July 1958, the five page “The Raiders Strike!’ appeared in Gunsmoke Western #51, dated March 1959, and the five page “Meeting at Midnight!” appeared in Kid Colt, Outlaw #86, dated September 1959.

Title splash pages for the three Black Rider stories published later in the U.S..

Tom found the Black Rider “Snake River” story in Giant Western Gunfighters #4, from Horwitz Publishing. After receiving it, he graciously lent it for scanning and indexing. The comic is a mixture of Goodman-published stories, but interestingly, contains five 5 page stories, including the Black Rider, that have not been found to be published in the U.S..

Cover to Giant Western Gunfighters #4. Published by Horwitz publications, 1958. Art by Maurice Bramley.

Splash pages to the four other stories that do not appear to have been published in the U.S.

Ok, enough background – here’s the new discovery!

Yes, We have better scans… 🙂

Time to call in some art Identifying experts! Harry Mendryk, Dr. Michael J. Vassallo, and Nick Caputo all agree that the pencil art is all Kirby, while Doc V. and Nick agree that the inking is by George Klein. The lettering is still in question. Alex Jay suggests Joe Rosen, and Nick Caputo suggests Ray Holloway. If you have any thoughts, please share!

It’s somewhat interesting that two recent Kirby western story discoveries have “Snake River” in the title, and are inked by George Klein, who is now acknowledged as the inker of Fantastic Four #1. Quite a coincidence that Kirby sold both Snake River stories to Goodman’s editor Stan Lee, but neither were published in the US.

A hearty hail of gratitude to Tom Morehouse for continuing to do the deep dive! And many thanks to Harry, Nick, Doc V., and Alex for their help.

Fantastic Four house ad from Hulk #1

Posted in General and tagged

Marvel recently used a piece of Kirby art for one of the multiple covers of its new Fantastic Four #1. We scanned the original art back in 2011 for our Digital Archive, and thought we’d show what is possible with an archival quality scan.
Above is what the art looks like. But using some photo editing adjustment tools, we can see some interesting items…

.. all kinds of pencil under-drawings: Sue in a different position, Reed’s neck and arm(s?) stretching in loops. In fact, it looks like the incongruous lump on the Thing’s right shoulder may have originally been Reed’s hand. The hand lettering looks like Stan Lee’s.

Here’s what the ad looked like in Hulk #1 in 1962.

And the 2018 “Hidden Gem” FF#1 cover

1993: Jack Kirby: The Hardest Working Man in Comics by Steve Pastis

More than a few years ago, Steve (not the comic strip cartoonist) Pastis approached our booth at a convention to tell us he interviewed Jack Kirby in late 1993, and if he finds a copy, he’ll send it to us. A few years later, victory was his (and ours)! –he sent us our own copy of the free Happening Magazine from November 1993 for our archive. Many thanks, Steve! – Rand

“If you read my stories, I think you’ll find that the people in them are very real,” said Jack Kirby, talking about a concept he pioneered.

“I never do fairy tale people, I do people just as they are.”

Kirby has always created characters which have human weaknesses and frailties. He often has had his superheroes fighting amongst themselves, because that is what people do. “Superheroes may be superhuman in stature but inside they’re human beings and they act and react as human beings,” he explained. “It  doesn’t matter whether you’re doing legendary characters like Hercules or modern characters, you’ll find that humans are humans and they’ll react the same way in certain situations.”

Kirby is considered by many to be America’s leading comic book artist. Many of his characters have become part of the American culture and his influence is evident in the evolution of the comic book, as well as in the American hero. His 53-year career is celebrated in a new book, The Art of Jack Kirby, written by Ray Wyman, Jr., and co-researched by Catherine Hohlfeld.

The book, which documents Kirby’s life and contains hundreds of color photos of his work, offers some amazing statistics about his prolific career. According to the numbers compiled by Wyman and and that Hohlfeld, Kirby created a total of 20,318 of art and 1,385 covers in his career. He published 1,158 pages in 1962 alone.

When asked what the greatest accomplishment was in his career, Kirby responded modestly, “The fact could sell magazines.” He then turned from the financial aspect to the creative side of his business, saying, “I’m proud of all my characters.”

Captain America, Kirby’s first popular character, was created shortly after meeting and becoming partners with Joe Simon in 1939. “Captain America was my earliest and I was very fond of him because he generated a lot of action scenes. I initially loved action very much.

“Captain America was a product of the way I felt at the time. I come from New York City and – especially on the block where I lived – there was plenty of action. There were fights and people would come from the next block and we would fight and either win or lose. That would be the routine. I grew up with that type of activity and I accepted it in my professional work.

“I believe it was also the times in general. Hitler was in power. The world was immersed in a general atmosphere of war. The war was coming and so there was a lot of turbulence. It was a very turbulent period and people reacted in a turbulent fashion. When I met partner Joe Simon, we immediately got our heads together and came up with Captain America who was typical of times. He was a patriot. He was a fighter. We were Americans and, in our plu cial minds, we were winners. Captain America was a winner. And sales were phenomenal,”

Kirby’s characters, being a very diverse bunch, have been created from very different inspirations.

“Thor is a legendary hero and I love the legends. Thor was the perfect for a comic book hero. Silver Surfer, of course, was a product of California. I opened the paper one day in New York and there were these surfers riding these waves. It seems incredible to me now that I conceived of Silver as surfing around the universe.

“The Incredible Hulk I got from a woman. One night in New York City, I saw this child crawling out from under the fender of a parked car. Suddenly, there was a scream and this woman comes running out. She lifts up the entire rear of this touring car — and this was no small car – So this youngster can crawl out on the sidewalk. It struck me that, in tense situations, human beings can transcend their own strength and do things that they don’t ordinarily think they can do.”

Kirby had more creative ideas for the character he was creating, however, “I put the gamma rays,” he recalled. “These kinds of things were very saleable.” the gamma rays,”

Born in 1917, Kirby gained an interest in storytelling from hearing his mother tell Eastern European folk tales. He was also inspired by authors such as Jules Verne and Edgar Rice Burroughs. His first job in publishing was for a newspaper as a cartoonist and writer. After a brief period working for Max Fleischer Studios on cartoons such as *Popeye,” he found work with newspaper strip syndicates.

His partnership with Simon led to success with “Boy Commandos” comics, which inspired National Periodical Publications to put the two on contract. Kirby earned a Bronze Star in France during World War II and returned home in 1945 to find a new boom in the comics industry.

By 1950, the Kirby/Simon partnership was considered the most respected comics producing team. Unfortunately, their venture Mainline Comics was soon closed during an era where many comic book publishers fell victim to government censorship. The two turned their efforts to create romance comics and eventually went their separate ways. Kirby once again found himself with National Periodicals, which had since become DC Comics.

Unhappy with his editors, Kirby moved to Marvel Comics in 1959 where he collaborated with Stan Lee on new characters and revived old ones. Over the next decade, characters such as the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, X-Men and Silver Surfer were created. Captain America “came out of retirement” to join a super hero team called “The Avengers.” His early years at Marvel were perhaps his most creative.

“This was a period when we were experimenting with the atom bomb,” he recalled. “People were wondering what the effects would be. Everybody worried ‘Would we all become mutants? We played around with this ‘mutation thing’ and I came up with the X-Men, who were associated with radiation and its effects on humanity.”

