Friday 21 June 2019


Jack in 1977 or '78.  Copyright relevant owner

Bashful BARRY PEARL recently sent me a transcript of a JACK KIRBY interview conducted at the 1970 San Diego Comic Con, to publish on Crivens.  I imagine that it's probably been transcribed before and appeared in The JACK KIRBY Collector, but I don't know for sure. However, I believe Barry has transcribed this from an audio source himself, and the way he does such things is to play it into an automatic transcriber, which then prints it out in typed form.  One drawback to this is that his device interprets the words the way it 'hears' them, not necessarily as they were actually said, which leads to odd, confusing sentences here and there, from time to time.

As everyone knows, Jack's comics dialogue and captions were sometimes a bit awkward, but he could be just as awkward in the way he spoke too, stammering, repeating, course-correcting mid-sentence, etc., which resulted in a bumpy interview where he sometimes appeared to contradict himself.  I've therefore taken the liberty of editing the interview, removing some of his repetition in order to be more clear and concise and to get to the point.  I've also added an occasional word here and there to make some sentences and paragraphs run smoother, especially with some of the audience's questions, which sometimes had several words missing (replaced by asterisks) and made no sense.  I looked at Jack's answers and worked out what the question was most likely to be to the best of my ability.

Despite my 'editing', I believe the reader will still 'hear' Jack's voice, as well as, in most cases, understand what he was trying to convey to his listeners.  I've altered nothing on a mere whim, there being a valid reason for every amendment - namely a better comprehension of Jack's subject matter.  Anything vague or ambiguous that remains is purely down to Jack.  Oh, and I've also changed US spelling to UK 'cos this is a British blog - okay?

Now - on with the show.


Jack Kirby: Please, I really appreciate being here, and I really deeply feel that it's an honour to be among you, and one of the reasons I draw people like I do is because I feel that I want to respond to you in some way.  And when I'm done it's a great deal of gratification to me because it's not a question of telling a good story - well, of course it's a question of telling a good story, but the only way I know it's a good story is when you like it, or when you hate it, or when you hate me for writing it, or when you like me for writing it, because then I get some kind of reaction, see. And when I get a reaction from people, even if it's bad, I feel that somebody's out there and that people are living and analyzing things, and that their minds are in motion and that life is going on.  And it's the one time that I 'feel' people, see.

I don't 'feel' cars, buildings, or guns.  I have no respect for them, they're not alive. That's why I ridicule cars and guns.  You'll never see me draw a gun the way you actually see a real gun, or see me draw a car the way you actually see a car.  It's my version of a car.  I feel I can do anything that I want with it, and I feel that's what we all should do with it, and I'm just trying to see the world in my own way, and those things are made for us, see.  Cars are made for us, and all those immaterial, non-living things are made for us to do what we want with, and that's what I do.  I try to make my version of it, to give a larger-than-life version of maybe a very mundane object, and I feel that I've made my life a little richer for myself, and maybe in a way I've done it for you because, well, if I get a question or some response from you, I feel that I've established some kind of link with the people that I'm doing my work for, see, and somehow I've done it.  Somehow I've been quicker living than dying, and one of these days I'm just not going to change, or change quick enough, and somebody will replace me and maybe keep telling the kind of stories that get reactions from you, but right now I'm doing it, and I'm enjoying it, and certainly my best moments come actually when I can really see you in person and talk to you face-to-face and to see that I've really understood you in some way, and that's why I say it's a pleasure for me, and a real source of gratification.

So if I can do anything better I’m going to try it, and if I can do anything weirder or more startling I’m going to try it, and maybe something very, very outrageous.  I don’t know, you might clobber me for it, and that’ll be great because it’ll be a new experience for me, and I’ll enjoy every minute of it.  I was once thrown out of a burlesque theatre, and I had a heck of a good time being thrown out.  It was a great experience, so I feel that’s what life is.  It’s just a matter of reacting to experiences. Sometimes they’re very bad, sometimes they’re traumatic, and sometimes they have a deep effect on us, but that’s okay.  I think we should take it and weather it.  We weather it stoically, and take the best out of it, and maybe become real human beings from it, and I think if we’re able to react we’re alive.  If we don’t’ react to anything, I think we’re in some kind of limbo. Those are just my thoughts on things, and that’s the way I draw, and that’s what goes into my drawing.  My god, I've analyzed myself for 30 years (laughs), and I think that’s what’s been behind a lot of it, so that’s my thing.

