Celebrate the Legacy of Jack Kirby with His Characters’ New Comics
The King’s characters have new releases this week – see what’s coming out on New Comic Book Day!
Jack Kirby made his mark on Marvel during three distinct stints with the company. The initial one came when he had teamed up with Joe Simon to open the Simon and Kirby Studio. Through their studio, they developed one of the company's all-time greatest heroes as well as a number of other stories.
Later, after the dissolution of their studio, Kirby began working for Marvel and with Stan Lee, whom he first worked with back in the studio days. They began working on anthology tales filled with monsters of all sizes, but then changed the game by building a shared Super Hero universe featuring some of the most recognizable characters on the planet.
The King returned in the 1970s bursting with ideas and intending to shepherd them along himself as the writer and editor as well as the artist. During each of his stays at the House of Ideas, Kirby erected new rooms and filled them with some of the most fascinating characters and places ranging from mailmen and monsters to tough New York streets and far off dimensions.
With Jack Kirby's 102nd birthday on August 28, we're looking at some of the master's greatest creations and checking in to see how they're doing right now!
Captain America and Bucky Barnes (1941)
The Simon and Kirby Studio accepted the herculean task of completing the entire contents of CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #1 themselves. The issue featured four comic shorts starring Captain America and his kid partner Bucky Barnes and a text story, plus the introductions of a pair of other characters called Hurricane and Tuk the Caveboy. After nailing down the Sentinel of Liberty's origin as well as his relationship with Bucky, the other stories set them against the likes the Red Skull and all manner of other Nazi saboteurs. Kirby and company worked on the first ten issues of this series before moving on.
In the 1960s as Jack and Stan began building the Marvel Universe, they brought back the long-missing Cap in the pages of AVENGERS #4. Kirby drew his first several adventures with the team, but signed up for the long haul penciling his starring turns in TALES OF SUSPENSE and CAPTAIN AMERICA. In addition to reworking many of his Golden Age stories in SUSPENSE, Kirby also introduced new characters like Falcon and Sharon Carter. He would return to the Shield-Slinger once more in the ‘70s with an epic run that lasted from CAPTAIN AMERICA #193-214.
Captain America may have had a rough go of things over the past few years, what with the Red Skull convincing a living Cosmic Cube to recreate him as a die-hard Hydra fanatic who took over the country. But the real deal is back in CAPTAIN AMERICA by Ta-Nehisi Coates. These days he's on the run and trying to track down a group known as THEM, which just so happens to be a nod to the original name for A.I.M., mentioned by agents in STRANGE TALES issues drawn by, you guessed it, Jack Kirby!
The Fantastic Four (November 1961)
Though they'd been working together on any many non-Super Hero projects previously ranging from giant monsters to westerns, Stan and Jack rekindled the genre with FANTASTIC FOUR #1. Starring Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Johnny Storm, and Ben Grimm, this issue not only told the tale of how this quartet of intrepid explorers became Marvel’s First Family, but also introduced Mole Man, Monstro, and Monster Isle!
Kirby and Lee worked together on the series for its first 102 issues. Along the way, they debuted the Skrulls, Doctor Doom, Latveria, the Baxter Building, the FantastiCar, Puppet Master, Super-Skrull, the Red Ghost, Molecule Man, the Watcher, the Inhumans, Attilan, Galactus, Silver Surfer, Black Panther, Wakanda, Klaw, Blastaar, the Negative Zone, the Kree, Adam Warlock (originally known as Him), and so many more.
It's just about impossible for anyone to carry on the Fantastic Four legacy without referring to Stan and Jack's run in some way. Writers like the current FANTASTIC FOUR scribe Dan Slott fully embrace that. In fact, right now, he and Paco Medina are working on a story that takes the FF's origins and flips them on their heads to an unparalleled degree. This week, you can check out Gerry Duggan’s spin-off, FANTASTIC FOUR: 4 YANCY STREET #1!
Hulk (May 1962)
With the 1962 release of INCREDIBLE HULK #1, Stan and Jack unleashed a new breed of monster on the world. After transforming from the brilliant scientist Bruce Banner into the rampaging Hulk, the character headlined his own title for six issues before joining up with Hank Pym and the Wasp in TALES TO ASTONISH, though the hero couple was soon replaced by Namor. Other artists shepherded him into the title, but Jack came back with issue #68 and put in the work until issue #87. These stories saw Hulk face off against Leader for a long stretch, travel to the future, throw down with Hercules, and deal with all manner of military threats.
Throughout the entire run of his IMMORTAL HULK, Al Ewing has leaned into many of those initial elements developed by Kirby and Lee, especially the horror elements. Along with artists Joe Bennett, Lee Garbett, Kyle Hotz, and Ryan Bodenheim, Ewing has set the Jade Giant up against new takes on classic villains as well as the anti-monster Shadow Base with even bigger plans moving forward!
Thor (August 1962)
Jack Kirby was there in the beginning for Thor's debut in JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #83. He and Stan began building the Marvel version of Asgardian mythology with Odin, Asgard, Loki, and the rest while he fought aliens, gods, and other monsters. The King handled most of the Odinson's tenure in JOURNEY and made the transition with him to THOR, which he left with issue #179.
This collaborative run rivals Lee and Kirby's FF tenure in terms of the sheer amount of characters, situations, and ideas brought into the Marvel Universe. In addition to laying the groundwork for how mythologies and pantheons would be used, this series also traveled to the stars. Between the two books, readers met Jane Foster, Radioactive Man, Mr. Hyde, Cobra, Sif, Enchantress, Executioner, Grey Gargoyle, Absorbing Man, Atlas, the Warriors Three, Ego the Living Planet, the High Evolutionary, the Wrecker and many more.