In 1970, Kirby left Marvel and rejoined DC Comics in an arrangement which allowed him to work for the New York publisher from his California home. There he created “The Fourth World,” “Mister Miracle” and “The New Gods.” Since then, he has worked for animation studios such as DePatie-Freling and Hanna-Barbera. He is currently overseeing several projects which will carry his name.

Through the years, articles have reported on a feud between Kirby and Marvel Comics editor Stan Lee. When asked to set the record straight on this relationship, Kirby made every effort to offer kind comments about his former boss.

“We always had a good relationship,” he said. “He was an editor and I would simply bring my artwork. I would write the story at home. Stan Lee was involved in a lot of things. He’s a talented man and he was very busy. I did my thing and he did his.

“Stan Lee is a very friendly guy and I’ve always found him to be very congenial. We get along very well. Things are always blown out of proportion by other people. It becomes one thing then another.” For whatever reason, however, Kirby acknowledged that the two comic book legends haven’t spoken to each other in a long time.

His biographer, Wyman, explained the relationship between Kirby and Lee. “At first apparently it worked well. When the relationship initially started, they were doing monster books, they were having a good time. But I think somewhere after the first couple of years or so, the personalities started wearing on each other. Stan was never really close to Jack like Joe (Simon) was. Joe and Jack worked very well. They became friends and there was a lot of interaction. I don’t think that ever happened in the Lee/Kirby relationship.”

However, Wyman found that the two men have great respect for each other. When Lee felt that “something wasn’t right” with the way Spider-man was created, he had Jack Kirby to do the cover. The same thing happened when Iron Man was created; Kirby was again brought in on the original creative stages of a character. Kirby became Marvel Comics’ “touchstone of style,” according to Wyman,

“One of Stan Lee’s comments about Jack was “I can’t get over this guy,” recalled Wyman. “He creates 100 villains at a sitting and then kills off half of them. Any one of these villains I can make a million off of.”

Davy Crockett, Frontiersman: Hiding In Plain Sight!

In August of 2012, we published a re-worked  translation of Jean Depelley’s article about Jack Kirby’s ghosting of the Davy Crockett, Frontiersman comic strip. What was notable about the article, originally published in French earlier that March, was that Jean and Bernard Joubert found evidence that the work was, in fact, a comic strip reworked to comic book size in Marvelman (UK) , and digest size in Zoom (France).

Samples and cover from Marvelman 230

Examples and covers from Zoom 15/Zoom Album 4  – 1968

Since then, Hans Kiesel sent the Museum an email in late 2015, letting us know that he and fellow comics researchers in Germany found a Crockett Sunday strip in black and white translated into German that was obviously by Kirby. Hans also included a mention from Allan Holtz’ Strippers Guide stating that Kirby had ghosted two Sundays. I continued, on-and-off, researching the strip, along with Kirby’s Blue Beetle daily strips in the 1940s, on the internet without any results regarding Davy Crockett.

In early 2018, however, meticulous comics researcher Michael J. Vassallo, also known as “Doc. V”, shared on Facebook and his blog the color version of the same Sunday strip we’d had in German. Doc. V had embarked on an ambitious project involving scanning and cataloging the Sunday comics sections of the New York Daily News. Finding the strip in a big NY newspaper felt somewhat ironic after I’d scoured obscure daily newspapers on newspapers.com. This raised the question, though, “Did the daily strips also run in the NY Daily News?”

The Kirby Museum has had a pleasant relationship with collector, scholar and collage artist Tom Morehouse since our formation in 2005. In fact, Tom allowed us to scan his copies of the Crockett reprints in Marvelman in 2011 (see above). Since I’m comfortable researching newspaper microfilm at the New York Public Library – you know, the big one with the lions in front on 42nd St. &  5th Ave – Tom suggested we go there together and look at the Daily News microfilm. And, voila!

Kirby ghosted three weeks of daily strips from January 14th through February 2nd.

But what about that other Sunday strip? Well, on one of the Facebook comics groups where Doc V. shared his discovery, Mark Evanier mentioned that the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum has a large collection of comic strips. I dove into their search engine, and found that they did, indeed, have both Sunday strips, courtesy of the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection of Bill Blackbeard.

Courtesy of Bill Blackbeard’s San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at Ohio State University

And, it seems it is complete: three weeks of dailies, and two color Sundays.

It wouldn’t be right to end this article without mentioning Matthew Gore. You see, Matt posted Crockett scans from Marvelman #231 on his website all the way back in 2002! Can anyone provide reasonable guesses when the Marvelman issues 231, 232 & 233 were published? Seems that information is currently unavailable.

Hopefully, I’ll provide some comparisons between the versions, showing how the art was extended for the different formats in France and the UK.

Jack Kirby : A Life In Comics

(I was honored to have been asked by the folks at Comic-Con International: San Diego to write a Jack Kirby biography for their convention program this year. I expanded it slightly, and it forms the main narrative of the Kirby Museum’s “Jack Kirby: 100 Years” pop up in NYC. – Rand.)

Creator • Storyteller • Visionary • Artist

Born and raised on the Lower East Side, Jack Kirby (born Jacob Kurtzberg) created or co-created some of the most enduring characters and stories in comics (Captain America, Avengers, Hulk, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, Darkseid, among hundreds of others). In addition to revolutionizing such comic book genres as crime, war and superheroes, Kirby also co-invented romance comics with his partner Joe Simon. Kirby’s 1960s work with Marvel’s Stan Lee (who dubbed Kirby “King”) may be his most well-known. Another Kirby legacy is that he almost single handedly defined the visual language of comic books with his dynamic page layouts portraying exaggerated anatomy, heartfelt emotion, explosive movement, and cosmic wonder. Kirby died in 1994 at age 76. Evidence of his work and influence surrounds us today, not only in comics, but also in television and movies

In The Beginning…

In August of 1917, Rose and Ben Kurtzberg, two immigrants from Galicia in what what is now Poland welcomed their first born, Jacob. In the early 20th century, New York City’s Lower East Side was the most densely populated two square miles on the planet. Ben sewed pants in sweatshops. Rose did piecework at home when not raising her sons.

Lower East Side kids played in the streets, and fighting was a favorite pastime. Kirby’s gang, the Jewish kids of Suffolk St. would take on the Italian kids from another block, or the African-American kids from yet another block. Jake was small in stature, and once had to rescue his younger brother David from an attack by a rival gang. Jake recalled it happening in slow-motion, as if choreographing the whole fight in his head. Jake loved fighting so much that he once took a long subway trip to the Bronx to see if they fought any differently there.

Rose’s extended family were storytellers. Jake grew up hearing stories about demi-gods, werewolves, and vampires, learning about them long before they appeared in the movie theaters that were everywhere on the Lower East Side.  At 14 Jake found a science fiction pulp magazine in a rain drenched gutter. The image on the cover changed him forever. He took the magazine home, read it, and it fueled his interest in drawing. The stories in the magazine reminded him of the tales his mother and her friends told, but with new, hopeful, futuristic trappings. He began reading as much as he could, something he had to hide from his buddies, and took how-to-draw  books out from the library.

Jake met his “second father” Harry Slonaker around this time. Slonaker graduated from the Boys’ Brotherhood Republic in Chicago and was assigned to New York City to start one there. The BBR helped boys in the worst neighborhoods learn responsibility and useful skills, and it had its own rules, government, and even media. Jake took up boxing and became the cartoonist on the BBR newspaper, which he signed with the name “Jack”.

