August 28th marks the centennial of Jack Kirby’s birth and comics fans and creators alike are celebrating the occasion in many ways.
For me, it will be a walk through moments, memories, that marked my childhood, as I will take particular books down from my shelf and read my favorite issues once again.
And though I’ve gazed at it thousands of times, I know the art will still explode across the page with hyperbolic power, barely contained by measly panels and the physical constraints meant for mortal men…
The arrival of the Silver Surfer and Galactus upon earth, as the Fantastic Four stand alone between the devourer of worlds and his next meal! The first appearances of Doctor Doom, and later the Inhumans and the Black Panther will still make me wonder what the FF will do next, what world—or even time—they’ll journey to… and then I’ll see Reed take his first steps into the Negative Zone, not realizing his life is in the hands of an impostor who hates him, masquerading as his greatest friend and evidence of his one great failure, Ben Grimm—the ever-lovin’ Thing!
Then it’ll be on to Thor—Loki, and Odin and Asgard’s amazing cast of supporting characters, from Sif and Balder to the Warriors Three, Heimdall, Hela, The Enchantress and The Executioner… I’ll see the god of thunder triumphantly take on the Absorbing Man, toil against but ultimately lose to the vain Prince of Power, Hercules—only to regain his strength and save the son of Zeus… only to then face Ragnarok and the destruction of the universe!
I’ll jump over to Captain America and watch him fight the Red Skull and his cosmic cube, Baron Zemo and Hydra and A.I.M. and even all the ills that threaten to tear apart his beloved country! I’ll pull out some issues of the chronically misunderstood Hulk, and the awe-inspiring Avengers—and wonder at the Hulk jumping in and out of the team, sometimes an uneasy member, and then an enraged enemy! I’ll wander up to Westchester County and wonder who is more uncanny, those enigmatic X-Men or the strange and powerful Brotherhood of Evil Mutants who oppose them!
Maybe I’ll step out to the DC corner of the universe and thrill to the opus that is the Third World– who is Izaya indeed, and how can he hope to defeat the dread that is Darkseid? Will Scott Free escape? Will Orion control the fires that rage in his soul?
While I’m there, I’ll walk the troubled path of Jason Blood and the Demon, Etrigan cursed to walk that path together.
I’ll follow Kamandi, the last boy on earth as he encounters new wonders on each page—familiar places now barely recognizable, familiar creatures now terrifying, familiar stories now with twisty and surprising conclusions.
As the evening draws to a close, I’ll return to Marvel—to Eternals and Deviants and the Celestials who spawned it all and wait to pass judgement on all their creations… like the King himself looking down and passing judgement on all his amazing work and all it’s spawned and grown into since it first sprang out of his head.
And I will know that I am not alone in reading, and loving, appreciating and honoring, in being awed and inspired. I’ll know that Taika Waititi gets it that way too and so he’s gonna do the King proud when Thor: Ragnarok hits the big screen.
I’ll buy each issue of the Kamandi Challenge, and know those creators feel it also.
And thanks to Jack’s granddaughter, Jillian, and her event, “Wake Up and Draw” as part of her Kirby4heroes project, artists will get up and start creating art that will raise money for comics professionals in need of medical and financial aid… and so the King’s legacy will live on in so many ways—inspiring art and good works in huge measures, almost as vast as the man’s own boundless energy and creativity.
So, “Happy Birthday to the King, Jack Kirby!”
And on behalf of all of us who still thrill to your work, “Thank you…and many happy returns!”