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Monday, August 28, 2017

Jack Kirby's Centenary

Jack Kirby (1917 - 1994) was born 100 years ago today and his impact on comics and popular culture can never be underestimated. He was the co-creator of Captain America, The Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, Marvel's Thor and many more and his work conveyed a power, inventiveness, and dynamism never equalled.

When he took control of his own work with comics such as The New Gods, The Forever People and OMAC for DC Comics his work became even more creative and surreal (see the spread above from OMAC No.3, February 1975). Hollywood special effects are only just starting to catch up with Kirby's creativity, but Jack did it all on the printed page decades ago. 

The first work of Kirby's I saw was when Smash! weekly began reprinting The Incredible Hulk, starting in Smash! No.16, 21st May 1966. (Yes, they started by reprinting Hulk No.2, not No.1.) It was heavily inked by Steve Ditko, but as Ditko was a genius too that only added to its power. That image of the Hulk emerging from the swamp seared itself into my mind forever and I became a fan of Jack Kirby's work for life.
While none of us know what lies beyond our physical existence it wouldn't surprise me at all if Jack Kirby had become some celestial being and part of the universe. Happy 100th to Jack "King" Kirby!


Tony Howson said...

A fine post, Lew.

So I guess we both discovered Jack Kirby on the same day then. I'd been reading Smash! for about two months at that time, mainly for Brian Lewis' Moon Madness which (I think) concluded the previous week. So Lord knows why I bought issue 16 - maybe I was following the Legend Testers ??

Anyway, the arrival of the Hulk gave me a reason to keep buying the comic over that summer as it gradually reprinted the early stories and went on to introduce other Marvel characters, like the FF and Avengers, who had encountered the Hulk. In the US editions, the by-then cancelled Hulk was a guest star in their comics but here in the UK they were the guests in the Hulk's slot in Smash! Much as I loved Batman who turned up a month later, it was the Hulk that I bought Smash! for. Have to admit I've not had much affinity for the character since about 1972 but the first 5 or 6 years of the strip were wonderful.

Strange to think how pivotal this issue was. If the Hulk had appeared a week or two later I might never have seen him until Lou Ferrigno's TV show.

Phil Rushton said...

I think there was also a memorable advert for the upcoming Hulk series in Smash! #15. Although I was already familiar with the character from American Marvel comics like Fantastic Four and Avengers I'd never seen the original Hulk comics, so for quite some time I wondered if these were brand new stories written and drawn for the UK market. Odhams certainly did a great job of reformatting the pages for a traditional British comic.

Lew Stringer said...

That's right, Phil. I showed that ad here:

...which also includes pages from the Moon Madness serial that Tony mentioned.

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