While Jack’s mother wasn’t going to let him follow neighborhood hero, actor John Garfield (nee Jacob Garfinkle), to Hollywood, his time as an office boy in a newspaper cartoonist’s office  showed him there was another way out of the ghetto. Most of his pals saw careers as  policemen, a politicians, or gangsters in their future.

Jack stayed less than a week in an art class at the Pratt Institute. Not only wasn’t he the kind of artist they wanted – he worked fast – but his father lost his job, and Jack dropped out of school entirely to find work.

After a brief stint as a newsboy, Jack found work at the Fleischer Brothers animation studio, working on Popeye and Betty Boop cartoons as an inbetweener, filling in the necessary number of drawings to complete the illusion of movement. Jack’s steady work allowed the Kurtzbergs to move from the Lower East Side to Brooklyn.

Jack’s time with the Fleischers was short lived. The environment reminded him too much of the sweatshops where his father worked, and the studio was relocating to Florida. He found work with some small newspaper syndicates, preparing his strips (Socko The Seadog, Your Health Comes First) at home on the kitchen table. One series, “The Romance Of Money” didn’t get syndicated, but was collected as a small pamphlet for savings banks as a giveaway. Arguably, The Romance Of Money is Jack’s first comic book.

Kirby Comic Books Begin!

With the success of Superman in 1938, there was a tremendous demand for new, original comic book content. Jack found his way to the Eisner-Iger Studio, preparing stories in a similar fashion to the single pages appearing in Sunday newspapers. Soon, he and his boss Will Eisner realized they were working in an entirely new, multi page art form. Eisner recalled one incident where Jack got in the faces of mobsters who were shaking down the studio for a towel service payment. The goons left.

Unfortunately, Jack came up against too much of that “sweatshop” approach again at Eisner-Iger, and soon found work as a staff artist in the office of Victor Fox, where he drew the first four weeks of the Blue Beetle newspaper strip. While at Fox, Jack hit it off with Joe Simon, and the two began collaborating on Blue Bolt. Simon & Kirby quickly produced Red Raven Comics for Martin Goodman at Timely, which contained a Comet Pierce story where Jack first signed his name as “Jack Kirby.”

Jack soon left Fox to work with Simon exclusively, and moved his family to a nicer apartment in Brooklyn. There, he met his upstairs neighbor, and future wife, Rosalind Goldstein.

Simon & Kirby produced Captain America, and the first cover featured the patriotic hero punching Adolf Hitler in the face. Published in late 1940, a year before the U.S.A. entered the war, the cover was a stark declaration of intent, and the book was a smash hit. Kirby’s choreographed action sequences were a main selling point. At one point, the Nazi-sympathizing group the American Bund were making threatening phone calls to the Simon & Kirby team. When they called again, Kirby went downstairs to confront them, but they weren’t there.

Also for Goodman, they took two superhero sidekicks, Bucky and Toro, teamed them with four non-super-powered kids and created the Young Allies, the first kid gang. While still on staff at Timely, Kirby, Simon, and several inkers produced Captain Marvel Adventures #1 for Fawcett, uncredited, over a weekend. It became one of the top sellers of its time.

The Simon & Kirby Team & WW2

The Simon & Kirby team had such success with Captain America and their Captain Marvel one-shot that when they discovered Goodman wasn’t paying them the agreed percentage of revenue, they quickly moved to National Comics, home of Superman. They revamped existing features Sandman and Manhunter, while Kirby’s youth inspired them to create the Boy Commandos and the Newsboy Legion. In 1942, the bickering Boy Commandos received their own title which was only outsold by National’s Superman and Batman comics. That same year, Jacob Kurtzberg legally changed his name to Jack Kirby, and married Rosalind.

In the midst of this success, World War II was looming. Jack was drafted into the infantry in June of 1943. In August 1944, Kirby arrived in Normandy, France and was sent to Verdun to join General Patton’s Army on its rapid offensive eastward. His division was sent to south of Metz to rid the area of German resistance. Taking advantage of Kirby’s drawing skill and his knowledge of the German dialect Yiddish, Kirby’s commander sent him into enemy territory to scout and draw up detailed maps.

Kirby’s war experiences were more brutal, horrifying, and violent than anything he experienced on the mean streets of the Lower East Side. His time in combat had a profound effect on him. Since storytelling was such a part of his personality, he shared war stories for the rest of his life. Eventually, Kirby contracted trench foot, and nearly needed both feet amputated. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. Roz, at least, expressed that losing his drawing hand would have been much worse.

In January 1945, Kirby made his way back stateside to North Carolina and was honorably discharged in July with several honors including the Bronze Battle Star. In December 1945, Roz and Jack’s first child, Susan, was born.

After The War – The 1950s

With the war behind them, the Simon & Kirby team got back to work, producing the short-lived Stuntman and Boy Explorers for Al Harvey. But action heroes and kid gangs didn’t sell like they used to. Comic books had been popular with soldiers overseas, but now that they were home, they had more reading choices.

By 1947, the team was trying their hand at other genres; crime comics, funny animals, and teen humor. “True Romance” pulp magazines had been selling well to both teen and adult women for a while, so through Crestwood/Prize, Simon & Kirby’s Young Romance, the first romance comic, debuted that summer to great success. After two lucrative years producing romance comics and with growing families, the Kirbys and the Simons moved into houses across the street from each other in the suburbs of Long Island’s Nassau County.

In 1953, Simon & Kirby started their own publishing company – Mainline Comics. Unfortunately, the corrupt newsstand business was collapsing, and social forces that had been building for years came to a head with the publication of Fredric Wertham’s book, Seduction Of The Innocent, which claimed comic books were corrupting America’s children. Subsequently, horror and crime comics were chased off the market, and comic book creators were stigmatized. Comic book quality experienced a sharp decline, with all offerings assuredly safe for the youngest kids.

Eventually, Joe Simon left the team for more lucrative and secure work in advertising and marketing for political campaigns. Kirby brought the team’s Challengers of the Unknown to National (DC), and started working for Goodman (Atlas) again. He also worked up a number of comic strip proposals. Eventually, through a connection made by Jack Schiff, an editor at DC, Kirby, with writers Ed and Dave Wood, began a newspaper strip that capitalized on the nascent space race, Sky Masters Of The Space Force. With inking by Wallace Wood, the strips were beautiful.

Unfortunately, due to a misunderstanding of the financial arrangement with Schiff, and what Schiff felt was Kirby’s using ideas from story conferences for Challengers Of The Unknown in Sky Masters, Schiff sued Kirby. Kirby lost. He continued the strip for a while, but the financial arrangement made it a losing proposition, so he quit. He’d also lost DC as a client.

Jack soon found more work under Atlas editor Stan Lee, mostly on monster and science fiction stories. Simon and Kirby teamed up briefly at Archie Comics on The Double Life of Private Strong and The Adventures of the Fly. Kirby even worked briefly for Classics Illustrated.

The Marvelous 1960s

Inspired by his success with starting Challengers Of The Unknown at DC, the slight success of the Archie heroes, and his son Neal’s interests, Kirby felt the time was again ripe for superheroes. Soon enough, Goodman and Lee saw what was happening at DC with the Justice League of America, and decided that Kirby was right. Lee had Kirby take one of his monster stories featuring some adventurers, and give them superpowers. Thus was born Marvel Comics as we know it, with The Fantastic Four.

