Tuesday, August 29, 2023


Yesterday was Jack Kirby's birthday. Kirby's extraordinary work only gets better with time and my gratitude for his impact on our popular culture, and my life, can't be fully expressed in words. Jack was, and will always remain, the King.

My favorite Kirby work (probably my favorite comics ever) is his interlocking Fourth World saga and I recently took part in a celebration of those classic books. You can watch it below.


  1. Something I realized recently, is that Kirby's biggest mistake may have been going back to Marvel in the 70s. HEAR ME OUT!.

    It is no secret that Kirby had trouble meshing with what Marvel had become in the 70s, at least in tone. Most notably, following Englehart on Captain America. That is likely why he had chosen a different company.

    The way I see it, there are three companies Kirby could have joined, and changed the landscape of comics. IN honor of his birthday, let's play the Jack Kirby what if game...

    1. Warren publishing.

    In most cases this seems like the best possible option. They loved experimental ideas. A lot of their fans were true blue comic fans, with appreciation and who liked to see names. His contemporaries like Ditko, Colan, and a few more had found a home there. His old boss Will Eisner was getting his old Spirit comics published by Warren. They even had a break out character with ROOK, so it was not out of nowhere,

    The bigger pages could have been great for Kirby. Really be able to expand his work out.
    Admittedly the Black and White may have been an issue, but he is an artists. When he knows that is what he is working with I am sure he could adapt.
    Now other universe to fit into. A crowd that is not only okay with, but yearns for experimentation. It would be amazing, Especially when you remember how open they were to creativity, and how many otehr artists they had do stories for them. He could pull in otehr creators to help give texture if he needed. Well known creators.

    The Problem: I think Jack Kirby's return to Marvel made it clear that he wanted to create stories that were accessible to younger audiences as well. While I don't think that discounts him from being accepted, he may not have wanted to work with a published that was so free with the gore and even nudity at times.


  2. ... continued...

    2. Archie Comics

    Sounds dumb, right? They were not known for their action oriented books at the time. EXACTLY!

    I don't think it is controversial to say that Archie in the 70s was not very well remembered. IN fact, I had to look up what they did in that decade.
    Still, they had the range. Just like Marvel and DC in the day, Archie was in Convenience stores across the nation..They had the reach.
    Not to mention, every few years Archie tries to move into comics that are not...well...Archie. Including in the 70s. It did not go well.
    Kirby however, that is a name with preexisting fans. I am going to assume they were more popular then when I was a kid...I am not sure they could be less popular and still in print. Still, probably not the sales numbers of Marvel, the industry leader.
    \It appealed to a more All ages audience, it was still kind of stuck in the Golden/Silver Age like Kirby, and since their bread and butter were books completely different, Kirby would almost have been left up to his own devices.
    The company has a history of stretching out one plot for decades, so new ideas that sell could do great.

    The problem: It is Archie. I assume Archie had different clientele, appealed to different audiences. So, while it could very well work given Archie was sold right next to Marvel and DC in the day, advertising would could still be rough. Some may think it is just a cheap knock off upon first look at the cover, and ads that read "KIRBY IS COMING" probably would not have the same effect they did at DC. Do teen comedy readers know Kirby? Would they pass along the word?

    3. Gold Key/ Dell

    Again, a company in need of a breakout book. Their Twilight Zone comics were actually pretty enjoyable. However, I also think they were the most profitable.
    It is hard to have a stable comic company when your biggest work is licensed. Dark Horse has been having issues having a stable hand since Star Wars was tensed..not without good comics, but clearly looking for something that can give the same level of good, steady sales.
    So, how about Kirby?
    Like Archie, they would probably still allow him to do whatever just to get those sales.
    There ARE established characters Kirby could use to flesh things out if he wanted...Dr. Solar as an outside hero looking on whatever, maybe , Magus the Robot Fighter involved in something like Machine Man or his O.G. Silver Surfer plan...or not. Most of those characters had not been used in awhile, probably not a lot of people to raise an uproar to any major changes to the character, even making them villains, or complaining if they are left out.

    There was also probably a lot more crossover with potential Kirby readers and Twilight Zone readers than Kirby and Archie.

    The problem: I believe the circulation was lower, I mean, I know they did not go under until the 80s, but I certainly have no clue about the numbers then, but Gold Key/ Dell I always hear talk about a "whatever book." People bought it if there was nothing else.
    I can't speak to that, I am only familiar with the Twilight Zone...which I enjoyed...and one issue of Dr. Solar I biught.
    BUt good or bad, if it is under a certain sales threshold, aka availability, it could all be for not.

    There you go Dematteis, three alternate realities that COULD have changed the history of comics, and given Jack Kirby a place to really play with his ideas to great success. You are welcome.


    1. Interesting thoughts, Jack. I suspect the main reason Kirby never went to any of those companies was a financial one. In those days, when it came to page rates (however pitiful they may seem in the rearview mirror), Marvel and DC were the only game in town. And I'm sure Marvel offered him a good deal for the time. If Warren could've topped that, there's a good chance he would have gone there. Although I supect a part of him wanted to go back to the company he helped build and prove to them that he was still the same fierce creative force.

