By D.E. Powell
Originally published in 2008, Mark Evanier’s Kirby: King of Comics is essential reading for those interested in Jack Kirby or in twentieth century comics history. With the steady eye of an historian, Evanier recounts the Kirby’s journey from near-street urchin to a man whose influence on the comics’ medium and popular culture remains unsurpassed. The narrative is heartfelt and sure-handed, and Evanier knows his material. The highs and lows are all here: Jack’s partnership with Joe Simon and the creation of Captain America; Jack’s World War II service; his later partnership with Stan Lee at Marvel and the feverish, unsurpassed creativity (The Fantastic Four, The Avengers, Iron Man, The Hulk, The X-men, to name a few) between the two that later turned to bitterness when Kirby was treated (and paid) like a hired hand.
Kirby moved to DC where he had enjoyed a career insurgence with The Fourth World Saga and its flagship comic, The New Gods, was more cosmic, more visionary, weirder and more wonderful than his Marvel catalog. Kirby was man before his time; but before Kirby hit his storytelling stride and before the public could fully appreciate and digest the breadth of these new series, DC pulled the plug on the books for lagging sales. Eventually, Kirby would reunite with Stan Lee for a Silver Surfer graphic novel and earn his regards as the most important elder statesman of the industry, honored for both the breadth of his creativity and for his advocacy of creators rights and his long fight to bring more equitable contracts to the industry and a fairer share of Marvel’s riches to the Kirby family.
This paperback reprint for the centenary of Kirby’s birth adds and expands on the original hardcover edition. Abrams Comicarts deserves special mention for the design, quality of paper stock and sharpness of the reproductions. It is a rare treasure bursting with Kirby’s art and rare photos stunningly arranged in an almost immersive, studio-exhibit like experience. Evanier captures the man as well as the creator, an uber-mensch vet, liberal democrat, no bullshit brand of guy who bled ink and plot points until his dying days with Roz, his beloved wife and muse, at his side through every twist and turn.
Kirby: King of Comics is a worthy tribute to a man whose personal imaginings became the collective mythology of our times, whose gods and heroes helped lace our often mundane daily lives with beauty, grandeur and a sense of the sacred that hasn’t always been accessible in more traditional forms. Long live the King!
Kirby: King of Comics by Mark Evanier, Abrams ComicArts, 9781419727498, $24.99 trade paperback, http://amzn.to/2vGXODe.