Kirby’s vivid imagination, his heartfelt humanity, his love of science fiction and mythology, and his amazing dynamic visual storytelling all coalesced in his work for Lee and Marvel when he was in his 40s.

Kirby continued to pitch heroes. Lee had been publishing monster comics, so how about a monster as a lead character, the Hulk? A scientist from a previous story became Ant-Man. Mythology was one of Kirby’s favorites, so Norse god Thor came next. An urban hero who walked on walls came next, with Kirby bringing in a logo from the Simon & Kirby studio days in the early 1950s – Spiderman. Steve Ditko ended up with the assignment.

Next came Iron Man, with the origin drawn by Don Heck; Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos, a grown up Boy Commandos; X-Men, a science fiction-based kid gang; and the Avengers, a bickering group of adult heroes. Kirby even had a hand in the creation of Daredevil, evoking his earlier Stuntman. In response to the assassination of President Kennedy, Lee and Kirby revived Captain America.

Marvel’s sales picked up. Lee’s snappy dialogue combined with Kirby’s stories, as well as the familiar, fan club-like tone of Marvel’s editorial copy kept the baby boomers reading comics into their teens and college years. Soon, Kirby was producing so many stories for Lee, that it became more expedient to eschew story conferences before the art was drawn. They’d briefly discuss the next issue, and Kirby would return with a fully drawn story, and describe to Lee what was happening. When even this became too time consuming, Kirby would include story notes on the edges of his artwork for Lee to use while preparing the dialogue script for the letterer.

In one notable example, Lee and Kirby had discussed having the antagonist be “The Big G” – a euphemism for God. Kirby knew that such a powerful, threatening force would be preceded by… a scout, whom he cosmically depicted as a surfer of the spaceways. Lee loved Kirby’s new character, and dubbed him the Silver Surfer. Audiences’ minds were blown.

Goodman started licensing Marvel characters out, which led  to Steve Ditko’s departure since Goodman wasn’t including him in licensing revenue. As a result, Lee tried to strengthen his relationship with Kirby, agreeing to a profile of he and Kirby by the NY Herald-Tribune. Unfortunately, the profile failed. The writer admired Lee’s P.T. Barnum-like chicanery, and denigrated Kirby’s appearance and manner. Upset, Kirby kept producing stories and characters for Lee, but not for long. On one Fantastic Four story where Kirby introduced a new character, Him, Lee ignored the notes, and changed Kirby’s theme. After that, Kirby only delivered stories containing already existing characters.

Full Rein

Kirby couldn’t stop creating new concepts, though. He just kept them to himself. When Goodman sold Marvel to Perfect Film, a more corporate entity, Kirby was stung by the new owner not wanting to negotiate a contract. Kirby felt the need to break out of his situation, so he moved his family to Southern California and began talking to Carmine Infantino at DC.

Infantino, a long ago Kirby protege who had successfully updated Batman for the readers brought in by the TV show, was rising in the editorial ranks. For DC to have an artist in the editorial office was unprecedented, and Infantino was looking to innovate. Once Jack Schiff retired, Infantino was free to bring Kirby aboard. Infantino had wanted Kirby to revamp Superman, but Kirby only took on the Jimmy Olsen series, adding an updated Newsboy Legion to the cast (Olsen was a newsboy, after all). Kirby pitched a new science fiction mythology that filled three ongoing series, but unlike his time at Marvel, he retained creative and editorial control, eventually bringing in California resident Mike Royer to provide inking and lettering.

The New Gods, Mister Miracle, and the Forever People, his “Fourth World” comics, were unfettered Kirby at the top of his game, making comics for everyone, not just kids or teenagers.

Unfortunately, the newsstand business was still corrupt, with distributors selling fan favorite comics like Kirby’s to comic dealers to sell at conventions without reporting those sales to the publishers. As a result, the sales reports for Kirby’s comics were disappointing. Infantino then asked Kirby for a horror comic, like the movies that were then in vogue, and a kids comic to capture the popularity of the Planet Of The Apes movie series. Jack delivered The Demon and Kamandi, The Last Boy On Earth. Kamandi became Jack’s longest running series for DC. But as the end of his DC contract neared, Kirby was unsatisfied with his prospects there.

A Return to Marvel and Cartoons

In 1976, Kirby returned to Marvel and Captain America. He also created the Eternals, Machine Man, the Black Panther, Devil Dinosaur, and an adaptation of 2001: A Space Odyssey. At the end of his two year deal, he worked with Lee on a Silver Surfer graphic novel in the hopes it would be turned into a rock musical movie.

In 1978 Kirby was commissioned by producer Barry Ira Geller to design the sets for a movie based on Roger Zelazny’s science fiction novel Lord Of Light. Geller’s idea was for the sets to act as a theme park called Science Fiction Land once shooting was complete. Royer inked the pieces to perfection. The movie and theme park weren’t to be

At this point. Kirby had enough of comic books, and found work in the production of television cartoons for children. He finished his contract with Marvel by storyboarding Fantastic Four cartoons. He designed characters, props, and situations for Ruby-Spears, sometimes for existing shows like the Kamandi-like Thundarr The Barbarian, but mostly for presentation pitches for new shows. Kirby made some of the best income of his life, and for the first time, even had health insurance benefits.

The Last Kirby Comic Books

In 1981, Kirby returned to comic books with the first issue of Captain Victory And The Galactic Rangers. Published by Pacific Comics, Captain Victory and Silver Star were the first Kirby comics that bypassed newsstands for the comic book “Direct Market”.

In 1983, while having a dinner with publisher Richard Kyle, Roz encouraged Kirby to change the subject from WW2, and tell a story about growing up on the Lower East Side. Kyle commissioned Kirby to draw “Street Code”, Kirby’s only explicitly autobiographical work.

To raise money for writer Steve Gerber’s lawsuit against Marvel over the rights to Howard The Duck, Kirby drew Gerber’s Destroyer Duck story pro bono. The comic was so successful, Kirby and Gerber would produce four more issues. After the last issues of Captain Victory and Silver Star, Kirby returned to DC to provide covers and editorial material for a new edition of  New Gods. Among other things, he also produced the graphic novel The Hunger Dogs, bringing his Fourth World saga to a close.

In 1984, the comics publishers were realizing that it was in their best interest to return the original art they had been warehousing for years to the artists. Marvel sent a brief release for the artwork to all the artists except Kirby. To him, they sent a four page document with excessive stipulations. Kirby tried to negotiate, but to no avail. His situation gained serious notice in the comics community, who put significant pressure on Marvel to return Kirby’s art as they had to other artists. In 1987 Marvel complied.

Jack and Roz celebrated their 50th anniversary in 1992 surrounded by family and friends. Kirby died the morning of February 6th, 1994 in his hilltop home in Thousand Oaks, California.

All this time, throughout their life together, Jack and Roz attended comic book conventions and welcomed fans into their home. They loved their fellow fans of comics, science fiction, mythology, romance, and action, encouraged them to live their own lives to the fullest, and to tell their own stories. The high profile of comics in our culture today is a testament to the Kirbys’ positive energy, love, and commitment.

Jack Kirby’s Steppenwolf – 1st Appearance

Below are adjusted scans of photocopies taken in the Kirby home of Jack Kirby’s pencil script and art containing the first appearance of Darkseid’s uncle, Steppenwolf. There he is in the first, upper left panel of page 2 of “The Pact!”, Kirby’s epic Fourth World/New Gods backstory published in New Gods #7. Steppenwolf attacks Izaya (a.k.a. High Father) and Avia in a moment of peace on New Genesis. Trouble ensues.