I’m giving you my version of the world, so you can have the world as I see it, or whatever random thoughts come into my head.  You’re getting what I think about it. Strictly what I think about it.  I don’t know what you think about it, but that’s what I think about it, and I see it my own way, and I feel in doing that, I become an individual.  If I played piano my own way, I’d be an individual, and I’d feel that I’d have some enriching quality, and I like that.  I like to have some enriching quality.  It makes me feel good.  Some people don’t like to have enriching qualities, see, and they just go about doing whatever they’re doing, business or something else, and they do well at it, and they accept it, but I don’t accept that.  In fact, I don’t accept anything. I fight anything that comes along, and I like to see it my way, and I like to do it my way, and it makes me feel great.  So whatever reaction comes my way, I love to handle it, and I've handled all kinds of reaction, and I've had a great time at it, really, and there have been times when it just scared the living daylights out of me, but having lived through those times I can look back at them almost fondly.

So you say, well I've handled that, see.  I've bloodied my axe in some way and I've handled it, so that’s not so bad, and I don’t know how it was resolved, but it was resolved in some way.  I came away from it.  The other guy came away from it in some way, but looking back on it, I had a great time, really.  Even getting tossed out by that bouncer, that was a great experience ‘cause this guy looked like a, oh, any character that Warner Brothers would dream up, a Nat Pendleton type, and the guy next to me was making a lot of noise and being a loser.  I was the one that got thrown out, but that was a great experience, and although at the time I couldn't understand it in its context, I feel that now I do, and I really had a good time.  So, what I do is take whatever I feel about all these things and put it in my drawing, and maybe entertain you in some way.  You have to tell me. I can’t, see.  I haven’t got that much of an ego, so you have to tell me, and of course, in a way you do because the books do well enough and that’s good enough, and I get letters, and I go along that way.  I live that way.  That’s my, well I suppose you call it a lifestyle, and I've never gotten out of the groove, so I’m content with it, and it just about sums me up.  So, if there’s anything you’d like to ask me, possibly about the field itself or about the direction of comics, I can only give you my version of it, and you’re welcome to it.  So, I mean, help yourselves.  Excuse me.

Audience: Why did you quit Marvel for DC?

Jack Kirby: Why did I quit it?

Audience: Yes.

Jack Kirby: I can’t tell you.  So –

Audience: You had a similar situation about 25 years ago and you quit Marvel and you had done Captain America with Joe Simon.

Jack Kirby: Yes.

Audience: You went over to DC and I liked your stuff better over there, but why did you quit over at Marvel?

Jack Kirby: The situation demanded it.  It’s the only thing I can tell you.  The details would bore you.  But I can tell you that the situation demanded it and I do what I have to do.  I can’t vacillate; I’m not an indecisive man.  I do what I have to do and I did it at that time.

Audience: You choose one company over another one. Are you freer or –

Jack Kirby: No, no.  It doesn't work that way.  You’re no more free with one company than you are with another.  You just have to do it.  And somehow, there’s something happening at the company where you are that makes you feel that’s all you can do for it and that’s not enough, so I go somewhere else.

Audience: What I mean by freer is not being restricted by one company to just one magazine.

Jack Kirby: No, no.  I had the latitude of doing more than one magazine at Marvel or in any other place, and it’s just that I felt that the situation demanded my leaving, so I left.  Yes?

Audience: What would your advice be to a young cartoonist trying to break into the field these days?

