One Legend, Seven Decades. The King of Comics.

Graphic Literature in the United States. It’s a truly massive undertaking to put into an article. Even choosing only a handful of creators is a difficult task. That is unless you’ve done massive amounts of research and repeatedly come up with one name. A name that needed no research if you are a true comic book fan. A man that created the Marvel style and imitators galore.

I won’t waste time. I had this written with well over a thousand words. But let me condense it.

Jack “King” Kirby (1917-1994), “King” chosen not by him, worked in comics beginning in the 1930s. His first superhero work, known of was in 1940 on Blue Beetle. All work on the comic strip was done under one name, regardless of who worked on it.

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Then he moved to Timely Comics, an ancestor of Marvel Comics and created one of the most popular superheroes, comic book characters in history, Captain America along side Joe Simon.

capcap2He and Simon, now a team, moved on to DC Comics and created Boy Commandos  and worked on Captain Marvel the most popular hero of the decade before leaving for WWII and almost having his legs amputated due to frostbite.

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CaptainMarvel

Upon his return he created the Romance genre of Comic books with Simon, titles such as Young Romance and Young Love during what would be called the Atomic Age of comics, that time between the Golden Age starting with Superman and the Silver Age beginning with The Flash in Showcase #4 for DC Comics.

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Kirby was there too, creating in Showcase #6 the Challengers of the Unknown.

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But perhaps what others might find interesting is his work in World’s Finest and Adventure Comics with Green Arrow.

wfga96gaacHis art style was second to none. As was his story telling. He saved a company called Atlas, once known as Timely and next to be known as Marvel. During the late 50s he drew comic after comic across genres and doing these monstrous figures people could not get enough of.

Then the explosion happened. November of 1961 sees Fantastic Four #1 hit the stands and comics and Marvel Comics would never be the same. X-Men, Hulk, Silver Surfer, Iron Man, and more characters than I’ll even try to show here. All drawn by Kirby, and in many cases created by him.

Here is an inside page of Fantastic Four #1 as opposed the the cover shot many are familiar with.

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The Marvel method of writing a book went like this, Stan Lee, editor and head writer would go to an artist and say something like, “I want to do the next issue with this happening.” The artist would draw what he liked to match the idea and Stan Lee would put words to it. That’s right, no script.

With Kirby it went like this, here’s the pictures and Stan Lee would have to figure out what it was. Yes, Kirby basically did what he wanted, telling the story through his art, and Stan Lee would then look at the art for the first time and come up with the story. You don’t always need words with Kirby books.

Something interesting I stumbled across. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko are given credit as the creators of Spider-Man. However in an interview by Kirby and in essays by Ditko, both state much of Spider-Man’s story, his basic DNA of character and idea was Kirby. The death of the uncle, the revenge, the web, although Kirby had it coming out of a gun, science, and more. Another sad thing is, a long time assistant spoke about how he drove Kirby and his wife to a store, and the m an asked Kirby if he wanted to go in a Toys ‘r us and Kirby became pale and almost sick and said he couldn’t go in there. Later the wife explained how Kirby couldn’t go in because of all the Captain America toys in there that Kirby should have been getting royalties for made him ill and depressed.

Of course Kirby didn’t stay at Marvel forever, he went to DC once again for various reasons.

The year was 1970 and Kirby’s move along with several other events that year in comics led to what is called the Bronze Age of Comics.

Kirby was allowed to create his own universe, his own world, The Fourth World, which included New Gods, Mister Miracle and The Forever People. Perhaps the most famous character from this world is Darkseid.

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If you kind of see Thanos from Marvel Comics, maybe even at the end of the first Avengers movie  in this image, it’s no mistake. Thanos was based on not Darkseid at first, but another New God, but once showing his creation to Marvel, Roy Thomas was told that if he was going to base a character on a New God, pick the good one, as in the powerful bad guy one. That’s my paraphrasing of the conversation.

As with every company he worked for, problems began and he moved on, and back to Marvel and Stan Lee. The Eternals and Celestials are perhaps his best creations from this time. But of course he moved on from Marvel.

eternalsThe Modern Age of Comics is roughly seen as beginning around 1985-1987. Watchmen by Alan Moore, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, basically darker stuff, and creator recognition began. What else happened? Marvel gave back to Jack Kirby around 1,900 pages of the artwork he had done for them. Kirby had wanted to sell the artwork to be able to leave his family something upon his passing. Creator recognition, finally.

I think there is another age of comics. Modern Age might end up having it’s name changed at some point, but for now we will leave it. Perhaps I’ll call the age following it for simple reference purposes the Image Age. This would make the Image Age beginning in 1992 and it would be the age of true creator control and a new wave of storytelling by award winning novelists.

And who was there at the beginning?

Jack Kirby and Phantom Force, released through Image Comics. In his last years, right before his passing he was able to see his final work printed for a new age and the first issue sell 250,000 copies.

pf1What other person can span through every Age of superheroes? Perhaps one man might could stand beside him for that honor, but not for these kinds of accomplishments. It’s not Stan Lee. Honestly, if you like Stan Lee, don’t research too much into comic book history. No one takes away from his way of telling a story and his salesmanship. But there are some things that just don’t make him look good at times. You have to wonder why creative giants like Simon and Kirby left Timely after creating Captain America and the nephew of the publisher at the age of 19 became the editor and art director. Who told Goodman, the publisher Simon and Kirby were working on DC projects?

I’ll leave you with couple of stories.

Will Eisner was once Kirby’s boss back in the late 1930s, maybe 1939. He tells a story, this is my paraphrasing.