NewGods_07_p01_a1_800h

NewGods_07_p02_pp_a

NewGods_07_p03_pp_800

NewGods_07_p04_pp_800

NewGods_07_p05_pp_800
Note that Kirby originally numbered the fifth page in the sequence “7”

Comic Book Apocalypse Gallery Tour by Charles Hatfield

Tom Kraft shot and edited this tour of “Comic Book Apocalypse: The Graphic World of Jack Kirby” by its curator, Professor Charles Hatfield, for those of you who can’t get to Northridge in California’s San Fernando Valley before the show closes on October 10th. Taaru!

Jack Kirby’s Own Words: a chronology

I had to do it! I dove into TwoMorrows’ Kirby Checklist Gold Edition and pulled all the interviews listed there into a separate chronological list. Since the Checklist was published in 2008, it only contained info up to issue 49 of The Jack Kirby Collector. So, into the Museum’s TJKC archives I went to make sure everything was as up-to-date as possible. From there, I went to YouTube, Facebook, my email archive, and regular ol’ Google searches to find as many entries as I could. I included a few non-interview-but-Kirby’s-words entries, too, well, just because.

This post is a work-in progress. I’ll add to it as more information comes in. Any scans, snapshots, suggestions, pointers welcome via the comments below. OF COURSE there are more Jack Kirby recordings and/or transcripts out there. Please don’t keep them a secret!

Many thanks to the multitude of Kirby fans and scholars who contributed to the Checklist, especially John Morrow and Richard Kolkman – Rand Hoppe

1964

Len Wein, transcript published in Masquerader #6, Spring 1964; later published as “Jack Kirby: An Artist With Impact” in The Jack Kirby Collector #49, Fall 2007.

Mid-Late 1960s

Interview at drawing board, Wonderama, NY TV. Note: Could be mistaken. Romita and Lee appeared on Wonderama in the 1970s.

1966

Jack Kirby, “Meet Jack Kirby,” Mighty Marvel Messenger #1. Later published as “Jack Kirby by Jack Kirby” in Marvel Age Annual #2, September 1986.

1967

Mike Hodel, Kirby and Stan Lee radio interview titled “Will Success Spoil Spider-man?” conducted 3 March 1967 and broadcast live on WBAI (NY). Transcript published in The Stan Lee Universe, 2011.

1968

Sal Caputo and “The Kizer”, transcript published in Excelsior #1, 1968. Later published in “Excelsior Fanzine (1968) Kirby & Lee Interviews” on Kirby Dynamics, April 2012, and
as “Stan and Jack: Excelsior” in The Jack Kirby Collector #60, Winter 2013.

1969

Mark Hebert, conducted early 1969. Transcript published in The Nostalgia Journal #30, November 1976, and #31, December 1976. Later published as “There Is Something Stupid In Violence As Violence,” in The Comics Journal Library, Volume One: Jack Kirby, 2002.

Shel Dorf and Rich Rubenfield, conducted August 1969, published as “We Create Images, And They Just Continue On,” in The Jack Kirby Collector #36, Summer 2002 and as “I Don’t Like To Draw Slingshots, I Like To Draw Cannons” in The Jack Kirby Collector #37, Winter 2003.

Shel Dorf and fans, conducted 9 November 1969 in the Kirby home in Orange County, CA. Transcript published as “Speak The Language of the ’70s” in The Jack Kirby Collector #42, Spring 2005.

“The Life And Times Of Jack Kirby,” Comic Special. 1969

1970

Bruce Hamilton, conducted shortly after Jack left Marvel in 1970. Transcript published as “A Talk With Artist-Writer-Editor Jack Kirby” in Rocket’s Blast Comicollector #81, 1971; later published in Marvel Collector’s Handbook, 1973, and The Jack Kirby Collector #18, January 1998.

various, San Diego Golden State Comic-Con panel, 1 August 1970; Audio published on Comic Con Memories website, 8 January 2010. Transcript published as “It’s Not In The Draftsmanship. It’s In The Man.” The Jack Kirby Collector #57, Summer 2011.

unknown, transcript published as “I Met Kirby: The Thing That Drew” in Train Of Thought #5, February 1971 and in #6, July 1971; #5 excerpted as “Train Of Thought” in The Jack Kirby Collector #17, November 1977. #6 excerpted as “Train Of Thought part 2” in The Jack Kirby Collector #52, Spring 2009.

Shel Dorf, conducted December 1970; transcript and audio published as “Shel Speaks (and Kirby Too)!” on Shel Dorf Tribute website, October 2009.

1971

“Old Comic Heroes Return: For Awhile,” Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, 4 April 1971.

Saul Braun, transcript excerpts used in “Shazam! Here Comes Captain Relevant”, New York Times Sunday Magazine, 2 May 1971.

Lee Falk and Steve DeJarnatt, conducted at San Diego Comic-Con, edited transcript published as “May 1971 Kirby Interview” in The Jack Kirby Collector #67, Spring 2016.

Manny Maris and Mark Sigal Rosal, conducted 31 January 1971 in the National/DC offices. Transcript published as “Comic & Crypt Interviews Jack Kirby & Carmine Infantino!” in Comic & Crypt #5, 1971. Later published in Fantasy Advertiser (UK) #48, March 1978, as “The King & The Director” in Comic Book Artist #1, Spring 1998, and as “Jack Kirby and Carmine Infantino Interview – 31 January 1971” on The Kirby Effect: The Journal of the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center, June 2013.

Tim Skelly, radio interview conducted 14 May 1971 on “The Great Electric Bird” show broadcast via WNUR-FM, Northwestern University (Evanston, IL). Transcript published as “My School Was Alex Raymond And Milton Caniff,” The Nostalgia Journal 27, August 1976, and as “I Created An Army Of Characters, And Now My Connection With Them Is Lost,” in The Comics Journal Library, Volume One: Jack Kirby, 2002.

1972

Jack Kirby, “To What It May Concern,” The Los Angeles Times – West magazine, 10 September 1972

Jack Kirby, speech on 29 April 1972 at Vanderbilt University. Transcript published as “Kirby At College: The Transcript Of Jack’s Speech,” in The Jack Kirby Collector #5, May 1995.

various, symposium comments on 29 April 1972 at Vanderbilt University. Transcript of Kirby’s comments published as as “Kirby At College: Excerpt From The  Panel Discussion,” in The Jack Kirby Collector #5, May 1995. Later published, with more comments from other attendees, and more context, in Stan Lee: Conversations, 2007.

Jim Steranko, conducted at 1972 Comic Art Convention (NY) Awards Luncheon, published in Comic Art Convention Program Book (NY), 1973; later published as “1972 Comic Art Convention Luncheon,” in The Jack Kirby Collector #8, 1996.

1973

Peter Kuper and Seth Tobocman, transcript published in G.A.S. Lite, Vol 2 #10, 1973. later published as “Cleveland Rocks!” in The Jack Kirby Collector #47, Fall 2006.

1974

Russ Maheras, conducted via mail, 13 May 1973. Published in Maelstrom #2, November 1974. Later published as “A Chat With Jack Kirby” in The Jack Kirby Collector #34, March 2002.

