PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

Hail To The King

Okay, there are few things cooler in this world than the creative legacy of Jack Kirby (1917-1994).

This is the guy who co-created Captain America in the 1940s, and gave the comic book world loads of memorable characters like The Newsboy Legion, The Vision, Sandman, The Challengers Of The Unknown, among other classics.

With his partner Joe Simon, he was responsible for the first horror and romance comics. Simon and Kirby split up in the 1950s, and on his own, Kirby was responsible for great work for DC, Marvel, and newspaper comics.

Kirby teamed with Stan Lee at Marvel Comics in the 1960s, and together, they created the Fantastic Four, and laid the groundwork for the Marvel Comics empire. When you see The X Men, The Fantastic Four, The Silver Surfer, The Hulk, and almost all the other Marvel heroes, you’re looking at Jack Kirby creations.

When he left Marvel to work for DC Comics, at an age when most cartoonists are contemplating retirement, he still had enough left in his tank to bring us classics like Kamandi, The New Gods, Mister Miracle, and Etrigan, the Demon.

Perhaps because he’s not the one whose uncle owned the company, Kirby gets a bit of a short shrift when it comes to things like putting his name on blockbuster movies based on his Marvel co-creations (Fantastic Four, Hulk, X Men), and his estate doesn’t even get paid royalties when Marvel reprints his classic work. Even when they do it in a coffee-table book called “Marvel Visionaries: Jack Kirby.”

DC treats Kirby better, but he’s responsible for so much of what makes up comic books today that he really deserves more acclaim.

So, it’s really cool that Kirby now has a museum dedicated to his work. It’s about time the guy got the credit he deserves. This is a guy who was creating memorable characters from the 1930s to the 1980s. Most of the modern-day universes of both Marvel and DC Comics are deeply-rooted in Kirby’s concepts and creations.

The museum is an online presence for now, with the stated goal of developing a traveling retrospective of Kirby’s work. Brought to life by Randolph Hoppe, Kirby’s daughter, Lisa, and John Morrow (publisher of JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR ,along with other great books and magazines that preserve comic book history), the Jack Kirby Museum is a long overdue honor for the man who almost single-handedly created the modern comic book. Check out the Kirby Museum here

It’s a good start when it comes to recognizing the plucky little Brooklynite, without whom we would not have two-thirds of today’s most recognizable comic book favorites. And think how cool it would be if the Avampato Museum at the Clay Center could sign on to host the traveling retrospective when it starts in 2007.