Who Checklists the Checklists?

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In honour of the JACK KIRBY CHECKLIST GOLD EDITION, a history of Kirby checklists.

I’m sure people were building lists and trying to keep track of everything Kirby did going back to the 1940s (for all I know the 1930s, depending on how dedicated his mom was), and as fanzines and APAs grew around comics there were more doubt more and more attempts to nail down every detail of his long and varied career, as well as more general publications and price guides documenting that information (since hey, if you want to up the price of something, no better way than to point out Jack Kirby drew it).

As far as I know the first widely available attempt at a comprehensive checklist was Greg Theakston’s attempt in his two volumes of THE JACK KIRBY TREASURY (v1, 1982, Pure Imagination and v2, 1991, Eclipse), which in addition to presenting an extensive biography of Kirby up to 1961 and the dawn of the “Marvel Age” also provided the first two parts of a massive illustrated checklist, A-J and L-S in the two volumes. The third book never did come out, though not for a lack of Theakston publishing books about Kirby. That checklist focused on original material, with issues, dates, story titles and page counts.

Theakston’s list is among the primary sources for the checklist in the back of the 1992 book from Blue Rose Press, ART OF JACK KIRBY. The 24-page checklist compiled by Ray Wyman, Catherine Hohlfield and Robert Crane, also adds in inker credits and reprints, cross-referenced with the original printings, and sets the form used by the checklist to this day.

Not really fitting in this history, but I got AoJK a few years after it came out, and discovered all sorts of Kirby stuff from that checklist, and around 1996 put together a bunch of notes made from that, Theakston’s list, my own collection and various other sources and put together what I confidently called “The Incomplete and Error-Filled Kirby Checklist”, a barebones checklist (book and issue number only) for online distribution in various venues. Around 2500 entries when I started, the spreadsheet I built it on is still the basis of the one I use for the regular posts on this weblog. When I do regular posts on this weblog. I’ll get back to that someday, I promise…

Anyway, that brings us to 1997, when the folks at TwoMorrows decided that their by-then well-established and rapidly expanding magazine THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR wasn’t enough decided to update the Kirby Checklist. Richard Kolkman answered the call, tweaking the format of the previous list and and in short order we got first THE JACK KIRBY CHECKLIST BETA VERSION (Nov. 1997) and then THE JACK KIRBY CHECKLIST 1998 UPDATED EDITION, the first a magazine sized 48-page updating of the checklist, adding many entries and sections on Kirby’s comic strip work, magazines and books with Kirby content, animation work, unpublished work and more, and the second a 108-page digest sized version incorporating additions and corrections made since the first. I vaguely recall at some point there was an electronic version of the checklist that made the rounds to gather corrections and additions, but if there was I no longer have a copy. Anyway, these two also feature an unnamed robot in a pencil drawing by Kirby, who I guess is the Rigellian Recorder tasked with recording Kirby’s output. Ah, the one sent with Thor to explore Ego the Living Planet didn’t know how easy he had it.

That brings us to THE JACK KIRBY 1998 FINAL EDITION, a 100-page comic-book sized version of the index, now closer to complete than ever, especially with the expansion of the extra sections on Kirby in books, magazines, unpublished work and more. And also a list of the story codes used for Kirby’s 1970s work at DC, which provide some interesting information on the order things were done, and some possibly still missing work. Photo cover of Kirby this time around, although our busy Recorder friend (who I just realized could be called Kolk-Man) is on the inside back cover.

But of course, more info pops up, and new books come out, so 2001 saw the now-tabloid sized THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR #31 include an 18-page update to the checklist, including a few minor deletions and a lot of additions.

And now comes THE JACK KIRBY CHECKLIST GOLD EDITION, a 132-page book available in print and PDF format, detailing more Kirby than ever before. Same photo cover as the 1998 edition, and our robot pal is safely inside, and this time there’s also a list of what’s in the archives of Kirby’s pencil art copies that has provided such a wealth information on his work process and debate about the quality of various inkers (and scans of many of the pages are available at the Kirby Museum). This should provide all sorts of aid in tracking down Kirby comics and understanding the depth of his career. Of course, there’s no doubt more to be found, and publishers aren’t going to quit printing Kirby any time soon, so updates will be available at the Kirby Museum.

And in the future, well, an update for Kirby’s 100th in 2017 makes sense. Of course, by then kids will probably get all their information in easy to swallow pill form, so the checklist will be a delicious pill imprinted with Kirby-tech. Delivered to you on your home on Mars. By a giant Kirby-designed robot.

But for now, hats off to everyone who contributed to this massive tribute to all facets of Kirby’s career, especially our robot friend Richard Kolkman, and I’m glad to have been a small part of it.

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