Jerry Connelly, conducted 18 September 1974, broadcast live via KNJO radio, Thousand Oaks, CA. Transcript published as “Kirby on Kirby 1974: an Interview with the King of Comics” in Comics Buyer’s Guide #1401, 22 September 2000; later published as “Kirby On Kirby: 1974” in The Jack Kirby Collector #64, Fall 2014.

1975

Steve Sherman and Mark Evanier, conducted “as they planned a follow up to the King Kirby portfolio” (1971), transcribed and compiled into “Kirby: In His Own Right/Kirby Kirby Kirby” in Comic Art Convention Program Book (NY), 1975; later published in The Jack Kirby Collector #8, January 1996.

Shel Dorf, transcript published as “Let’s Visit! Jack Kirby” in The Menomonee Falls Gazette, Vol. 4 #181, 2 June 1975; later published in The Jack Kirby Collector #15, April 1997.

Did Jack Kirby call in to a Stan Lee radio interview? Los Angeles. (Carole Hemingway). Note: Hemingway had a talk show on KABC 1974-1982

Barry Alfonso et al, Jack Kirby and Don Rico interview,. Transcript published as “Jack Kirby & Don Rico Discuss WWII, The Mafia, Watergate, & Comic Art” in Mysticogryfil: Journal of Cosmic Wonder #2, May 1975; later published in The Jack Kirby Collector #20, June 1998.

unknown, Jack Kirby, Steve Englehart, Don Rico, and Jim Steranko interview conducted at the 1975 San Diego Comic-Con. Audio excerpts published as “Jack Kirby/Jim Steranko,” on The 1975 San Diego Comic Con, LP record, 1976. Full transcript published as “The Captain America Panel,” in The Jack Kirby Collector #64, Fall 2014.

“Kirby Speaks,” FOOM #11, September 1975.

Mid 1970s

David Hamilton and Carl Taylor, conducted at San Diego Comic-Con. Transcript published as “Jack Kirby, Art Critic” in The Jack Kirby Collector #67, Spring 2016.

1976

Phil Seuling, Jack Kirby and Walter Gibson interview, conducted at the 1975 Comic Art Convention Awards Luncheon, New York City, July 1975. Transcript published in Comic Art Convention Program Book (NY), 1976; later published as “Jack Kirby & Walter Gibson Interviewed,” in The Jack Kirby Collector #13, December 1996.

Peter Hansen, conducted late October-early November 1976, Lucca, Italy. Transcript published as “Jack Kirby Interview” in The Jack Kirby Collector #48, Spring 2007.

Nessim Vaturi, conducted late October-early November 1976, Lucca, italy. Italian translation published in WOW! COMICS. English translation of Italian published as “Wow-What An interview!,” in The Jack Kirby Collector #12, October 1996.

NBC-News

Furnell Chatman, appearance at North Hollywood comic shop, 3 October 1976, published as “COMIC ART FILM TRANSFER” on NBCUniversal Archives website, October 2014. Kirby segment starts at 2:09.

Kenn Thomas, et al, conducted November 1976. Transcript published in Whizzard #9, November 1976; later published as “The Day I Spoke With Jack,” in The Jack Kirby Collector #55, Fall 2010.

1977

Shel Dorf, transcript published as “Jack Kirby Recalls Lucca, Italy” in The Buyer’s Guide to Comics Fandom #213, 16 December 1977; later published in The Jack Kirby Collector #12, October 1996.

1978

Annie-Isabelle Baron-Carvais, conducted 8 November 1978 in the Kirby home in Thousand Oaks, California. Transcript published in Baron-Carvais’ Ph.D. thesis, “L’Evolution Des Super-Heros Dans La Bande Dessinee Aux Etats-Unis,” L’Universite De Paris X-Nanterre, 1981. French translation published in DC Spécial, March 2000. Transcript published as “The Lost Kirby Interview” in The Jack Kirby Collector #32, July 2001.

Early 1980s

Jack Kirby, signed handwritten notes, Justia, Dockets & Filings, Second Circuit, New York, New York Southern District Court, Marvel Worldwide, Inc. et al v. Kirby et al, Filing 97, Exhibit RR. Published as “A Note From Jack Kirby” on The Kirby Effect: The Journal of the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center, December 2014.

Robert Golub, Ilan Reuben, and Jason Zalk, telephonic interview, transcript published as “”Talking With” Jack Kirby” in Kidsday section, Newsday, 9 August 1979, later published in The Jack Kirby Collector #23, February 1999.

1982

Will Eisner, transcript published in “Shop Talk”, Will Eisner’s Spirit Magazine 39, February 1983; later published in Will Eisner’s Shop Talk, 2001

Roger Green, transcript published in “Questions And Answers With Jack Kirby,” The Fantastic Four Chronicles, February 1982.

Howard Zimmerman, transcript excerpts published in “Kirby Takes on the Comics” in Comics Scene #2, March 1982. Later published on Barry’ Pearls Of Comic Book Wisdom, 16 March 2013.

Catherine Mann, television interview, broadcast 28 October 1982 on Entertainment Tonight, Transcript published as “Entertainment Tonight” in The Jack Kirby Collector #39, Fall 2003. Video published as “Jack Kirby on Entertainment Tonight – 28 Oct 1982” on the Kirby Museum’s YouTube channel, January 2009.

1983

Greg Theakston and Tony DiSpoto, video recorded 17 March 1983. Partial transcript published as “Kirby Speaks” in The Complete Jack Kirby 1940-1941 (Vol. 2), 1997. Segments published as “Jack Kirby Draws,” “Jack Kirby On The Lower East Side,” and “Jack Kirby At War” on the Kirby Museum’s YouTube channel, 20 October 2010, 8 May 2014 & 13 May 2014, respectively.

Ronald Levitt Lanyi, conducted 18 September 1976 in the Kirbys’ hotel room in the Sheraton Palace Hotel in San Francisco, CA, during Bay Con Two. Transcript published as “Idea & Motive In Jack “King” Kirby’s Comic Books: A Conversation,” Journal of Popular Culture, Vol. 17 #2, Fall 1983; later published as “Idea & Motive In Kirby’s Comics” in The Jack Kirby Collector #44, Fall 2005.

James Van Hise, transcript published as “Jack Kirby in The Golden Age” in Golden Age Of Comics #6, November 1983; later published in The Jack Kirby Collector #25, August 1999.

1984

Peter Dodds, transcript excerpts published in “The Gods Themselves,”  Amazing Heroes #47, May 1984.

Juanie Lane and Britt Wisenbaker, conducted 15 September 1984 in the Kirby home, Thousand Oaks, CA. Transcript published in Oasis magazine, Pepperdine University, 1984; later published as “Jack Kirby interview” in The Jack Kirby Collector #16, July 1997.

Ray Zone, video interview conducted 10 October 1984, broadcast on The Zone Show on 21 November 1984. Transcript published as “A Battle With The Camera” in The Jack Kirby Collector #45, Winter 2006.

Mid-to-late 1980s

unknown, audio taped response to fan questions. Transcript published as “Kirby on The New Gods” in The Jack Kirby Collector #24, April 1999.

1985

James Van Hise, “Superheroes: The Language That Jack Kirby Wrote,” Comics Feature #34, March-April 1985.

John Hitchcock, video recorded by John Floyd at AcmeCon, Greensboro, NC, 1 June 1985.

