Jack Kirby Collector Edited by John Morrow Jack Kirby Collector celebrates the life and career of the "King" of comics through interviews with Kirby and his contemporaries, feature articles, and rare & unseen Kirby artwork. Now in tabloid format, the magazine showcases Kirby's art at even larger size.

Kirby On Display

by & © Kirk Tilander

From Jack Kirby Collector #2

(The Words & Pictures Museum of Fine Sequential Art presented a tribute to Jack Kirby from April 6 to May 7, 1994. The exhibit was called King of Comics. The museum, located in Northampton, Massachusetts was completely filled with works of comic art by Jack Kirby.)

In the main gallery, art from the much-too-often overlooked Kirby series Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth was on display. Covers and double page spreads of numbers 3, 7, 8, 12, 14, 16, 19, 20, 27 and 28 were displayed on one wall. The other side of the gallery wall offered a complete issue of #15 - "The Watergate Secrets," wherein Kamandi, Dr. Canus, and Prince Tuftan are sent by Sacker the snake to find the fabled secrets of a long dead past, encountering much danger along the way.

In the upper gallery, Sgt. Fury & His Howling Commandos #7 ("The Court Martial of Sgt. Fury") was displayed in full, minus the cover. Our Fighting Forces featuring the Losers splash pages and action battle scenes were also displayed on the wall. Along the balcony, showcases featuring text quotes about Jack Kirby were displayed along with double page spreads from The Demon and OMAC.

The last showcase held the last page of Kamandi #20 where he feels as if he is truly alone. Video featuring Jack Kirby interviews played on a monitor. A written thesis by Charles Hatfield was also on display.

Here are a few quotes by Jack that were on display:

"I couldn't draw the way they teach you in school. To me, realistic detail was boring and unimportant. The reader wants to see the close-up, bird's eye view of the action. You have to decide which you want, a well-designed book of pictures or a great story."

"Comics are a universal product. They have no boundaries. You can use them in a very serious manner or just for laughs. Comics can be used to educate, to entertain or to provoke deep thought. A well-read person will one day produce a classic epic in comics, one that everybody will remember. I wanted to do that, but I think that's going to be somebody else's job. I'm happy that I got the chance to accomplish what I did."

"I think the greatest contribution I've made in comics is the fact that I helped to build up readership. I think people have accepted me, they have accepted my stories, because I think they recognized their own values in those stories. I don't think the average reader believes in fairy tales, and I've never given them fairy tales. Yes, I've given them fictionalized drama, but this is drama, that is enacted by real people."

Here's a summation of the show, as it appeared at the museum:

Stripped of the plaudits, the praise, the controversies - and the arguments - Kirby's career is still an extraordinary lifetime of dedicated hard work enriched by his love of the art. Quantitative analysis and examples and discussions of his styling and layouts could spill over several volumes. They do not, however, take into consideration why he worked so hard.

"I never wanted to work for a living, but I never made it a goal to become famous or well-known. Drawing was an obsession to me. Ever since I was a small boy I wanted to draw. After years of practicing, I turned the obsession into an artform, and a way to make a living. I was supporting my family, and I was doing what I wanted to do. I always looked for ways of improving my art and I watched to see if it was accepted by the most important person in the process - the reader. Because, if the reader doesn't like what you're doing and you don't do something about it, then you're out of a job."

Despite his great love to create, Kirby never became jealous of his style or storytelling. He made adjustments and modifications as the tastes of his readers changed. The evidence of his efforts is clearly demonstrated on the many comics pages and covers he produced. There are distinct "eras" in his career that are easily identifiable by their style and treatment. Eventually, his quest for originality cultivated such a unique appearance during the Silver Age of comics art that it was easier to simply call it Kirbyesque comics art than to indulge in any effort to describe it. This is only one reason why many consider Kirby to be the comic book artist's artist.

Here is the complete listing of the original art on display:

  • Kamandi # 3: Double page spread
  • Kamandi # 7: Cover and double page spread
  • Kamandi # 8: Cover & double page spread
  • Kamandi # 12: Cover and pages 4 and 10
  • Kamandi # 14: Cover, splash page, double page spread and page # 6
  • Kamandi # 15: Entire issue
  • Kamandi # 16: Cover, and double page spread
  • Kamandi # 17: Cover and double page spread
  • Kamandi # 19: Cover, double page spread and page # 6
  • Kamandi # 20: Cover and double page spread
  • Kamandi # 23: Double page spread
  • Kamandi # 27: Cover, double page spread and page # 16
  • Kamandi # 28, April 1975: Cover, double page spread and page # 5
  • Demon # 8: Cover, splash page and double page spread
  • Our Fighting Forces # 154: Cover and page # 10
  • Our Fighting Forces # 155: Cover and double page spread
  • Our Fighting Forces # 156: Double page spread
  • Our Fighting Forces # 158: Cover
  • OMAC # 8: Double page spread
  • Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos # 7: Entire issue
  • The Art of Jack Kirby cover illustration
  • Jack Kirby and Marvel Characters, 1970
  • Kamandi # 20: End page

(Editor's note: The Words & Pictures Museum was founded by Kevin Eastman, co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and a long-time Kirby fan. All artwork displayed was on loan from his collection. The museum celebrated its grand opening December 31, 1994 at their new location - 140 Main Street, Northampton, MA. Our thanks go to Co-Director Fiona Russell for supplying supplemental materials for this article.)

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