Jack Kirby - via Wikimedia Commons
CAIRO – 28 August 2017: August 28 of this year marks the 100th birthday of comic book legend Jack Kirby, who helped create the Marvel universe and its most iconic characters.
Born as Jacob Kurtzburg in 1917, Kirby came from a family of immigrants who settled in New York City. His childhood was filled with doodles, a harbinger of the sheer creative talent Kirby was full of. Indeed, Kirby left school and started off in animation as an 'in-betweener', working from a young age on timeless cartoons such as Betty Boop and Popeye at Max Fleischer Studios.
In 1941, Kirby teamed up with Joe Simon, who he met while working at Fox Comics on ‘The Blue Beetle’. The two would create ‘Captain America’ for Timely Comics, a publishing house that would eventually become known as Marvel Comics. ‘Captain America’ was a massive hit, becoming Timely Comic's most popular character.
However, despite the work he had put into creating stories for the character, Kirby quickly realized that despite the profits the company was making, he wasn't getting a fair share and promptly left.
Kirby and Simon continued to work together, changing the face of the comic book scene as they explored various genres from crime to horror. The duo even created the first romance comic book, proving the limitless depths that comic books could reach, every bit as versatile as literature.
During the 1950s Kirby had gone to work for Detective Comics, the creators of ‘Superman’ and ‘Batman’. Around this time, he also returned to Timely Comics, which was now known as Atlas Comics. It was there that he met a certain man by the name of Stan Lee, who had taken a liking to Kirby's work. Together, they worked together on a science-fiction story using a method Lee created where the writer and artist worked closely together.
That story became the Fantastic Four.
The success of the comic, which came from Lee's writing of the characters as relatable human beings rather and Kirby's visually distinct art convinced Lee that Kirby was a keeper. Together with Lee and fellow artist Steve Ditko, Kirby created iconic characters such as the X-Men, Galactus, the Silver Surfer and the Incredible Hulk.
By 1970 however, Kirby had begun to disagree with the way Marvel was going, and returned to DC comics to bring his talents there. He created the character Darkseid, who was part of an epic sci-fi series he was working on, called ‘The Fourth World’, which sadly fell to the wayside and was cancelled before its conclusion.
Kirby would briefly return to Marvel once again to work on stories for Captain America, before retiring in 1987. Kirby died in 1994, at the age of 76. His final years were spent campaigning for better rights given to comic creators and the ownership of their characters.
His 100th birthday will be honored this year by a pop-up event at the Jack Kirby Museum and Research Center, titled ‘Jack Kirby: 100 Years’, in New York. It will run from August 27 until August 30.