Jack Kirby: Well, comics in particular, is a very limited field, you know.  I suppose a lot of fields are that way today.  But I feel that it depends on you yourself.  If you’re an aggressive individual and you want to make this your field and there is no school, you make your own school. If you borrow, you borrow arms and legs and heads and necks and posteriors from anybody you can. And in comics, which are a peculiar field, every man, every artist is the other artist’s teacher. There’s no school for it. There is absolutely no school for it  – sure, people can teach you the mechanics of it, which is good, I can see a good reason for that.  But drawing a figure does not make you a good artist.  Because I can name you ten men right off the bat who draw better than I do, but I don’t think their work gets as much response as mine.  I can’t think of a better man to draw, say Dick Tracy than Chester Gould, who certainly is no match for Leonardo da Vinci.  But Chester Gould told the story of Dick Tracy the way it should have been told. No other guy could have done it. So it’s not in the draughtsmanship, it’s in the man.  It’s not in, like, say, a tool - a brush is a dead object. It’s in the man and if you want to do it, you do it.

If you think a man draws the type of hands that you want to draw, steal them.  Take those hands. The only thing I can say is, that was my future.  Alex Raymond was my future.  Even the guy who inked was my future.  He had stimulated me in some way, and I think that's all you need.  You need that stimulation to make you an individual and the draughtsmanship, hang it.  If you can draw decently, learn to control what you can.  Learn to control what you have.  Learn to refine what you have.  Damn perfection.  You don't have to be perfect.  You're never going to do a Sistine Chapel unless someone ties you to a ceiling.  So damn perfection.

All a man has in this field is pressure and I think the pressure supplies the stimulation.  You have your own stresses that will supply your own stimulation.  If you want to do it, you'll do it.  And you'll do it any way you can.  I remember I thought I was going to do it the proper way, see, and go to a big art school and I went to Pratt Institute and the next thing I was out.  My old man lost his job and I was selling newspapers.  And you can't call the shots on these things.  I mean, there's no script in life, you know.  Except for today, you know.  There are art schools on every corner and the opportunities are improved greatly on becoming an artist so that any man who wants to become an artist today has the opportunity of planning it almost anywhere because it's the age of mass selling.  So it wasn't that way when I was younger and it was tougher, and I had to do it on my own and I used the dismemberment method.  Like I say, I took a hand from Caniff and I took a head and a spine from Raymond because I liked his flexibilities.  He can bend his figures and his figures moved, they had life.

That's what I wanted.  So I took from Raymond, unashamedly, and I never really kept it.  I never kept it because I took what he had and I blended it with what I had. And I had something.  Just like you have something.  I don't know what it is, but if you can grab or snatch something from the next guy who's had the experience, take it because that's what you lack.  I mean, that's all you're lacking.  If you're lacking experience, take it from a guy who has it because if you can't go to a place where they teach it to you properly, take it on your own and help fortify what you have. And something's going to come out of it, something with your imprint, your fingerprints. I mean, Gershwin songs are fingerprints, Alex Raymond's drawings were fingerprints and they're indelible and immortal because they were him, see.  And I don't know what you've got, but it's the same damn thing.  It's an immortal thing.  Whatever you put your stamp on is going to be you for all time, and not only that, people are going to recognize it, see.  They're going to say you did that, and if it's good, they'll say you're good and if it's bad, they'll say, boy, you need a little more instruction.  But it's going to be you, and that's the magic of it.  That's the magic of it.

I believe that whatever a man touches is the magic of being a man, see.  If a man touches a gun or if a man touches a pen, he gives magic to that object.  That object becomes an extension of himself.  That object then does something that it couldn't otherwise do itself.  That's the magic of being a man, and I feel that's what I've done in my own way.  And nothing more than that.  Just a matter of being stimulated and, well, maybe settling some inner battle that I've got inside myself and I've just let it go at that.  Yes, sir? 

Audience: Do they give you the story outline and you have to pencil it?

Jack Kirby: Well, in the case of Marvel, most of the plots I handled myself.  It's easy enough to do it after 30 years.  I would discuss it with Stan and I would tell him what I was going to put in it and it was either approved or I would change it to maybe further the plot.  It was done that way. I've always done my own stories, so I've never done anything else.  Yes?

