Caleb Orecchio here on Jack Kirby’s 100th birthday
What’s out There?
…and so I live with a lot of questions—and I find that entertaining. If my life would have went tomorrow, it would be fulfilled in that manner. I would say, “The questions have been terrific.”
-Jack Kirby from the Harlan Ellison hosted documentary, Masters of American Comic Book Art.
All images herein are written and drawn by Jack Kirby
Today is Jack Kirby’s 100th birthday, and though he passed away in 1994, his spirit lives on as strong as it ever was. Undoubtedly, his influence has stretched across the four corners of the medium of comics–and culture in general. Over the past months in anticipation of this day, there has been an extra electricity in the air, surely not altogether separate from the social and political shifting of the last several years. Many feel the doomsday clock is winding down to midnight and the writing on the wall says the times are changing, and I couldn’t help but think of the recent solar eclipse as a sort of omen.
Whether the eclipse was an omen for good or bad, I have no idea; but as the Jacques Prévert poem says, The earth it turns/The earth doesn’t stop turning.
Another recent omen I encountered, just two days before the eclipse, was a screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey in a vintage 70mm print. As you know, it’s a complete and utter visual experience–a feast for the eyes–but seeing it in 70mm left me changed by the time the credits were rolling. “What did we just watch?” was a popular question asked among friends while ruminating over shared cigarettes. I couldn’t stop thinking about Kirby.
More than a few readers will be well acquainted with Kirby’s comic book adaption of 2001 and his subsequent spin-off series. I think these works unhinged something in Kirby. The series, up to the point until Mister Machine (or later, Machine Man) takes over as protagonist, leans heavily on the evolution of early humans into a higher being: The New Seed. It’s a continuum: we’re born, we live, we die, we’re born again.
During and after 2001, Kirby became unleashed. His “mature style” had fully formed. A New Seed emerged from his diminishing back and forth relationship between Marvel and DC. Back at Marvel once again for the last time, Kirby’s images obliterated the comparatively civilian drawings of his contemporaries. Smashing and gnashing his way through, arguably, some of industries worst years creatively and financially–standing as a monolith among the poor, hungry apes incapable of grasping the knowledge he was revealing to them. He, The Monolith, still stands to this day and we apes are still trying to figure out where the signal is pointing to.
select Kirby links
- This special edition of the Kirby Collector looks like a banger.
- The Comics Journal interview with Kirby conducted by Gary Groth, with Roz Kirby in attendance.
- Masters of American Comic Book Art clip
- A really great Art in America piece on Kirby by Alexi Worth.
- Radio interview conducted on Kirby’s 70th birthday with surprise guest–brace yourselves True Believers–Stan Lee.
- A really excellent series by Robert Steibel on the collaboration between Kirby and Lee
- Kirby at War
- BANG! POW! Kirby on Entertainment Tonight
- A particularly good presentation by Arlen Schumer on Kirby’s influence in culture.
- Jack Kirby Musuem and Research Center
- Kirb Your Enthusiasm
Suzy and Cecil – 8-28-2017 – by Gabriella Tito
Joanie and Jordie – 8-28-2017 – by Caleb Orecchio