Tom Heintjes, transcript published as “The Negotiations” in The Comics Journal #105, February 1986, later published as “I’m A Guy Who Never Gave Anybody Trouble” in The Comics Journal Library, Volume One: Jack Kirby, 2002

Great Comic Book Artists, video, 1985. Note: can’t find any reference to this.

1986

Mark Borax, transcript published in Comics Interview #41, 1986; later published in Comics Interview Super Special: Masters of Marvel #1, 1989, and Comics Interview: The Complete Collection Volume X,

Mike Hodel, radio interview with Mark Evanier, Frank Miller, Steve Gerber, Arthur Byron Cover, broadcast live on Hour 25, Los Angeles, 17 February 1986; partial transcript published as “Hour Twenty-Five” in The Jack Kirby Collector #19, April 1998.

Mark Evanier with Marv Wolfman, conducted at the Kirby home in Thousand Oaks, transcript published as “The King And I” in Amazing Heroes #100, August 1986

Alain Carrazé, conducted July 1986. broadcast on Temps X, French TV, 27 October 1986.

Sam Enriquez with Daniel Perez, transcript first published as “Trailblazer Of Comic Strips Still Drawing On His Talents” in the Valley section of the Los Angeles Times on 29 November 1986. Later published in four further editions of the LA Times.

James Van Hise, transcript published as “Jack Kirby: Creator” in  Comics Feature #50, December 1986.

1986/7

Leonard Pitts, Jr., conducted for a book titled “Conversations With The Comic Book Creators”. Transcript published as “1986/7 – Jack Kirby interview” on The Kirby Effect: The Journal of the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center, August 2012. Later published as “1986 Kirby Interview” in The Jack Kirby Collector #66, Fall 2015.

1987

Ken Viola, filmed interview conducted February, 1987. Included in the documentary The Masters of Comic Book Art, 1987. Transcript published as “Jack Kirby – The Master of Comic Book Art” in The Jack Kirby Collector #7, October 1995.

Greg Theakston, transcript published as “Jack Kirby, The King Of Comics,” Fungus Rodeo, 1987; later published as “1987 – Jack Kirby, The King Of Comics” on The Kirby Effect: The Journal of the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center, June 2012.

Robert Knight, Warren Reece, and Max Schmid, live radio interview conducted 28 August 1987, broadcast on Earthwatch, WBAI, NY.  Transcript published as “Jack Kirby and Stan Lee Radio Interview Earth Watch WBAI 1987” on Comic Book Collectors Club, 29 June 2012. Later published as “Kirby on WBAI Radio: 1987,” The Jack Kirby Collector #65, Spring 2015.

Comic-Book-Confidential_480

Ron Mann, video interview conducted at the Kirby’s Thousand Oaks, CA home, presented in documentary Comic Book Confidential, 1988.

Janet Bode, “A Comic Book Artist KO’d: Jack Kirby’s Six-Year Slugfest with Marvel,” Village Voice Vol 32 #49, 8 December 1987

Ben Schwartz, conducted 4 December 1987, transcript published in UCLA Daily Bruin. 22 January 1988; later published as “Jack Kirby Interview” in The Jack Kirby Collector #23, February 1999.

1988

Greg Theakston, conducted at Pure Imagination Fun Fair, 29 May 1988. Partial video published as “Jack Kirby Discusses Captain America,” on the Kirby Museum’s YouTube channel, July 2009.

Jack Kirby, Self Portrait/Autobiography, National Cartoonist Society Album.

1989

Gary Groth, conducted Summer 1989, transcript published as “Jack Kirby” in The Comics Journal #134, February 1990; later published as “I’ve Never Done Anything Half-Heartedly,” in The Comics Journal Library, Volume One: Jack Kirby, 2002, partial audio as “Jack Kirby, 1989” on The Comics Journal Library Interview CD Sampler, 2002 and on The Comics Journal website, May 2011.

Ray Wyman, Jr., conducted 24 July and 16 October 1989. transcribed and compiled into “Childhood Stories Part 1: The Block” published in The Jack Kirby Collector #45, Winter 2006.

Will Murray, transcribed and published as “Jack Kirby Remembers” in The Jack Kirby Collector $67,

1989-1992

Ray Wyman, Jr., conducted multiple interviews from 1989 to 1992, transcribed and compiled into “Jack Kirby On: Storytelling, Man, God, Nazis” published in The Jack Kirby Collector #26, November 1999.

Ray Wyman, Jr., conducted August 1989, 5 October 1989, and June 1992, transcribed and compiled into “Conversations With Jack: Roz & Jack (Part I) published in The Jack Kirby Collector #29, August 2000, and “Conversations With Jack: Roz & Jack (Part II)” in The Jack Kirby Collector #46, Summer 2006.

1990

Paul Power, et al, panel discussion with Kirby, Mike Vosburg, Marc Silvestri, Rob Liefield, Jim Starin and Jim Valentino at Fred Greenberg Los Angeles convention, transcript published as  “For Love Or Money” in Comics Interview #90, 1991.

J. Michael Strazcynski and Larry DiTillio, radio interview conducted 13 April 1990, broadcast live on Mike Hodel’s Hour 25, KPFK FM, Los Angeles. Audio published as “Hour 25 1990” on the Kirby Museum’s YouTube channel, June 2012, Transcript published as “1990 April 13 – Jack Kirby Interview” on The Kirby Effect: The Journal of the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center, June 2012. Later published as “Hour 25 Interview” in The Jack Kirby Collector #68, Summer 2016.

Paul Duncan, transcript published as “Jack Kirby” in ARK 33, 1990; later published as “The ARK Interview,” in The Jack Kirby Collector #61, Summer 2013.

Will Murray, excerpts published in “Project Captain America: Declassified,” Comics Scene #14, August 1990.

various, candid San Diego Comic-Con video appearance, 2-5 August 1990. Published as “JACK KIRBY!!!! SD Comic Con 1990” on ytshawzam’s YouTube channel, 31 May 2010.

Mark Voger, transcript excerpts published as “Comic Genius: The Faces Behind The Funnies – Jack Kirby” in Asbury Park Press, 21 September 1990

Brian Nelson, “Birth Of A Legend: Jack Kirby Talks About Captain America,” Marvel Age #95, December 1990.

Early 1990s

Glenn Danzig with Mike Thibodeaux, transcript published as “Jack Kirby Interview” in The Jack Kirby Collector #22, December 1998.

1991

Glenn Fleming, video interview, excerpts published in “The Tape” on the Kirby Museum’s YouTube channel, September 2008.

Claudio Piccinini, conducted at the Kirby’s home in Thousand Oaks, in August 1991 transcript published in Marvel Series Notiziario (MSN) (Italy), 1992 and later in Comics Interview #121, 1993.

1992

Rick Green, television interview, broadcast on Prisoners of Gravity, TVOntario in January 1993. Transcript published as “Jack Kirby: Prisoner Of Gravity” in The Jack Kirby Collector #14, February 1997. Video?

Nikola Atchine, transcript published in Scarce #31 (France), Spring 1992.

DogmanDave, candid video interview conducted 28 August 1992 at San Diego Comic-Con. published as “Dogman Presents Jack Kirby’s 75th Birthday” on DogmanDave’s YouTube channel, 31 December 2007.

