Cheat Sheet: 17 Fascinating Facts About Jack Kirby, King Of Comics

08.02.11 8 years ago
Most comic book fans know the name of Jack Kirby, one of American comics founding fathers and the co-creator of Captain America, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and the Hulk. But rattling off his most famous superhero creations does Kirby a huge disservice as he was one of the fastest, most prolific artists of the twentieth century with a career that spanned forty-five years and saved the comic book industry at least twice. He was a war hero, a bad businessman and a helping hand to innumerable young creators trying to get a start. His door was always open and his family would share sandwiches with literally anyone who stopped by, including members of a UFO cult wanting to discuss his work.

In his home studio, really little more than a basement, he sat in a plain, wood, dining room chair from a set that the family no longer owned using a beat up wood drawing desk and would often talk with friends and family while continuing to draw. His supplies were not special or unique, but neither his humble beginnings nor common tools stopped him from creating some of the most widely known characters in world. Characters whose copyright are even today being hotly contested by his estate and have led to calls for a boycott of Marvel comics as recently as this past weekend.

We’ve gathered up 17 facts that we think will impress even the most jaded comic book fan. Let us know what you think in the comments.

1. Jack Kirby was born Jacob Kurtzberg on August 28, 1917 and grew up in a tenement house on the Lower East Side in New York, the son of poor Austrian immigrants.

2. As a child, when he could not afford them Jacob would take newspapers from his neighbors’ trash to read comics and practice drawing on the paper.

3.  Jack Kirby joked that as a child he wanted to be a crooked politician. “I was once smitten with the idea of being a crooked politician. It was in vogue. It was a natural way of things where I came from. The crooked politicians were having a great time. They were enjoying life. I watched them in the restaurants as I skated by. I told my mother many times I wanted to be a crooked politician and of course she’d never hear of that.”

4. Kirby was in a gang growing up called the Suffolk Street Gang and, according to Kirby, would get in lots of fights with other gangs of kids. Kirby would go on to create a number of kid gang comics including “Boy Commandos”, “Newsboy Legion” and “Young Allies” inspired by this experience.  “I grew up on Suffolk Street. I went to P.S. 20. […] I imagine that become part of what you know, what you grow up with. What life hands to you. And you react that way. I’m glad in a way, later on in life I had to use that attitude in ways that probably saved my life.” Via.

5. When he was starting out, Jack Kirby amazed everyone with his prodigious drawing speed. At one point he was drawing three daily comic strips in three different genres under three different names.

6. Kirby had a very distinct way of talking, often pausing and changing the subject mid-sentence. Comics historian Mark Evanier attributes Kirby’s poor business negotiation skills in part to this this verbal idiosyncrasy.

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