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.


by & © John Morrow

Thanks to R.J. Vitoné for his contribution to this article.

From Jack Kirby Collector #5

During the 1960s, Marvel Comics continually found ways to get their fans involved. First came the Merry Marvel Marching Society fan club, and later the Marvelmania International mail order company. Both the MMMS and Marvelmania utilized Jack's art on their promotional ads and merchandise.

Jack's art eventually appeared on everything from buttons and stickers to plastic pillows. To get an understanding of just how fast Jack was, remember that all this was done in addition to his regular comics work (sometimes three or more pages a day).

In the 1966 first issue of the Merry Marvel Messenger (official newsletter of the MMMS), Jack gave the following autobiography:

And thus I was born, amidst questions... questions... "Can it be a Leprechaun?" asked Mrs. Rafferty. 'A Prince of the Blood, maybe?" laughed Mrs. Goldberg. "Not that anemic runt, " replied the good doctor as he shot a compassionate glance at my mother and handed my father the bill. Not quite convinced that he'd made medical history, the dazed physician clattered down threeflights of unswept stairs and into the first rays of dawn. The place, New York City. The date, August 28th, 1917. It turned out to be a gloomy day like all the others. And I was there.

I was there thru rickety childhood, thru obnoxious and sullen adolescence, in the shadow of the chipped, brick walls of the slum, my first drawing-board. Frustrated by bad spelling, I turned to bad drawing and improved both enough in my late teens to land a job in a small syndicate servicing weekly newspapers. From there to the Max Fleischer animation studios where, for negligible wages, I learned that the human hody, in motion, has value and heart and beauty. When Popeye and Betty Boop took the initial steps to throw their pies, it was my job to complete the movement and speed of the action. This operation was called in-betweening.

When comic magazines blossomed as a field, I leaped in and drew for anyone who would let me tell a story. I became a variety of names, unleashing a torrent of diverse characters, among them the Blue Beetle, the first Captain Marvel. Super-Heroes were replacing human beings, and even dressed in glamorized underwear, they looked great in the wild blue yonder and added a new dimension to the lives of the comic fans.

While working on Captain America for Marvel Comics in the dawning 'forties, "I was producing at a furious rate. I remember slowing down only once, when a young rapscallion, peering into my cubicle suggested that I show more of Cap's home life, his aged, kindly mother, his wicked Aunt Agatha, and the stark, heart-rending background of Cap's early years. "Begone!" I cried, sorely put to drubhing him. "Take off and become an editor or something!" Well, by golly, he did. But before he got the name Stan Lee on his office door, I was busily engaged elsewhere, with the Boy Commandos, Newsboy Legion, Sandman, Manhunter, and other features. The comicfield was producing heroes while the world at large came up with villains to match. Hitler, Tojo, Mussolini, and the mess of miscreants stomping in their wake. Things got so bad during the period following Pearl Harbor, they finally drafted me. Then things got so bad in the Army, they actually used me in battle. At Metz, in France, serving in General Patton's Third Army, I was frozen into immobility by the sight of the advancing armor of the Heinrich Himmler Field Kitchen Panzers of the Waffen SS. I'd created another first, the "Human Road Block. "This won me a PFC stripe and a lot of colorful language from my First Sergeant.

Well, the world just couldn't go on that way. The Axis powers, faced down by men raised side by side with Super-Heroes, had had it. Everyone hustled out of uniform and began raising families. I invaded Harvey Comics, drawing Stuntman, Boy Explorers, Boy's Ranch. Rushing into other strips I did a teen-age feature called My Date, an adventure satire named The Flying Fool, and a bit of whimsy labeled The Rich Rabbit. There was nothing to be done then but innovate Romance Comics, pulverize the underworld in Headline Comics and Justice Traps The Guilty, and play Edgar Allen Poe in Black Magic. With Fighting American, I was ready for laughs. But fooling with the 3D madness and Captain 3D gave me the vapors. When I came out of the fog, I found I'd also done Win-A-Prize Comics, Bullsye, Foxhole, and Police Trap. Compounding these concoctions, I stumbled into Green Arrow and kept things humming by creating the Challengers Of The Unknown and a syndicated strip called "Sky Masters."

Returning to Marvel Comics was like re-entering the Halls of Ivy. In charge of comics was that young rascal, and, now, a bit of an older rascal, Stan Lee. We now share ideas, laughs, and stubby cigars. As for all the people who make Marvel what it is, no one could respect them more than I. And that includes our readers. I have a wife named Rosalind, three lovely daughters, Susan, Barbara and Lisa and a fine son named Neal. To put it concisely, you name it, I've done it - but fairly."

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