Audience: How did you and Joe Simon get together?

Jack Kirby: I applied for a job.  Yes?

Audience: Mr. Kirby, you’re probably most famous as the best of the action artists. Do you enjoy putting in more frames of action just for the sake of having a good fight scene, or do you only like it only when it’s instrumental in the plot?

Jack Kirby: I like it when it serves the story.  For instance, if it serves the story, I’ll have a sort of choreographed action.  I’ll choreograph the thing out like a ballet.  In other words, if Captain America hits a man and he falls on the floor and some guy is coming up behind Cap, he’ll already know what he’s going to do with this guy, see, and it all becomes one big dance.  It becomes a ballet and it’s acted out on the paper. Of course the limited amount of space is frustrating.  It’s not what it could be.  And in fact, I think maybe that’s what comes out of my drawing.  It’s just not what it could be and I think comics is a powerful basic medium and it hasn't had its full application yet.  And maybe I’ll never give it that application, but I feel frustrated in that respect that the power of comics actually hasn't been utilized and it can be utilized in a very, sometimes awesome way.  Yes?

Audience: Aside from yourself, who do you think is the greatest living comic artist?

Jack Kirby: I’m not going to answer that.  The only thing I say, is find a guy with an ego and he can...

Audience: How would you say working at DC is different from working at Marvel?

Jack Kirby: Well, technically it doesn't differ because I work from my house.  I've got a studio in the house and I send the stuff in and that’s the way it was with Marvel. I would live in some suburb and maybe once in awhile, twice a month, I’d go into the city and I’d see all the people and get the heck scared out of me and run home.  And maybe that’s the way it is here.  I like it. There’s been so much turmoil to my life that the experience of being isolated is very fresh to me. And I suppose I’ll get bored with it sooner or later because I’m living on top of the last of the teenage condors and we’re beginning to bug each other.  Yes?

Audience: What character is your favorite and which one do you identify with?

Jack Kirby: Well, I identify with The Thing, if you must know.  I think he’s a very heartwarming character and I try to portray him that way.  I don’t (so much) identify with characters, I identify with utilizing the characters.  The characters themselves are a challenge.  I explained to some people in the back that characters are like the weapons.  I mean, they’re useless unless you use them in a very effective way, see. And that’s what I try to do.  I try to tell a good story.  Sometime I feel that the classics are great, see, and I can’t tell a classic story because, like I told somebody before, I can’t say “thee” and “thou” - it’d be ridiculous because I can’t say it in the first place and I’m not affectatious enough in the second place.  So I've got to tell the story my way.

For instance, I mentioned the Hunchback of Notre Dame.  I mean, we all love that story, but we've seen it over and over and over again, that poor little hunchback, jumping from steeple to steeple and everybody kicking him around until he asks in the end, "Why did you make me like a gargoyle?"  And of course, there’s no answer. And so I like that story.  There’s tragedy in it and there’s drama in it, but I can’t tell it that way anymore.  So I try to tell it in other words, see, and see if you react to that.  I call the Hunchback a "quasi-motivational destruct organ", see.  And it’s my way of saying Quasimodo.  And he isn't a hunchback anymore, he’s an ugly little computer and he hasn't got any legs and he’s beefing about the whole world and he's mean as heck.  And on top of that he’s got an eye that destroys everything in sight and you can’t be more burdened than that. And of course, there've always been people like that and I thought that he represents them.  And so I had to tell the Hunchback of Notre Dame all over again because I felt there was a very dramatic question:  "Why did you make me like a gargoyle?  Why was I picked out to look like a gargoyle?  I think like everybody else.  I have the same feelings, but I’m alienated, I’m separated. I look like a gargoyle."  And of course he underwent the same torment in the story. And I told that story, but our way, and a way that I could maybe get across to people like us.  And I say 'us' because I’m certainly in no respect any different than anybody else.  I just like to tell a good story. Kill me.  And that’s about it.  Yes?

Audience: How do you feel about other writers and artist taking over your characters and trying to outdo you?

