Comics

The History of Jack Kirby: 1963

The King helps usher in Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and much more!

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In celebration of Jack “King” Kirby’s 100th birthday, we’re reviewing the man’s legendary creations with a year-by-year examination of his unparalleled career at Marvel Comics. Read on and witness the work that made him comic book royalty.

Although he’d already knocked the socks off of comic book fans the previous year with a collection of incredible debuts, Jack Kirby teamed once again with Marvel editor and writer Stan Lee to ensure that 1963 offered up as many if not more fantastic firsts.

Perhaps supreme among that year’s debuts stood AVENGERS #1. Lee and Kirby took their biggest stars to that point—Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk, Ant-Man, and The Wasp—and brought them together in a single dream team. Kirby’s proficiency at juggling multiple characters paid off in spades in a story that gave equal time to all the heroes, plus included the villainy of Thor’s half-brother Loki just for good measure. Fans responded enthusiastically, and the creative duo notched their belts with another hit on their hands.

Not content with just one new team of super heroes, Jack designed another set to be launched not as guest-stars or back-ups in another title, but in a book of their own right out of the starting gate. X-MEN #1 introduced teen champions with a little “x-tra” going for them: mutant powers. The mysterious Professor X brought in Cyclops, Beast, Angel, Iceman, and Marvel Girl to battle Lee and Kirby’s newest criminal creation, Magneto, and the world of comics would never be the same again.

Jack, a veteran of combat in World War II, found much to dig into when he helped kick off a new war series called SGT. FURY AND HIS HOWLING COMMANDOS in 1963. Just like with  their super hero teams, Kirby and Lee endowed the platoon of soldiers and their commander who populated the book with duffel bags full of personality, and their stories with all the action and pathos Marvel fans began to demand.

Over in the world of the Fantastic Four, the duo’s superstars from the year before received their very first Annual issue, an immense tome illustrated solely by Jack. The volume included a sprawling battle between the FF and the Sub-Mariner, several pages of pinups of the foursome’s fearsome foes, and an expansion of the scuffle between our heroes and Spider-Man from the webslinger’s first issue of his own new title—all this for a mere 25 cents cover price.

In their regular book, Marvel’s first family enjoyed Jack’s art for the very first crossover story from the House of Ideas, the Hulk-FF clash in FANTASTIC FOUR #12, the debut of The Watcher and his exotic moon base in FANTASTIC FOUR #13, and the Super-Skrull’s arrival in FANTASTIC FOUR #18. All these amazing new characters benefited from Kirby’s sense of design and wonder, cementing their role in the ever-growing Marvel Universe.

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.