Andrew Mayer with Randolph Hoppe, conducted 1992 August 14 in the Kirbys’ hotel room during San Diego Comic-Con for unpublished Mondo 2000 article. Transcript published as “Mondo Kirby” in The Jack Kirby Collector #21, October 1998. Audio published as “Mondo Kirby” on the Kirby Museum’s YouTube channel, June 2012. Transcript later published as “1992 August 14 – Jack Kirby interview” on The Kirby Effect: The Journal of the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center, June 2012.

Mark Askwith, video interview conducted at 1992 San Diego Comic-Con. Excerpts broadcast on Prisoners of Gravity, TVOntario on 16 February 1994. Transcript published in 25th Annual San Diego Comic Convention program, 1994.

1993

Previews #?, January 1993.

Donna Whitney?, conducted March 1993. Transcript published as “Interview With The Creators,” in Phantom Force #0, March 1994.

Blair Kramer, conducted via telephone with Roz Kirby, as well. Transcript published as “Interview with Jack Kirby” in Comic Book Collector #5, May 1993.

Mark Voger. transcript published as “Living Legend” in Comics Scene Yearbook #2, 1993.

Mark Voger, transcript published as “The Comeback King” in Asbury Park Press, 16 May 1993

various, appearance at Comics & Comix, Palo Alto, CA, videotaped 14 March 1993. Partial transcript published as “An Afternoon With Jack,” The Jack Kirby Collector #38, February 1997. Partial video published as “A Half Hour With Jack Kirby” on the Kirby Museum’s YouTube channel, August 2013.

Chrissie Harper, conducted via telephone on 10 June 1993. Transcript published in JKQ Newsletter, 14 June 1993, Later published as “Opening Shots” in Jack Kirby Quarterly #15, 2008.

Chrissie Harper, conducted via telephone on 28 July 1993. Transcript published as “An Exclusive Interview: Jack Kirby” in Jack Kirby Quarterly #1, 1993, Later published as “I Always Tried To Do My Best” in Jack Kirby Quarterly #15, 2008.

FullMoon-JackKirby

Charles Band?, video interview in Kirby’s studio in Thousand Oaks, CA. Published as “Jack Kirby Interview,” on Volume 5 of Charles Band’s Cinemaker DVD set, 2004, Monsters Gone Wild DVD, 2004, and via Full Moon Streaming.

Happening, November 1993.

“Jack Kirby Creates A Universe For Topps”, Comics Buyer’s Guide #1044, 19 November 1993.

Will Murray, excerpts published in “Secret City Secrets,” Comics Scene #34, 1993. Later published as “Los Secretos De La Ciudad Secreta” in Comics Scene #14  (Spain), 1993.

The Summer of Jack by Chuck Greaves

Posted in General.

Chuck Greaves recently reached out to the Kirby Museum to offer his October 2012 essay for re-posting here. Chuck is an accomplished writer of legal mysteries and literary fiction. Thank you, Chuck, not only for sharing the essay but also sending along the additional photos. – Rand Hoppe

For most Americans of a certain age, the summer of 1968 is viewed as a kind of dark chasm that yawned between the Summer of Love and the Summer of Woodstock. It was, after all, the summer of Martin, the summer of Bobby. Of My Lai and Biafra. It marked the rise of Nixon and the fall of Prague Spring.  It hosted the Chicago Convention.

For me, the dog days of 1968 evoke different memories, fonder memories, and none more enduring than the memory of my improbable audience with the King.

Iron Man, X-Men, the Incredible Hulk, the Fantastic Four. It was these Ektachrome heroes of today’s CG cinema who formed the warp and weft of my boyhood narrative, their parallel universe of lantern-jawed heroes, buxom damsels and, of course, evil villains bent on world conquest the golden latchkey for a yearning pre-teen fettered to the terrestrial orthodoxy of 1960’s Levittown.

Captain America, the Avengers, the Mighty Thor, the Silver Surfer. Conflicted but righteous, misunderstood yet unerring, they and countless other pulp paladins all sprung fully-formed from the sharpened No. 2 pencil of one man, who today is acknowledged, posthumously, as the greatest pencil artist in comic book history. I’m speaking now of the King of Comics, Jack Kirby.

And all I wanted was his autograph.

It was in 1968, that tumultuous summer of my twelfth year, that my pal Jimmy and I hauled out the Nassau County phone book and started paging through the K’s. We’d reasoned that if Marvel Comics was headquartered on Madison Avenue, then some of the artists must surely ride the Long Island Railroad to work just like our fathers. Just like ordinary mortals.

We found several possibilities — Johns, Jacks and J’s — and I wrote to all of them, effusive in my adulation, and humble, or so I’d hoped, in my request for a signed photograph. I posted the letters and waited.

A week passed, two weeks. My attention, meanwhile, had wandered to the more prosaic diversions of a Levittown summer. The Village Green swimming pool. Curb-ball. Ringalevio. The not-yet-amazin’ Mets.

And then, all but forgotten, it suddenly arrived — a stiff manila envelope with artful block lettering. Inside was no photograph, however, but an original pencil drawing. The Thing, his arms bulging beneath a tight t-shirt, hunched over a drafting table, a word balloon suspended over his rocky brow. “Is this shot okay, Chuck?” he asked, the smoke from his stogie curled upward to form the magical number 4.

Jack Kirby pencil art 1968 Thing self-portrait for Chuck Greaves

A pencilled Jack Kirby Thing self-portrait sent to Chuck Greaves in 1968. Snapshot of the art in frame behind glass.

Jimmy was jealous. Jimmy was, in fact, beside himself. And Jimmy had a plan.

Over the phone, Mr. Kirby was gracious. Yes, he worked from his home. No, he enjoyed having visitors. Tomorrow? Sure, not a problem.

We lied to our parents, naturally, and set out after breakfast on our Sting-Rays for what would prove to be a half-day’s ride into uncharted territory. A suburban neighborhood, a modest home. We knocked. We waited. And Jack Kirby answered the door.

He was friendly, avuncular. He offered us Orange Crush and led us downstairs to the basement studio where he’d been working on a forthcoming issue of the Fantastic Four. The room was littered with monochrome panels of mutants and monsters, machinery and mayhem.

We watched him work. He patiently answered all of our inane questions. We hung. And in the end, after we’d wrung the last drops from our soda bottles, he offered to draw a picture for each of us.

My favorite that week was T’Challa, the Black Panther, Marvel’s first-ever African-American superhero, yet another of Kirby’s pioneering creations. He seemed surprised by my choice, and somehow pleased.

He took a clean sheet of paper. He sketched, he shaded, and in less than thirty seconds he’d confected an astonishing image. The Black Panther, tightly-muscled and perfectly proportioned, sprang forth from the page. Above his head, a word balloon declared, “Chuck, it’s great meeting you.”

1968 Jack Kirby Black Panther pencil sketch given to Chuck Greaves.

Black Panther pencil sketch drawn by Jack Kirby in his East Williston basement and given to Chuck Greaves in 1968. Snapshot of the art in frame behind glass.

Today, almost 45 years later, I still look at both drawings every day, since they hang on the wall of my home office. They’re totems, I suppose; paeans to innocence in turbulent times. And they’re tributes to a man whose genius continues, even in these trying times, to offer the same promise of magic and adventure to a new generation.

Jack Kirby, born Jacob Kurtzberg, died in Thousand Oaks, California in 1994. He was 76 years young.

Jack, it was great meeting you.

Chuck Greaves, 1968.

Chuck Greaves in 1968.