Jack Kirby: Well, I think they should.  I think they should put everything they have into it, and maybe more. I think they should try to kill me if they can.  And I feel they should try. I think it’s the professional thing to do.  And it’s just my, you know, philosophy.  I don’t know if they’re going to do it or not, but I feel they should try. And I think that’ll make bigger people out of them. That’s the old story of eating the other guy.  It’s cannibalism and I always felt it was the highest form of religion in some way.  I think it’s the highest tribute you can pay to a man, so I wanted them to eat me.  Yes?

Audience: In the Marvel line, what part exactly did you play in creating that line?  I mean, besides art and plot and characterization... just developing.

Jack Kirby: Yes.

Audience: What part did you play besides art? 

Jack Kirby: Quite a substantial part.  That’s all I’m going to say.  Yes?

Audience: What was your inspiration for the Silver Surfer?

Jack Kirby: Gee, I don’t know. I – the Silver Surfer, it came out of a feeling.  That’s the only thing I can say.  When I drew Galactus, I just don’t know why, but I suddenly figured out that Galactus was God and I found that I’d made a villain out of God and I couldn’t make a villain out of him and I couldn't treat him as a villain so I had to back away from him.  I backed away from Galactus and I felt that he was so awesome and assuming he was God, who would accompany God but some kind of fallen angel.  And that’s who the Silver Surfer was.  And at the end of the story, Galactus condemned him to earth and he couldn't go into space anymore.  And so the Silver Surfer played his role in that manner.  And, I can’t say why, it just happened.  And that was the Silver Surfer.  I suppose you might call it oh, I don’t know, some kind of response to an inner feeling.  Yes?

Audience: Would you say that Stan Lee played, or had a revolutionary idea for the Surfer?

Jack Kirby: I’d say that Stan Lee quoted me quite a good deal.  So – are there any other questions?  Oh, that fellow there.

Audience: Did you invent some of the new super villains and characters for the Fantastic Four?

Jack Kirby: Yes.

Audience: Do you read science fiction?

Jack Kirby: All my life.  But I was 13 years old and I was going to school and it was raining and this thing came floating down the gutter.  I can only say that’s how it happened, and it was kind of Hugo quarterly of some kind.  It was all wet and I sat down on the kerb to read it.  And I swear, that’s how it happened.  And I just never got over it.  I mean, it was so incredible to me.  I just never entertained these kind of concepts.  And I got my lumps for it ‘cause they wouldn't tolerate it around my way. And around my way, the Hunchback of Notre Dame would have got his lumps too. It was one of those deals.

Audience: The reason I ask is that there seems to be kind of a division between the real science fiction fans and the comic fans, and I can see no reason because one is related to the other;  don’t you agree?

Jack Kirby: Yes, I feel that they’re very closely related.  I feel that science fiction has its own thinking level.  I think comics is a more basic response.  I feel that science fiction is a more sophisticated response.  Science fiction is a sophisticated response to the incredible or to the projected.  You take a situation today and you can project it far into the future and come up with something fantastic, but you’re thinking on a sophisticated level.  And comics, you have to think on a more basic level.  I have to show you a picture and you have to know right away what I’m saying in that picture, what that picture is saying and what it’s doing, and you can’t think about it because you won’t tolerate it.  You won’t tolerate trying to make out what I’m saying, so comics has to be quick, it’s got to be firm and it’s got to tell you the story immediately in that panel.  And that’s why you buy comics.  And that’s why you understand them. Yes?

Audience: Did Steranko develop SHIELD?

Jack Kirby: That was Jim’s version of it.

Audience: Lots of it seemed like parts of yours.

Jack Kirby: Well, possibly it was.  I mean, that was his version of it.  I had my version.  It was strictly an action version and strictly a projection of the times that we live in.  I tried to be five years ahead of James Bond and I set that kind of thing for myself and I think I was.  Yes?

Audience: What do you think is the best character that you've ever created or drawn?

Jack Kirby: All of them.  Yes?

Audience: Do you think Steranko projected whatever the panel is supposed to convey?  Some of the stuff is hard to grasp.