      In any case, a fascinating "what if?"

    2. Yes, the financial issue was part of what I was getting at with Gold Key and distribution, even if I did not elaborate well enough.

      Admittedly, I am no expert on Warren's financial situation at any time. I know it had to close int eh early 80s, but in the mid-70s had some pretty decent expansion.

      It is also one of the most unfairly overlooked parts of comic history. Really trying to let creators play, and have a place for older comic readers. Jim Starlin also killed himself in an issue...that was weird.

      They have done a documentary on Charlton, why not Warren?
      Well Dematteis. I am waiting for your answer.
      Whatever, never mind.

      One thing nobody thinks of about Kirby, the Fourth World and his later MArvel creations...if The FOurth world had lived, with the ideas from MArvel have landed.

      Jack Kirby did not have the most disciplined mind in the world. He had a habit of throwing in whatever was going into his mind. The New Gods does not show this because of how short it was, but he liked to throw everything in the soup as you say.
      Would it have strayed into stranger places, or were these unused ideas.

      Were The Forever People going to meet Devil Dinosaur and Moon Boy on the planet where they were stranded, which happened to be primitive earth all along?

      Many people claim the New Gods and Eternal are very similar. They are not. Their themes and mythology are almost complete opposites of each other. The Source is basically the Abrahamic God in how he interacts, The Celestials are very powerful and mysterious aliens Yes, they are called "space gods," but it is not the same thing.
      The Celestials are even going to judge Earth.

      Would Orion have stumbled across the Eternals at some point? Had to team up with Darkseid as the Celestials come to judge?
      Was that the plan? If not, when whatever inspired him popped up...if it still did...would he find a way to incorporate the ideas still?


    3. Given Kirby's wild and prodigious imagination, it's very possible that some of those concepts would have turned up in the Fourth World had it continued.

      I'm a big fan of ETERNALS—it's my favorite of Kirby's 70s Marvel work; he unleashed enough characters and concepts to fuel an entire line of comics—but I agree that it's a very different flavor from NEW GODS. I also think the writing in the Fourth World books is stronger, the characters run deeper. The best solo writing (not just plotting, but wordsmithing and depth of characterization) of his career. And I think it's because the Fourth World books were the most personal, the most intimate, work he ever produced.

    4. Jack Kirby was weird.

      ON one hand, there are clear ideas that popped into his head while he was writing... Cap fighting British the 20th time for the Bicentennial for one.

      Other were ideas he held onto, and tried to make work for years. The "Kirby Silver Surfer" for one, an artificial being who learns what it is to be human. just kept coming back, first as Adam Warlock, then as Machine Man.

      So ideas that don't have specific connections to a moment.

      For that matter, maybe Etrigan was originally a plan for a person who merged with a Para demon...presumably to learn what it was like to be human.

      On a side note, I always wondered why The Kirby Surfer was such a stuck point in Kirby's head. The learning to be human of a synthetic lifeforms.

      Kirby had so many great imaginative ideas that could be delved into more, at least conceptually in other works. And yet... he always came back to the artificial man learning to be human, a concept that was cliche' even in 1966.
      I wonder why. Did he think it was his big chance at art? Did he read a story like that as a kid that really stuck with him?
      Pettiness making hi want to prove to Stan Lee his idea was better?
      A deep rooted insecurity that he was an artificial man? Belief his usual ideas were too out there to be a success?
      bribed by Texas Instruments to make people trust their calculators?
      Secretly in love with Frankenstein's Monster?
      Desire to overthrow Canada?

      It is maddening.

      Anyway, as far as the Eternals goes. I rink that was the 70s Kirby that most fit with the Marvel style, at least of the era. The lack of necessity to fit the ideas into a different feeling universe around it probably helped.

      How is this for an Eternals experience. I only picked up the Fourth World trades because I read the firs few Eternals issues first.
      Take THAT Highfather!


    5. Not surprising that you picked up Fourth World after Eternals. I see Kirby's work as all of a piece. (And there are folks out there who actually prefer Eternals to New Gods.)

      In the end, it all becomes one massive Kirby uber-story; which, I think, is true of most writers and artists, who return to the same themes and obsessions over and over. And, with luck, deepen the work each time the themes are revisitied.

  3. LOOK! It is the whole of 1970s New York in just 44 seconds...\

    I am probably...basically showing you a Thursday night in your 20s!


    1. Interesting, what about this...


    2. I LOVED those Bob Hope comics as a kid (and Jerry Lewis, too! And I have vague memories of this Bob Hope sketch.

    3. It was a very good Jerry Lewis...without going overboard as many do.

      I think we can ALL agree, Bob Hope is certainly better than his doppelganger, Bob Despair.


    4. Now I desperately want a Bob Despair comic book!

    5. Well, keep going to conventions, and maybe one day you will meet a comic creator.

      Speaking of old comedians, did you know there are people in this world who believe Jack Benny is a person?
      We all know he was a cartoon mouse.

      Oh...the youth!

      Where do they get these crazy thoughts?