Stan Lee has become a household name due to the wonderful creations of his that have been brought to the big screen. However, Stan the Man, isn't actually the mind behind some of our favorite Marvel characters. Jack Kirby is the comic book legend that brought to life some of the most iconic comic book characters in history. Kirby created characters such as Captain America, Iron Man, Ant-Man, Black Panther, Professor X, and teams such as the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the X-men and countless other icons that have become staples of our generation. Jack Kirby is often credited as being one of the most influential, prolific, and innovative people that the comic book world has ever seen.
Kirby worked for Marvel for several decades until the 70's, when he had a brief stay at DC before deciding to leave the comic book world all together. After his announcement to leave comic books behind, Kirby went on to work in Hollywood as a concept designer.
Once Jack Kirby had made a name for himself in the Hollywood industry he was approached by the CIA in 1979 to make some concept art for a fake movie. The movie was titled The Lord of Light (renamed Argo by the CIA) and the CIA used it to pose as fake filmmakers to rescue 6 US Embassy Agents from Iran. The concept art that Kirby created was the selling point used to convince the Iranians to let the CIA film there. If that seems like a familiar story to you, then perhaps you saw that Ben Affleck directed a film Argo which recounts the story. What the movie doesn't show is Kirby's artwork, which will soon be published in the magazine Heavy Metal which had already been seen at San Deigo Comic Con this year.
Comic Book Apocalypse
On August 25th, the new retrospective of Jack Kirby's psychedelic phase opens as CSUN. The film is created by Charles Hatfeild, who is the author of the book Hand of Fire: The Comic Arts of Jack Kirby. Comic Book Apocalypse will showcase Kirby's work from about 1965 to 1980, his last years at Marvel and his second career as a concept artist. The film will include many of the concepts Kirby designed for the Lord of Light project. Hatfield points to Kirby's cover art for the 1938 Thor as his first go at geometric techniques and "cosmic ideas." The exhibit at CSUN is free and open to the public, running weekdays August 24th til Otober 10th. If you live anywhere near Northridge California, this exhibit is a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience some never before seen art work of one of the most influential comic artists in the world.
The world is set to see the largest amount of comic book movies in history over the next couple years, much of which would not have been possible without the legendary Jack Kirby. Unfortunately, Kirby died in 1994 and never saw the monumental influence he would have in the movie industry. If he could see how far his characters have come since their first pencil drawings he'd probably be very proud of their growth and fame (though he'd probably be disappointed in the Fantastic Four, but that's another story).