3. Young Romantics
Jack Kirby comes back from the war, and finds a very different America than the one he left. Alliances break and shift in the changing post-war landscape. How will Jack stay afloat in the comics industry’s most turbulent era?
2. Boy Commando
Jack Kirby and Joe Simon introduce America to their Star Spangled Hero punching Adolph Hitler in the face. But soon Kirby finds himself taking the fight against Nazis from the page into the real world.
Yes, Stan Lee/Stanley Lieber, according to several sources (particularly Simon), did actually play the flute in the office. ! !
The pro-Nazi threats against Timely were quite real, and it was Kirby, not Simon, who received the lamppost threat in particular (CJKC 1:181). According to Simon’s Comic Book Makers, the threats got so bad that Mayor Fiorello La Guardia had to provide Timely Comics with police protection for a time. ! !
The Goldsteins actually lived above the Kurtzbergs, not the other way around, but reversing it makes more sense visually for the audience.
When it comes to who ratted Simon & Kirby out to Martin Goodman, Simon said, in a 2000 interview, “Stan said he didn’t do it. Jack said, ‘The next time I see that little son-of-a-bitch, #113 I’m gonna kill him.’ And then, the next thing I knew, he went back to work for them, so what do what you gotta do, right?” (Jack Kirby Collector #25, downloaded from TwoMorrows web site 4/14/00.)
Patton’s complaints about Alsace-Lorraine come directly from a letter of his from The Patton Papers: 1940-1945 (Martin Blumenson, ed.) Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974.
By all accounts, Kirby loved his war stories. The meat of the ones dramatized here come from Ray Wyman, Jr. "Jack Kirby on: World War II Influences." The Jack Kirby Collector #27. February 2000: 16-23; 1989 Groth interview; Greg Theakston. "Kirby's War." Jack Kirby Quarterly. Spring 1999: 6-13.
For the German language assist, many thanks to Timothy McCown Reynolds and Professor Johanna Vandrey of Northern Illinois University. (Love ya, Auntie Jo!)!
1. The Spark
From street brawls on the Lower East Side, to the mob’s involvement with a particularly famous spinach-loving sailor, this is the secret origin of Jack Kirby.
Commentaryby Fred Van Lente
This Sotheby’s auction did in fact take place on June 18, 1994, with most of those pieces available, and they were sold at those prices (rounded up or down as the case may be). The total sale value of all the Kirby art was $142,309.00
The list of art and final prices is on pp26-7 of The Collected Jack Kirby Collector Volume One (John Morrow, ed.) Raleigh, NC: TwoMorrows, 1999.
References to the Collected Jack Kirby Collector will hereafter be abbreviated to "CJKC" [volume number]:[page number]. Ergo, the reference above would read CJKC 1:26-7.
Jack Kirby's childhood is most vividly evoked in a short, unfinished comics story he wrote and drew late in his career called “Street Code,” which is reprinted in Streetwise: Autobiographical Stories by Comic Book Professionals (Jon B. Cooke and John Morrow, Eds.) Raleigh, NC: TwoMorrows Publishing, 2000. 14-23. See also Kirby biography in "Lord of Light" promotional package, CJKC 2:102-3. Ken Viola. "Jack Kirby: Master of Comic Book Art." CJKC 1:130-1.
This play originally began life as a biography of Kirby I worked on in 1999/2000 but ultimately abandoned. During that period Eric Evans and Gary Groth of The Comics Journal very kindly provided me with a copy of the raw transcript of Groth's 1989 interview with Jack and Rosalind ("Roz") Kirby. The #111 comprehensive interview covers most of Kirby's life and career and filled in many gaps in the artist's early years.
“Cosmic Carson” was actually a Fox Features Syndicate house strip. The story quoted here was written and drawn by a young Jack as a completely different story; Joe Simon asked him to retrofit this pre-existing strip as a Carson story, where it appeared in the May 1940 issue of Fox’s Science Comics. The Dispatcher and Spaceman’s lines come directly from that tale, which I got from The Complete Jack Kirby Vol. 1 (ed. Greg Theakston) Atlanta: Pure Imagination, 1997. A 1939 sci-fi strip, Solar Legion, which he created for TEM Publishing, was the writer/artist’s first use of the pen name “Jack Kirby”.
Despite Kirby’s frequent claims later in life to have gotten into Pratt, when I inquired the university had no record of his ever having attended or enrolling there.
Anyone interested in Fleischer Studios should check out Leslie Cabarga’s excellent The Fleischer Story (De Capo Press 1998). The gory details of the strike come from stories in the May 6-7, 1937 New York Times.
Kirby would claim (CJKC 2:112, for example) to have left Fleischer Studios a few months before the 1937 strike, but also always gives as the primary reason for his leaving (CJKC 2:15, et al) their relocation to Miami, which happened almost a full year later. Also in CJKC 2:15, however, Kirby says that "it's fortunate I didn't go [to Florida] because soon after [the studio] moved, they all went on strike and men were laid off."
I am operating on the assumption that while in later life Kirby mistakenly believed that the strike and the move were coterminous occurrences, events did indeed unfold more or less as we present them in this story.
The legendarily colorful Mr. Fox is vividly portrayed in Joe Simon’s autobiography (co-written with his son Jim Simon) The Comic Book Makers (Crestwood II 1990). Fox’s character also comes from interviews with other people who worked with him, most notably the artist Pierce Rice (The Comics Journal #219. January 2000: 86).
All of Simon’s subsequent attempts to regain the copyright to Captain America (see below) say he had designed and named the hero before he ever brought Kirby onto the project.
The “Pants!” toast was inspired by the wonderful introduction
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The King has Returned
King Kirby (the play) was initially staged in a black box theater in Brooklyn, which I was able to attend. It is truly a gift to once again revisit this great show and cast. No fan of comic-books, literature, and art should miss this fantastic show!