Jack Kirby’s Greatest Moments in Marvel Comics
Celebrate the birthday of Jack “The King” Kirby with some of our favorite pages and panels from the powerhouse creator.
Today we celebrate the birthday of Jack Kirby, one of the foundational creators behind Marvel Comics’ Silver Age! The co-creator of the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, the Avengers, the Hulk, Thor, and an immense wealth of original characters, Kirby still stands as one of the most hailed and important creators in Marvel Comics history. His contributions live on to inspire fans and industry professionals today, along with his unparalleled vision, artistic talent, and ingenious approach to the comics medium.
In honor of Jack “The King” Kirby, we’re offering up a handful of our favorite pages from the artist himself—bombastic moments that leap right off the panels.
THE WANDERER OF THE SPACEWAYS: FROM FANTASTIC FOUR (1961) #48
Considered one of their greatest collaborations, Kirby and FANTASTIC FOUR co-creator Stan Lee ushered in cosmic doom for Marvel’s First Family with the emerging threat of Galactus, a world-devouring being who put Earth on the menu for his next meal. Featuring colors by Stan Goldberg, inks by Joe Sinnott, and letters by Artie Simek and Sam Rosen, “The Coming of Galactus” arc was told across three issues through issue #50, and stands out for another important introduction: the Fantastic Four’s first meeting with the Silver Surfer!
As readers would go on to learn, the Silver Surfer is a Herald of Galactus who is burdened by the toll of his responsibilities. A loner by the name of Norrin Radd, the Surfer hails from the utopian planet Zenn-La where he embraced a life of curiosity and science. But, when his home world was threatened with consumption, Radd entered into an uneasy bargain with Galactus to scope out edible planets for his new boss’ endless appetite. In the panels of his first appearance, the Silver Surfer embodied the spirit of a wanderer; he alone travels the spaceways in search of distant worlds and peoples, a silvery being fluid in motion, imbued with the Power Cosmic.
ENTER THE NEGATIVE ZONE: FROM FANTASTIC FOUR (1961) #51
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention this issue’s first page too! Ben Grimm, AKA Fantastic Four member the Thing, bears the weight of his monstrous self-loathing in “This Man…This Monster!” told in FANTASTIC FOUR #51. Fans of the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Grimm won’t want to miss this one, and neither will followers of FF history—this issue marks the first appearance of the Negative Zone! One of the strangest corners in the Marvel Universe, the Negative Zone is a topsy-turvy anti-matter dimension that exists parallel to Earth. Annihilus, one of its most famous denizens, first encountered the Fantastic Four when Mister Fantastic, the Thing, and the Human Torch entered the Negative Zone seeking anti-particles to treat the Invisible Woman’s cosmically complicated pregnancy in FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #6.
Interestingly, the art style that Kirby used for the Negative Zone’s first appearance looks similar to the sequence of Galactus’ ship entering Earth’s atmosphere in FANTASTIC FOUR #48. In addition to being a master of the pencil, (Kirby reportedly worked between 70 to 80 hours a week at breakneck pace), the artist also employed collage techniques to add greater dimension to his otherworldly scenes.
GALACTUS HUNGERS: FROM FANTASTIC FOUR (1961) #74
Yet another page from the Fantastic Four’s Silver Age series, a testament to one of the artist’s most important eras.
While the Fantastic Four scuffle on Earth with a half-robot, half-living soldier called “the Punisher,” Galactus, Being of Undying Hunger, lies in wait for his next planetary meal. But every star system he’s come upon has been barren so far, and Earth is the closest known source of sustenance…
For readers, Galactus embodies the cosmic scope that is one of Kirby’s many signatures. Existing outside the bounds of physical law, Galactus’ true size is incomprehensible. As is his diet; here, even Galactus must consider the heavy toll of breaking a promise to quench his starvation.
THE CONFIDENT KANG: FROM AVENGERS (1963) #8
So confident, in fact, he sits back and reclines after making a surprise drop on Earth’s Mightiest Heroes! Kang the Conqueror, menace of the timeline, first appeared in FANTASTIC FOUR #19 as Pharaoh Rama-Tut, an anachronistic antagonist that used his superior tech to subjugate the Fantastic Four in Ancient Egypt.
[RELATED: Kang the Conqueror Across the Decades]
Here, the mighty Kang has perfected his technique against the Avengers. Equipped with an anti-gravity seat and all manner of temporally tricky weapons, even Thor: God of Thunder is caught unawares by Kang’s cocky conquest. Read on for the conqueror’s complete origin!
“WHEN GODS WALK THE EARTH!”: FROM ETERNALS (1976) #2
A world in the image of its creator! ETERNALS (1976), a series conceived, written, and drawn by Kirby, stands out as one of his most visionary additions to Marvel Comics canon.
A race of godlike beings locked in a millennium-old conflict with the less evolved Deviants and their originators, the Celestials, the Eternals represent the deities and mythic heroes of earthen lore. From their domain on high in Olympia, the Eternals have quietly shaped the belief systems of humans since their dawn, protecting mortals with their strange, sometimes monstrous, powers. In issue #2 of their debut run, Eternal Ikaris and Deviant ruler Kro witness the return of the Celestials hovering above the “City of the Space Gods.” Unreachable and utterly alien, their space craft is unlike any other that Kirby committed to the page. As these ancient astronauts descend upon a world they helped create, readers are treated to their visually symbolic language.
BLACK PANTHER, ADVENTURER: FROM BLACK PANTHER (1977) #3
Taking a page from the Fantastic Four’s exploratory guide to the galaxy, Black Panther stars in this action epic written and drawn by Kirby. As T’Challa, he is a monarch. As a hero, he is the Black Panther, a mantle inherited through a trial of will and combat that determines the next protector of Wakanda.
In his first ongoing series, Black Panther is on the trail of a precious artifact, an effort that inadvertently sets off an ancient machine that unlocks a creature from time and space unknown. With the clock now ticking down to find the burial chamber of King Solomon, Black Panther and his fellow adventurers Abner Little and Princess Zanda zip into a “multi-planet, supersonic wonder” to race against time itself. Their mission? Save the world from an enemy that has yet to be born!
PREHISTORIC DOOMSDAY: FROM DEVIL DINOSAUR (1978) #4
Wondering what’s going on here? How about Kirby’s most offbeat saga in its prehistoric prime!
In one of his final projects for Marvel, Kirby imagined up the Valley of the Flame and its many wondrous inhabitants…including Moon-Boy and spark-red tyrannosaurus rex Devil Dinosaur! Bonded by tragedy, Devil and Moon-Boy traveled the length of their world (and beyond) in this run, encountering giant spiders, armies of enormous ants, dinosaurs aplenty, and even aliens from outer space. In this nightmarish vision from issue #4, Moon-Boy gets a glimpse of an impending threat to the Valley; a primordial Leviathan monster that seems set to spew terror.
Want to read more of Jack Kirby’s greatest Marvel moments? Join digital comics super-service Marvel Unlimited to gain instant access to complete first runs starring the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, the Hulk, the X-Men, and more.
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