Writer Jason Aaron is clearly a fan of these early stories and those that came afterwards as seen in THOR: GOD OF THUNDER, THOR (2014), THE MIGHTY THOR, THOR (2018) and WAR OF THE REALMS. Along with Al Ewing, Aaron is also taking Jane Foster, the former Thor, on brand new adventures as the new Valkyrie in VALKYRIE: JANE FOSTER. Next month will see the launch of KING THOR by Aaron and Esad Ribic, which will bring his run to a close in a way that will surely honor Jack and Stan's legacy!
Iron Man (March 1963)
Though Don Heck drew the interiors of Iron Man's first appearance in TALES OF SUSPENSE #39, the King rendered the Armored Soon-to-Be-Avenger on the cover in all his gray glory! Jack did interiors on issues #40, #41, and #43, but he continued drafting most of the covers until the series ended with issue #99. This arrangement worked out well considering that Kirby was also working on the Captain America portions of the co-feature. In that capacity, he gave many a reader their first glimpses at the gold armor, Crimson Dynamo, the Melter, the Mandarin, and Black Widow.
Since his creation, Iron Man has not only remained a central character in the Marvel Universe, but has also always carried on the spirit of technological advancement that Lee, Kirby, Heck and the others infused those original comics with. Ol' Chrome Dome furthers that tradition to this day in the pages of TONY STARK: IRON MAN by Dan Slott, Valerio Schiti and company. The series features a number of new armors, intelligent robots, a variety of characters from Marvel's past and the struggles that come along with all of that.
The Avengers (September 1963)
In 1963 Lee and Kirby brought Earth’s Mightiest Heroes together in AVENGERS #1! We've covered Iron Man, Thor, and Hulk already. Hank Pym debuted in a sci-fi story in TALES TO ASTONISH #27, but became Ant-Man in issue #35. He was eventually joined by Janet Van Dyne who became the Wasp in issue #44.
Though his time as the sole penciler on AVENGERS would only last the first eight issues -- he provided Don Heck with layouts on issues #14-16 -- Kirby's groundwork can still be seen to this day in the ever-expanding awesomeness that is Jason Aaron's AVENGERS run. Artists like Ed McGuinness, Paco Medina, Sara Pichelli, David Marquez, and Stefano Caselli carry on the visual traditions that Jack laid down by always working to up the ante on the world these heroes live in and the villains they face!
The X-Men (September 1963)
X-MEN #1 from Lee and Kirby debuted the same month as AVENGERS #1 – but this team book took a very different direction with Professor X bringing mutant teens Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman, Beast, and Angel together to hone their powers and protect them from a world that hates and fears them. Kirby provided a mix of full art and layouts for the first 17 issues of the series, lending his talents to the creation of Magneto, Vanisher, Blob, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Toad, modern day Ka-Zar, Zabu, Juggernaut and the Sentinels.
Currently, Jonathan Hickman is working with Pepe Larraz and R.B. Silva to mine all things mutant for raw material to send the merry mutants in an all-new direction. Pick up any issue of HOUSE OF X and POWERS OF X and you'll see any number of Kirby creations being used in creative, yet bold new ways to carry on that legacy.
Black Panther (July 1966)
Kirby and Lee made history in 1966 with the debut of Black Panther in FANTASTIC FOUR #52! The first black Super Hero hailed from a secret, technologically-advanced society called Wakanda, displaying his own brilliance by sending a jet to pick up the FF. Upon arrival, he challenged them physically and then celebrated before asking for their assistance in defeating Klaw.
When Kirby returned to Marvel in the ‘70s, he launched the very first BLACK PANTHER ongoing series which he also wrote and edited. A wild ride, that initial solo series opened the door for a line of others that continue to flesh out the world of Wakanda. Ta-Nehisi Coates is the latest writer to mold new stories out of Kirby's clay, and they've been a huge hit. Right now he and Chris Sprouse are telling a tale that finds T'Challa dealing with the Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda. If that doesn't sound like an idea Kirby would have dug, we don't know what is! A cultural icon, Black Panther also plays a huge role in AVENGERS and has a number of spin-offs in the works at any given time including BLACK PANTHER AND THE AGENTS OF WAKANDA.
Devil Dinosaur (April 1978)
With DEVIL DINOSAUR, Jack got back to some of his monster anthology roots by transporting readers to a prehistoric world filled with terrible thunder lizards, ape-men, robots, and witches. The series followed the exploits of the title beast as well as his partner Moon Boy. The pair of outcasts traveled their world getting into all manner of trouble.
The pair traveled to the present a number of times, but most recently Devil Dino did so without his old partner. Luckily for him -- and readers -- he met up with Lunella Lafayette, the smartest person in the world! Since then, readers have thrilled to their adventures in the pages of MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR as she struggles with her powers, baddies, her astonishing intelligence and getting through third grade!
Another big release this week also proves the ongoing influence of Jack Kirby: MARVEL COMICS #1000, a massive collaboration of 80 creative teams coming together to tell one 80-page story featuring many of the characters co-created by Kirby. This super celebration hits stands this week!
It’s impossible to deny the lasting legacy of Jack Kirby on Marvel Comics and pop culture in general. Since the beginning, the King had a keen sense of storytelling that would span not just decades but generations.
Stay tuned to Marvel.com for more about Jack Kirby and Marvel's 80th Anniversary!
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