Jack Kirby: Well, if you think it’s hard to grasp, like I say, you’re your own particular reader, see, and I have my own analyzation of SHIELD.  And it’s unfair, I think, to ask me anything about Jim Steranko’s merits or any artist’s merits.  The only thing I can say is that they’re all giving you their own version, sincerely, of what these stories are about.  And if they don’t come over effectively, something is lacking and I can’t answer for them.  And I never have.  Yes?

Audience: Well, who do you like as inkers?

Jack Kirby: Anyone that’ll keep faithful to the pencils.  I don’t mind a style at all. I've had men with the boldness of Dick Ayers and I've had men with the finesse of Joe Sinnott and I've had men with the grace of Wally Wood and somehow they've always kept a kind of intact image of my pencils and I've been grateful for that.  Very grateful, because it’s left me free to do my own pencilling.  I've been very grateful for that.  Yes?  Oh, I’m sorry.  This young man.

Audience: Who was the one who influenced you to put Blacks into the pictures?  And when did this really come about?

Jack Kirby: You mean put the blacks in my pencils?

Audience: No, no, the Negro figures and people walking around in your scenes?  Who put the pressure on you to do this?

Jack Kirby: There was no pressure.  I thought it was time to do it.  I found that there was a lack in myself.  I found that I myself had not been doing it and I felt that it was my responsibility to do it and I did it because I’d want it done for me.  It was as simple as that.  And It’s going to remain that way as far as I’m concerned.  Yes?

Audience: What's the future for Marvel?

Jack Kirby: I can’t predict Marvel’s future.  I won’t.  I only say what I can predict for myself. Yes?

Audience: I read something about Bullseye.  Can you explain?

(Note: I suspect he's referring to Mainline, Simon & Kirby's own company.)

Jack Kirby: My relationship with Joe and Bullseye - well, it was a bad venture, that’s all.  It was a poor time to do it and we did it and we suffered for it.  And they were good books.  They were doing as well as any other books, but the other books were doing poorly is the only thing I can say. But they were good books.  Yes?

Audience: Would you like to do the Conan strip?

Jack Kirby: A comic strip?

Audience: The Conan strip!

Audience: Yeah.

Jack Kirby: No.  It’s been done.

Audience: I think in 1960 or ‘61, did you do a Classic Civil War?  Was that yours?

Jack Kirby: Yes.  And I think I did Anthony and Cleopatra at the time with a cast of thousands. Which nobody accepted.  Yes?

Audience: Mr. Kirby, I know being an amateur artist, I guess the artist himself is about the most acrid critic of his own work.  Are you extremely critical of your own work?

Jack Kirby: Yes.

Audience: Or are you satisfied?

Jack Kirby: Yes, because if I cheat you, I cheat myself.  And I've cheated myself pretty often sometimes and never realized it.  So I've done pages over and I've done two, three pages over at a time and I felt I had to do it and I did it.  And I know every trick in the trade.  I can tell you that right now.  I know more angles about anything than anybody here because I've had the opportunity to think them all out.  I can think my way out of a maximum security prison inside of two and a half hours.  But I don’t utilize my mind for that.  I utilize it to do the best that I can in the work that I do, see.  And if I have to punish myself, I’ll punish myself by doing some very grueling work.  Yeah?

Audience: How do you come up with the ideas, like those fantastic computers you have?

Jack Kirby: Fantastic what?

Audience: Your computers.  Like in the Fantastic Four –

Jack Kirby: Yes.

Audience: Your computers.

Jack Kirby: Well, the machinery is non-functional and is strictly art.  It’s a practice in layout.  I like to draw a work of art that looks like a machine.  And if you accept it as a machine, I've done my job.  And it’s well thought out.  When I draw an electronic machine, it looks like an electronic machine.  If I draw an electrical machine, it looks like an electrical machine.  And the toughest job I've ever had was drawing dimensional machines and I tried to draw my version of a kind of machine that might take you into another dimension.  And I actually tried that.  And I feel that if there is anything like an extra dimension somewhere, I feel that there’s a machine about to do the job.  And of course, they will.  I mean, there are roads that we just never travelled.  And they don’t have to be asphalt roads.  Yes?

