Comics

Kirby 100: Mike Allred

The Silver Surfer artist recalls his unique first encounter with ‘The King’!

Image for Kirby 100: Mike Allred

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.

Few find childhood accidents funny—least of all parents—but sometimes they can change a kid’s life for the better. Thanks to some youthful shenanigans, Mike Allred—the creator of Madman and artist on SILVER SURFER—discovered the joys of Kirby and hasn’t looked back since.

Thanks to runs on books like FF, the aforementioned SILVER SURFER, and other project, Allred’s been able to dive into some of the characters Kirby developed with his own hands. Now, we talk with the creator about that boyhood introduction, mutants, and more!

Marvel.com: What was your initial relationship with Kirby’s work like? Was he the King to you right away or did it take some time to get into his style?

Mike Allred: One of my earliest memories was my big brother, Lee, shaking a table I had climbed up on and then waking up in the hospital with a concussion. And I was blanketed with comic books. Great medicine!

Lee was my first sensei with the ways of comics, and through him I learned who wrote and drew them. It became obvious that a man named Jack Kirby made more of my favorite comics than any other single artist. And what he and Stan Lee did with FANTASTIC FOUR made that my all-time favorite comic.

Marvel.com: As a young artist, were you looking to his work for inspiration?

Mike Allred: Always.

Marvel.com: Were there any tricks or ideas you figured out by looking at his work?

Mike Allred: I’ve always been conscious of the importance of developing my own unique style, but it’s almost impossible to keep out the Jack Kirby DNA which runs through there. I’d have to say the “Kirby Krackle” defining energy is something I always love tapping into. Beyond that, there’s endless inspiration from studying his layouts, expressiveness and overall power of his work.

Marvel.com: Jack actually did a Madman pin-up back in the 90s. How did that come about?

Mike Allred: Simple networking. I started collecting artist interpretations of Madman and pals back in 1992 when [wife] Laura and I were going to virtually every Comic Con. We were blessed to meet Jack and [his wife] Roz Kirby a couple times, and then Greg Theakston, a good friend and frequent collaborator of the Kirbys, stepped up to ink the piece.

Silver Surfer by Jack Kirby

Marvel.com: I think some people forget that Kirby drew the first 10 issues of UNCANNY X-MEN. Did you look back at those while working on X-FORCE and X-STATIX?

Mike Allred: I cycle back through everything he did constantly. So I’m sure I was revisiting Kirby’s X-Men comics during our “X” runs.

Marvel.com: You worked on another book with lineage back to Kirby in FF. How was it playing with those characters on that series and getting more into his sandbox?

Mike Allred: Thrilling as can be! The super terrific Matt Fraction designed that run as a kind of “Fantastic Four’s Greatest Hits” package and then Lee [Allred] stepped up with that spirit to write the epic conclusion.

Marvel.com: When it came to working on SILVER SURFER with Dan Slott, did you use those original Kirby stories for inspiration?

Mike Allred: Constantly. I’ve always referred to “The Galactus Trilogy” as my all-time favorite comic book story. I buy it again every time there’s a new edition of it, whether in a new collection or the Marvel Treasury Edition.

Marvel.com: Were there certain elements Dan incorporated that surprised you?

Mike Allred: Everything Dan writes surprises me. He has wrote this amazing tale with a brilliant “long game” strategy that is loaded with little rewards that culminate in one of the most satisfying conclusions I’ve ever experienced. A lifelong dream come true for me. Pure comic book bliss!

Marvel.com: After spending these years with Norrin Radd, do you feel like you understand Jack Kirby as an artist in a different way than you did before?

Mike Allred: Progressively, in little measures. But ultimately what really made Jack Kirby tick and the miracle of his achievements will always be one of the great mysteries. So grateful to have his influence in the overall foundation of the comic book biz, and a never-ending source of inspiration.

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.