Jack Kirby is a legend. Jack Kirby is responsible for the visual representations of pretty much any hero you can think of from Marvel. The Fantastic Four. The Hulk. Thor. Iron Man. Without Jack Kirby’s illustrations we wouldn’t have such amazing images to place along with Stan Lee’s words. Jack Kirby would have been 99 today so in honor of his amazing work, we’re going to discuss one of his most famous works.
The comic in question is The Fantastic Four, issue #48. I really enjoyed the build up to the Galactus reveal. Building up to it, you understood the team were about to face a foe that had unrivaled power. Sometimes, especially in that era of comics, the antagonists were not the most scary individuals. I think of Star Trek and the Ferengi. Initially, Gene Roddenberry wanted the Ferengi to be major villains on the show yet when you cost actors that struggle to reach five feet tall and give them heads that look like a boil about to burst, any attempt a fear would be laughed off. It makes them intriguing, sure, but not scary. With Galactus, something big was about to happen and you felt it.
The dynamic between the Fantastic Four is great. I loved that even with the writing of the time being a little melodramatic to say the least, the relationship between the team felt natural. Compared to DC product at that time, Marvel had stories that felt like the characters were people you would actually encounter on the street. From the start of the Marvel era of comics, they created characters that felt real. Felt relatable. When Johnny Storm would goof on The Thing, you could easily see the relationship these two had. They were brothers. They made each other mad at times and occasionally fought but when the chips were down, they’d fight side by side.
This comic should be required reading. While it may be a little rough around the edges by today’s standards story wise, the art alone should be something to behold and admire. Jack laid the foundation for how superhero stories look, no matter what company was making them. The worlds he drew, the creatures he created, will last the test of time. Being responsible for so much of the physical landscape in stories that we take for granted today is mind blowing. If ever there is a foundation to comics, a place a young up and comer should start, it should be at the feet of Jack Kirby.
Now last year, Jack Kirby’s granddaughter asked that, in honor of her grandfather, people should donate to a charity called The Hero Initiative. The charity in question has been set up to assist comic book writers, artists, and creators who have fallen on hard times. One major black mark on the comics industry is how they treat their talent. Take the creators of Superman, Jerry Seigel and Joe Schuster. When Superman The Movie debuted in 1977, these two men were pretty much destitute despite the company that had paid them $130 for the rights to Superman making millions upon millions based on the character they created. Even today, the late Steve Moore, who wrote the comic Hercules: The Thracian Wars, did not have control over his work. He wanted no involvement with the movie that was later made starring The Rock and asked to not have his name associated with it. Turns out the producers and the comic company couldn’t give two flips about his opinion and plastered his name as if he had supported the work.
Not many folks are able to create an intellectual property like a comic book and make it reach a mass audience without the help of a major company. And most of these companies, especially for new up and comers to the industry, will have the creators sign the rights of new creations over to them. That’s business. I get it. On the flip side, I do see a huge problem in a company making boat loads of money off the ideas of a person while said person is destitute. On a legal basis, the company has every right not to care. On a moral basis, and on an appearance basis, it makes that company look horrendously bad. There should be no reason why an organization like The Hero Initiative exists. Companies should make their millions and the creators should also reap the financial benefits of what came from their imaginations. Since that isn’t the case, I strongly encourage you to head over to their website and consider donating to a good cause. One other option you can do to support them is, if you shop for comics on Amazon like myself, Amazon has a program called Amazon Smile. It’s the same Amazon you use to do your shopping but the benefit is, a portion of your sale will be donated to a charity of your choosing. There is no extra cost on your end from shopping. The charity I have chosen is The Hero Initiative. It’s a way to give without even really thinking about it.