Audience: What’s the schedule for artwork?

Jack Kirby: Well, my schedule is hard.  I’ll turn out anywhere from three to four pages a day. Of course, my energy is running out fast.  I’m getting older.  Yes?

Audience: Did you have anything to do with the recent trend at Marvel for switching from villains as the protagonist – or, the antagonist - to the hero?

Jack Kirby: Yes.

Audience: More real world?

Jack Kirby: Yes.  We’re running out of villains.  And we’re running out of 'blacks and whites'. And we’re running so fast now that I think we’re running into ourselves. And that’s what I’m working on now.

Audience: Was that the reason that, say, like pollution and people who –

Jack Kirby: That’s part of it. It’s very, very easy for an average person today to become a criminal.  And it’s just too simple.  And we live in, I think, a kind of an age that no matter what we do causes some kind of a ripple that may have mass consequences.  But it’s as simple as that. There are no more individual villains with individual evils.  I think even evil has run away.  One evil has compounded another in a mass way.  Just like, a production of goods.  Yes?

Audience: Can you tell how your comic 'King' thing got started?

Jack Kirby: No, that started with a publisher.  I won’t tell you his name.  And I was very young and it was a delightful experience although I didn't think so at the time, but somehow it made an impression on me and a few other guys and Joe Simon was there and Al Harvey.  And this publisher would walk along while we were working, and he’d puff on his cigar and he’s like, "I’m the king of the comics, I’m the king of the comics", you know?  And it became a kind of a byword. And any time a magazine failed somebody would say, "I’m the king of the comics".  Yes?

Audience: Did you create both villains, the Red Skull and Dr. Doom?

Jack Kirby: No.  I had a hand in creating Dr. Doom and the Red Skull was created by Eddy Herron who created Captain Marvel.  And Eddy Herron was one of the best writers that DC ever had.  Fine man and, he’s gone now, but he had a very facile and flexible and creative mind.  I admired him.  He was a professional.  So he created the Red Skull.  He created Captain Marvel and a lot of other characters that you’ll see in DC today.  Very fine man.  Yes?

Audience: What’s your favorite comic to draw?

Jack Kirby: My favorite comic to draw with Marvel?  Oh, I got a kick out of doing the Norse Legends, which I researched and I kind of did my version of it.  And they felt that Thor ought to have red hair and a beard and I just thought, that’s not my Thor.  So I just went my own way.

Audience: Do you think Dr. Doom is supposed to really be tragic?

Jack Kirby: Doom is a very tragic figure, but Doom has got a lot of class.  I like Doom.  And he's got a lot of cool.  But Doom has one fallacy.  He thinks he’s ugly, see, and he’s afraid to take that mask off and he thinks in extremes, you know.  He can’t think, well, I got a scar on me, but that doesn't make me repellent.  Actually, Doom is a very handsome guy with a scar on him that he got from acid when he was a child. But Doom is an extremist. He’s a paranoid.  To him, he’s extremely ugly.  If Doom were to lose one hair, he’d put on a wig, see.  And if Doom had an enemy, he’d have to wipe him out, and if Doom felt that anybody was smarter than himself, he’d kill them because Doom would have to be the smartest man in the world.  He’s an extremist. But, he has good manners.  Yes?

Audience: Dr. Doom without his mask on?

Jack Kirby: Yes, we had him – we did an origin story where we related the episode where he became scarred.  And listen, if I’m taking up too much of your time in any way or, you know – just make believe it’s a burlesque.  So – yes?

Audience: You speak of Doc Doom and the Red Skull in such glowing terms.  You seem to think that the real, costumed villains are on their way out and the more real evils of the world –

Jack Kirby: No, no.

Audience: Don’t you think that their personalities are much more fun to fool around with, and the hero has to be kind of bland?

