|Images copyright MARVEL COMICS|
The word 'genius' is oft bandied around far too
freely these days. Perhaps it's always been so. I've
seen JACK KIRBY described as a genius, but, much
as I love what he did when he was good at what he did
(which, let's face it, he wasn't in his later years), I don't
think he can rightly be called a genius, according to
the true and wider definition of the word.
Why do I say that? Few things are created in
a vacuum, they're normally developments of what
has gone before, and that was true of Jack. He didn't
create the medium of comicbooks, and his stories were
almost always based on what he'd read in the pulps, SF
magazines, science journals, or seen in movies. MARK
EVANIER revealed that Jack referred to a book on
Norse mythology when plotting his TALES Of
ASGARD back-up stories in THOR.
Do you remember the FANTASTIC FOUR
issues where The THING is held hostage by The
SKRULLS on a planet modelled on 1920s America?
Inspired by episodes of STAR TREK. Do you recall the
FF saga where the fab foursome find themselves 'guests'
in LATVERIA? Inspired by The PRISONER. Sure,
Jack put his own spin on them, but they were deriv-
ative, not wholly original. They were, however,
immensely entertaining, so hats off to him.
Sadly, Jack's artistic abilities deserted him in
the latter part of his career. HUNGER DOGS, it
must be admitted, was a mess, looking like it had been
drawn (badly) by a 13 year old kid trying (and failing)
to imitate the style of Jack Kirby. Whenever I look at
it, I'm saddened to see the decline of a once-excellent
artist who'd known how to lay out a story in a way
that few other comic artists could emulate.
Genius? No, but certainly a legend, and rightly
so. As I've said before, when Jack was at the top of
his game, there was no one who could match him art-
wise, especially when he was paired with an inker who
enhanced his strengths and diluted his weaknesses. But
even giants wither and shrink, and, sadly, Jack was no
exception to the effects of time on his titanic talent.
Titanic being the operative word, as, just like the
famous liner, it eventually sank from sight.
However, in this, the 100th year of Jack's birth,
it's better not to dwell on the negative. Instead, let's
take a look at some FF covers and splash pages from a
time when Kirby was still regarded as 'King'. True, the
crown had begun to slip a little, but it would be several
more years before it fell off completely. As someone
once said in a movie: "Such, my friend, is life!"