Friday, August 28, 2009

Happy Birthday Jack!

Today as hundreds of blogs across the internet proclaim is Jack 'the King' Kirby's birthday. It was truly a sad day in my life when Jack passed on. I really only got to meet him twice. Like so many other people I know, when I got to shake hands and meet him the first time - I froze. I had never been struck with awe and wonder so much in my life. When I was a kid I got to shake hands with Roy Rogers and I didn't freeze as much as I did with Jack. All I could muster was a weak stammer then a 'thanks, jack for all the great stuff'. Sheesh what a moron I was at the time. Ha.
I have seen alot of tributes today, so why add mine to the mix, you ask. Well I don't know. Just seems it hit me harder today than in past years. You see when I was a kid, my brother was buying comics before me - him being the elder by five years. I remember having a couple of kid type comics of some kind, but my brother was discovering the better ones. And I wanted them. I wanted the adventure, the excitment, and the great art. I used to thumb through his books and look just for the Jack Kirby ones. I didn't know who the guy was but even at the age of looking and not really being able to read, I noticed Jacks work. I had never seen anything like it before or since.
Then suddenly I found a copy of Showcase with a new feature. It was like a spark on a gasoline soaked keg of dynamite. The Challengers of the Unknown hit a chord with me. Non-superpowered guys in a fast growing world of superheroes fighting to bridge the gap between man and superman. Til this day that is my favorite type of hero. These guys were 'living on borrowed time' and lucky to come out alive at the end of each exciting story. Of course Jack, with inks by Wally Wood on the first stories, got me hooked. As Jack left the book, I keep buying it. Always looked forward to the adventures of the Challengers. Jack seemed to jump around where he was needed. He was like a superhero himself it seemed to me. A cover here, a story there. Sometimes hard to find with my living locations as a kid.
Then Jack made the jump to Marvel full blast. Marvel launched it's superheroes and Jack seemed to draw them all. Which was fine with me. I followed each book as much as I could. With limited funds my brother and I would each buy certain books. Then a second explosion hit. And his name was Captain America!

The hook was deep into me now. I couldn't get enough of this character. I cherished every panel he was in. Avengers #4 was a landmark issue to me. I still have my beat up old copy. I resides in my collection with my collection of Avengers and Captain America comics showing it's age proudly. I lost count of the times I read that book. I felt I was a lucky kid because Cap began
to show up in alot of issues. Even before Avengers 4 a fake Captain America showed up to battle the Human Torch in an issue of Strange Tales, but after finding out the fake was the Acrobat it didn't really seem to matter to me. I wanted to know more about Captain America. And Avengers 4 gave that chance to me.

To my amazement Cap was given his own half book in Tales of Suspense. Jack brought out the big guns as far as I was concerned. He was close to the top of his game on these stories and I couldn't get enough. The pairings were great. The stories were just the action and excitement I wanted at the time. Soon came one of the greatest pairings of the silver age, in my opinion.

Among one of the most cherished issues I ever read. World War 2 action with the great Captain America and Bucky paired with the Howlers. I have never seen a scan or the original art for this cover. I truly envy the person who owes this. I am sure it is out there somewhere in a place of honor. I was never much for having riches, but I wish I had the money to own this piece of art.

My heroes have since been Jack's type of heroes. I miss them, I miss Jack..... Happy Birthday Jack and thanks for the adventures.


  1. Very heartfelt, pal. I rather envy your awesome Kirby comic book collection.

    I only saw him once. Saw, not really met. I held a door open for an elderly man at the Chicago Con one year, only to discover it was Jack Kirby!

    Weirdly enough, the next year a similar door-holding experience occurred for Harvey Kurtzman.

    I started getting the feeling if I just stood at that door long enough everyone from Eisner, to Raymond, to Foster, to Wood, and Caniff would come walking through.

    Hmm. That might make an interesting story.

  2. Very fitting tribute to a great artist.
    I know how you felt when you met Jack. I got to meet my favorite fantasy artist,Larry Elmore, and It was the same for me.

  3. The really sad thing about that time in comics...

    Most companies did it, but Marvel was the worst of the lot, but once the issue was published, instead of giving the art back to the artists, they just destroyed it... like so much junkmail.

    But, Jack was among the first to fight for artist's rights with the big companies so add that to his legacy.