‘Kirby: King of Comics’ is a worthy tribute to Jack Kirby: review

Jack Kirby’s handiwork can be seen in today’s blockbuster movies.

It’s in Captain America’s Hitler punching fist, in the X-Men’s struggles through a bigoted world, and in the outlines of so many other beloved freaks, heroes and gods.

There’s the Hulk, Thor, the Fantastic Four. Do you want to start listing the New Gods?

Not bad for a Jewish boy from Depression-era New York City.

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But aside from being an underpaid co-creator of so many characters, he was a husband, a father and a veteran.

AP PROVIDES ACCESS TO THIS PUBLICLY DISTRIBUTED HANDOUT PHOTO PROVIDED BY TITAN BOOKS  FOR EDITORIAL PURPOSES ONLY.

Kirby (l.) and Joe Simon co-created Captain America, an icon that endures to this day.

(AP)

“Kirby: King of Comics” offers an overview of his life and work.

The “Anniversary Edition” re-release of the 2008 book on Kirby — which celebrates what would have been the artist’s 100th birthday — is a great way for fans to get to know one of the godfathers of comic books. The edition, expanded and with rare artwork, looks worryingly hefty at first but don’t be intimidated.

Author Mark Evanier writes a breezy but informative narrative of Kirby’s life, with practically every other page filled with his art. Both the narrative and art are fascinating to fall into.

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Kirby is portrayed as a workaholic artist, sketching away to make ends meet while defining an emerging art form in its rough and tumble, mismanaged heydays. Finding it hard to get steady work, let alone get due credit, he nonetheless shaped fantastic universes and epic battles that are thrilling to look at even now.

Kirby (seen at the 1982 San Diego Comic Con) was born on Aug. 28, 1917.

Kirby (seen at the 1982 San Diego Comic Con) was born on Aug. 28, 1917.

(Photo by Alan Light via Flickr)

In the course of his life, he falls in love, creates D.C. and Marvel characters with other comic legends, works for Hanna-Barbera and even went to fight in WWII.

It’s a full life, and Evanier is able to show the connections between Kirby’s personal experience, the times he was living in and his artwork. Having the comic art on the next page further immerses you in his creative mind as his life progresses.

But this is a book that only covers the surface story. It’s expansive, yes, but you are still left wondering more about the king of comics: How did fighting WWII influence his work and life? What was the ultimate goal behind his Fourth World epic? And it sounds like an entire book could be made about his relationship with co-creators Stan Lee and Joe Simon.

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Then again, it only makes sense that the artist behind dozens of thrilling adventures might need a few more pages or books devoted to him.

“Kirby: King of Comics Anniversary Edition”, published by Abrams Books, is available now.

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