The King and I

Faculty Guest Blogger: Steven Brower

Steven Brower: August 28 marks the centennial of Jack “King” Kirby’s birth. Kirby, who died in 1994, was arguably the most important American comic book creator of the 20th century. His characters, which he created and co-created, include Captain America, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, the X-Men, the Avengers, Thor, The Silver Surfer, the New Gods and many others, have dominated the Hollywood screen for over a decade and his lore has become our present day mythology.

Kirby’s career spanned almost 50 years, beginning in the late 1930s, and he helped create the bedrock on which the comics industry was founded. Along the way he worked in myriad genres, some of which he created: Romance, Kid Gangs, Westerns, Crime, Science Fiction, Horror, Superheroes, et al.  He did it all: wrote, penciled, and on occasion inked and colored his own work, the very definition of a cartoonist and auteur. His influence on the field is immeasurable.

I first discovered Kirby on the pages of Marvel comics when I was about nine or ten years old and my life was never the same. His storytelling combined with the superlative dynamic art fueled my imagination, and put me on a career path, for which I will be forever grateful. For it was Kirby who made me want to be an artist, and I never looked back.

I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Kirby and his wife Roz back in 1992. I was an art director at a book publisher at the time, and the Kirbys, along with a co-author and agent were shopping around “The Art of Jack Kirby” a collection of his work and biography.  The agent, who knew I was a huge fan, set up a lunch. Meeting one of my heroes and greatest influences was without question one of the highlights of my then early career. And the fact that he was the first to put me on that very path made meeting him all the more profound.

Every artist should have heroes. You might even get to meet them one day.

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