Kirby 100: Jim Zub
The Uncanny Avengers writer appreciates Kirby’s take on Bucky and more!
1917 to 2017: 100 years of Kirby.
Join us this month to celebrate Jack “King” Kirby’s 100th birthday by learning about the characters and stories he created that changed comics forever. To commemorate Jack’s centennial, we’ve sat down with the modern-day creators he influenced—and the decades of work he gifted us all.
UNCANNY AVENGERS writer Jim Zub understood something very important about Jack Kirby’s work from the beginning: he helped build it from the ground up. That might seem obvious given how many incredibly important books Jack drew ranging from the original CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS on to FANTASTIC FOUR and AVENGERS, but still needs to be celebrated.
Zub did that when he started working on THUNDERBOLTS starring none other than Bucky Barnes. We talked with the writer about digging into Bucky’s origins, the beauty of ETERNALS and Kirby’s absolute dynamism.
Marvel.com: Was Jack Kirby a creator you were aware of when you first started reading comics or did you come to his work later on down the line?
Jim Zub: Like most comic readers, I started with a love of the characters and then started to dig into specific creators as I realized different stories struck a chord with me, visually or narratively. I started collecting Marvel comics in the early 80s, so Jack’s legacy as the “King of Comics” and key artistic figure in the creation of the Marvel Universe was already well established. As a kid, his work jumped out as “classic Marvel,” the foundation everything else was built upon.
Marvel.com: Do you remember what struck you about the way Kirby made comics when you first started seeing his art?
Jim Zub: Kirby comics always felt to me like they were barely held in check by the edge of the page: dynamic, chunky graphic shapes that wanted to break free of their panels and smash you in the face. Big, bold, and never standing still.
I remember reading the original run of ETERNALS and being amazed at the power and scope of it. Jack wasn’t holding back and, even as a kid, I could tell that this was world-shaking stuff, an operatic cosmic whirlwind.
Marvel.com: When you kicked off the latest THUNDERBOLTS volume, did you look back at any of Kirby’s Bucky issues to get a feel of the Winter Soldier’s roots? If so, did anything you saw in those older issues surprise you or inform your take on the character?
Jim Zub: I read a slew of old Captain America and Bucky stories for research, including the classic Bucky origin from CAPTAIN AMERICA ANNUAL #1 that Jack drew. It got me into the mode for flashbacks and the time traveling jaunt back to World War II we had in THUNDERBOLTS #11. I love the mixture of action and pathos Jack brought to every page. Even though the origin has gone through changes over the years, I thought it was important to channel the Kirby-flare of the original.
Marvel.com: You also worked with Baron Zemo in that book. How do you feel the original Kirby co-creation continues on in this modern version?
Jim Zub: Baron Zemo is a man driven by intense emotions and that’s held true right from the start with Jack’s hooded menace. Kirby set the mold with Zemo and dozens of other Marvel heroes and villains. It’s a thrill to add new layers to such well-defined iconic characters.
Marvel.com: A lot of that led directly into Secret Empire, which you’re also participating in as the writer on UNCANNY AVENGERS and SECRET EMPIRE: UNITED. That event puts a different spin on what Captain America means, at least for the moment, but how do you see it all connecting back to the stories that helped build the Marvel Universe?
Jim Zub: Jack wasn’t afraid to switch things up, whether that meant creating characters and altering established paradigms or trying new styles like incorporating photos into his artwork. The only way to find something fresh and exciting is to take risks and that’s exactly what Kirby did. When Marvel creators push out into strange territory and shake these characters up, it’s exciting but also a time-honored tradition.
Captain America gets put through the wringer, but through that we see his strength and the power of his ideals renewed. These icons get tested year after year with drama, pathos, and loads of action.
Marvel.com: Kirby did his own thing whenever he could in comics; do you feel like you carry that on to some extent in your own work?
Jim Zub: I think it’s important to put some of yourself into the work, absolutely. Each era of these characters is defined by strong voices, distinct artwork, and big stakes. When I pitch my stories, I want to make every issue worthy and do something readers will remember.
Stay tuned to Marvel.com for more throughout Kirby Month and beyond! And join the conversation on all of our social channels with the hashtag #Kirby100.
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