Jack Kirby: No, I think that everybody is fun to fool around with.  I think we should all put on a costume.  I think the clothes we wear today are very drab.  I think we should all put on super hero costumes and have a real fine time.  I think we ought to wear reds and nice blues and rich colors and have a great time, and just wear what we want to wear.  And I don’t see why I have to wear a tie or I have to wear a formal suit and a lot of other guys have to look like penguins.  Just because it’s called for – I think we ought to have a good time, and why not?  It’s the only thing I can think of – why not?  So, the other guy hasn't got a tie.  I’m not going to run to Emily Post and say I want to report him.  So – yes?

Audience: What do you think about the Underground Press, even if it’s a little bit racy.

Jack Kirby: Sure, it’s extreme, and I think there’s a terrific vacuum on today’s news stands. Somewhere between the Free Press and the Los Angeles Times is a new newspaper.  It’s a new newspaper, I just don’t know what it is.  I can’t say.  I've read the Press and it’s a little extreme for me, but I feel that somewhere there’s a compromise and the compromise just hasn't come up yet. Yes?

Audience: It seems that in a lot of the stories in both DC and Marvel that a lot of the villains base their reason for aggression on the fact that they’re disfigured in some way.  Like Luthor, the idea of he’s losing all his hair and so therefore he –

Jack Kirby: No.

Audience: And the Mole Man and Dr. Doom –

Jack Kirby: Of course.  I mean, how else would you show mental disfigurement on paper, see? In other words, if a man is sick, I mean, how else could you show that sickness except by his scar or except by an aberration or except by a bent hand or a twisted foot?

Audience: So physical disability is just symbolic of the mental state?

Jack Kirby: Yes.  And I feel that’s the way it’s always been.  And go back to any criminal’s past and you’ll find some kind of disfigurement.  Yes?

Audience: When you did Sgt. Fury, did you sort of draw on your own wartime experience?

Jack Kirby: I was at the Blitz.  And, I was asked to do Sgt. Fury and I did it from my own experiences.  I had London look like London.  I felt that it should be done that way.  Not glamourized but real.  In other words, I was out to show London during the Blitz and I showed London during the Blitz.  And when I showed a German gun, I showed a German gun.  I felt that kind of strip should be done real.

Audience: Did you write it?

Jack Kirby: Yes, I wrote that.

Audience: Was that based on anyone that you knew, or is that just a composite of people that you –

Jack Kirby: It was a composite of lots of things, lots of my own experiences in there which I’m going to say nothing about because they’re terrible.  So nothing as far as that – yes?

Audience: Can we impose on you to draw a few characters?

Jack Kirby: Well, if you’d like to see them.


Thanks once again to Barry for supplying me with this interview.


Anonymous said...

Thanks! This is an amazing interview. Too often his richly developed underlying philosophy is forgotten while we marvel (sorry) at his art.

Kid said...

Barry deserves the thanks for supplying me with the interview, Anon. Glad you enjoyed it.

Dave Walker said...

Thank you for a wonderful blog. Like you I grew up in the 60's with TV21, progressing to Buster and Look and Learn before discovering girls. Thunderbirds, Stingray, Tin Tin and Lost In Space are my tv memories of the time. Keep up the good work. Any chance of a complete rerun of the Toys of Doom strip from Buster?
Happy memories.
Dave Walker

Kid said...

Unfortunately, I don't have the complete strip, DW, though I've doubtless got the odd episode. Rebellion will probably get around to reprinting it, hopefully before too long.

Scott Gray said...

That was easily one of the best Kirby interviews I've ever read - thanks for putting it up, Kid!

Jack really was ahead of the curve. This bit leapt out at me:

"It’s very, very easy for an average person today to become a criminal. And it’s just too simple. And we live in, I think, a kind of an age that no matter what we do causes some kind of a ripple that may have mass consequences."

I'd love to have seen Kirby doing stories about social media!

Kid said...

As I said, Scott, thanks to Barry for sending it to me to put up on the blog - glad you enjoyed it. And thanks to you for all the good work you do on MWOM and other Marvel titles.

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