JACK KIRBY (b. Jacob Kurtzberg, 1917-1994) would have been 104 years old tomorrow, August 28.
If you’re visiting this site, you probably don’t need to be persuaded that Kirby was one of twentieth-century America’s most influential artists and storytellers and continues to inspire new work in comics and across media. I’ll simply note that the Marvel Universe of comics and the Marvel Cinematic Universe alike testify to Kirby’s impact (and that Eternals, Chloe Zao’s film adaptation of his mid-1970s comic, is slated for release in a couple of months). FYI, Comic-Con International celebrated Kirby’s centennial in 2017 with a special tribute section in its annual souvenir book, and you can still access that for free in PDF at:
This PDF makes for a fine primer on Kirby. I’m proud to have contributed an essay to it (and must once again thank CCI and Gary Sassaman for that!).
As I often say, I don’t expect ever to be “done” thinking and writing about Kirby. For this year’s Kirby Day, I’d like to alert my readers to a great event that the Jack Kirby Museum and Research Center is putting on tomorrow, Saturday, August 28, from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. NYC time (EDT): a walking tour of New York’s Lower East Side, including Kirby’s birthplace and boyhood home. According to the Museum’s website,
The tour will be livestreamed to our usual venues on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Twitch, with Kirby-centric video clips streamed out while we are walking.
See https://kirbymuseum.org/blog/2021/08/23/for-jack-kirbys-104th-a-lower-east-side-walking-tour/ for details.
Note that the Museum’s YouTube channel can be accessed at https://youtube.com/c/JackKirbyMuseum and that its Twitter handle is @JackKirbyMuseum (Museum organizers Rand Hoppe and Tom Kraft always take pains to reach out via multiple platforms).
For my own pleasure, and to remind myself of the scope of Jack Kirby’s work on this, his 104th birthday, I’ve selected 104 comic book covers penciled by Kirby between 1941 and 1983. See the slideshow below! These are covers that can confidently be attributed to Kirby as designer or co-designer and principal artist and that stand out to me because they’re dramatic, compositionally dynamic, vividly colored, weird, revealing, alarming, and/or funny. Some of them may even be, dare I say, cringey or dated in ways that make us sit up and take notice, but all of them are delightful or strange and are burned into my brain.
Note that I sourced these images through the aptly named Grand Comics Database (comics.org), which is, no exaggeration, a godsend, one of my constant go-to places for comics info. Please consider supporting the GCD by donating either funds or your own hard work! (BTW, the GCD lists more than 1600 original, not reprinted, comic book covers penciled by Kirby.)
Finally, following the example of Kirby’s granddaughter Jillian, why not take the occasion of Kirby’s birthday to donate to The Hero Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to helping comics creators in need? They do really important, needful work, and I can’t think of a more fitting way to signal one’s gratitude for Jack’s glorious, life-enhancing art.
PS. It should take just over five minutes for the slideshow to play through on autoplay. I recommend switching to full screen if you can to see bigger images!