Thursday, August 30, 2012

"And thus I was born..." Jack Kirby's 95th Birthday

Jack Kirby would have been 95 years old on the 28th of August.  To celebrate this I've decided to let him speak for himself, in a manner of speaking.  The following text appeared in FOOM #8 and marks one of the few times that Kirby wrote a prose piece about his life.  It seems apt that Kirby should be the focus on his birthday, as opposed to those who'll write about themselves and how they interact(ed) with the man. So, go ahead, read The King's words and rejoice...

And thus I was born, amidst questions, questions ... "Can it be a Leprechaun?" asked Mrs. Rafferty. "A Prince of the Blood, maybe?" laughed Mrs. Goldberg. "Not that anaemic runt," replied the good doctor as he shot a compassionate glance at my mother and handed my father the bill. Not quite convinced that he'd made medical history, the dazed physician clattered down three flights of unswept stairs and into the first rays of dawn. The place, New York City. The date, August 28th, 1917. It turned out to be a gloomy day like all the others. And I was there.

I was there thru rickety childhood, thru obnoxious and sullen adolescence, in the shadow of the chipped, brick walls of the slum, my first drawing-board.

Frustrated by bad spelling, I turned to bad drawing and improved both enough in my late teens to land a job in a small syndicate servicing weekly newspapers. From there to the Max Fleischer animation studios—where, for negligible wages, I learned that the human body, in motion, has value and beauty. When Popye and Betty Boop took the initial steps to throw their pies, it was my job to complete the movement and speed of the action. This operation was called in- betweening.

When comic magazines blossomed as a field, I leaped in and drew for anyone who would let me tell a story. I became a variety of names, unleashing a torrent of diverse characters, among them the Blue Beetle, the first Captain Marvel. Super- Heroes were replacing ,human beings, and even dressed in glamorized under- wear, they looked great in the wild blue yonder and added a new dimension to the lives of the comic fans.

While working on Captain America for Marvel Comics in the dawning "forties," I was producing at a furious rate. I remember slowing down only once, when a young rapscallion, peering into my cubicle suggested that I show more of Cap's home life, his aged, kindly mother, his wicked Aunt Agatha, and the stark, heart-rendering background of Cap's early years. "Begone!" I cried, sorely put to drubbing him. "Take off and become an editor or something!" Well, by golly, he did. But before he got the name Stan Lee on his office door, I was busily engaged elsewhere, with the Boy Commandos, Newsboy Legion, Sandman, Manhunter, and other features. The comic field was producing heroes while the world at large came up with villains to match. Hitler, Tojo, Mussolini, and the mess of miscreants stomping in their wake. Things got so bad during the period following Pearl Harbor, they finally drafted me. Then things got so bad in the Army, they actually used me in battle. At Metz, in France, serving in General Patton's Third Army, I was frozen into immobility by the sight of the advancing armor of the Heinrich Himmler Field Kitchen Panzers of the Waffen SS. I'd created another first, the "Human Road Block." This won me a PFC stripe and a lot of colorful language from my First Sergeant.

Well the world just couldn't go on that way. The Axis powers, faced down by men raised side by side with Super- Heroes, had had it. Everyone hustled out of uniform and began raising families. I invaded Harvey Comics, drawing Stunt- man, Boy Explorers, Boy's Ranch. Rushing into other strips, I did a teenage feature called My Date, an adventure satire named The Flying Fool, and a bit of whimsy labelled the Rich Rabbit. There was nothing to be done then but innovate Romance Comics, pulverize the underworld in Headline Comics and Justice Traps The Guilty, and play Edgar Allen Poe in Black Magic. With Fighting American, I was ready for laughs. But fooling with the 3D madness and Captain 3D gave me the vapors. When I came out of the fog, I found I'd also done Win-A- Prize Comics, Bullseye, Foxhole, and Police Trap. Compounding these concoctions, I stumbled into Green Arrow and kept things humming by creating the Challengers Of The Unknown and a syndicated strip called "Sky Masters."

Returning to Marvel Comics was like re-entering the Halls of Ivy. In charge of comics was that young rascal, and, now, a bit of an older rascal, Stan Lee. We shared ideas, laughs, and stubby cigars. As for all the people who make Marvel what it is, no one could respect them more than I. And that included our readers.
I have a wife named Rosalind, three lovely daughters, Susan, Barbara and Lisa and a fine son named Neal. To put it concisely, you name it, I've done it—but fairly.


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