Kirby was a small guy, about 5 foot and a bit of nothing. Back then there was a service for the Eisner & Iger offices who would bring in towels and soap. Well someone didn’t like the soap and wanted to change companies. The problem was the company they had was run by the mob, in New York, and they had the whole building. The office got a visit from the stereotype guy, black shirt, white tie and about six foot four. He comes in and threatens Eisner and out comes little Jack Kirby asking if the guy was giving him a problem. The big guy back down slightly until Eisner told Kirby to calm down. They kept the soap and towels.

But that’s how Kirby was. Growing up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, you grew up tough. Showed no fear.

One story from Kirby himself I like is one where he tells how the Thing from the Fantastic Four is him. He uses his language and his manners. The Thing is Jack Kirby.

Ben Grimm, The Thing of the FF was Jack Kirby in ways some people didn’t even know. This article here let’s you in on so much of it. I’ve read a lot of it in other places, heard Kirby talk about it in interviews, but get it here in one place.

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 That’s it. One man, every Age, and influencing every age since.

I’ll come back and put references in someday. Just can’t do it right now.

Five days left in the series. Hope you can last with me, and I can last. The blog may be dying from my regulars not being comic book people, but I’m still enjoying this every minute.

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Bonus: Get your geek on. One wrap around cover, four classics, one legend.

geek-time

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Diversity in action . . . I gotta problem.

Diversity in writing is a movement sweeping through the publishing industry. And I have a problem with it.

I want to talk comic books for a moment. No, don’t leave. You’re a writer. Comics aren’t what they used to be  . . . for better or worse. So stay with me on this. You’ll see where I am going momentarily, maybe.

Thor is a Wfemale_thor.jpgoman

“The inscription on Thor’s hammer reads ‘Whosoever holds this hammer, if HE be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.’ Well it’s time to update that inscription,” says Marvel editor Wil Moss.

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Captain America is African American

“For most of his professional life, Sam has worked as a social worker, so he’s seen the worst of urban society up close, and how crime, poverty, lack of social structure and opportunity can affect the community.”-Editor Tom Brevoort

I’m from the South. What do you think my problem here is?

Take your time, gather your thoughts.

Now toss them out the window.

Yes I intentionally led you down the wrong brain drain. Anyone that knows me and has read my other offerings here on RonovanWrites knows how I feel about all people.

So what’s my deal?

#1 Thor is a Nthor.jpgorse god of mythology, not a goddess. Yeah, I know it’s a comic book, but still. Try it with Muhammad. “Oh, but Muhammad was real.” Give me another point. Jesus was real also. So let’s not get into religion. More than likely this will be a temporary deal. Who knows?

#2 Captain America? He, in the form of Steve Rogers, the original Captaicaptain_america_100,jpgn America is my favorite comic book character of all time . . . seriously. I have Captain America 100 from the 1960s in a frame, his first solo titled gig in the modern era. I even have a small statuette of him. My son has been him twice at Halloween, the first time he had a pacifier. Cute? Of course, how could he not be? Is that the problem I have, that my favorite character isn’t my favorite character inside the suit any longer? Nope.

Do I have a problem with an African American in the uniform? Nope.

It’s Sam Wilson, the Falcon,

sam_wilson_falcon.jpgCaptain America’s off and on partner for a long time, who even shared the banner on the book for a number of years. I got no problem with it. He’s the first person Rogers has hand picked as his successor. He represents the beliefs like Steve Rogers did.And in the mid 1980s he had awesomely cool costume. He’s the first African American hero in comics.

One thing the press release said was that Sam was more in touch with the modern man and the problems of society, that he didn’t grow up in the 1930s like Steve Rogers, who has been aged somehow in the comics. Yeah, Steve grew up in the depression so I guess he doesn’t know anything about the problems of the world today and the economic situation. Yeah, note the sarcasm. Please. When you have people running the show that just don’t get it, you end up with explanations that don’t need to be given.

They say this has maybe been in the making for two years. Okay, I’m good with that. I just don’t like the gimmicks.

I just like Steve Rogers in the role. I didn’t like Bucky Barnes, Cap’s original partner, playing the part either. Is that still the reason I don’t like the change? Nope.

So what’s my problem?

Marvel is making change for money. No, they are not, in my opinion making a statement in regards to society. They are writing to just get in on the diverse market and it is sickening. I know that’s how it works but it still sickens me. It sickens me as bad as when they started allowing swearing in main stream comic books. Yeah, I stopped collecting. I protested it, me, Mr. 100 + books per month.

I don’t take the comic book industry lightly. Where did I learn a large vocabulary at a young age? Why from The Fantastic Four and Reed Richards of course. Comic books teach. And what are they teaching now? Sell out.

the_three_musketeers.jpgI have other classic books in comic book form like The Three Musketeers and the like from the 1960s as well. No I wasn’t born until after the 60s. I just liked comics.

It’s obvious and obnoxious to me. Yeah, I wanted to be a comic book writer at one point, and still would like to. I would even like it at Marvel, but hey, blogger boy gotta speak his blogger mind on his blog. So if Marvel is reading, I understand if you turn anything down I might send your way some day. And yeah, oddly I had a diverse book idea for you.

But you don’t take a real social issue and then do this with it. You have diverse characters aplenty at Marvel. Just putluke_cage.jpg your money in them and your support. Power Man (Luke Cage) and Iron Fist were two of the coolest characters. Power Man was African American and look what you did with his character the last time I was around. You turned him into a book that kids couldn’t read.

You want to give books to kids with diversity in it? Don’t switch the characters in the safe books. Instead make the characters you already have safe. But then . . . comic books aren’t for kids are they?

That’s my Opinion
Much Respect
Ronovan

 

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